How to host a webinar (for free!)

This guest post is by graphic designer Jamie of Spruce Rd. 

Recently, I launched an exciting side-project for Spruce Rd: monthly live-workshops during my lunch break, titled Lunch + Learn. The vision is to share practical design + business tutorials, and a behind-the-scenes peek into freelancing.

I was super jazzed about this project, but I was also overwhelmed about the logistics of webinars. I knew I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on a webinar service, so I decided to test out a few free options until I found the right fit. For my last few Lunch + Learns about utilizing illustrator templates for your blog, I tested Crowdcast...and I am so glad I did!

Here's my honest review of the platform...

What works:

  • Free: Crowdcast is a free platform that works with Google Hangouts. Your live webinar will appear on your crowdcast event page, but the backend works seamlessly with Google Hangouts on Air.
  • Friendly user interface: The user interface design is the main reason I switched to Crowdcast vs. Google Hangouts. The design is pretty minimal, uses clean type, and thinks with the viewer in mind. They stripped all of the distractions and created a platform that is easy to enjoy a webinar.
  • Gathers emails: Unlike Google Hangouts, Crowdcast gathers emails of the webinar attendees. This allows you to add them to your newsletter list (if you make it clear their email will be added), and invite those attendees to future webinars. You also have the ability to send an email reminder to the participants as many times as needed before or after the webinar. This is something that Google Hangouts is missing, and Crowdcast has made it very easy.
  • More conducive to interaction: I noticed a tremendous difference between my previous webinar on Google Hangouts, and the one on Crowdcast, in terms of engagement from the attendees. Because of Crowdcast’s friendly design, the viewers were able to chat all throughout the webinar, ask questions or take a poll. I loved this feature, because it can feel a bit awkward talking to yourself, so it is helpful to have a chat feature that encourages the participants to engage in conversation. People even showed up early to the workshop, and we chatted about what we were eating for lunch, introduced ourselves, and started the conversation! 
  • Access to a recorded video: Once the live webinar is finished, Crowdcast keeps the video on the live event page, and also pushes it to your YouTube account. This is a nice feature that allows you to download the video, change the thumbnail, or embed on your site.

What’s missing:

  • Buttons for promotional purposes: If you are promoting a product/course, it can be nice to have a button on the webinar to make it easy for participants to pay for the product, or go to a link on your website. This feature is available on most paid services, but Crowdcast keeps things minimal and does not offer this feature yet. This would be a huge selling point for anyone who wants to sell, because of the ease for users to click a button and pay for the product. You could potentially miss sells because of this lacking feature.
  • Customer support/tutorials: There are no tutorials or support for this app. They are responsive through email, but they do not offer full support. With that said, Crowdcast is really easy to use, so you probably won’t need full support anyways!

Overall, I would use Crowdcast again! The participants enjoyed it as well, which is what matters most. If you want to join me in my next Lunch + Learn workshop on August 6th, you can sign up here!

Jamie is the designer and blogger behind Spruce Rd. She loves helping bloggers and entrepreneurs get noticed through quality branding, and providing them with practical tips + tricks! She loves all things chocolate, Wes Anderson and The Container Store.
Blog | Twitter | Lunch + Learn

How to deal with nightmare clients

Have you ever taken on a client you were a dubious about? A client that refused to Skype with you, expressed doubt about legitimate parts of your contract, or did something else to spike your suspicion?

Have you ever taken on a client you thought was amazing, only to see they're actually not?

In these situations, alarm bells go off in our minds because we realize we may have just booked a nightmare client; the kind of client that could drive us crazy for months on end and then refuse to pay us the money we deserve.

It's every freelancers worst fear. But it undoubtedly happens to every one of us at some point in our businesses. 

I've had lots of happy, I'm-in-love-with-my-new-brand clients over the past twelve months. But I've also had 2 nightmare clients in the past twelve months. 

Why am I telling you this?

Because this club is where I promised I'd be totally honest about my successes and my failures, even if those failures are huge or embarrassing.

It's important to talk about our bad client experiences because new freelancers only ever see the shiny frontage of experienced freelancers. They see the wonderful testimonials we may have collected, the portfolios we've built, the friendships we have with past clients and other freelancers... I looks like we have it all sorted out. 

Today I'm here to tell you that's not the case.

My business isn't perfect- nobody’s is. Every freelancer runs into bumps along the road, no matter how much experience they have. The important thing is that we learn from those experiences. When we don't, we miss out on amazing opportunities to improve our businesses. 

Now, let's get onto my nightmare clients... 

Nightmare Client #1

Initially: When we spoke over Skype she was bubbly, funny and friendly. It was like we’d known each other for a lifetime. She talked a lot and tended to veer off subject, causing us to go way over the time I allot for consultation calls, but at the time I didn’t mind. 

Throughout the project: She provided feedback on time which was great! She also gave me a lot of creative freedom, which was also something I like about her. On the other hand, she kept adding to the project scope and expecting me to do the additional work for free. She wrote long, confusing essays for emails and she sent me about 4 emails a day, going back and forth on the decisions she'd made. 

After the project: A month after her project had ended, she emailed me asking me to complete another design for her. I couldn't fit any more work in my schedule so I kindly explained and referred her to my colleague. But what happened next? She flipped out and wrote me a long email telling me she thought I was brushing her off. She also said she was finding Wordpress really hard to use and couldn't believe she'd wasted money on the site I built for her.

The way she'd written her email was sharp and hurtful. I read this email just after I came out of a movie theatre with my sister on the weekend, and it honestly made me feel sick to the stomach.

I felt so guilty I ended up doing the project I'd said I couldn't take on- for free. I know that wasn't the right thing to do, but all I could think of at the time for how awful I felt and how much damage this woman could do to my reputation if she started bad-mouthing me. It was irritating, the fact that I hadn't really done anything wrong, but I just wanted to resolve the situation.

I also offered her a free one-on-one training session about Wordpress, even though I'd already sent her video training specifically tailored specifically to her and her website. Annoyingly, after she accepted the free training she admitted she hadn’t watched any of the tutorials. She missed her training session twice and cancelled it altogether in the end, but told me she really wanted to have an ongoing relationship. Unfortunately, I did not. 

Lessons learned: We should all take some responsibility for our nightmare clients. In this case, I readily accept that I made a lot of mistakes. I shouldn’t have been a push-over and given her free revisions, I shouldn’t have become her friend instead of her designer, and I should have tried harder to explain more clearly why I couldn’t take on her project when she wanted me to.

This project made me realize I needed to offer my clients one-on-one training on how to maintain their website instead of just providing them with tutorials. Now, I hop on Skype at the end of my design projects and I show them how to use their site. I also then provide them with access to a Client Area, which is filled with tutorials and advice. 

I turned a bad experience into an opportunity for improvement, but it wasn't easy. 

Nightmare client #2

Initially: This client has been a client of mine for 2 years. We've probably worked together about 15 times and she has been pleasant every time. I never turn her away because I appreciate the ongoing work she brings my way and I really enjoy working with her.

Throughout the project: When providing feedback, she only ever wrote a few words like ‘Looks great’ or ‘Can we try something else?'. She offered no explanation for why she didn't like certain designs, even when I prompted her for one.

I was confused because I had created designs that I knew she'd love- they were the same style as the designs I'd created for her in the past. So what was the problem?

It turned out that she was really frustrated with the website design someone else had created for her and her frustration was leaking through into her work with me. 

Lessons learned: The reason this project stressed me out was because I knew what she was usually like. She was usually friendly and bubbly, not cold and quiet. I felt awful throughout the entire process because I felt like I’d done something horribly wrong. I hadn’t, but that’s the way I felt.

Sometimes, your client may be going through a rough patch in their personal life or in another part of their business, and you may feel the brunt of it. But if that happens, I've learned not to take it too badly.

I never replied to my client in the blunt way she was writing to me- I always tried to keep my messages happy and helpful. I didn't want to make the situation worse and destroy our relationship in the process.

Always remember to treat your clients with respect and kindness, even if they're being unfairly critical. 

I’m not telling you of these experiences to scare you away from freelancing. 

I’m also not telling you this to panic you. 

I’m sharing these experiences with you to make you aware of the things that can go wrong when you work for yourself. You’re definitely going to encounter nightmare clients because your business isn’t perfect and it never will be. You’re bound to let a nightmare client through the door without realizing.

If you do, here are my tips:

Learn from it. The best thing you can do when you have a bad client is learn from it. Ask yourself how you can avoid booking a client like that again, how to can better resolve the situation next time it happens, and what you can do differently. There is always something positive you can learn from bad experiences. As Willie Nelson said, 'Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you'll start having positive results.'

Improve your business. When clients are being critical, you should analyze what you’ve done and said to them so far and check if there’s room for improvement. Are your processes simple and understandable for the client? Are you talking to your clients in a friendly or cold manner? Are you being as helpful as you can? I’ve found a lot of my clients issues could be resolved simply by making improvements to my systems. 

Don’t take it personally. Bad clients sometimes attack freelancers unnecessarily, or for insignificant things. Try not to take it personally. They could have had a bad day or they could be short-tempered person. If they’re really unreasonable, try not to let it get you down. Just calm yourself with the knowledge that you won’t be working with them forever.

Talk about it. Sometimes it helps to tell other freelancers about your bad clients. You can tell your fellow Shelancers in our private group! Kory told us of a bad client she was dealing with and gained lots of supportive, helpful replies. 

Read of other people's experiences. When you encounter a nightmare client and you feel like curling into a ball and crying, don’t. Instead, go to clientsfromhell.net and make yourself feel better by reading about some of the clients other freelancers have had. I did this when I had my first nightmare client and it made me realize that my situation wasn’t as bad as it could be.

Have you ever dealt with a nightmare client? Tell us about your experience in a comment below!

How to turn your clients into referral machines

The most important thing in your business is your clients and the money they bring your way.

You want clients to rave about your smooth process and beautiful work.

You want them to feel like you've helped them in any way you possibly could.

You want your clients to write wonderful testimonials about you.

You want your clients to tell all their friends to hire you ASAP, because you'll improve any business you touch.

But how do you get clients to promote you that much? Does it even matter if clients promote you? If you get plenty of clients from social media, why should referrals matter?

Why referrals matter

Referrals are the easiest way to get clients. In fact, 65% of new business comes from referrals. 

People are 4 times more likely to buy when referred by a friend, and I'm living proof of that. I was looking for an accountant recently and asked people for recommendations. A few of them recommended the same person, so I got in touch and booked one of her services. I wouldn't have been as confident in booking with her if I didn't know other people who had already worked with her.

Referrals matter because people trust their friends opinions.

How to get referrals from clients

01. Always go the extra mile
Please don't interpret going the extra mile as giving your clients free revisions or something along those lines. I used to add free revisions to projects here and there, thinking it would thrill my clients. But I learned with one nightmare client that sometimes, clients see you adding free things to their project and decide to take advantage of you. They can sometimes push you for more free work. And really, who can blame them?

Here's a few ways you can go the extra mile without compromising yourself:

  • Always reply to their emails swiftly and helpfully.
  • If they complain about something, be gracious and offer them something to soothe their annoyance.
  • Add little things to their project without telling them, but notify them when the project is coming to an end. For example, install extra plugins to their site that will prove useful to them. Or save their logo in another color just in case they needed it in the future.
  • Don't just communicate with them over email. Hop on Skype a few times throughout the process. This makes you feel like a real person to them and shows them you genuinely care.
  • Send them a little gift in the post when you're done working together. A postcard would be nice.
  • If you don't want to post something, how about giving them a $10 gift voucher for Starbucks?

02. Just ask for them.
When your project is coming to an end, ask your clients to send people you way. Sometimes clients won't even think to refer you to other people even though your work was excellent. That's why you need to kindly ask them. Don't beg, just say a sentence or two, like 'if you know anyone in your orbit who needs as ______, please send them my way. Referrals are like gold to my business, and I'd really appreciate yours.'

03. Give them incentive 
When I was having driving lessons, my instructor told me that if I referred him to someone else and they started working with him, me and the person I'd referred would get discounted lessons. Of course, I jumped on that incentive and got my little brother to start having driving lessons. The point is: if you give your clients a good incentive, they'll refer you to their friends, family, subscribers or blog followers. 

If your clients sent a new clients your way and this client actually books with you, you could offer them 10% off their next round of work with you, or you could offer them a 5% refund of what they spent. 

According to the university of Chicago, non-cash incentives are 24% more effective than cash incentives. So instead of discounts, maybe you could offer them a free consultation, website review, course access, workshop pass, ad space in your blog sidebar or just a big thank you.

How will you remember to give your clients a discount off their next round of work with you?

I'll admit, I've totally forgotten to discount my clients projects in the past. They've had to remind me, which isn't very professional. To stop this from happening, give your clients a discount code to quote when they get in touch with you again. Or, if you use a decent invoicing system like Pancake or Freshbooks, you could add the discount code to the system and then tell the client to apply to code when paying their invoice. 

Tell me in a comment- do you get many referrals from your past clients? 

July 2015 | My business goals & achievements

I’ve decided to start writing about my business goals and achievements each month. I want to dive into what I’ve been doing behind-the-scenes of my business and The Shelancers Club so you can really get a sense of what my daily freelance life looks like and what I'm up to. I'd really appreciate your feedback on this new feature of the club so please let me know your thoughts in a comment below or in our private Facebook group!

In these posts, these are the things I'm going to discuss:

  • My newsletter growth
  • My blog growth
  • The goals I achieved this month and my goals for next month
  • Lessons I've learned throughout the month

This month has been pretty great for me! May and June were really crazy so it's been nice to relax a bit more in July. I spent the first two weeks doing client work. I used the third week to spend time on my own business, and I went away for the final week to lie on a little countryside beach and read books all day long. It was a well-needed break!

My July goals

I pick 3 goals each month that I want to focus on and I pin them up on a board in my workspace so I can always see them. I love having that constant reminder, and I loooove crossing a goal off when I've completed it, there's something so satisfying about that!

In July, these were my three goals...

01. Get 150 subscribers for The Shelancers Club. Sadly, I didn't put much time or effort into marketing TSC so I didn't reach this goal. But it isn't all bad because I made a lot of other improvements! I made the TSC membership site part of my own site so you can now find it at neshadesigns.com/access-shelancers. 

There's no option for creating a membership site on Squarespace so I used what a lot of Squarespace users suggested- Tinypass. It blocks anyone from viewing the TSC pages of my site without paying or logging in first.

I LOVE this version of TSC way more than the site I previously had. I quickly created the old site when I was launching the club and it only took me one weekend, but it was time to upgrade. I hope you like the fruity, bright colors and vibe of the new site! It's in line with my personal brand now. 

I'm planning on marketing the club a lot during Autumn. But throughout Summer I'm going to continue making improvements and making this club extra special.

02. Streamline my processes. I didn't do lots of streamlining, but I managed to get a few tasks done. I updated all my canned emails, I created a new welcome pack (which you can view here), and I made a cute PDF that explains my Pinterest process to my new clients. 

03. Organize my finances. I've been working with Melissa to tidy up my business finances in Wave. Wave was doing some freaky stuff with my transactions so we're sorting that out. She also had a look through the bookkeeping I've done myself and confirmed that it was okay. To be honest, I don't know why I haven't contacted an accountant until this year. I think I was scared of the cost, but I've realized this year: you have to delegate tasks so your business can survive. It doesn't matter if it costs you a bit of money. It's worth it!

My blog growth

In July I took a free email course called Build a Profitable Blog by Mariah of Femtrepreneur. The whole course was fantastic, but the one magic piece of advice that stuck with me this: if you're going to grow a profitable blog you need to post evergreencontent. This means creating ridiculously high-quality blog posts that are long (I mean 5000 words if you can or 1500 if you're struggling), informative, helpful, and packed with statistics, case studies, screenshots or freebies. 

Last year my blog posts were very short and random. They didn't benefit my business at all. From now on, I only want to post evergreen posts on my blog!

In July I wrote and scheduled 4 blog posts. They're a lot longer than my usual posts and they're packed with information. I'm hoping my readers will like this increase in quality!

And I don't know if you've noticed, but I've done the same thing with my articles for The Shelancers Club. I'm writing less articles than I did when I first started the club in April, but my newest articles are a lot longer and more helpful.

Now, let's peek at my blog stats!

Traffic 

The reason there are no stats shown before May is because I switched to Squarespace around that time and Squarespace only shows stats from that point onward.

There are a few reasons why my traffic hasn't been very high in June or July...

  • When I switched to Squarespace, I lost traffic. 
  • Last year I barely blogged at all, so this year I couldn't expect to get the same high volume of traffic I used to. With time and quality blog posts, I'm hoping to get my traffic back to how it used to be. 

I'm posting these stats on July 21st not July 30th, so my July traffic isn't as high as it will be by the end of the month. But even so, I've already beaten June's traffic. 

Most popular post
The most popular post I published in July was A social media schedule for small business owners. It was a freebie that I created for my Shelancers, but I decided to share it on my blog to raise awareness of the club. It worked! People are constantly sharing it on Twitter and Pinterest. 

Least popular post
My least popular post in July was Choosing the right Squarespace template. That's understandable, since this post is only relevant to Squarespace users and a lot of my readers are Wordpress users. The reason I post about Squarespace is because it attracts my ideal clients. It's also handy to refer my clients to these articles when they ask me related questions.

My best referrers

My top 3 referrers were- and always have been- Direct traffic, Pinterest and Google.

Direct traffic is when someone directly types your site into their browser, so I assume that's the way most of my regular readers access my site.

A few of my posts went viral on Pinterest and continue to bring in traffic. I'm regularly active on this social media site and I pin something from my blog every day.

Google is responsible for my most popular post of all time, Free Moodboard Templates. That post ranks #1 for most 'free moodboard' searches. 

My newsletter growth

The diagram above shows you my list growth per month, not the number of newsletter subscribers I have. I currently have about 2500.

In June, I gained 123 new newsletter subscribers for Nesha Designs. 

From July 1st - 20th I gained 85 new newsletter subscribers for Nesha Designs. I estimate I'll get about 100 by the end of July. I think the decrease is due to only posting 3 times in July instead of 4.

I switched to Squarespace in May/June. When I was using Wordpress I would get about 164 subscribers per month because I had an opt-in above the fold. My new Squarespace template doesn't include that option so I feel that plays a big role in why my subscription rate has decreased in June and July in comparison to the rest of the year.

Why didn't I have many subscribers in 2014?
I didn't blog very much. I would go 2-3 months without posting anything, and I definitely didn't send any newsletters. It was very foolish of me because my newsletter and blog has done wonders for my business this year!

Why did I have a sudden spike of subscribers in January?
This year I did lots of experiments with my marketing. One of the things I tried was placing an opt-in on my most popular post: Free Moodboard Templates. I gave one template away for free directly in the post. If they wanted another 5 free templates they had to sign up. Thanks to that one clever list-building tactic, I gained 288 subscribers in January and 379 in February. 

I removed the opt-in from that blog post in March because I realized a lot of the people signing up weren't my ideal clients or readers. I want people to sign up for my newsletter because they really love what I have to say, not because they can get more moodboard templates.

Even though I removed the opt-in from that post, I genuinely believe in this list-building tactic. I think it's only valuable when the freebie you're offering is about something you specialize in; something your ideal customers/readers are struggling with.

Lessons I learned in July

I learn something new from my business every month. Business is one big experiment, and the more you try things out, the more you improve. I learned...

  • Hiring others is well worth the money. Why spend time and energy doing something you hate when you can hire help? 
  • Creating other forms of income is one of the best things you can do for your business. This month I've been keenly aware of that and I'm working on adding even more steams of revenue to my biz.
  • It's better to spend time creating than curating. In July I unsubscribed from a lot of newsletters and I no longer get so distracted by them. I'm able to focus on the newsletters I love and invest the rest of my time in my own creations.

My latest obsessions

Jenny Shih. I kept hearing about Jenny on my favorite blogs so I decided to look her up. Her blog posts are fantastic and I totally fell for her beautiful business. 

Budget Nerd. I love Mark's witty way of writing. He's able to turn blog posts about money and accounting into really fun reads.

Build a Profitable Blog. Mariah's free ecourse reminded me I needed to up my blogging game and create higher quality blog posts.

The 10 day unmistakeable brand challenge. Sian's free challenge is a lot like Mariah's, but about branding!

The 4 Hour Work Week. You've probably heard of this. I had too, but I'd never bothered to buy the book until now. I loved it! This book really gets you to think about your business is different ways and prioritize things in your life.

 

Tell me in a comment- do you like this post? Should I continue to share these articles each month?

Bad client cheatsheet

If you've read the other two articles in this month's exclusive content, how to deal with nightmare clients and how to turn your clients into referral machines, you're probably feeling a little anxious about these 'nightmare clients' I've been talking about. 

Don't worry. 

I have something to help you.

I've created a Bad Client cheatsheet with a few simple yet important tips to keep in mind when you have a bad client on your hands. When we encounter the infamous Nightmare Client it's easy to lose your temper or start stressing out, but the tips I've put together will help you keep your cool.