Summertime is a great time for a vacation, but it can also be a good time to check-in and reevaluate the goals you set at the beginning of the year. A mid-year evaluation can also be a great way to get re-energized if you’ve found yourself in a slump or if you’re feeling unmotivated.
In this post, we’ll cover 15 summer challenges for freelancers (or anyone, really) to help you grow financially, professionally and personally. Don’t stay where you are–make this year the year you experienced growth and experienced the benefits of your work.
Our goals should make us uncomfortable otherwise we’ll never grow.
Mid-Year Check-in: Looking Back
Ask yourself a few questions about the year so far. Start making it a practice to reflect on each month and quarter.
- What was your greatest success so far this year?
- What was your biggest obstacle so far this year?
- What will you do differently during the second half of the year?
15 Summer Challenges for Freelancers
1. Evaluate your rates.
Are you charging enough for the work you do? Have you raised your rates in the past 12 months? Why not?
- Raise your rates at least 5% a year. Most markets can support a 5% increase in rates.
- Communicate your rate increase to your existing clients. Communication is key here.
- Raise both your hourly rates and your service contracts.
2. Evaluate your clients.
Bad clients can consume so much time and emotional energy, they may actually be costing you money. By ending some toxic client relationships, you’ll be freed up to grow your business.
- Are they worth the hassle? Take a long, hard look at each of your client relationships.
- Who needs upgrades? Take time and look at existing clients and sell additional services.
- Check in on your systems and processes to better communicate and protect yourself from bad client situations.
3. Get control of your finances.
Make your finances top priority by getting a budget, getting out of debt and maximizing recurring income.
- Create a working budget for your home and business. A budget is simply a plan for your money. You need to know where your money is going.
- Minimize recurring payments by getting out of debt. Financial stress can weigh on your business and your personal relationships.
- Maximize recurring income. Recurring revenue is the foundation of any successful freelance business, so what steady streams of income do you have outside of your current projects?
4. Get financial help.
This challenge is a bit of an extension of #3, but it’s important enough to make the list.
- Understanding finances takes 5% knowledge and 95% behavior, but do you have the knowledge you need to make good financial decisions?
- Spend some time reading books by Dave Ramsey such as Total Money Makeover or taking a course such as Financial Peace University.
5. Take time to declutter.
Look around your office right now. Is it tidy, efficient and conducive to the work you do? Is it a creative space? A productive space?
- An organized workspace makes you more productive, period.
- Use 6-month rule: If you haven’t touched something in six months, get rid of it.
- Use a 12-month rule for packrats. Give yourself an extra six months of grace if you’re prone to holding onto things.
- Invest in a good scanner and go paperless. Start digitizing documents, receipts and other papers that take up unnecessary space.
6. Learn something new.
To grow professionally, especially in the web design field, you need to be constantly learning.
- WordCamps & Meetups – Plan to attend your next local WordCamp or WordPress Meetup.
- Online Courses – Need to learn SEO? Strategies for recurring revenue? Enhance your code skills? There are a ton of online courses out there, like:
- Books – Here’s a great summer reading list for freelancers.
7. Expand your services.
As tools for building websites becomes easier to use, you need to bring additional value to your clients.
- You build websites? And what else?
- Start expanding your services into WordPress maintenance. Here are 12 ways to offer WordPress maintenance services.
8. Get a business coach or joining an entrepreneurship group.
- Get encouragement, insight & accountability to grow forward from experts or peers.
- Getting a business coach or joining an entrepreneurship group can help your business dramatically with new insights and accountability.
9. Focus on your health.
Is your health a priority? Your business will benefit if you follow some simple rules.
- Eat right.
- Exercise regularly.
- Get enough sleep.
- Be intentional about planning fun times to de-stress. As a freelancer, remember you’re in control of how you spend your time, so take advantage of it.
10. Become an expert on yourself.
Can you answer these questions right now?
- How do I work best?
- What am I good at?
- What am I bad at?
Take some time and reflect on these questions. You may want to do this with a spouse or partner to get additional insights.
- Do what you do best and find trustworthy partners for the rest.
It isn’t a defeat to admit you’re bad at something. You’ll be more successful if you play to your strengths rather than trying to constantly improve your weaknesses.
11. Create a “stop doing” list.
To-do lists may rule your day, but have you ever made a “stop doing” list?
- What things do you need to stop doing? Make that a list and follow it just like your to-do list.
12. Invest in assessments.
Self-awareness can greatly benefit from a few assessments. These two assessments will show you your strengths and give you some insights on how to capitalize on them.
- StrengthsFinder 2.0. Take this test and take some time to review results. Is your work currently matching your strengths? You may be surprised.
- Kolbe A Index. This assessment looks at your productivity instincts. You’ll get some amazing insights from this test on your work habits and how you naturally solve problems.
13. Grow your network.
Use the rest of this year to build new friendships and grow your network.
- Build freelance relationships. Even if you aren’t in the same field or business, you’ll be able to relate with the challenges of freelancing and get support.
- Fight the battle against isolation. As Cory Miller often says, Success is an iceberg, and freelancers can often experience loneliness, so make sure you recognize you need relationships.
14. Start setting SMART goals.
Paul J. Meyer describes the characteristics of SMART goals in his 2003 book, Attitude Is Everything: If You Want to Succeed Above and Beyond.
SMART Goals stand for:
- Specific (simple, sensible, significant).
- Not general
- Ask who, what, when, where, why, which …
- Measurable (meaningful, motivating).
- How will I know I am making progress?
- How much? How many?
- Achievable (agreed, attainable).
- Can this actually be achieved?
- What are the obstacles?
- Am I willing to do it?
- Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based).
- Why am I doing this?
- How does this fit into the rest of my business or life?
- Time bound (time-based, time limited, time/cost limited, timely, time-sensitive).
- A goal without a deadline is just an idea
- When? Set a date.
Here’s a SMART Goals example:
- Develop and promote an SEO service during the third quarter of 2017.
- Have 3 clients committed to the SEO service by the first quarter of 2018.
15. Spend 3 hours a week working on your business, not in your business.
“Your business is the sum of your habits, both good and bad.”
– Nathan Ingram
Most freelancers spend most of their time working on projects and dealing with clients. Take Nathan Ingram’s 3-Hour Challenge to spend at least 3 hours each week working on your business, not in your business.
- Spend 3 hours a week working on your business. Spend this time on goal-setting, planning and strategizing for your freelance business.
Finish This Year Strong
This post is adapted from the Growing in 2017 webinar by Nathan Ingram. In this webinar, Nathan walks through each of these challenges in more detail.
Kristen has been writing tutorials to help WordPress users since 2011. You can usually find her working on new articles for the iThemes blog or developing resources for #WPprosper. Outside of work, Kristen enjoys journaling (she’s written two books!), hiking and camping, cooking, and daily adventures with her family, hoping to live a more present life.