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Living Life in the Freelance Lane: Tips & Tricks for ‘lancers

Nadja Sayej (left)

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Coworking is where freelancing begins, but it isn’t where it ends. You need to know your rights, stay on top of your financial education and keep moving forward with the inspiration to succeed (without falling in to the side ditch of being professionally unemployed). Some say freelancers have the freedom to work any 13 hours of the day they like, but the smarter ones know they could set themselves free to the Four Hour Workweek.

As someone who consults, teaches and writes ebooks about self-promotion and business planning, I’ve got to say the most successful freelancers (in the creative field, where I work), are the ones who don’t follow their dreams – they hunt them down and beat them into submission. How is that for tactful? Well, everyone has a different style. If you’re focused, willing to take care of the details and do the things you don’t want to do, you’re almost there. If you know what you’re doing…even better. Here are tips and a ton of links to keep you busy, so be prepared to bookmark. There is no sitting around, however. You have to do something once you learn because taking action is just as important as knowledge.

Getting cash flow

If you are blessed with regular clients who come to you for work, you’re lucky. Or smart. Every freelancer knows they not only need regular pay cheques but also backup or ‘Plan B’ work. However, if you want to expand your prospects, it typically helps to get on freelance specialist job sites like Elance, Freelance, Freelancer, Odesk, and other ones like Absolventa, Mars Jobs, JobsLike.me or Takker.de.

If you find a cool company and notice your dream job is not listed, you could always write them offering your skills in the department where you typically work. It has worked for me in the past. If you truly are passionate about a brand, that speaks louder than any polished CV. That is usually what motivates people to reply. Otherwise, go through your personal network to find work. I always advise my clients to set up an Information Interview with someone at the top of your field and ask them how they made it in the beginning.

Inspiration is a motivator

I’ve always been firm about setting a schedule, even for freelancers. My talk at Social Media Week Berlin outlines how to create online schedules where you decide what tasks you need to accomplish in a six-hour coworking time slot before even flipping your laptop open. It requires changing your patterns for the better, as well as simplifying you online life.

Yanuar Prisantoso, graphic designer and developer, founder of Denbagus.net, wrote a great list of productivity tips for freelance web designers here, but for the rest of us, there is no point in setting a schedule if you’re going to drag yourself to get work done. Inspiration is a key motivator. If you’re not inspired, chances are you won’t get any work done. Find out what inspires you and go towards that – for me it’s having as many journalists quote apps as I can find. What keeps you at the edge of your seat? Inspiration tactics include: Avoid hesitation, learn how to say no, save your energy, set goals and focus. I also recommend setting up a brainstorm wall. You can see mine here. [Photo]

Sign up for a free e-class about money

The miseducation of most freelancers lies in the limitations of their financial education. It was Donald Trump who said in his book Why We Want You To Be Rich ,that you must invest time in learning more about money because ‘education replaces fear.’

How can you educate yourself about money? The business writer LaToya Irby is an online course instructor for an e-class about debt and money resources. From credit management to personal savings, her weekly class is highly recommended on About.com. I also recommend a free ebook by Robin Sharma, his Little Black Book For Stunning Success.

Dealing with bureaucracy

A large part of being a freelancer is to know your rights – and standing up for them. However, not everything entails getting an expensive lawyer you cannot afford. As the great leaders and teachers of the world have taught us, every problem has a solution. It depends on how much time you want to spend on finding a solution versus making the problem worse. Knowledge is power.

The FAU (Freie ArbeiterInnen-Union) is a free worker’s union based in Berlin created for locals and foreigners. For the latter, they help educated foreigners who have been exploited by employers because they don’t know their rights as workers in Germany. They support their members on the picket line and in the courtroom. As part of the International Workers’ Association (IWA), the FAU says freelancers must legally be paid within 30 days after issuing their invoices. They also note that if a freelancer is an integral part of their workflow, “then you may be a fictitious freelancer and have the same rights as an employee.”

In speaking with Mahmoud Homsy, a member of the FAU Berlin's foreigners' section in Berlin, they help freelancers in work-related conflicts. Be it if you aren’t paid, your work is used without permission or if you have experienced unsafe working conditions, they also offer legal advice and legal representation to members. “The freelancers within the FAU Berlin share their knowledge and experience with each other,” said Homsy. “The wealth of members young and old means that someone has probably already had the problem you have now and can give you advice. Our office is available to all members to hold meetings, plan action or just enjoy a beer.”

The FAU has helped freelancers get their money through publicity, pickets, office occupation and more. “The creativity of our members is boundless,” said Homsy.

If you are a foreigner who speaks English and would like to join the FAU, write them or check out the foreign section on their website. If you speak German, you should email them asking how you can join. They also have membership forms online on their website.

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