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Instead of DIY and recipes, I’m heading into the lifestyle design side of the blog for the first time in this new series on freelancing.

Here’s the backstory: when I was in college I was so looking forward to getting a corporate job so I’d have an excuse to wear those uber-flattering pencil skirt + heels combos. I tried my hand at a temp job with Planet Fitness Corporate then moved on to working for an auto loan company. Let me tell ya—it was not as awesome as I expected. There was so much downtime, I felt creatively stifled, and I wasn’t building any of the skills that I thought I would. So I launched my own freelancing company (berylshea.com). Next month is the 1 year anniversary of when I landed my first big client as a solopreneur, so I thought I’d share my essential tools basics for working as a contractor.

SCHEDULE

Probably the most crucial of anything that I’ve learned in the past year. This means you need to have a planner (online or paper version) and a very basic outline of what your day-to-day looks like. Let me tell ya, Tim Ferris wasn’t wrong when he said that it’s easy to find “busy work” and waste the entire day. For example, it’s amazing how much time can be wasted loitering in your inbox. He recommended that you write these two items on a post-it to keep them in mind:

  • Being busy is a form of laziness–lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.
  • Being busy is most often used as a guise for avoiding the few critically important but uncomfortable actions.

So block out your day with (at minimum) a list of the 3 important tasks that need to be accomplished and block out several hours to do each. I do this with my Tools4Wisdom planner. There’s plenty of less expensive options out there but I found that when I actually invested in something, I felt compelled to use it. And there’s plenty of space for notes and an hourly schedule to boot.

Tools4Wisdom Planner 2016 – Amazon $29.99
If you’re more of a digital visual person, there’s tons of online options like Google Calendar. As a bonus, there’s a cool inbox integration function if you use gmail.  You can also use website lists like Trello, which is an awesome tool for more than just scheduling.

A PROFESSIONAL DOMAIN

Your website should (at minimum) have:

  • An “About Me” page.
  • A “Services” page (which can also be incorporated with your “About” page).
  • A handful of the best items in your portfolio in a page labeled “Portfolio” or “Previous Work”
  • A contact page with your email. (Please note that having a professional email address is important—no client is going to want to hire sparklexberyl@hotmail.com)
  • A clean, professional layout.
  • A professional domain name. I usually use GoDaddy for that.

The internet has progressed to the point that when it comes to actually putting everything together you have more options than just Freewebs. (Remember that service? I definitely built my first few websites on that platform back in early highschool. Hello, nostalgia.) But you have an incredible amount of choices depending on your HTML knowledge and design skills. Here are a handful that I’m familiar with:

  • WordPress – This is my go-to. Not WordPress.com, that’s a whole different animal. But a self-hosted WordPress is what I would recommend to most.
  • SquareSpace – Simple, elegant, and coding-free option.
  • Wix – Solid tool, though not as flexible as WP. (Can you tell which is my fave?)

A DESIGN TOOLKIT

Depending on how much training or experience you’ve had with design, you have both complex and simple options. If you’re like me and love the flexibility of Adobe, I highly recommend paying for a Creative Cloud membership (pro tip: college students get a discount for their first year). Not only will you get access to the essentials (Photoshop, InDesign, & Illustrator), you’ll also get to play with Lightroom, Muse, and Dreamweaver—all of which have become essential in my career thus far.

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There’s another option if you’re not interested in exploring the design side of freelancing but want to have the capability to create some graphics for a blog or website.

Blog Brighter has an incredible post about Photoshop alternatives (that are usually free) here:

Why You Don’t Need to Learn Photoshop – Blog Brighter

 

There’s more to come in this series, “What Tools Will I Need as a Freelancer” is just the first. Let me know if you found it helpful in the comment section below. I’m always on the lookout for new ways to increase my productivity, so I’d also love to know what your favorite service, tool, or product has been essential in your freelancing journey.