Going Freelance – 5 Tips For Entering The Freelance Economy

5 tips for entering the freelance economy

Photo Source: Kaboom Pics

A few weeks back I gave a talk at The Alley about my experience in joining the freelance economy. The evening was filled with personal stories and powerful tips for getting started. I learned a lot from the other presenters and had a great time sharing my experience so far. Below are key takeaways from that talk.

1. Establish your value-add.

Before you make the jump, it’s critical to understand the value of what you bring to the marketplace. Speak with business leaders in your circle to understand their needs within your area of expertise. For me, it was an intimidating process because marketing is such a huge vertical. After I understood what people needed the most help with, I was able to establish a framework for how to help.

2. Get organized.

I use Trello to manage action items related to the business itself. For example, I have several lists set up for capturing to-dos and tracking leads.

One thing I wish I did earlier was set up a separate gmail account for business correspondence only. Having a separate account helps keep things streamlined and creates a better work-life balance.

Each client gets a tracking number. This number is added to their Trello board, Google drive folder, and company profile within FreshBooks.

Google drive is key for collecting and sharing project files and documentation. I use Freshbooks for invoicing, Slack and Skype for communication, and countless other services for managing my calendar and keeping inboxes streamlined.

I went to the bank and got a business checking card to separate business expenses from personal ones. In conjunction with Mint, this will make things much easier come tax season.

3. Optimize your environment.

For the first two months as a freelancer I worked from home. I learned that it wasn’t sustainable over time.  I needed to get out of the house in order to work more efficiently in general, and get at least a little amount of socialization in.

One of the hardest parts about going freelance for me, outside of worrying constantly about money, was working alone 100% of the time. I learned that I need to be around other people to get the juices flowing,  so I designed a work environment that worked the best in order to achieve that.

4. Remember that Energy is greater than Time.

As a freelancer it’s important to optimize your time, but it’s equally if not more important to maintain mental energy. If your energy is low, you won’t be able to complete tasks as quickly or with nearly as much focus. It may seem selfish at first to prioritize self-care and maintain a healthy work-life balance. But in the end, it’s critical in order to prevent burn out and keep your energy reserves high over a sustained period of time.

5. Plug-in to like-minded communities.

Go to events hosted by companies that support the freelance economy. Some examples of companies that host great events include:  WorkFrom, Fivver, and Cloudpeeps. Explore co-working places and opportunities to work with others. Co-working communities often host events for socializing and have Slack channels for participating in knowledge share during the work week. These communities are helpful for building friendships, finding resources, and generating leads.  

Remember, your desire to be a freelancer is a logical one. It was never explained to us when we were young that this way of living and working is a viable option, therefore the concept can at times appear hazy.

However, the percentage of freelancers is on the rise. Freelancers are part of a larger movement focused on creating a sustainable and independent work economy. With some solid strategy, decent organizational skills and willpower, you can make the transition too.

View the presentation from my talk here.

Becoming Antifragile – How To Gain From Disorder


Image Credit: Andre Faria Gomes

Image Credit: Andre Faria Gomes via Slideshare: Antifragile: Lessons Learned

“Wind extinguishes a candle and energizes fire. Likewise with randomness, uncertainty, chaos – you want to use them, not hide from them. You want to be the fire and wish for the wind.”

-Nassim Taleb

Last week I gave a talk at the monthly Catalysts Collective event here in San Francisco on the topic of antifragility. The following points are highlights from my talk.

To understand the premise of Antifragile – Things That Gain From Disorder there are three key areas to consider.

We know what it means to be fragile – to be easily broken. Another way to interpret it is to be damaged by disorder. The world’s banking system is a good example – something left vulnerable to chaos, randomness, and uncertainty.

After the state of fragility comes resiliency. Things that are resilient have the ability withstand disorder. Imagine a structure built to withstand earthquakes. When an actual earthquake occurs, the building (hopefully) remains standing. It does not change.

A great story of being resilient is the phoenix. The phoenix may rise from the ashes, but he rises only to become what he once was before. 

The final state Taleb focuses on is the state of being antifragile.

Antifragility is when something benefits from disorder. While startups are known to harbor an improbability of success, when viewed in increments success happens as a result of randomness, chance, volatility and instability. 

When viewed from the macro level, the startup economy benefits society as a whole. It creates room for opportunity and innovation. Things like volatility and instability are required in order for them to achieve the point of contribution at scale. This concept can be applied to the contribution of individuals too – organic things, like muscle mass, require some level of instability or challenge in order to grow.

I believe that being antifragile is essential for personal revolution.

Some benefits of being antifragile include:

  • Increased confidence
  • Welcomeness to change
  • The allowance of discomfort
  • Possessing a growth mindset versus a fixed one.

Here are  ways to become antifragile:

  • Think of perceived failure as opportunity
  • Lean into fear
  • Embrace community
  • Listen to yourself and to others
  • Seek opportunities
  • Build a strong baseline
  • Use the barbell strategy.

The barbell strategy is a method presented by Taleb. Consider the image of a barbell. The maximum amount of risk you’re willing to take goes on one side. It’s balanced by Maslov’s basic needs (food, water, safety) on the opposing end.

This is a very basic introduction to the basic concepts of Antifragility. If you’d like to learn more, I recommend checking out the book itself or visit the following blogs that present nice summaries and applicable tips for becoming antifragile.

Taylor Pearson – Antifragile Book Notes

StartupBros – How You Can Profit From The Unknown: Becoming Antifragile

Buy – Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder (Amazon)

What’s Mamba Mentality? Kobe, Kyrie & The Pursuit Of Greatness

Kyrie Irving with the series-clinching shot

Source: Complex.com

When describing their comeback at the end of Game 5, LeBron James famously said “It’s all about those two magic words. Game 7.”

In the NBA playoffs, each team battles an opponent from their division bracket-style, playing the best out of 7 games with the winning team advancing to the next round. It’s fairly common that each match up won’t make it all the way to Game 7 – sometimes a team will win four straight games, or they’ll battle it out through five. Making it to seven means that each team has given it their all and have an equal chance to advance. It all comes down to the final game. Or in this case, the final few seconds.

In the last minute of Game 7 between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors, everything came down to a moment in time when either LeBron and crew would win the NBA championship title or lose it all, marking the 56th year that a Cleveland team had once again failed to win a professional sports championship.

In the tense final seconds of Game 7, Kyrie Irving made a three point shot that sealed the deal for the Cavs. “All I was thinking was Mamba Mentality,” he said. The internet lit up with searches. Many NBA fans may be familiar with this philosophy from another all-time NBA great — Kobe Bryant.

“We don’t quit, we don’t cower, we don’t run. We endure and conquer. That’s mamba mentality.”

-Kobe Bryant

We can draw from this mentality in order to show up as the best version of ourselves in everyday life. It can pick us up when times get rough – when we miss the shot and fall emotionally flat.

Having the ability to get back up and endure the struggle with honor and integrity is the source of real power. When we harness it, we create drive. We also take ownership of our lives that, even in incremental steps, points us in the direction of being Great.

One game at a time.

Besides, real Greatness is not defined by others. It’s our ability to become better than who we were yesterday. And set ourselves up to be even better tomorrow.

Kyrie was absent from the NBA finals a year ago when the Cavaliers faced the Warriors for the first time. Instead he was posting to social media from a hospital room where he was being treated for a knee injury. His disappointment was palpable.

Despite the injury — and countless injuries that he suffered all season long — the 24-year old did not let it get him down. He worked hard when he returned to practice, persevered in training, and showed up all season long to do what was necessary in order to bring him back to that arena floor once again.

As part of their three-game comeback (a first for the league) Kyrie scored 42 points alongside four-time NBA MVP and three-time Finals MVP LeBron James. It was the first time two players from the same team scored so many points within a single game.

Irving demonstrated mamba mentality through the critical seconds of that final game to seal the deal for the Cavaliers while marking a major milestone in the history of Cleveland sports.

We have the ability to create a similar story for ourselves. To let nothing stand in our way. To persevere, overcome setbacks and to lean on others for support. To always play to the best of our ability despite unfavorable conditions. Chances are, the odds will wind up in our favor.

Beyond Meditation: Improving Brain Health And Performance

Image Source: Medicalxpress

Brain health is a fascinating topic. We know so little about our brains yet they drive everything we do. Meditation and the concept of mindfulness are popular topics, yet we don’t understand how we arrive at the benefits that everyone talks about. It’s probably safe to say that the majority of us don’t know how our brains actually work.

The good news is that we’re in new period of health and wellness where doctors can accurately see how our brains function, and even pinpoint the specific areas where our brains malfunction. This is very different from the traditional, assumption-based approach to making diagnoses in mental health. We are also learning that in many cases, real treatment doesn’t require the help of chemical drugs in order for us to find balance or heal.

 The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge, M.D. is an informative read that focuses on brain elasticity. He presents the concept that that we can redesign our brains by understanding how they work from a mechanical perspective.

For example, you know when you have trouble recalling a memory, or a specific word? Blame it on the gradual neglect of the brain’s attentional system. In short, our brains become noisy. When this happens, the signal for a new memory can’t compete against the background electrical activity of the brain. This causes a signal-to-noise problem.

Using practical explanations paired with real-world stories, Doidge covers topics ranging from healing through neuroplastic therapy to everyday practices for preserving our brains.

In Change Your Brain, Change Your LifeDr. Amen calls out the main issue with  mental health today – we are “throwing medication-tipped darts” at issues unproven through science.

He relies on a technology called SPECT  to discover which areas of the brain over or under perform. Unlike an MRI or CAT scan,  a SPECT scan shows the electrical activity happening within your brain as it functions. Based on this, he is able to find the cause of a problem through factual evidence.

A SPECT scan is expensive – it’ll set you back $3,500. In Change Your Brain, Change Your Life, he presents methods for anyone to improve their brain health. Treatment methods are broken into four core areas, or 4 overlapping circles, where we can take a balanced approach to assessment and healing.

  1. Biological – how your body actually functions. This is the physical aspect of how your brain and body work together. Factors include nutrition, exercise, sleep, hormones, genetics, and overall physical health.
  1. Psychological – developmental issues and how you think. This includes how we talk to ourselves, self-concept, body image, traumas, upbringing, and significant developmental events.
  1. Social – social support and your current life. This includes the quality of one’s relationships and current life stressors. For example, depression is often triggered by stressful life events involving others, and the health habits of the people with whom we spend time with have a dramatic impact on habits and well-being.
  1. Spiritual – your sense of meaning and purpose. Having a sense of purpose allows us to reach beyond ourselves to affirm that our lives matter.

Mental health is a topic we tread lightly, as though we are somehow considered “broken” or “weak” when addressed. The irony is that our brains are actually the CEOs of our bodies –  influencing every thought we have, each action we take and the behaviors we choose to express. If we treat mental health in a reactive way rather than a circumstantial one, we can break these taboos and become higher functioning human-beings in the process.

Meditation Can Literally Rewire Your Brain

Photo: WoodlyWonderworks, Finding Balance

Photo: WoodleyWonderworks, Finding Balance

I’ve been meditating on and off for the past ten years. It wasn’t until late last year that I started getting consistent about my practice.

There are two big reasons why I made it a daily habit. First, I joined a group called The Catalyst Collective. As part of the 8-week pilot program  we were asked to do the following things daily: write, get 20 minutes of physical exercise, and meditate.

I’ve always liked meditation. In theory it’s so easy – just sit there and breathe? No problem! I quickly came to notice that dropping into a meditative state is not as simple as it seems. With personal coaching from Palomi Sheth I’ve been able to take my sessions deeper through regular practice mixed with a variety of visualization exercises.

Step 1: Calm and center the physical body. A solid technique for this is to do a body scan.

Step 2: Become aware of your mind’s activity.

 Notice, then release, the crazy parade of thoughts and feelings going through your mind. Releasing these thoughts is key and tends to be the most challenging part of meditation, for me at least.

One technique that’s worked for me is to imagine each thought as a balloon. After identifying the thought, I acknowledge it – then release the balloon from my head space.

Another successful technique is to view your thoughts as a film reel. Observe the film as it plays, then move yourself further from the screen.

These first two steps usually take me twenty minutes or more before I drop into a meditative state.

Some nights it doesn’t work at all. In the Catalyst group we talked about even doing a few minutes of deep breathing to get the habit going. And it worked! I saw results – those few minutes spent sitting and breathing helped me relax and recenter right away.

Since then, I’ve made an effort to meditate every evening right before bedtime. Many people find that mornings are equally if not more effective. Here are three ways meditation has helped me and how it can be beneficial to your lifestyle.

  1. Stress reduction.

I’ve been coping  with high levels of anxiety my entire life. In the past few years I’ve discovered new ways to manage and avoid compounding it. Some would call it a flaw, others a feature. Either way, meditation has helped me to remove myself from the craziness. It helps me to learn that the things I fret over are not worth worrying about at all.  

  1.  Promotes mindfulness.

One of my favorite exercises is to visualize a set of Jenga blocks. When I see the initial stack, the blocks are all out of order. They form a jagged tower and it’s about to tip over. As I continue to breathe, the blocks align.  This exercise is incredibly centering and  goes great after steps 1 and 2 above.

  1.  Improves focus and concentration.

It’s ironic that during meditation, I focus on nothing at all. Yet in my daily life, meditation helps me to focus on one thing at a time and give it 100% of my energy.

There are countless other benefits. Meditation has been proven to support the immune system,  increase happiness, and slow  the aging process. If you’re new to meditation don’t worry about doing the right type or having the right tools  (i.e. the latest app).

The best technique is age-old and strips everything else away: simply sit comfortably, close your eyes, and breathe.