AMA: Taylor Harrington on Self-Accountability for Solopreneurs

AMA: Taylor Harrington on Self-Accountability for Solopreneurs

Taylor Harrington, Head of Community at Groove, was a recent guest at one of our Harlow Office Hours sessions, which was focused on holding yourself accountable as a solopreneur. For those of you who aren’t yet familiar, Groove is an accountability club for anyone with a to-do list who wants to find focus. Our community had some juicy questions for Taylor, so we turned her answers into a post. From daily best practices to finding your community, Taylor shared her top tips on mastering accountability.

How to Build Self-Accountability as a Solopreneur

What’s your advice for those who struggle with self-accountability?

There are two things I want to point out. But, before I do that, I can’t stress enough how important it is to figure out the WHY — as in why you’re struggling with self-accountability in the first place. Nailing this down will help guide you through your internal struggle.

My first and biggest piece of advice, having worked with so many freelancers who are working solo, is to figure out what your ideal to-do list looks like. Not everyone wants to have a big, sparkly to-do list or system. For example, some may use Notion or Evernote or even a pen and paper. There are so many different options, so nailing down what works for you when it comes to a to-do list is a very important step in knocking out the items on it.

My second piece of advice is to seek out support. You don’t have to do self-accountability alone. I work from home and use Groove, but before I joined the team, I was working solo and joining different online communities hoping to find my fit. Connection was hard to come by, especially during the height of Covid.

So many freelancers who are a part of our Groove community find a ton of value in that little burst of social connection and the accountability that comes with the commitment: “At the end of this 50-minute Groove, I have to tell someone whether I got that done or not.” As folks who work for ourselves, we don’t typically have that.

How did you figure out what time of the day is most productive for you?

I don’t necessarily have one time every single day that I feel productive — which I think is just the human answer. I know I’m not a morning person, and some of my teammates are on the other side of the world. So the morning is usually when I’m checking emails and Slack while catching up on what’s happened since I last signed off.

Around 10:30 am, I start to get into that flow. I’m caught up, I know what’s on my to-do list, and I’m ready to conquer it. After some afternoon calls, I pick back up on that flow. But I try to listen to my body. I’ll look at my to-do list and say, “Okay, I have some writing that needs to get done, some deep thinking that needs to get done, and some other small tasks.” Then I do my best to determine what is energizing for me by thinking, “How am I feeling and what can I tackle first?” That’s how I structure my days so I’m writing and doing creative work at a time that’s nourishing for me.

Are there any habits you implement into your daily routine that help you keep yourself accountable?

Thanks to my small team and co-founders at Groove, I plan my week in sprints. It’s quickly become a practice for some of the freelancers we work with too. Planning sprints that I know are visible to other members of my team helps keep me accountable. I have a designated time to evaluate last week’s progress and plan ahead, which helps me manage my time more efficiently. I open my sprint every single morning. It’s how I intentionally plan out my day.

Using a sort of personal prioritization system is another tool I use to keep myself and my deliverables in check. For example, I mark the items I must get done that day in green (or use a green emoji), the items that can wait in yellow, and the items that aren’t necessarily a priority and can wait until the following week in red. Using color and emojis signifies what my priorities are for that day and is something that really works for me.

I’m also a big believer in monitoring your energy levels throughout the day and doing your best to maintain them by filling your cup and holding firm on your boundaries. As someone who does a lot of social on-camera work, I try to balance that with some self-care. For example, I practice “No Plan Mondays” — I refuse to make plans after work on Mondays. Instead, I have a day to re-energize myself, set up my week, and get things done for me. This weekly ritual is outside of my work hours, but it sets me up for a productive week. And I look forward to the quiet!

How do you keep yourself from over-committing? How do you communicate this with clients/colleagues?

If your work is somewhat repetitive, get super clear about how long those repeating tasks take you. And if you’re trying something new, bake in additional time. As you continue to commit to new projects, you’ll get better at estimating the time commitment — and at saying no when needed.

Whether you’re working with clients or a small team, it’s important to communicate how long something is going to take you. The more often you do that, the more powerful; it helps people realize that the “little silly task” they’re throwing on your plate last minute is not actually little or silly — it’s going to take you two hours.

Are there any tools you use that help keep you on task?

I’ve tried to create different boundaries around signing off of work at a decent time, and it’s not always easy. One of them is setting daily reminders in Slack that remind me to log off — it’s like a little gift to myself every day that reminds me to check in and see what I need to accomplish in the next few minutes to make sure I’m offline when I want to be.

I also log completely out of my work account on my computer and into my personal account at the end of every day. Then, I’m not logged into anything work-related which creates that additional boundary. Once I’m off, I’m off.

I’m also (obviously) a huge fan of Groove, for when I need a nudge to get working, and Harlow, which helps me manage my tasks and keep track of how much time I’m spending on each one.

How to Discover the Ideal Name for Your Consulting Business

How to Discover the Ideal Name for Your Consulting Business

Grant Polachek is the head of branding for Squadhelp.com, 3X Inc 5000 startup and disruptive naming agency. Squadhelp has reviewed more than 1 million names and curated a collection of the best available names on the web today. They are also the world’s leading crowdsource naming platform, supporting clients from early-stage startups to Fortune 500 companies.

How to Name Your Consulting Business

 

Consultants have always played an important role in the market as one-stop shops for top-level industry advice and proven strategies that can help any business navigate extremely difficult and challenging circumstances.

Although consultants understand the powerful effect of good branding, they often struggle to come up with brand name ideas that capture their skills and services. Today, we’ll be showing you how to find the best name that can help you establish a solid reputation for your consulting brand.

3 Steps to Creating the Best Consulting Business Name

1. Get clear on your brand identity

Flipping through dictionaries in search of a cool word isn’t necessarily the sure path to finding the perfect business name. The process starts with recognizing and defining the foundational elements of your company’s brand, then building a name from there.

Your brand name should ideally convey value and evoke a response from your core audience, helping them connect to your brand’s identity.  Deciding on the brand experience you want to create and intentionally working to build it is the first step to finding a name that lands.

Think of the most iconic consulting businesses like Accenture, Cognizant, Infosys, and McKinsey — these brands took the time to cultivate a vivid and distinct image, from their brand name to the way they communicate, the values they represent, their brand culture, and their unique approach to solving clients’ problems. Their uniqueness strengthens their brand identity, making them memorable and boosting their perceived value.

As a consultant, you can do the same, tapping into the core energy of your brand to come up with a powerful name that leaves a lasting impression.

2. Generate name ideas

After honing in on the fundamentals of your brand identity, you can start brainstorming name ideas. Remember: This isn’t a one-and-done process. It will take time, effort, and feedback from others to find the right fit.

The key goal of brainstorming is to make space for creativity rather than scrutinize every name you come up with. Ensure you write down every idea, even those you don’t particularly like. One of those could easily end up being the winner.

Use the following tools to make the process easier:

  • Thesaurus: Look up unique synonyms for the words you’re playing with.
  • Business name generators: Pick a starting point then let AI do the work for you.
  • Industry terms: Incorporate keywords that will resonate with your audience.
  • Rhymes: It never hurts to add a little flair.

Don’t be afraid to generate up to 200 names, then filter them based on your branding criteria, selecting at most ten words that resonate with your company’s identity. From there, you can whittle it down even further to come up with a truly unique name.

3. Evaluate your name choice

Once you’ve come up with some final contenders, you can filter and validate them. Pay attention key factors that might negatively impact the quality of your brand name, like trademarks, domain and social handle availability, and potential blunders like misspellings or dual meanings. Consider what’s working for similar folks in your industry or niche. Are there any similarities between the brand names that seem to perform well?

At this point, it would be smart to get feedback from others too. Don’t name your business without vetting it with real people. Reach out to a mix of clients and/or peers from demographics that represent your target audience. Ask them for their initial reaction to a few different names. Get their honest input on how they would perceive your business based on each brand name alone.

Keep Building Brand Credibility

Choosing a brand name isn’t the end of your brand-building process. Remember that a great name must be matched with great service to really have an impact. Your goal should be to stand out both in your branding and the quality of your offerings. Keep your business values top of mind as you set out to find new clients. What do you want to be known for? How can you achieve that? By consistently prioritizing your brand’s reputation, you’ll build credibility — and develop a brand name that can stand the test of time.

Your Freelance Rates Cheat Sheet

Your Freelance Rates Cheat Sheet

Figuring out your pricing is one of the hardest parts of ANY business. What should I charge? Should I raise my rates? Am I charging enough? One simple solution: Find out what others in your industry are charging.

We’ve compiled some of the best reports, tools, and posts from our freelance community to give you a sense of what other freelancers are charging. These resources can act as your sounding board, helping you adjust your current pricing or set your rates for the first time ever.

Start your research with these resources, but don’t be afraid to reach out to your community to compare rates too. Talking about money is healthy and normal — it should be the standard, especially for freelancers. We’re all here to help each other!

 

For Freelance Writers and Marketers

Peak Freelance’s Writing Rates Report

The Freelance Writing Rates Report from Peak Freelance is an incredible resource for content marketers and writers. Peak Freelance surveyed more than 200 freelancers in this space and generated insights on pricing and income for newbies and veterans alike. Dig in to figure out what to charge for white papers, blog posts, emails, and more, and see what others in your industry are making overall.

Ashley Cummings’ Freelance Writing Rates Report

This report, specifically for writers, was put together by Ashley Cummings because she spent so much time researching rates as a new writer. She couldn’t find the exact info she wanted, so she did the work herself! After surveying more than 260 freelance writers, she created this report. Check out her findings to see the rates other writers charge and how they structure their pricing. Ashley also shares data on how often other freelancers work each week, how they find clients, and lots more.

Superpath’s Content Marketing Report

Compare the potential earnings of full-time versus freelance marketing with this handy report from Superpath. It includes data on total income in both categories along with breakdowns for B2B, DTC, and job title, and the wage gap between men and women. This is especially helpful if you’re currently working full time and considering the shift to freelance — or debating going back to full-time work.

Credo’s Digital Marketing Consultant Rates

This survey data from Credo is simple but super helpful. It shares insights on contract length and average monthly retainer. I’d recommend pairing this data with their overview of rates, retainers and project minimums for digital agencies if you operate more as an agency than a solopreneur — or if you want to grow into that!

For Freelance Designers

Dribbble’s Freelance Graphic Design Rates Guide

The calculator in Dribbble’s graphic design rates guide is a perfect starting place for pricing. Add your location, role, and years of experience to get a suggested rate in your local currency. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the guide too. They give you an equation to calculate your hourly rate based on how much you want or need to earn, and advise you on whether hourly or fixed-rate pricing would be better.

Payscale’s Freelance Graphic Design Guide

Payscale provides a variety of tools to help you define your rates, including a calculator to figure out your “market worth.” You’ll also find information on average hourly rates for designers and skills that affect salaries.

For Freelance Developers and Product People

Say My Rate’s Calculator

The team at Say My Rate can help you discover your “true” hourly rate with their free rate tool. Once you specify your name, the type of work you do, your location, your experience, and a few more details, their team emails you an hourly rate that they’re “fairly confident you could earn on the market.” It’s truly that simple!

Arc’s Freelance Developer Rate Explorer

The rate explorer from Arc is unique in that it shares average hourly rates for specific development skills, including WordPress, blockchain, Ruby on Rails, and a dozen other development niches. This could be helpful if you work with a variety of development languages and want to price more challenging projects at a higher rate. Never undervalue your skills!

For All Freelancers

Freelancing Females’ Rate Sheet and Calculator

Freelancing Females developed a super helpful rate calculator and an extensive breakdown of freelancing rates worldwide. This is one of the most comprehensive rate sheets we’ve seen. It includes details like gender, location, rate type, industry, job title, and more. Scroll to find your job type, which is listed alphabetically, and then use the industry column to find the rates that directly correlate with the work you do.

Upwork’s How to Calculate Your Freelance Rate

This comprehensive guide from Upwork gives you step-by-step directions for determining your freelance marketing rate along with helpful equations. They encourage you to think about your annual income goal, expenses, and value too — important pieces of the puzzle that are easy to forget when you’re setting competitive rates.

More Resources on Setting Your Freelance Rates

How to Figure Out Your Pricing

Harlow’s pricing guide helps you calculate billable hours and working days per year. We’re passionate about helping find the best work-life balance possible, and to do that, you have to factor in your downtime too.

How to Discuss Freelancer Fees With Clients

Do you get anxiety sharing your rates with a prospective client for the first time? Big same. It can be so nerve-wracking — What will they think? Am I asking for too much? In this article, we break down a few common scenarios that crop up when discussing pricing and help you navigate each one.

How to Repackage Your Services and Sell the Value of Your Work

Finally, learn how to charge the rate you deserve, and more importantly — how to own it! This post will inspire you to refine your pricing and make sure you’re charging based on value and results.

 

Freelance Interview Series – Bringing on a Virtual Assistant with Erin Booth

Freelance Interview Series – Bringing on a Virtual Assistant with Erin Booth

Erin Booth is a virtual assistant and coach who’s helped over 32,000 solopreneurs start their own VA businesses. We asked Erin to share her take on how freelancers and VAs can work together to build sustainable, efficient freelance businesses.

How to Bring on a Virtual Assistant

When should freelancers consider bringing on a virtual assistant?

When it comes to hiring a virtual assistant, there’s no “one-size-fits-all” answer. But if you’ve been feeling overwhelmed or like you’re not delivering your best work, it might be time to bring in some help.

Here are the most common signs that it’s time to introduce a trusted partner into your business:

You don’t have time to complete all of your priorities. This is the single most common reason that people opt to hire a VA.

Your work is suffering. You could be behind on your own billing or client maintenance, or you’re spending too much time on things that don’t result in direct income — like scheduling meetings.

Someone else might be better suited for a task. Maybe you’re not an expert in web design or Google Ads but you know those elements would benefit your business. Or maybe there’s a task that you simply hate doing (I’m looking at you, bookkeeping). Hiring a VA in these niches would definitely be an option for you.

How can freelancers determine what tasks a virtual assistant can take on for them?

Before you bring on a VA, it’s important to understand how much time you spend doing admin tasks vs. direct work for your clients.

The best way to do this is to document everything you do over the course of a week or two. At the end of the week, assess how much time you’ve spent on admin type tasks vs. direct work for your clients.

This process can help you identify what types of time-sucking tasks you can immediately offload onto a VA and make sure that your focus remains on working with clients.

Having said that, I have a quick and simple exercise to help you create a laundry list of items to delegate. Choose a task (like setting up calls, for example) and ask yourself:

1. Do I like doing this?
2. Is it repeatable?
3. Can it be delegated?

If the answers are No, Yes, Yes, then you’ve found tasks to delegate!

Pro Tip: Pay close attention to tasks that result in direct income. These high ROI tasks are best to delegate. For example, if you’re a freelance writer, ask your VA to send out pitches or keep a running list of potential projects.

Where can freelancers find a VA?

There are two main ways to find a VA: You can sign up with a VA-matching agency (like Zirtual or Time ETC), or you can find a freelancer on your own. There are pros and cons to each method.

In a nutshell, agencies will match you with a VA on their payroll but will charge you a premium price for the service. Finding a VA on your own can be more cost-effective since you control the budget, but it takes more work upfront.

Regardless of which route you opt for, it’s helpful to jot down a job description for your VA:

  • Get clear on the type of assistance/tasks you’re seeking.
  • Consider your budget carefully, and plan out how many hours per week or month you anticipate needing assistance.
  • Include a call to action so assistants know exactly how and where to respond to your listing.

Sharing this listing on your social media profiles is a great place to start. You can also ask your peers if they have VA recommendations, or consider listing your job listing on platforms like Fiverr.

What are some ways to determine whether or not a VA is going to be a good fit?

When you’re looking to hire a virtual assistant, it’s important to get a feel for who they are as a person. After all, you’ll be working closely with this person for (potentially) years to come.
Video chat is the perfect way to do this. It gives you an opportunity to determine whether or not they’re a good fit for the role, and you’ll get a feel for their personality right off the bat.

And while a great VA will take the lead and ask you pertinent questions about your business, your goals, and your current needs, you can also ask candidates about their work experience, rates, typical turnaround time, etc.

What other advice do you have for freelancers who are considering hiring a virtual assistant?

A great VA wants to become your right-hand person, your trusted confidant, and your partner in growth. But this kind of partnership takes time, trust, and work to build.

Don’t feel discouraged if you and your VA aren’t on the same page from Day 1. Give yourself time to learn how to be a clearer communicator and better delegator, and give your VA time to learn your work preferences and communication style.

10 Freelance Blogs You Should Bookmark

10 Freelance Blogs You Should Bookmark

If you’re ready to level up your business, learn more about your finances, or just be reminded that you’re not alone on this journey, freelance blogs are a valuable resource. The question is, which blogs are actually worth reading? You only have so much extra time in the day.

I decided to do the research for you and, in doing so, found ten blogs that are written by freelancers or freelance-specific companies. They talk your talk and walk your walk! I also made sure that their content was legit because, let’s be honest, anyone can start a blog these days, but we want the good stuff.

Bookmark these freelance blogs for future reading. Or, if you’re more into listening, check out our favorite podcasts for freelancers.

 

Double Your Freelancing

From escaping Upwork to niching down, Double Your Freelancing covers a little bit of everything — and does it well. No watered-down content or half-baked thoughts here. All of their content is in-depth, well-written, and thorough, ensuring you get all the information you need on that particular topic.

Millo

Millo lives and breathes freelancing with a blog, podcast, and courses created for freelancers of all kinds. Check out their blog for tips and advice on topics like managing multiple clients and improving your communication skills. Don’t miss their real-world blog posts (like I’m a Logo Designer—Here’s What to Charge for Logo Design) all of which provide an interesting and relatable perspective.

Collective

Get all your freelance finance questions answered here. Whether you want to learn about how to get more money back during tax time or choose a payroll provider, Collective has a blog post for you. I also love that all their writers are finance experts — when it comes to these topics, you want to make sure you’re getting content from people you can trust.

Make a Living Writing

Bookmark Make a Living Writing if you want to learn about being a better writer and even non-writers will get valuable tips on copywriting, content creation, and marketing. I recommend checking out this blog post on how to become a better editor — from emails to proposals, being a great editor is a skill all of us freelancers need!

Flux Academy

If you’re looking for branding ideas, tips, and strategies, add Flux Academy to your list of freelance blogs to frequent. I appreciate how they cover so many unique branding topics and do it thoroughly. They also include lots of examples and graphics so the content is easier to understand, like in this blog post, What Is Brand Identity Prism And How Does It Work?

Harlow

This is our shameless plug for the Harlow Blog. We love creating this content for our freelance community! We talk about all things freelance life and business, from work-life balance to charging what you’re worth. We especially enjoy featuring other freelancers we admire with guest posts and interviews. Check out our recent talk with Momina Asif.

Creatorbread

This is another one of our top freelance blogs for creatives, and their focus is on business and money. They publish on a wide range of topics like creating financial stability. They also do interviews with other freelancers and freelance experts. Creatorbread also sends a newsletter called The Loaf on Saturdays, so if you like what they’re doing, you can get the best of their content delivered right to your inbox weekly.

Fiverr Workspace

Fiverr has built an extensive blog filled with tons of amazing content for every freelance need you have. I mean, seriously, when you dig into their extensive content, you’ll find that you can learn about everything from which software you should use to how to leverage SEO for your freelance website. Most of the content is written by their team and well-sourced, which is a must.

Contently

While Contently’s platform is for freelance writers, their blog covers topics that all freelancers will find valuable. Definitely check out their Voices content, which features real stories from real freelancers out there trying to grow a business doing what they love. That’s the dream, right?!

99designs

Most of us freelancers wear multiple hats and Creative Director and Designer are usually two of them. 99designs offers a wide range of content for both creative professionals and also those of us seeking a little extra shot of creativity for our freelance business. Check out their Get Inspired section for design ideas for every area of your business!

Freelance Interview Series – Navigating Childcare as a Small Business Owner with Maria West

Freelance Interview Series – Navigating Childcare as a Small Business Owner with Maria West

Maria West is a copywriter, self-proclaimed hype woman for parenting brands in DTC, e-commerce, and tech, and mom to two boys. 

She regularly shares her freelance experiences with her community and today we’ve asked her to share her top tips for navigating remote work, parenting, and childcare.

Navigating Childcare as a Small Business Owner

How has your remote work schedule shifted since starting a family?

I was laid off from my full-time job as an in-house content marketing manager early pandemic (April 2020), only six weeks after returning from my maternity leave with my first son. Once I started freelancing after that, it was a struggle to balance a baby at home and work when things ramped up beyond being able to fit it in at naptime. I hired a babysitter a few days a week — my husband’s company at the time covered a sitter service for a certain amount of days, which was a huge benefit for us. Then we started him in full-time daycare when he turned one, even though I wasn’t working full-time hours. It worked for us, though!

What does your current child care situation look like? What steps did you take to decide what was best for you and your family?

Right now, my oldest son (almost three years old) goes to full-time daycare. He thrives there and is learning so much, and I’m not the kind of mom who is going to plan 1,398 learning and sensory activities at home every day. I love daycare because I know the teachers are qualified and love the kids. When I have sitters at home, I tend to get anxious about everything I can hear (e.g. they didn’t put on the sound machine for a nap so he’s crying, etc.). My seven-month-old is still home full-time with me, but I book a sitter a few hours a week if I need it using the SitterTree app. He’s pretty chill and naps a good bit so I can still manage things (for now 😅). I went past my limit last month with work and felt how hard it was to juggle everything — do not recommend.

Talk to us about ramping up a freelance business after taking maternity leave.

Coming back from maternity leave was a lot harder than expected. My situation was unique in that I told (lovely!) existing clients that I would no longer be working with them when I returned because I was rebranding my biz to DTC Mom and focusing on the parenting/consumer space. So I lost some momentum, which was to be expected. I had a few brands lined up but ended up not working with them for one reason or another. The catch? Postpartum emotions are also 10x more intense. I flung around, interviewing for full-time roles and questioning everything. But my rebranding and networking paid off — the seeds I had planted came to fruition eventually. Only two months later, I was turning down opportunities due to not having the capacity.

This article from Kat Boogaard is awesome for leave planning.

What scheduling tips and tricks have you implemented to help you manage your day-to-day?

I use Calendly to book meetings and only open two-hour blocks on two days each week. This helps me easily align with my husband’s schedule if he needs to help with the baby during meetings. I also knock out whatever needs my “best brain” in the morning during my son’s first nap, since that’s when my energy is at its peak. Afternoons are optional work time if I need it, otherwise I will play/do errands, etc. Also, BLESS the schedule Gmail feature. 🙏🏼

I’m taking the full month of December off because I want to have some de-stress time with my baby when he’s more mobile and appreciative of things we can do together vs. just waiting for the next window to work (this isn’t good for anyone). It was important to me to have him home for his first year since I unexpectedly got that with my oldest (thanks, pandemic).

I AM STILL FIGURING THIS OUT. It’s not easy! My workouts, self-care, etc. really suffered when I took on too much work. There’s no “One Best Way.”

What advice do you have for freelancers with children at home who are trying to figure out how to balance it all?

Just because you work from home or work less than 40 hours per week doesn’t mean you have to have your kids with you. Don’t be afraid of childcare, and don’t be afraid to mix-and-match your childcare (like one kid in daycare, one with you or a nanny or grandparent). Also, don’t lose sight of your WHY. I wanted my baby home for his first year (like mentioned above) and one way I chose to not overload myself with work and make the most of that was by taking December off. You have to say no sometimes to make room for the yes.

If possible, have a partner with a steady/flexible job. 😜