freelancing

Why Your Online Presence Matters

Why Your Online Presence Matters | Lemon and the Sea: You need to be in control of what people see about you  online if you want to have control over where you go in life and business.

77% of recruiters search for prospective employees online and 35% have eliminated a job candidate because of what they found, according to The Guardian.

Whether you're looking for a job now or in the future or if you're an entrepreneur running your own business, the way you present yourself online matters. A lot.

You need to be in control of that people find when they search for you. This is especially true for those of you in creative fields with portfolios that are online. You don't want that firm looking at your portfolio and finding a blurry, out of date project do you? Of course not! So why would you not make sure that they aren't going to come across a photo of you drinking on Spring Break with friends? While you can't control the internet and it's totally true that once something is online, it's there forever (warning: be careful before you post anything), you can take steps to ensure that the results on Google are flattering and paint a picture of you that reflects who you are.

So, you're ready to manage your online presence?

  1. Start by searching for yourself and seeing what comes up. If you don't see many results, that means you won't have as much to go through, but it also means that anyone else searching for you can't find you (this might be okay if you want to stay anonymous, but if your target audience or the company of your dreams is online, you probably shouldn't be invisible).
  2. Change your privacy settings. I get it, this is a total pain, but unless you're obsessive about your online privacy, Facebook has probably updated it's privacy policy since you last checked it. Go through all of your social media and check your privacy settings. The most important is probably on Facebook, since it's still a very popular place to search for someone. Make sure that you update who can search for you and what they can see (you can change this under Settings > Privacy). You may also want to control who can post on your timeline and set your account so that you have to approve posts before they are added to your timeline (Settings > Timeline and Tagging).
  3. Start a profile on the sites where people are looking for you. First, you want to start a profile on Linkedin. This is still a big deal when it comes to networking and finding jobs. People are going to look for you there, so you should have an up-to-date profile. If there are specific sites for people in your industry, create a profile on those as well. You want the good information about you to be easy to find.
  4. Keep everything up to date. If you're Linkedin profile says your last job ended three years ago, that probably doesn't look good. You need to update your profiles every time you update your resume. The more often you add projects, connections, and posts, the better you're going to look when someone finds you. Even if you're running your own business and not looking for a job, updating your profile with your company name and description can help you find clients who might not ever come across your website.
  5. Get good traffic. Google ranks search results by how relevant they are. There are ways that you can clean up your search results and companies that can help, but the best way to do this without paying someone is to start bringing traffic to what you want people to see. Create a website or start a blog filled with useful information about your field of expertise. Blogging is no longer just for angsty posts about what you ate for dinner. Now, you can use them to get noticed for your knowledge and skills. If you are a creative, get your portfolio online to show what you can do. Not only is it easy to direct someone to your website when they ask to see your work, but you look even more amazing if you have a great looking website to display those projects you're always talking about.

Stop Thinking You're Too Busy

Stop Thinking You're Too Busy | Lemon and the Sea: Don't let overwhelm stop you from accomplishing everything you have planned. Start with a to-do list and check off one thing at a time. You have more time than you think.

I fall into this trap all too often: I have a lot on my to-do list, but I get so overwhelmed by it that I don't accomplish anything. If you're anything like me (and if you aren't, then a big round of applause to you), you have days when nothing gets done precisely because you had so much to do.

It's not that you don't want to accomplish the tasks you set out to do, it's just that you can't seem to get moving. The length of the list is overwhelming the motivation you've built up.

This can happen with anything: work, hobbies, laundry, dishes, television shows, etc. It's like this: you know you have a lot to do, it's probably been on your mind all day, but when it comes down to the time to get it done, you find yourself sitting on the couch stuffing your face with chips instead of doing what you planned. And here's the worst part: you know in your head that if you could just get off your butt and work, you would feel less overwhelmed, but you JUST CAN'T DO IT.

Just this week, I was thinking over all the projects I have on my schedule and the extra things I'd like to complete for my business (vacation can sure make things pile up), when I hit a wall. Not literally (although that's been known to happen), but in my mind. I had so much to do that I stagnated and did nothing instead.

I've learned something, though. My to-do list is never as overwhelming as I let myself believe. The problem comes when I start thinking about all of the BIG tasks that need accomplished instead of focusing on the small steps to get there. Here's how I get over the overwhelm and actually get things done:

  • Write It Down: When you make a list of the things you need to accomplish in the next day (or week or month), you get a better idea of what needs to be done. You'll probably find that you're building it up in your head until these things seem insurmountable, when really you just need to take them one by one.
  • Prioritize It: Some things actually need to get done right away, but the majority can wait a day or two. Go through your to-do list and mark the items that need to be done first.
  • Break It Up: Big, long-term tasks seem especially overwhelming sitting on your to-do list. Instead of procrastinating because you don't have time to do it all at once, break the task up into smaller chunks and schedule them when they make sense.
  • Schedule It: Once you know what has to be done and when it needs to be done by, you can start planning. Sit down and write out a schedule. This can be broken up by the day or by exact times.
  • Make It Routine: We all have tasks that have to be (or should be) done every day. Start a routine for those things. Do them in the same order, at the same time each day so that you know exactly what to expect.
  • Cross It Off: I don't know about you, but this is my favorite step. (Confession: I'll add things to my to-do list that I've already done, just so that I can check them off.) By crossing out (or checking off) tasks that you've finished, you'll get a sense of accomplishment and you'll start to feel less overwhelmed as you see the list dwindle.

Remember, the overwhelm that you're feeling is all in your head. Yes, you're busy, but you really have more time than you think. And you'll always make time for the things that are most important to you (like your family or the latest episode of Scandal).

Enjoy the Job that Drives you Crazy

Enjoy the Job that Drives You Crazy | Lemon and the Sea: You have a job that makes you crazy. Some days you just want to walk away and never look back. You can turn it around! Find what you do enjoy about your job and focus on that.

Unless you're the luckiest person in the world, you've had a job that makes you at least a little crazy.

If you are that lucky person, stop reading now. This post isn't for you. Just go back to work and appreciate the awesome job you have - and know that the rest of us are jealous.

For everyone else out there, there is hope.

I've had a lot jobs since I started working at 15. I was a lifeguard for many years at public pools, apartment complexes, and fitness clubs. (Oh, the stories I could tell - I always said I should write a book - people let a little too much go at the pool. ) I also worked in the kitchen at a church bingo, cleaned up after diners at a campus restaurant, and checked people in at a physical therapy office. I worked briefly at a bagel shop making breakfast for students on the go. My full-time job before moving started as a part time Accounts Payable position (I'm not good with complex math, but I am really good at solving problems and following directions, so I let the computer do the math.) Once I started working there, my supervisor discovered my background in architecture and graphic design. They gave me a full time position, adding graphic and web design to the accounts payable work. That expanded to include IT work, managing payments for a side business, and creating and sending marketing material. Basically, I've done it all.

None of my jobs was particularly awful, but they all made me a little nuts after a while. Each offered unique problems and it's own particular brand of craziness - just ask anyone who has been a lifeguard.

Is it possible to find something you enjoy?

Your job may make you crazy too, but I promise that you can find something to enjoy. For me, my co-workers were usually the best part of my job. Even if I wasn't friends with them outside of work, I was able to talk through my frustrations and remember that we were all experiencing the same issues.

Maybe you like the work you're doing, but the atmosphere doesn't cultivate creativity.  Perhaps you like your co-workers, but can't stand the customers you have to deal with.

No matter what you're doing, you can find something to enjoy. 

Why is it important that you find enjoyment in your job?

So, you have a job that drives you crazy, and you know that you can find some enjoyment in it, but why bother? 

It's tempting to keep working like normal and just accept that it's not your dream job, but doing that won't make you happy. You can certainly pursue your dream job, but if you don't enjoy your current work, it will make you miserable. I could have gone to work everyday, growing more and more impatient with the routine, and coming to despise those around me, but I didn't. I chose instead to make the most of the work I was doing. I worked hard, learning as much as I could in my field while making connections with my co-workers and supervisors. There were days when I really didn't want to go into the office, but I could always depend on the other people in the office to understand my struggles.

Transitioning from a 9 to 5 to Freelancing

I used to think that working at a regular, full time job was hard. Don't get me wrong, there were some days that were tough to get through and I also know that for some of you, work doesn't end once the work day ends. But - for me at least - a 9 to 5 was pretty easy.

It's simple really: wake up, get ready, go to work, work hard, eat lunch (or not, depending on the day), work hard, go home. And that was it. I could pull out of the parking lot and leave it all behind. I wanted to do well and I certainly put effort into my work and into improving my skills, but at the end of the day, my job didn't really affect my life. There were days when I would come home frustrated about something or would be thinking about the work that hadn't gotten finished, but I couldn't do anything about those things.

I worked in an office - and granted my office had a unique lack of windows and a great amount of aluminum dust floating around - and an office implies stability. I saw the same people everyday. I worked on similar projects in a similar order, and I could pretty much predict what was coming next. And looking back on it now, that stability was good. I was going through a lot of changes and some hard circumstances at home and with a stable job, I could go into the office and leave it all behind. Basically, I would pick up my work self at the door and drop it off when I left for the day.

When I left my job to move to Virginia with J, I thought it would be easy to leave that behind. Boy, was I wrong. When you don't have an office to go to or a specific list of duties and a time frame in which to do them, you can really start to flounder. Suddenly, my schedule was flexible - more than just the "I'll do this after lunch" flexible of a 9 to 5 - I could do anything I wanted at any given time.

I first day J went back to work after I moved, I filled my time with unpacking. I unpacked most of the apartment in one day - partly because all of those boxes were driving me CRAZY and partly because I didn't know how to stop - and then I was left with nothing to do. I spent the next day (a Tuesday, which is almost always my least favorite anyway) trying to relax. But relaxing is hard. At least for me. At one point, I got so bored that I was walking around Target fighting back tears just looking for something to do with my time. I could see it so clearly: hours, days, weeks, possibly months stretching ahead of me in a mindless, bored haze of watching tv and wandering the aisles of department stores just to feel like I was a part of the world.

The next day, I started freelancing. In some ways this was a mistake - I had worked hard packing up our house and working two jobs back in Pittsburgh - I never gave myself a chance to just hang out and check back in with myself and with God. But at the same time, freelancing kept me busy and kept me from making totally unnecessary purchases to fill the yawning void of boredom.

As the days turned into weeks and eventually into months of freelancing and blogging from home, I started to get into a rhythm. I discovered the times when I am most productive and when I just need to take a break. I learned that taking a day off here and there to run errands or help out a friend is a good thing - and much easier when I don't have to request a vacation day. But I still struggle. I struggle with loneliness at times: since I work from my apartment when J is at work, I have very little human interaction. I struggle with focus: sitting at a desk - with a window! - all day, my attention can be easily drawn to binge watching Netflix or browsing the internet for a new blog (I'm starting to realize that this is also a part of the whole loneliness issue - guys, I am going to have to work on that). I struggle with filling my days: at times, freelance work is light, I've cleaned the whole apartment twice, the fridge is full of food, and I've run out of things to do.

But as hard as transitioning out of a typical 9 to 5 can be, I've learned a few things along the way. And by no means have I got this down yet, but I'm working on it.

-The freedom to talk a walk outside on a nice day is exhilarating. And really good for getting out of the house.

-Don't rely only on Best of Netflix lists because a lot of times they are out of date and the show you so carefully picked is no longer available online.

 -Take a long lunch. Maybe even make a lunch and then sit outside enjoying it. You don't have to be back at your desk in 30 minutes, so why not?

-Watching too many documentaries about food will make you want to throw out everything in your pantry. Resist this urge - replacing all your food isn't exactly budget friendly.

-Youtube.com has some great exercise videos. For FREE.

-The lawn mowing company at your apartment complex will take MUCH longer than necessary to cut the grass. And it will be loud. And you will be trapped in your apartment until they finish blowing the leaves and grass off of the the sidewalks. And stairs. And outside your door (this will always take an abnormally long time).

-There is nothing wrong with sitting on the couch watching Law and Order: SVU if you just aren't feeling it one day. But you really shouldn't do this two days in a row unless you're actually sick.

-Speaking of which, taking a sick day is hard. Since you work from home, work is always there. Close the door, turn off the computer, do whatever you need to in order to step away and focus on getting better.

-You will get lonely. This is where the miracle of cell phones comes in. You have friends and family, so call them. Also, go outside: Find a nice park nearby or walk to buy or groceries instead of driving (but only if you aren't picking up too many).

-Finally, be thankful that you have this opportunity to explore your passions. You might not find it right away, and that's totally okay. Just never give up, because if you get one of those jobs you applied for, you may not have this opportunity again.