Monthly Archives: June 2015

What to do in 6 common freelance crisis situations

To do listsOh, the freelance life is one that’s full of peaks and troughs, feasts and famines. I’ve already written about how to avoid running out of work and how to avoid overwhelm, and in this article I’m going to run through some common crises and my top tips on how best to cope with them.

I’ve been through all of these in my time … I’d love to know if you have more coping ideas, so please pop a comment at the end if you’ve got something to add!

Notehere are a few links in this article – all of them are to other content that I’ve posted on this blog, so you can click through safely and happily for more information.

What do I do when I’ve got no work to do?

If you’ve got no work to do – don’t panic! It will probably be temporary

What can I do now?

  • Take a deep breath and embrace the fact that you’ve got some down time
  • Make a list of admin tasks you’ve always meant to do
  • Do some brainstorming on some job searching you can do, whether that’s networking, looking for some jobs on Twitter or joining some free sites (see more on how to find freelance jobs in this article)
  • Spend a third of your time doing admin, a third marketing yourself and a third taking a little time to do some things for yourself

What can I do to stop this happening?

  • Consider new avenues of work – diversify
  • Let people know you’re available – including customers you’ve worked with before
  • Keep a note of the ups and downs in your business – if they follow a nice predictable yearly cycle, you can plan holidays and downtime for the low points and hard work for the high points

Tips to avoid running out of work can be found in this article.

What do I do when I’ve got too much work?

Having too much work can be a bit scary. Again, don’t panic. Make lists, be super-organised – you CAN do it!

What can I do now?

  • Don’t panic – take a deep breath and plan instead of panicking
  • Write a list of the tasks you have, their due dates and how long you think they’ll take (better, draw them out on a Gantt chart or calendar)
  • Make a priority list – what must be done first?
  • If you really CANNOT do it all …
    • See if you can rearrange any deadlines
    • See if you can get a colleague to take on any of the tasks
  • Work through your jobs in priority order

Tips on what to do when you’ve got too much work can be found in this article.

What can I do to stop this happening?

  • Find a colleague to work with and make an arrangement to cover each other’s work
  • Look through your client list and see if there are any clients who make your schedule difficult – then see if you can work things out or pass them on to someone else
  • Learn to say no!

What do I do when I’ve made a mistake?

We all make mistakes. All of us. Just the other day, I didn’t pick up on a duplicated word in a text. Most clients should understand that little mistakes come with the territory. Big mistakes need a big apology.

What can I do now?

  • Own up and accept responsibility – don’t fudge or blame other people or things
  • If there IS a reason (e.g. your sewing machine broke or you ran out of thread; your computer crashed and you lost a chunk of the spreadsheet) explain it briefly
  • Offer to make it right – whether that’s doing the work again or reimbursing / not charging your client (see the section below, though)
  • Explain concisely how you will prevent that mistake happening again
  • Forgive yourself and try to move on – better to admit a mistake, redress it and move on and give that customer a chance to forgive you than to hide it all, dwell on it and get in a state

What can I do to stop this happening?

  • If you know what caused the mistake, make a wholehearted attempt to remove that cause from your work life
  • If it was human error down to tiredness / lack of a cuppa / bringing a bad mood from your home life to your work, make a wholehearted attempt to recognise that and work to avoid it in future
  • Accept that everyone does make mistakes sometimes, and move on

What can I do when the customer doesn’t like what I’ve done?

This usually happens with the more creative industries like writing or making craft items for people. It’s a tricky one, but these points might help.

What can I do now?

  • Ask the client for as many details as you can – it might be a minor point that they don’t like
  • Offer to redress the issues – if it’s something I’ve written, I will do a rewrite (although see below, this is included in my Terms and Conditions)
  • If the client has already paid, offer a refund unless this is discussed in your terms and conditions
  • Personally, I’d say the client is always right and apologise / refund / replace graciously as this gives a much better impression than messing them around

What can I do to stop this happening?

  • Make sure that your Terms and Conditions cover this eventuality
  • Firm up the way you do the initial discussion with the client – can you use a tick-sheet or prepare a sketch that they agree on before you start working?
  • You could include x number of rewrites / alterations in your Ts and Cs if you offer graphic design or writing, for example
  • If you make craft items, you could send a photograph of the completed item before sending it off and taking payment
  • Build up a library of items that you’ve made or created so your customer has more to work from when telling you what they want

What do I do when I’m going to miss a deadline?

Everyone misses a deadline every now and again. It’s horrible and sick-feeling inducing, but sometimes things are beyond our control. If there is a genuine emergency, your clients will understand. If it’s down to too much work, also have a look at the section above on that topic.

What can I do now?

  • Be honest and contact your client as soon as possible – this is easier if it’s a sudden emergency than if you’ve got behind
  • Offer an alternative deadline or colleague who can do the work (don’t just send the work to a colleague – do it openly and keep the client informed)
  • Apologise and explain how it won’t happen again very briefly – allow your client time to reschedule the work

What can I do to stop this happening?

  • If it’s down to overwork, review the section on how to cope with too much work above – if you’re missing deadlines and nothing’s actually wrong with you, that’s too much work
  • Cultivate good and honest relationships with regular clients – that way, they’ll stand by you if you have a sudden illness or emergency
  • Enlist a colleague to cover your work if you’re taken ill or otherwise occupied (this is good practice anyway)

You can read more about what happens when you have to cancel a job in this article, which I wrote just after I experienced a sudden and temporarily debilitating bout of flu.

What can I do when it’s All Too Much?

You know what? Sometimes it is just All Too Much running your own business, being freelance. Sometimes you’re in a bad mood, there’s a fly in the room, all your customers seem to loathe you or have impossible demands and you’re finding it all boring. You’ve probably got a cold, too. Is that you?

What can I do now?

  • Stop – if you can possibly stop – stop
  • Even if it’s for half an hour or ten minutes, do one of these things:
    • Go outside and walk around
    • Do some brisk walking or vigorous exercise
    • Read your book
    • Have a bath
    • Phone a friend
    • Rant and rave IN PRIVATE for example with a friend on Facebook messenger or in a private group you might have set up for that purpose
    • Another thing that you like to do that centres and calms you
  • If you only have 10 minutes to deal with hating your life right now, step away from your desk / workbench / stall and do some calm, deep breathing, imagine your happy place, centre yourself and relax
  • Give yourself a little treat
  • Try not to discuss this in public or anywhere where your customers might be – you never know who might be looking, and who might have been just about to book your services

What can I do to stop this happening?

  • Learn to say no so you don’t get overwhelmed
  • Take regular breaks during the day AND regular days off
  • Don’t work late into every evening and over every weekend
  • Have a serious think about how you can redress your work-life balance, because that’s what this is all about – then do it
  • Cultivate a group of like-minded business people or people in your area of work or geographical area and talk to them – you’d be surprised to find that everyone feels like this sometimes

I hope these ideas will help you when you have one of these common crises. Why not bookmark this article or select your most common crisis, print it out and pop it on your noticeboard!

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please use the sharing buttons below to share it on your social media platforms. Thank you!

Related posts on this blog

How do I cope with the ups and downs of the freelance life 1: when the work dries up

How do I cope with the ups and downs of the freelance life 2: when there’s too much work

Top ten tips for freelancers

How do I get freelance work?

How to decide who to work with

How to turn a new customer into a regular customer

What’s the best mix of customers to have?

How to make more money in your freelance business

When should I say no?


Posted by on June 25, 2015 in Business, Organisation, Skillset


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How do I cope with the ups and downs of the freelance life? 2 – when there’s too much work

To do listsIt can be a bit scary being a freelancer / self-employed. One minute you’ve got no work at all, the next you’ve got all the work in the world, deadlines coming out of your ears, and you’re drowning in a sea of … stuff. To accompany my article on what to do if the work seems to have dried up, here are my top tips on coping with overwhelm – those times when all the work has come in and you don’t know what to do first. Maybe we can even work out a way to avoid that happening in the first place!

How do I cope when I’ve got too much work?

Yes, it’s the other side of the coin, which it doesn’t do to complain about as such, but can be a scary prospect. If you’ve got a lot of work but it’s not physically or mentally too much for you to complete in the deadline, that’s OK for short periods of time. We all get that. I’ve just booked in a large job  which will involve doing just one job for just one client, 9 hours a day for 4-5 days. However, you can bet I’ll be taking plenty of rest and cancelling everything else while that’s happening.

But what happens when you just have Too Much Work, too much to do in the time, too much to do without exhausting yourself mentally or physically?

It’s harder to organise yourself into not having too much work. Work does just tend to all come in at the same time: it’s a fact of life.

Here are some ideas for preventing overwhelm building up:

  • If you have a client who regularly overwhelms you, for example sending in orders for too many products in too short a timeframe or sending you work with no notice, reguarly, it’s worth talking to them and seeing how you can make the situation more predictable. If it’s really becoming a problem, consider offering to share their work with a colleague or tell them that you can’t fulful their requirements and they will need to find someone else to work with (yes, I know it’s really hard to do this, and you will probably want to have another prospective client lined up before you do this).
  • If you have a kind of work which regularly overwhelms you, consider how you can work to make that situation easier. I used to spend a lot of time with a particular kind of customer who tended to involve lots of emails and discussion and handholding. I now work mainly with an agency which specialises in this kind of customer – they do all the emailing, I do the work. It’s a lower rate of pay, but I am pretty sure I make that back in the time saved.
  • If you create trouble for yourself by scheduling too many jobs at the same time, keep some kind of record / calendar of what you’ve booked in. I do it on a Gantt chart with a line for each client, with the days I’ve got to do a piece of work or the dates they have booked me for coloured in. In this way, you can avoid scheduling All The Work for the same week.
  • If you have trouble with moving deadlines, put terms and conditions in place. This is a notorious problem for editors, as writers’ deadlines often slip back. Make sure you’re covered in your Ts and Cs for saying “No” if a job comes in later than planned and you’re already busy.

There are also three ways to cope with work overwhelm that involve other people …

  1. Contract out work. This involves having someone who you can book to delegate the work to. In this case, you will end up charging the cliient and paying the contractor. You may need to disclose that you’re using a contractor, i.e. someone other than you is doing the work, and I personally don’t use this method as my service revolves around me, to a great extent. Typically, the primary worker (you) will charge the client a little more than you pay the contractor, to give yourself a small profit on the job.
  2. Have at least one cover person who can take on work for your clients but act as an individual with their own relationship to the client. This is usually arranged in advance, but can be very helpful in this sort of situation (as well as when you want to take a holiday). If I am booked out and one of my clients with whom I have arranged this contacts me, I say, “I’m really busy at the moment, can you send this over to Laura, please?” They send the work to my colleague, then she will do the work and invoice them accordingly. Yes, I can’t make a little money on the fee, as you can with contracting, but my clients stay happy and the admin is minimal.
  3. Outsource work to someone else – for example, my journalist clients might usually transcribe their interviews themselves, but if they’re in a rush, they will send me the tape to transcribe while they get on with something else. You could either outsource the work itself or aspects of running your business that take up time – your social media updating, your filing, your invoicing … You may or may not have to disclose that you’ve done this (a journalist wouldn’t disclose that I’d typed out their interview) but you will generally pay the person you’ve outsourced the work to.

As with dealing with having too little work, there are two principles involved here:

  • Try to run your business such that it’s less easy for you to get overwhelmed
  • Have plans for what to do when overwhelm hits, and put them into action appropriately

With these tips and the ones on how to cope when the work dries up, I hope that I’ve given you some useful tools for smoothing out the ups and downs of the freelancer’s life. Good luck – let me know which ones work for you, or if you have other suggestions!

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please use the sharing buttons below to share it on your social media platforms. Thank you!

Related posts on this blog

How do I cope with the ups and downs of the freelance life 1: when the work goes away

Top ten tips for freelancers

How to decide who to work with

How to turn a new customer into a regular customer

What’s the best mix of customers to have?

How to make more money in your freelance business

When should I say no?


Posted by on June 17, 2015 in Business, Organisation, Skillset


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How do I cope with the ups and downs of the freelance life? 1 – when the work goes away

To do listsOne of the things that puts people off freelancing or self-employment is the ups and downs, feasts and famines, highs and lows of the workflow. While the freelance workflow can be tricky to manage, it is possible to get a handle on it and maintain your work-life balance (most of the time). I’m sharing with you my tips for making that work.

In this post, we’re going to talk about what happens when it feels like the work has all dried up. In the next post, we cover the other side of things: overwhelm!

The important thing to note here is that this all comes with time. No one starts out super-organised and busy at just the right level all of the time. Cut yourself some slack – things get over-busy or yawningly low for all of us, but these tips will help that to become less of a problem.

How do I cope when the work dries up?

The scariest thing about being a freelance is when the work appears to dry up. It’s easy to catastrophise here: what if NO WORK EVER COMES AGAIN? Well, in my experience, unless you’ve done something really wrong (like produced very sub-standard work or reneged on all your deadlines), the work will come back again. Part of learning to deal with the fallow periods is making yourself believe that they will come to an end.

There are two things to think about here …

  • What to do during fallow periods
  • How to prevent fallow periods happening in the first place

Let’s look at them in turn.

What should I do in times when I have no work?

There are so many things you can do to fill in the times when you have no work. They basically break down into three areas, though …

1. Rest

When it’s busy busy busy, I bet you don’t get all the rest you need. I try to get some downtime for myself when I’m slow at work – extra sleep, quiet reading, a cafe visit with a friend. Recharge those batteries ready for the next busy time!

2. Admin

There’s always admin to do, and you know it. Whether it’s clearing out your inbox, following up on leads that never came to anything, tidying your desk or sorting out your receipts, now’s the time to do it. (Extra hint: set a stopwatch. Do it for half an hour. You’ll be amazed at what you can achieve.)

3. Marketing

You can do a lot of your own marketing for no monetary cost – but there’s usually a time cost. If you have a free day, make it your mission to, for example …

  • Register on a few more free-to-advertise online boards
  • Write some amazing website content to promote your products or services, or overhaul what you’ve already got
  • Write and schedule some blog posts to keep your website regularly updated and cover you in the busy times
  • Go to that networking event you don’t usually have time for – or a new one
  • Overhaul your profiles on social media and make sure your message is getting across
  • Write some products for awareness-raising, passive income generation – free downloads, pdfs, an ebook …

The message here? Put your down time to good use, and use those troughs in incoming work to tidy things up and work to generate new business to diminish the next low point.

How can I guarantee to have a steady stream of work all the time?

You can’t. But you can work towards that situation, and this is something I have a lot of experience with, and it’s how come I write my blog posts in little scraps of time while waiting for something to come in, rather than in great blocks during days and days when I have nothing to do.

The answer is, I think, simple: diversify.

While it’s great to be an expert in a niche or to have one big customer who “always sends you so much work”, it also lays you open to sudden downturns when the industry in which you specialise or the company for which you work takes a downturn itself.

If you work supplying widgets to Company A which are different from the ones Company B uses, and you only make widgets of that kind, if the market for those widgets goes down or Company A goes bust or changes what they use, you’re in trouble. If you make widgets of all kinds and supply company A and B, it would take the whole widget market and both companies to go downhill fast before you were in trouble.

I’m not saying be Jack of all trades and master of none, but a bit of judicious diversifying can really, really help to iron out those peaks and troughs which come in any line of industry.

Here are some general ideas, with examples from my specific work:

  • Work on different products or services – I do editing, transcription and localisation, so if the market for one goes down, I have the others to look after me. I usually work on a range of tasks every week, but I can end up having a week of transcription and that’s fine.
  • Work with different types of client – even in the area of editing and proofreading, if I just worked for students, I’d get massive peaks and troughs as dissertation season comes round at Easter and the end of the summer, but disappears in October/November. But I can fill in those troughs by doing editing of self-published books or working with translators
  • Work with clients in different places if that’s possible – I have customers all over the world. I used to have a lot of Chinese customers; at the moment I don’t. If I’d concentrated only on that region, I’d be in trouble now. Similarly, with the drop in the value of the Euro, if I just had European clients who paid in euros, I’d be looking at a serious drop in my income right now.

I’m not suggesting that you take on areas of work or industry sectors you’re totally inexperienced in and unused to – but have a think about how you can diversify a little. If you work editing legal texts, maybe you can offer your services to a local university with a large law department. If you sell your handicrafts in shops, why not consider an Etsy shop or going to a few fairs?

In summary

If you want to avoid the down times and keep a good flow of work throughout  your working year, you can approach the issue on two fronts:

  • Have a plan for what to do when you have no work – rest, marketing, admin – and put that plan into action when you end up with some free time.
  • Work actively to have a good mix of work coming in from various sources, so you aren’t relying on just one income stream and don’t keep all your eggs in one basket.

When we add to these tips with some on what to do when you’ve got too much work, I hope you’ll find here a useful resource for helping you to smooth out the ups and downs of the freelancer’s life. Do let me know which ones work for you, or if you have other practical ideas that work!

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please use the sharing buttons below to share it on your social media platforms. Thank you!

Related posts on this blog

How do I cope with the ups and downs of the freelance life 2: when there’s too much work

Top ten tips for freelancers

How to decide who to work with

How to turn a new customer into a regular customer

What’s the best mix of customers to have?

How to make more money in your freelance business

When should I say no?


Posted by on June 10, 2015 in Business, Organisation, Skillset


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How do I change the numbering style of footnotes and endnotes in Word?

As part of my series on footnotes and endnotes, here’s how to change your footnote and endnote numbering styles on the go (e.g. while editing someone’s work, or when you change your mind, or when you’re working to a particular journal’s style and need to amend something you’ve already written)  in Word 2007, Word 2010 and Word 2013.

Why would I want to change my footnote or endnote numbering style?

The main reason to change your footnote or endnote numbering style is because of the style guide of whatever you’re writing the document for. For example, academic journals will usually have some form of Guidelines for Authors which will lay out (sometimes) the font, heading styles, reference styles and footnote styles that you are expected to use. If you’re re-using an article which has been rejected by another journal, or repurposing a chapter of your PhD, you might find that the style for one journal is different from what you’ve done previously.

Alternatively, you may just decide you would prefer to use roman numerals, arabic numerals, symbols or whatever for your footnotes or endnotes, and want to change them.

How to change the number format for footnotes/endnotes

In this example, we’re starting off with some footnotes or endnotes that use roman numerals (i, ii, iii …):

footnote with roman numeral

Now, we want to change them to, for example, arabic numerals (1, 2, 3 …)

First of all, go to the Footnotes menu. This is in the References tab, and there’s a whole area called Footnotes:

Footnote menu

Click the little arrow at the bottom right of the Footnotes area to access the Footnote and Endnote menu. Once you’ve clicked on the little arrow, you should see this menu:

footnote menu dialogue box word

We can see lots of things we can do here, including changing the number footnotes start at, whether they restart every chapter, etc. (these more obscure details will be the subject of another article). But for our purposes, the important features are choosing whether you’re telling Word about Endnotes or Footnotes and telling Word what the number format should be.

In this case, we’re using Endnotes (although these instructions cover both), so I’ve clicked the radio button (circle) next to Endnotes. This tells Word that we’re using Endnotes and talking about the Endnote numbering.

Going down one section, you can see that at the moment, the Number format is set to i, ii, iii … To change this, click on the down arrow to the right of the box saying i, ii, iii … (if the Endnotes are set to 1, 2, 3 or a, b, c, this will display in this box):

footnote menu change style

Once you’ve clicked that arrow, you will be able to see all of the choices you have for your footnote or endnote numbering. Now click on the format that you want to use:

footnotes change numbering style word

The Number format will now change to the one that you have chosen. Once you have got the correct format in this box, click the Apply button to apply the changes:

footnotes apply change word

When we return to our document, the endnote numbering has changed from a roman numeral (i) to an arabic numeral (1). You can change this as many times as you want.

footnote with correct style word

This article has explained how to change the number format in your footnotes or endnotes.

Related posts from this blog:

How to insert and format footnotes

How to insert and format endnotes

How to swap between using footnotes and endnotes

Please note, these hints work with versions of Microsoft Word currently in use – Word 2007, Word 2010 and Word 2013, all for PC. Mac compatible versions of Word should have similar options. Always save a copy of your document before manipulating it. I bear no responsibility for any pickles you might get yourself into!

Find all the short cuts here


Posted by on June 3, 2015 in Errors, New skills, Short cuts, Word, Writing


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