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Advanced Freelancing

Learn more about freelancing and owning your business and your time from six-figure freelancer Laura Pennington.
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Now displaying: November, 2019
Nov 25, 2019

It's time for another episode of the Advanced Freelancing podcast. Now this episode might be a little shorter than usual. But that's because I'm sharing some news that I didn't have planned out in my content calendar. So, I am a big fan of batching. And I always brainstorm all my ideas for what goes into the podcast, usually at least several weeks or even months in advance.

So I had all of my episodes plotted through the end of 2019. But I am making a deviation from that. I think, sometimes being flexible with your own plans is very important so that you can capitalize on things that are very timely.

A new two book deal.

If you have not heard through my social channels, or through my email list, I recently signed a two book contract with Entrepreneur Press to publish my next two business books. I am so excited about this opportunity. And I also just want to, again, thank all of the readers and listeners in my audience who bought a copy of my first book, “How to Start Your Own Freelance Writing Business”.

Now, I'm not just sharing this two book deal. But a couple of days after signing that contract, I was at the igniting souls conference in Columbus, Ohio.  It was an amazing conference. It's the best business community that I have found for really supportive people who are at very similar stages in their business building.  It is run by an incredible guy named Kary Oberbrunner.

It's funny because someone actually recommended Kary to me years ago.

I thought at the time it was a German woman. And I was like, “Well, what would this German woman know anything about publishing in the United States?” So funny story, I came across Kary a couple years later.  And one of the reasons that I connected to this conference is because one of the books that just sold, which is tentatively titled “The Six Figure Freelancing Roadmap”, did not sell the first time around. Many of you know that that was part of my publishing story. That was the book I wrote the proposal for. It's what I worked on with my agent. It's very much the book that I wanted to publish.

So the opportunity came to write how to start your own freelance writing business first.

I was very intentional in the way that I wrote, marketed, and promoted “How to Start Your Own Freelance Writing Business”, because I wanted that book to be the door opener for future book deals. So I wanted to be able to show that I could hustle and that there was a market for freelancing. One of the publishers that rejected “The Six Figure Freelancing Roadmap” mentioned that they thought that freelancing was a fad. So I feel like now more people are seeing that that is not true and that freelancing is here to stay. All of the statistics point towards more and more people becoming freelancers.

So anyways, I had partnered with Kary as a self publishing company.

The difference between self publishing and working with somebody who's sort of a hybrid publisher like Kary’s program, called author Academy, is most people who Self Publish don't ask the important questions about marketing until after the fact. Marketing is, in my opinion, more important than the content of your book. You can have the most amazing book out there.  But if you don't know how to market it, no one will buy it. No one will hear about it.

It really makes me sad every time I see someone in a Facebook group say that they published their book three months ago, only sold three copies, and want to know who they can market it now. That is the wrong time to be asking that question. Right now, the tentatively titled “Six Figure Freelancing Roadmap” will come out in about one year, somewhere in October 2020.

Six Figure Freelancing Book Coming October 2020

But I'm building my marketing plan now. I'm starting my brainstorming for marketing now. I'm capitalizing and analyzing what I did well the first time and where I can do better the second time to increase my brand awareness between now and then. That involves multiple different facets media like growing my blog, growing my facebook group, increasing awareness of my podcast, etc. So marketing has to be done and thought about before you launch.

One of the reasons that I feel that Kary and his team are the real deal in publishing is because they teach you everything you need to know about it.

They teach you how to market your book.  And they teach you how to ask for endorsements for your book.  They teach you how to write the back cover and the advertising copy that goes up on Amazon. Honestly, they just teach you all that stuff. 

Sure, I could convert a Word document into Kindle friendly file today and upload it to Amazon. But that doesn't mean it will sell if I have not done any work beyond that. If I have not leveraged my network and my platform, I am not going to get anything out of it.

So that is one of the reasons that I partnered with Author Academy Elite.

I'm so impressed with this program. It is a program that you pay for, but I'm just so blown away by what you get with it. You get 18 months of coaching. They publish your book. The revenues from the book are yours. So that means your royalties are yours. They teach you all about how to do an audio book version and how to do the Ebook version. And they teach you how to have a printed copy and how to promote yourself in your local area to do book signings. It's an incredible, incredible program.

I will tell you too, that I have paid for tons and tons of stuff and business coaching over the years.

I would say in the top three things that I've invested in, Author Academy Elite has been worth it. There's been a lot of things that have not been worth it. A lot of people that were not a match for me. Someone sent me a $3,000 proposal to do a book marketing plan for my book. That's less than what you pay to publish your book and get the coaching and everything with Kerry's team. But nothing was guaranteed with it. And I had no lifeline to ask for help. That was just doing one piece of the puzzle, not publishing the book.

The other thing I loved about Author Academy Elite and why I signed up with it is because you can do it today.

You can do books with them and it's like a $300 investment per book. What they do with the general program is they help you with things like your book cover.  They guarantee certain things that you're going to get as part of the program. But you can publish additional books through their publishing house, very affordably, so much better. 

I see publishing companies every day. They're pitching me on LinkedIn. Oh, it's $10,000 and we’ll publish your book. Someone the other day offered me a chapter in their book to pay $750. I really wanted a system because I intended to publish the “Six Figure Freelancing Roadmap” with Author Academy Elite.

So when this book deal came about that Entrepreneur Press” was interested in buying two books, including the one we'd already pitched the first time around, I contacted Author Academy to talk to them.

I told them that I've got two to three other books in the business and nonfiction space I really want to write.  And I asked them if we can swap one of them in because I'd already had the Six Figure Freelancing Roadmap approved.

So that's another part of my exciting news. I am going to be publishing a work from home guide to starting your own virtual assistant business.

It’s going to be all about how to become a VA, why VA is different from other freelancing, and the types of skills you need to know as a virtual assistant. I will be publishing that hopefully next May or June with Author Academy Elite. It will be self published. So stay tuned for that.

And then I'm publishing a six figure freelancing guide. We don't quite have a title yet in 2020 with Entrepreneur Press,  And in 2021, a “how to” guide on website copywriting.

So that was a long tangent from my original point, which was that I was really shocked and so honored to receive the Author Academy Elite 2019 Award for Best in Business.

I was up against many other authors in business.

They announced the Top 10 in August.  And my book made the Top 10! I shared this on my social media. And I did not prepare an acceptance because the other nine books I was up against, were great books. I thought that there's no way that I was going to win against these people. So I'm just going to go and enjoy the Author Academy Awards and soak in the atmosphere.

I'm there at the conference anyways, so honored to be a Top 10 finalist, and what a huge blessing it was to win. I was totally shocked when they called my name. I mean, I did not have a speech prepared. And I only listened to the video of what I said a couple of days later.  I don't like to be unprepared. I always like to have notes to have some idea of what I'm going to say. I speak well off the cuff when I know that topic really well. But I've never been honored like that for a book before. So I got to go on stage say thank you and accept the award.

The next morning, I got to go up on stage in front of the entire conference of 500 people and speak for 90 seconds about why I wrote this book and who it's for.

I totally underestimated how powerful this was going to be for my platform. I sold 26 copies of my book at that conference. Just two people who found me during bathroom breaks in the conference, right? They would seek me out and pro tip here.

When I go to conferences, I always try to wear the same color all weekend or for the whole event. So it's usually royal blue or red because they're very noticeable power colors. So I was wearing royal blue as much as I could that weekend so that it was easy for people to find me and it really worked. So my book was not available for sale in the conference bookstore. Lots of people asked if it was there and it was not. And then they came and found me personally. So I'm just super excited to be sharing all of this news with you.

Which brings me to, this is the last time I'm going to promote this in 2019.

I am building my advanced reader team.  My advanced reader team is going to be a small group. I'm aiming for like 20 to 25 people max.  You're going to be the early readers on my work and provide feedback. So you're going to get first dibs at having your snippets featured in the book.

So in the six figure freelancing roadmap, I'm going to have case studies from successful six figure freelancers.  The advanced reader team is going to be the first people that I go to with that opportunity. So it’s a great way to have your story and your business promoted. That's potential exposure for you to be found by other people who might follow you as a freelancer or hire you as a freelancer.

So my advanced reader teams going to get first crack at that.

Advanced readers will also receive one free, signed copy that will come to you three to four weeks in advance of the actual drop date of the book on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other platforms. That is free to you. I will mail that personally to you to thank you for being a part of the launch team. The advanced reader team will you know,

As an advanced reader, I ask that you participate in whatever way you can to provide feedback and ideas and to share the books on social as the launch date and sale dates are coming closer. Leaving reviews on the book is a huge help on Amazon, Goodreads, and other platforms. That's very important.

So if you want to be a part of that advanced reader team there is a Google Form application. If you were already on my launch team for the first book, you're already in the Facebook group. So you would actually have to opt out of the Facebook group to not be part of my advanced reader team.  But I really would like you to consider staying on if you got something out of it.

I'm also going to be sharing with my advanced reader team, insight behind writing and marketing the book.

You are literally going to get a bird's eye view of what it takes to write, edit, and publish a book.  You will learn how you build a marketing plan and how long it takes to build these things in advance. So that's a really cool way for you to learn more about it if you have been thinking about writing a book or you just want to know what it looks like in  2020 and beyond to write a book like that and for it go out live for the masses.

So I really want to encourage you to consider signing up. Just fill out the form in the link below. I will be contacting my launch team coming up. It is just a really cool opportunity. I am so thankful for all of you who were on my previous launch team.   You were instrumental in helping me to be able to get additional book deals.

I’m sorry for the diversion from your normal freelance strategy tidbits and things that I drop here.

But this is really going to be an increasing part of my business.  I’m going to be publishing, representing the freelance community, and building a bigger community of freelancers. Promoting the freelance revolution as what it is.

I wish I had more resources and tools when I got started. And I am now building those resources. I'm just so happy to get that opportunity to represent all of you. So I look forward to seeing you, hopefully on my launch team. And sharing the podcast with others also helps. If you leave a review on iTunes it helps more freelancers find this great information.

So thanks for tuning in for another episode. I know it's been a quick one. As always, you can send your questions to the podcast info@betterbizacademy.com. I will receive those emails. I'm also shifting to a new email for the podcast, which is thefreelancerevolution@gmail.com.  So if you have questions, ideas for future topics, something I mentioned on the show doesn't make sense, or you need more information, please shoot me an email. Thanks again for being part of my tribe and helping support the freelance revolution.

For more freelance advice, get a copy of my book Start Your Own Freelance Writing Business—available now! Buy it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, and more.

Links:

Nov 18, 2019

I’m coming to you today with another guest who's going to share her great insight into how to make freelancing work for you.  She’s also going to share when to decide that maybe it's not the right fit, and you want to scale it down or work your freelance business in a different way.

My guest today is Dani Belvin who is a New Mexican theatre artist, educator, and arts administrator driven by the desire to make a positive impact in Albuquerque. She holds an MFA in Theater and a BA in Theatre, Education, and Asian Studies.

As an educator, she's worked with students of all ages in New Mexico, Hawaii, Japan, and China. As a performer, she's also studied 12 different Asian theatre and dance forms. And in addition to working full time in arts administration at an art center, she teaches part time at the college level and produces and co-host of the podcast, Biracial Unicorns.  It is a podcast about race, gender, and pop culture.

We're going to be talking about things that are a little bit off the beaten path for where a lot of the traditional freelance conversations go.  Which is, you're working it as a side hustle to bring it into a full-time gig.  You’re potentially using it to grow an even bigger and bigger freelance business.

My guest today is Dani.  I asked her what she would say her background is with freelancing.

She shared that she was an accidental freelancer. She feels like she’s heard me say that about myself. She didn't have the intention to freelance after she went to graduate school.  She went to graduate school with the intention of becoming a college professor. And that turned out to be a lot more difficult than she first thought.

So she knew that she wanted to teach.  And because her degrees happened to be in the arts... Well, there are a lot of very tangible transferable skills. But a lot of businesses don't see it that way. So it wasn't to fall into a traditional sort of job.

So she knew she wanted to work in the arts.  And she knew she wanted to teach. So she just accidentally fell into doing contract work in that way.  She was following through with any sort of opportunity and putting herself out there so that I could be in the classroom or be doing arts as a job.

So it started as kind of a way to support adjunct teaching. As far as college goes, she was teaching just a couple of classes a semester in the college setting. She started to pick up more and more other teaching jobs.  Part of it was through theatre company that she was a part of. And then part of it was through just other contacts she had made in the art world.

I asked Dani, “Was most of your freelancing was in teaching positions? Or were you doing different types of services for your clients?”

For the most part, it was teaching. The nature of theatre tends to be a lot of independent contract work as well. So while most of it was teaching, some of it was actually stage managing or performing in the theater world as well.

So when you were doing a lot of this freelance work, what did you feel were the benefits of choosing that instead of something that would be like a full-time tenure track or a Professor sort of situation?

The thing that Dani loves the most about freelancing was the freedom and flexibility to choose what she was doing.  And she could turn down gigs that did not align with her values, didn't align with her schedule, or weren't interesting to her. So she really enjoyed that aspect. And she enjoyed the aspect of creating her own schedule. All of that was, was really freeing and really

just gratifying to her.

But ultimately, it seems like that wasn't something that Dani wanted to stick with forever.  Which is kind of the nature of a lot of not just business, but life for creatives too.  We often discover along the way what we do and don't like or pick up some new passion and follow that thread.

So can you talk a little bit more about that process of maybe deciding, “Okay, I don't want to freelance forever”, at least in this particular way, and how you made that transition?

Dani shared that for her it was a lot of burnout. So she was working a lot and in a lot of different places.  That’s is part of the nature of freelancing.  She felt like she was spending a lot of time driving from gig to gig. And just constantly on the go.  It was exhausting.

For her, the move into a full time position meant having the stability of  working in one place.  It meant having the stability of having those set hours. And she thinks this is true for a lot of creatives. And for a lot of freelancers.

It's very difficult when you're starting out to figure out those boundaries.  She shared that she was more than happy to constantly be working. And for her that just was not sustainable. She was having a hard time figuring out where she was going to draw those boundaries with things like when was she not working? When was she working?” So that was really weighing on her.

Then a lot of it was the boring life things like needing health insurance and figuring out those those steps for myself. And while it is possible through freelance work,  it seemed very difficult for her.  And she had to evaluate if this was the type of work that she wanted to continue doing, or if she wanted to shift into something else.

So how did you make that shift into doing something else on a full time basis? Was that something where you were very intentional in your job hunting or did a job just sort of pop up and you're like, “Okay, this is it. This is my chance to make a move.”?

Dani shared that it was more the ladder in her case. She had reached the point where she was acknowledging her burnout and that she needed to do something else. And she was about to take some steps back.  She had set aside some time and savings to kind of pull back on what she was doing come the fall of that year.

 And she set that space with the intention of job hunting.  Perhaps reconsidering applying for full-time professor jobs out of state. She wasn't sure if she wanted to move away from where she was. But she set that space to search and decide.

Right before she was about to transition into that space, a job kind of popped up.  It was a full-time job with an organization she had been contracting with before. So she knew that the organization matched a lot of her personal values and was a good place to work. She knew a lot of people who were already in that organization, not well, but well enough to know that it seemed like a great place to work and it was in arts education.

But through the administration side.  So it was something a little different than she had done previously.  But because she had been doing a lot of freelance individual work she had the skills that they were looking for. She also had the practical experience of being on the ground doing the teaching, working as an artist, and having knowledge of both sides of it. So it was kind of an ideal situation that accidentally happened as well.

Well, that's actually very interesting, because through your freelance experience, even though you realized that that wasn't a path you wanted to continue down, you still had this introduction to this company and the people there to where you knew what some of the job would look like.

I think Dani touched on a couple of things that are really important.  But the one that I want to pull out first is this idea of setting aside space.

Because one of the challenges of freelancing that I think anyone who's done it can experience is the fact that it can overtake all day every day. And what tends to get crowded out is this idea of that intentional space setting to think about working on your business or even taking the step back to say, “Is this what I want to be doing?”

When your skills are in demand, it is very easy to fill your day with work for clients.  Sometimes I've even seen freelancers who have waiting lists.  They're turning down other clients, because they're so busy. And I think it was very smart that Dani’s first step was not along the lines of firing all her clients today. Nor did she have the mindset of taking whatever job pops up. 

She very intentionally said, “I'm going to put some space in here to figure out what this is going to look like because I don't necessarily know what my next step is.” And I feel that it's so hard for a lot of freelancers to do that just because of the way we work.  We tend to be thinking about other people's businesses. Or the projects we're working on.  And not recognizing how it's affecting us.

Prior to doing that your step, Dani recognized that she was in, at least, the beginning stages of burnout. I asked her if she could speak a little bit about that to help other freelancers who might not realize that there are some subtle signs popping up that they might be burning out.

I asked Dani, “What would you do if you could go back in time and talk to yourself at that period and raise those red flags sooner?

Dani thinks, for her, and probably for a lot of people who work in freelance, we go down that path because it's the work that we want to do.  It's the work that we value.  And it's a passion!   It's very hard to be motivated to work for yourself or to take on different clients nad different small side jobs, unless it's something you're passionate about.

And so, for her, the early signs of burnout were she was unhappy. And she did not see the same level of passion and commitment to the work that she had when she was beginning. She was very unhappy and very tired. She started to dread having to work. Instead of it feeling like something that was feeding her, it felt like she was just feeding the work.  So she thinks those were the early signs for me.

And then actual physical exhaustion was a part of it as well.  Like she mentioned before, she thinks a lot of it, for her, was the lack of very firm boundaries. So if she could go back, she thinks that would be something that she would work on and establish early on. And she thinks with those boundaries, it helps prevent burnout.  But she thinks you're also more likely to catch the burnout before it happens.

Yes, I could not agree with you more. I think that boundaries is probably up there with imposter syndrome and and mindset work.

But it is one of the most important things that a lot of freelancers don't realize how much they're hurting themselves and their business by not having good boundaries.  Because a lot of us come from employee-employer situations.  Or we're working with companies that don't realize they need to or have to treat freelancers differently.

It can feel very much like a power move to put those boundaries down with a client.  But it's very, very important for your own mental health. And I love that Dani acknowledges some of the signs of what that looks like for her. Because there's almost a sense of grief when you start to realize that this thing you built is great, but then it's physically exhausting you.  And you’re not even feeling lit up by it. Yes, it's bringing in money.  And clients are relatively happy, but it's having these other negative impacts on me.

So can you talk about this job opportunity that came up? How did you wind down your freelance work?  Did you keep it on but were just different about how you decided what to do with freelance clients?

Dani shared that it’s a little bit of both. Like she mentioned before, she had already started taking steps back when this job opportunity arose. So she had already created some space. When she started at this new job, in this new position, she as still honoring the commitments she had already made.

And she made it pretty clear when she accepted the position that it was important to her to be able to have the space to honor those commitments and follow through on the things she had already said she was going to do.  Which she doesn’t know why she found it surprising, but she did find it very surprising that the company loved that about her. They told her that's one of the reasons we hired her.

She did have a few other teaching gigs lined up, which I followed through and completed.  Luckily for her, within her work, everything was very structured on a calendar and an academic calendar. So she knew when those things would end.  She also knew that because it was work that she was passionate about that she wasn't able to give it up completely.

So while she was winding down with those things, she was trying to figure out how much of it she could keep, in addition to a 40 hour a week job.

And so through conversations with the college she was contracting with and her new employers, she was able to see how much space she could have.  She’s now in my third year in this position.  And she has continued to do some side contract work and some teaching at the college level while she has been there. So it's continuing to take that step back and see what the space was that allowed it.

What she also really liked about it was that she was able to build in more space for other projects that she wanted to do that weren't necessarily completely under the umbrella of what she was doing before. So it was nice to have that security of a full time job, but be able to continue a little bit of the work that she was really passionate about,  It was also nice to be able to create some space for new things. Because she thinks this is true for a lot of creatives and freelancers, we're always wanting to learn new things to improve ourselves to find something that will satisfy us. So she loves that she has that space in my schedule now that she’s able to try new things as well.

I understand and that makes a lot of sense. Because when you're doing one particular thing or a couple of different things in your freelance skill set wheelhouse, it's very easy for those to become the most profitable or the ones that are requested the most. 

You do them over and over again. But it really can crowd out the opportunity to learn new things or even just pick something up that's a hobby.  I see a lot of people get stuck in this mindset of wondering if something is  going to make them money.  Not everything you do has to make you money, or has to be part of your business. It can be if you want, but you can also just pick up a hobby or follow a thread to see how much you're interested in it.  I think that that's a really common pitfall that people fall into.

I asked Dani to walk me through how her process has changed as far as deciding whether or not to take on a freelance project. Now, knowing what she does from having done it before and balancing this full time job and some other projects.

She shared that she feels like she has drawn a much stronger line. It used to be where she would pretty much accept anything that she  was remotely interested in. And now knowing that she has much more limited time to accommodate those things, she has to be a lot more intentional.

So for her that means she knows that she can only accept one or two things in a given amount of time.  She still thinks very much in the semester schedule.  So she can only take one or two things every semester. And having that knowledge and that line makes her evaluate what it is that she enjoys the most.  Some of the things that she considers are:

  • What age group is it?
  • Is it that I want to work with the most?
  • What are the sorts of things that I want to teach?
  • Or what kind of art do I want to do that would fill me the most in this schedule?

 And it's nice because she doesn’t necessarily have to think about long term with her freelance work. Now, she only has to think about what's going to serve her in this amount of time. And she doesn’t have to necessarily worry about building anything or expanding anything.

That's a really great point.

One challenge that I know a lot of freelancers who are coming out, from the other direction where they have the full time job first and they're just starting to freelance, they always want to know if they need to tell their employer.  Or if they need to tell their freelance clients that they also have a full time job and these are the parameters under which it does or doesn't affect what they are doing for them.

I asked Dani if she does that with her clients. Do they know that you have other responsibilities, and you're not going to pick up the phone at 10 o'clock in the morning if they call out of the blue? Or is that something you just deal with on a different or case by case basis?

Dani shared that she thinks it's a case by case.  She has had semesters where she was very upfront with not only the college she was working with, or the people she was contracting with, but also with the students who she was teaching about her schedule. This is her life.  And this is when she’s available and when she’s not available.

She’s also had times where she doesn’t do that.  The other thing she finds that it doesn't make a huge difference is what she communicates to other people, it's really kind of drawing the line for herself.  That makes the bigger difference. So she thinks in both cases the outcome was about the same.

She feels as though she has moved into more of not necessarily having to disclose just because she doesn't understand necessarily what she was getting out of disclosing.  She doesn’t know if she was looking for people to understand that boundary, but she feels like you can establish that boundary without having to justify why.

That's a really good point because a lot of times there's not a ton of overlap unless the person from your freelance gig is trying to push into your other time when you're not available or need to be focused on something,

I really found that a lot of times when I was working full time that it just didn’t really affect it. And I didn't see how it affected my boss at all. I didn't see how it affected my freelance clients either.   We could either do a call at noon when I was on a lunch break or after hours.  We could even just discuss it over email.

So I agree with you that it's a case by case thing. I don't think you owe it to anyone unless there's going to be some potential where they're like, “Oh, we need you to be available at 3 pm every Tuesday.”  That’s when you have to tell them that you might not be the person for them because you’re working at that time.

But I agree that I think a lot of times it's about our own boundaries.  You have to ask yourself, “Okay, how am I going to have firm boundaries with both these things so that I don't get overwhelmed or don't shortchange anyone in the process?”

Well, this has been super helpful, for me at least, to hear how you've made this transition and really arrived at a balance of things that work best for you.

I think that's important for everyone listening to remember that you don't have to apply a formula from anyone and try to force that into fitting into your life.  You get to decide to what extent you're freelancing or you're not or you have a full time job or you work remotely or you're volunteering.  So you get to decide what that looks like.

And you can always change it too.  If it's no longer suiting you, for any reason, you can always adapt and change it. So never feel like you're a prisoner to your circumstances.  Because you always have the power to adapt.

And that's something I think we've talked about a lot in this episode is tuning into those signals in yourself know this isn't working. How do I make that decision? How do I wind things down and move forward in a step that's positive?

I asked Dani where people could go to learn more about her and all of the great work she’s doing including her podcast.

The best place to learn about her is through her podcast, which is one of those lovely things that has been able to rise because I've had that extra space in my life and is able to fulfill me in a different way. So, she co hosts and produces a podcast called Biracial Unicorns. They're available on all the podcasting platforms.

This was such a great episode full of useful information.  For more freelance advice, get a copy of my book Start Your Own Freelance Writing Business—available now! Buy it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, and more.

Nov 11, 2019

If you know me, you know I love doing batch work.

So if you're listening to this episode, know that I have recorded several podcast episodes, at the same time.  All with the content previously outlined that I did in another work session of bashing work. So I really do practice what I preach when it comes to bashing your work and splitting things up. It is so much easier for me to record two or three podcast episodes at a time. And it definitely makes it easier on everyone else when producing them.  So think about how that concept of batch work could play into your freelance business as well.

The title of this episode is “Why I'm Not Freelancing Full Time Anymore”. 

If you have followed my story for a long time, or listen to this podcast, then you know that I have been freelancing full time since the summer of 2013. So that is a full six years of working full time.  Many of those years I was putting in a lot of hours, especially at the beginning to get things off the ground.

And it's part of the reason that I've been incorporating a couple different interviews with people who have taken less traditional freelance paths into the mix with some of these podcast episodes.  Because I'm seeing it not just with me, but with many of my private coaching clients as well.

For some of them, freelancing full time is the dream like this is what they've worked for. They love it.  And they're happy to do it. But for others, it's interesting because they will start coaching with me for the purpose of scaling their freelance business and then the process of working together, realized that's not actually what they want.  At least anymore. For some of them, that means intentionally scaling back their freelance business altogether. And that can be a little bit surprising for people who have put in so much effort to build up a freelance side hustle, potentially even leaving their day job.

What I want to emphasize here is that you always have the opportunity to change and adjust your business and your life, as a freelancer, as a creative as a person, as much as you want.

Because there's different seasons in life. There are seasons in life where you may be focused on other things like taking care of an elderly parent, or perhaps you're a new parent yourself.  And the focus of your life has really shifted from that all hustle, all-in mentality towards being a new parent.  Or maybe you've just moved in with your significant other or whatever it might be.

One of these life changes and shifts that I'm seeing happen a lot is people who build their freelance business up and then go, “Okay, what's next?”

I honestly can speak to that from experience.  Because, for me, I've loved being a freelancer. I've loved doing it full time. And I just hit a point when I wasn't sure that that was fit for me anymore. I've taken a lot of care and a lot of work to adjust my business in light of that. 

So I started seeing the signs that it was time to change.  In early 2019, I was really set up for a big year freelance wise.  I took on two enormous freelance contracts. I was like, “This is easily going to be my biggest year yet with freelancing.” And I did those for about three months.

Then both of those projects came to an end for for different reasons.  None of those reasons were negative or anything. but I was relieved. Normally when I lose a contract or a client, I'm like, “Oh, I have to go replace this client. I've got to go find another situation that's going to fill this time.” I started feeling relief at letting go some of those projects and intentionally not replacing them.

So those two contracts ending around the May time period, and I was getting really close to my book launch to we were getting ready to move on. I really started to feel like the perfect storm situation where if I was going to scale my freelance business down, then it was the time to start. And it really was!  To be honest with you, having so many contracts and so many irons in the fire, it took me a full four months to intentionally scale my business back.  It was by no means an overnight process.

So there were a lot of signs that it was time to change.  From those contracts ending and one of those clients randomly decided that they were paying writers too much and wanted to cut their prices and rates by 50%.

So all of a sudden, it was like, “Wow, what a weird conversation.  They're not complaining that anything's been done wrong, but they want to pay all three of us freelance writers working for them across the board much less.” We also went on vacation in May. It was a very healing and transformative vacation.

We took my sister in law with us. We were all over Europe. I emailed a client I had been with for years to say I wanted to cut my workload in half with them doing some of the editing work and still stay on with the writing work. I realized that when I came back from vacation, I didn't want to start doing the editing again. So I revised my original statement and said, “Can you just pull me out of this all together?”

So I gave up a good portion of income in order to do that, but it felt like the right decision.

And it really was.  If you've never written and published a book before, whether that's self published or traditionally published, there was so much work that went into that behind the scenes.  The book was launched on July 16. And I wanted to support it as much as possible because I knew I would not only set myself up for success with this first publication, but I was very intentional when I brought on an agent in 2018 that I wanted to write multiple books.  She even stressed to me in our early conversations that the opportunities for future books would very much be based on what I could pull off with the first one.

So I felt like the door of opportunity was knocking and I had to take it.

I really did not want this book launch to fall apart for any reason. So I had put together a marketing plan that I created over the course of four months.  I implemented that marketing plan over about six to seven months.

I had brought in an additional VA to help me with that. And I hired a publicist to help me with that. I rebooted my podcast.  There were so many things going on in connection with the book and not one of them do I regret! But because I made that decision, I had to scale back other things in my business.

I also started to feel like I just wasn't seeing the room for growth for me with freelance writing.

There was not another form of freelance writing that was exciting me at the time. I started dipping my toes into the water with public speaking by doing some workshops. I also expanded my freelance coaching business because I started to realize that I really did not want to be writing eight to nine hours a day.

And there is an excellent video you can watch here. It is like the motto of 2019 for me.  It's an interview with Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of “Eat, Pray, Love” and multiple other books. I strongly recommend her book “Big Magic” if you haven't checked it out. But in this interview, she talks about the difference between a hobby, a job, a career, and a vocation.

So she talks about the fact that writing will always be her vocation, even if it is not her career. She talks about all the other jobs she's held where she wasn't writing, but it gave her the mental space to be a writer outside of those hours. So for me delving into nonfiction into fiction, into doing public speaking into coaching, all of those, to some extent, involve additional writing.

I was also getting pressure to finish up my PhD.

Talk about a massive writing project writing a doctoral dissertation.  I could see the writing on the wall at the rate that I was going with the volume of clients that I had. And I could not do all of these other writing projects, and also be writing six to nine hours a day for clients.

So I actually had my best freelance month ever, in 2019, nearly $30,000 in freelance income.

And I also had my worst freelance month in recent years in August. So I believe that the best one was April.  And then in August I had my worst month that I've had in years in terms of income wise.  But in terms of how I felt about things and how intentional I was in the way that my business looked, I view it like the opposite. 

Because I had this huge month in April, and then I went on vacation.  Honestly, I was starting to get burned out. And I could really sense that. I was experiencing the early signs of burnout. And I knew that that was going to be a problem for me .  So I went from that best freelance month saying, “Okay, is this it?"  I had a great freelance month. I don't necessarily feel like from a $10,000 month to a $30,000 month.  But there wasn't more happiness or peacefulness. I honestly feel kind of tired a little bit burned out. So for me, this is not the direction that I want my business to grow.

As you know, freelance income can fluctuate and it's also up to you to decide if consistency or other options are more appropriate.

There are seasons in your freelance business.  And there's been seasons where I've outsourced all my writing work. There have been seasons where I did not advertise my coaching practice at all because it was completely booked through word of mouth. And there have been seasons where I've said that we are not filming YouTube videos for four months. Or that I'm taking a year and a half break from my podcast.  Things are always in flux.

So in other businesses, it's harder to adjust your business to your life, but that is not the case with freelancing because it can open other doors.

Some other doors started to open, as soon as I started to intentionally scale down my freelance business.  And I was having a conversation about this in my freelancing group, which you can check out.  It's Mastering Your Freelance Life with Laura. This idea came up of, when you have filled your schedule with other things in a way, you can actually be limiting yourself from better opportunities or opportunities that you want.

So people might wonder how that makes sense. I feel like if there's something in the back of your mind that it's calling on you to do like writing a book or opening another business entirely, but you fill your schedule with what comes easily to you, which could be bringing on freelance contracts, you're kind of denying a part of yourself.  You're actually limiting your personal and business growth.

I've said this a lot and sometimes people won't agree with me, but I don't believe that it is all about the money.

Because if you bring in great money, but you don't feel good about it, or your start to feel like I did, which was just like I needed to complete my projects because I was on deadline. But I had several clients where I was not excited to work on their projects at all. I was really just doing it to get things done because I had made a commitment to work for that client.

I realized how dangerous that was.  And I was not doing the best thing for me. I'm not doing the best thing for my clients. So I did a very careful inventory of all of my clients on my current roster and said, “What can I change? And how can I make this more in line with where I want to go?”

Now it's hard to say no to a really good thing. I'm so grateful for my business. But writing is not something I want to do 40 hours anymore. And it's actually a gift to have been a writer for full time for the last six years because I've been able to expand into other skill sets like selling courses and doing project and content management for clients that requires more communication skills than writing.  Doing public speaking and coaching, writing books, doing TEDx talks, it's opened other doors and made me see that this is not all that I am limited to. So rather than feeling like I've taken it as far as I can take it, and let's just wake up every day and do the same thing over again, I started looking for new challenges.

So how do you tell when it's really the right time to move on or to make a big decision about what's next for you?

Mindset work is key. I have done more mindset work in the last six months than probably the entirety of all of my life before that. For you, mindset work might look like prayer, sitting there quietly journaling, doing meditation every day, or bringing up new hobbies. All of it helps you to honor your purpose.

As a freelancer, we are hearing communication, thoughts and ideas daily. Your business can easily overtake your brain because it is something that you cannot really shut off and confine to an office. It's usually your entire home. When you're out running or exercising or doing errands, you're thinking about your business. So there's a lot of noise. 

It's very hard sometimes to honor your purpose when there's so much noise coming at you from so many different directions. So being intentionally quiet, sitting down and making that effort to learn more about what it is you really want to do and what your next step is, can allow you to hear some of that inner intuition.   Even if you're doing this through prayer, hearing from the spiritual portion of your life getting some wisdom about what steps to take next.

That was critical for me.

I had filled my business with so much noise and interference that I could not tell what it was I wanted to do anymore. I had a whole bunch of obligations, and maybe only about 65 to 70% of them were things that I wanted to do. So I had to start really honoring that and start exploring new avenues. 

The minute that I started that process, which was super messy, and took me the entire summer and is still ongoing, I started to see other doors opening. I got some wisdom and intuition about what my next steps were.

We humans tend to initially resisted it. I was like, “Yeah, I'm not doing that. That's not the next step for me.” But starting to pursue these different routes was really helpful for me to start thinking about what I want my business and life to look like going forward and how I can continue to change things and allow this to evolve.

So just because you built something to the point where it's successful and doing well financially, that doesn't always mean that that is your end point. Many of the most successful business owners and freelancers that I know are evolving.  They are not afraid to say, “Okay, I did this. It was great. Now it's time to move on. I have a new dream or I have this other dream in the back of my mind that I've always wanted to do. And now I'm going to live it.”

I think as creatives a lot of us are called to freelancing because we want to do something creative. But when that becomes our job eight to nine hours a day, being creative for other clients, it's really hard to apply that same level of creativity to our own projects. So for me, some of the best writing and side hustling I ever did, was the year that I ran my business as a side hustle while I had a full time job.  Because I had to be very specific about what I did in my off hours. A lot of my job was very menial.  To that extent, it was boring.  But I also didn't have to do a lot of heavy lifting with my brain during the day.

So I still have that creativity and excitement to come home with and as a writer, a business owner, and freelancer, you play multiple different roles.

So you're the CEO.  You're the VP of Marketing, management, hiring, and human resources. And you're the CFO.  You're everything. Even when you have a VA or a couple of people on your team, you are still making a massive amount of decisions, And so that might not be right for everyone running your business at that level.

So for me, a lot of the guidance that I got was to scale my freelance clients down to 10 hours a week. And it was so awkward and weird to do this.  It was weird to turn people down and to fire clients after test projects when I couldn't see how they fit into my new 10 hour a week model, and to allow contracts to come to a natural end and to not try to replace them. It was weird because I never really done that purposely before.

All of my previous goals in my business were very much financially based.

I found that honestly that got very empty for me because it was like, “Oh, great.  We had a good month, but I didn't feel like my purpose and my passion was coming through at the level that the money was.” So it was something where I knew that if I want to have a bigger impact, if I really want to help people then there had to be changes.  I really felt that I needed to change some things about the freelance side of my business to make that happen.

So my first recommendation for you is to get quiet.

Do the mindset work. And do it every day for one to two hours a day, if you can. I spent so much time walking, journaling, talking things out with my husband,  my mom, or other people in my life.  I was like, “Okay, if I'm going to change this, what is this going to look like?”

I did a talk a couple of weeks ago, very similar to this topic. I was at my alma mater in Virginia.  And I talked about the power of the pivot. So a lot of times we ignore signs from our body that it's time to move on when something no longer fits you in the way that it's currently structured.

So I will probably always freelance. But for me I was able to scale my business down to still be a six figure writing business, but only about 10 hours a week by being very picky about the clients that I do have.

So you have three main options available to you when you recognize that freelancing isn't fit.  You can:

  • Scale it down and find a new side hustle or full time gig.
  • Find a new full time position and phase it out entirely.
  • Start a new business and go in a totally new direction and let freelancing bridge the gap for you.

So maybe you want to launch your own company, write a book,  or get a whole new job, but you know that that's not something you can do tomorrow, so maybe over six to 12 months.  Freelancing is how you can bridge the gap.  You're taking on a couple of projects to float you financially.

I love the idea when you're pivoting to take baby steps towards your next purposes.

For me, I didn't know what direction I wanted to go in yet.  I did public speaking and I knew just from speaking to some experts and doing some of it already, I did not want that to be my new full time income. I talked to a very savvy, public speaker coach several months ago and she told me how she had spent over 200 nights a year in a hotel room. And with that one sentence I knew it wasn’t for me.  I know there's a need for more great executive and female public speakers and motivational speakers out there. Butthat just felt like it would be trading freelancing full time for doing something that would be even more stressful and require more travel.

So I knew some of what I didn't want to do at least full time, but I didn't know which direction I wanted to go entirely, but I knew what the signs were.

I was not motivated to get projects done. I've coped with varying levels of anxiety my entire life. And for a long time when I was a child, all the way through graduate school, I was diagnosed with ADD. I was medicated for ADD.  It was a real struggle for me to stay focused and organized.

Sometimes people who meet me today are surprised to hear that they think I'm hyper organized. That is a coping mechanism I developed from years of living with severe ADHD. So when I start to notice my ADD coming back and my anxiety bubbling up every day, I start to notice symptoms like headaches, ulcers, and feeling tired more often. That's usually how my body tells me it's time to go.

My body actually started to shut down when I was teaching in Baltimore City.  That was the point for me to recognize that it was really serious and I needed to step out of that particular job. So I always watch for those types of things such as missing deadlines, making mistakes with your clients, and not feeling excited about getting on sales calls or turning things in hitting a major milestone like having a huge month or bringing on a huge client.  It's much more anticlimactic than you thought.  Those are all signs that it's time to take a baby step towards your next purpose.

On that note, I strongly recommend the audible only book “Take Control of Your Life with Mel Robbins”. The very first case study she does is with a famous teacher who wants to do something in the wine business.  But he doesn't know what yet and he's essentially paralyzed by all of the choices.  She talks about Lego blocks and building blocks that move you towards what your purpose is, when you're not sure what it is.

So you take little baby steps to try things out.  Maybe you have dinner with someone.  Or maybe you reach out to people. For me, I reached out heavily to my military spouse, community and all of the networks that I had there to say, “Hey, I'm thinking about changing things up. What advice do you have?”   Leaning on other people can be very, very helpful. So check out those books and resources to learn more.

You can also add in more exposure, income, and opportunities by doing other things in your freelance business.

Start a nonprofit.  Volunteer some of your free time developing another business entirely coaching other people, either as a life coach or business coach.  You can write books, do public speaking, start a podcast, or maybe work in a more traditional employment situation or a full time remote job to pick up newer or better skills.

I felt to an extent like I had tapped out what I could really do with SEO writing. I did it. And it was great. And I've enjoyed doing it. There are several clients where it's still enough of a challenge and interest for me to continue doing it. But I could tell that wasn't what I wanted to be spending the bulk of my time doing.

So I come to you with this podcast episode because everything is very much still in motion and in flux.

But I wanted to help you recognize that you always have the ability and the permission, for goodness sakes, granted to yourself to change things in your business if it's not working for you. I will still be freelancing. I will still be making an income from freelancing. But I'm actually setting my freelance business up to reflect more of what it looked like when I first started back when I had a full time job and was a grad student doing other things, so that I can fold in some other things and fold in some more downtime, and get my dissertation done.

So, I just wanted to sort of do this preliminary episode to talk a little about that. I will come back in a couple of months to talk to you more about how this transition has worked out. But I hope that this episode has been helpful for you to see the many different ways that you can alter your life and your business to make sure that it suits where you're at right now.

It is not dishonoring what you've built. And It is not viewing your current business as a failure. But if you feel disconnected, and if you feel like there's something more out there for you, I really encourage you to make the mindset work mandatory because no one can answer that question for you.

This came up with one of my coaching clients recently where she didn’t know what she wanted to do, but it's wasn’t freelancing.

She didn’t think she wanted to freelance at all. And that's valuable information to know, even when you're working with the freelancing coach. So then our conversations really shifted towards how do we start you building the life you love, working towards the goals that you want, knowing that freelancing might just be something that bridges the gap. It might just be something that opens another door for you.

So I hope this episode has been helpful for you. Please send any questions or concerns to info@betterbizacademy.com and thanks again for tuning in.  For more freelance advice, get a copy of my book Start Your Own Freelance Writing Business—available now! Buy it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, and more.

Nov 4, 2019

This is episode 86 of the Advanced Freelancing podcast. I'm doing a separate introduction here because this is the first time that I've interviewed a guest in this new format and reboot of my podcast.  I was super excited to talk to her because of her expertise.

Today’s podcast guest is fellow freelance superstar Hilary Sutton.

She is a writer, speaker, and consultant that is passionate about helping people spend their days in work that is wildly fulfilling. She is the host of the podcast Hustle and Grace, which you should totally go check out right now.  Binge some of that after you're done with this episode.

She's also the author of several ebooks and courses including “More in Less: 21 Productivity Hacks for Creatives”.  She has also served as a Professor of Communications, Social Media and Journalism, at Southern New Hampshire for five years.  And she's also a freelance writer for hire with expertise in direct response, copywriting, and content marketing.

As a freelancer, she has served clients ranging from Broadway shows to non profits large and small, creatives of all stripes, and consumer brands.  And she has written hundreds of articles in dozens of publications, including USA Today and The Washington Post. She and her family live in the DC metro area.  We will post all of her contact information at the bottom of the show notes.

This episode is for you if you've been thinking that perhaps full time freelancing or full time remote work might not be for you.

And how could you create a hybrid blend, where you've got essentially an employee-employer relationship as part of the mix, but not as your full time gig. I hear from more and more freelancers these days who are looking to build an intentional freelance business. They don't want to be working 40 or 60 hours a week as a freelancer.

For some of them freelancing was their ticket out of working in a dead-end job, but they're now realizing that freelancing full time isn't quite the right fit either. The cool thing about these side hustlers is that we can rearrange our business and client load whenever we want to reflect the new dreams and goals that we have.  Hilary is the perfect example of that. So stay tuned in this episode to hear more about the different transition she's made and how she recommends you do things like how to pick which industry or type of skill to focus on how to keep clients thrilled about coming back to work with you on retainer.

With that, let’s get into Hilary’s story.

Hilary shared that she has been a person from the beginning who liked a lot of different things. She’s always been a person who loved writing.  She’s always loved theater. And she loved connecting with people in college.  She could not decide on a major for the longest time and actually ended up with three or four minors as a consolation prize.

She started freelancing around 2007-2008.  Which, if you'll remember, that was around the time that the great recession hit. So freelancing was something that she wanted to do, but it was also something she was kind of forced to do.  Because at that time, companies were on hiring freezes. People weren't hiring full time. So Hilary said that it was sort of like a happy accident that she got into freelancing at that time when people were actually sort of looking for some freelancers.

So she started freelance writing, then she was also balancing it with a career as an actress in theater, especially musical theatre.  It got to a point were in between performing, she was doing some writing here and there. But it wasn't really enough to pay the bills. And so she was also working retail and doing some different things.

Back to School

And so she thought she would go back to school and get a masters degree so she could at least possibly get into the online education boom that was happening at that time. She thought, if she could maybe teach online, she could still have this autonomous lifestyle that she loved.  She could work from anywhere. And she could go audition in the middle of the day.  There was something about a full time job that felt very limiting to her.  It felt very stifling to her and her personality, because in the beginning she had three or four different minors and a love for lots of different things. So she always really liked variety.

So back to school she went.  She studied media and communications with a focus on media.  She really dove into the social media space.  That was also really interesting timing because that's when companies started realizing, “Hey, we should hire someone or we should hire a freelancer or a consultant to help with our social media.”  And so that's sort of how she really got started as a full time freelancer.

She did social media. And she did a ton of blog writing. She still did article writing for magazines. That sort of grew into a career as a content marketer and a direct response copywriter that she has today.

Her Life Now

Now she lives in the DC metro area right outside of DC.  She works as a full time freelancer. There was a time just a couple of years ago that she thought that maybe what she really wanted was to work remotely.  She thought that it would give her the flexibility and autonomy that she wanted.

Well, it turns out she really likes working for herself. So she works as a part time consultant with an agency.  That's sort of her anchor client. She’s technically a W2 there, but she’s part time.  She works remotely. She feels like they're her client to be honest. But she is part of a team.

So she does that part time. And then she sprinkles in whatever she has time for around that. So she does direct response copy.  She does freelance career coaching.  And she has some online courses and intellectual property. She does public speaking.  Basically, she does lots of different things. She likes to keep the variety going. But she does have this dependable anchor client in the staffing agency.

I think it reflects a lot of what we freelancers like.

A lot of us get that feeling of being stifled in a traditional job where you're doing the same thing all day every day. Even though sometimes the variety can be a little bit crazy, it's often a welcome part of the freelancer's life.  Why? Because you do get to decide who you work with and who you don't.

It's interesting that Hilary brought up that she has this anchor client.  To her, they're kind of a client, but not really because it's also like an employee employer situation, but it's super flexible. So you view it like a client.

It's very interesting because a lot of times for people that are looking to do full time freelancing, I tell them to never just have one client,  That's super dangerous, right?  You should never put all your eggs in one basket. And obviously, Hilary done that. But what advice does Hilary have for freelancers who maybe get an offer like that?

I see a lot of people who are like, “Oh, a recruiter contacted me about a remote opportunity or a part time opportunity. They want to pay me W2.  How do you set that up for success in the rest of your business being in the context of freelance?” It sounds like they're very much like a client for Hilary.

How can freelancers tell the difference between an employer that really wants to treat you like an employee and someone who's more like a willing to be flexible with the remote work?

Hilary shared that she thinks some of it is that you just have to feel out in the interview process. But she thinks you also have to be honest from the beginning about what your values are and what you care about.  Be honest with them that they're going to get your 110% effort. But you're not going to have that same approach to the company that other people might go in there from 9 to 5.

Hilary shared that in her situation, she doesn’t view them as an employer. And she also feels like they put her in my own special category as well. So you know, there are times when it's so beneficial because she’s outside of the office politics.  She’s outside of the water cooler chatter.  Those parts of working in an office that she frankly, doesn't feel comfortable with and doesn’t really like.

So she thinks it's important to be honest from the get go. She thinks it's important to ask the tough questions in that process in the beginning.  You have to yourself, “Self, what is important to me?”  You have to ask how much anxiety does it bring me to have five different clients that all get 20% of my time or, 10 different clients still get 10% of my time?  Is it less for you to worry about? Is it less for you to think about? Does it bring you some peace of mind to have a client that's 40%?

Hilary said that to her, it's all about a happy medium.

Because a lot of times she thinks a freelance line item on a budget feels unemotional to cut at the end of the year. Whereas, if you are a W2, she thinks that employers and companies don't feel as comfortable just being like, “Oh, we'll just reallocate that money.”

She has had that experience herself. She had a client that was about 20%- 25% of her income recently. And at the end of the year, they just said, “Oh, we're just going to rearrange some things. And we're going to hire someone in house.”  It was over an email and was so impersonal. And all year, they had been a huge piece of her pie. But, she was just a line item for them.

So Hilary thinks there is something beneficial about having that relationship where you're not full time, you don't do the commute every day, and you're not there every day, but they rely on you. You rely on them almost like a retainer. Hilary thinks it's a good thing. It's a good situation, depending on what you want and what your goals are.

So Hilary is talking about a setup that's a little bit different than your traditional freelance setup.

Most freelancers have defined channels for marketing.  They know how they're going to find their clients.  I asked Hilary what she suggests that freelancers interested in a client like hers go and do to fine someone like that. Do you use different terminology or pitching techniques or networking to find a client like that and to kind of convince them that you're the right one for the role? Because like Hilary mentioned, a lot of times, we are seen as outsiders.  Freelancers are brought in to work on specific projects.  Or as a writer, they might do some of the content marketing.

How do you kind of bridge that gap between being a freelancer and working as a part time employee or W2?

Hilary thinks it depends on where you're coming from and what you're doing just prior to that.   For me and her situation, she had been working full time for a company remotely. And she just put the flag on her LinkedIn saying that she was open to conversations with recruiters. She moved my location to the DC metro area because she was moving to DC and almost immediately when she got there, a local company reached out to me.

It was a marketing staffing agency So they didn't take long for them to find someone who was the right fit.  Hilary shared that she was a great fit for them not only because she was looking and open to freelance and part time and remote opportunities, but also in her previous job, she was doing the marketing writing.  Which is the kind of writing that I liked, but the topic wasn't something that I was passionate about.

So in her off times from when she wasn't working on the projects for her job, she was contributing to newspapers like the USA Today writing about careers.  She was writing about how to nail your internship.  Those kinds of topics that actually aligned really beautifully with this client and part time gig that she has now.

Hilary thinks it's important before you find that perfect sweet spot that you're really putting it out there and cultivating your own personal brand around the topics and the things that you love to write about or the projects that you just love to do. Don't just get bogged down in whatever it is that your current job and the projects assigned to you.  Create your own work. Hilary thinks that really attracts those special opportunities. And it will also show that you're more than just a writer.  You're more than just a designer.

Whatever it is that you do, you also have a passion for this specific niche. Because when you have a passion for a specific niche and someone needs someone like you, they're more willing to be flexible.  They're more willing to be like, “Okay, well we really want somebody in the office.  We really want to pay this.  But maybe we can rework some things because who's gonna be more perfect for this job that you? Probably no one. So we'll do what you want to do. We'll make it work.”

I love that youHilary brought up a couple of things there that I think are so important for any business owner or even someone who's looking to be a professional and work as an employee.

That is making yourself visible to recruiters on LinkedIn. I probably post about this several times a month in my Facebook Group.  Why?  Because it's just takes three minutes.  Go turn the button on and tell the recruiters exactly what you're available for. Because that is always the most searched person. Every time I go into who's viewed my profile on LinkedIn, recruiters are always number one.  Those are great relationships to cultivate. It's free and easy.  If your profile is optimized, that's perfect.

And then Hilary also talked about building your own brand.  I think this is so important.  People get bogged down in that too. If you don't have a lead at USA Today or Business Insider where you can post, then use your LinkedIn and your website to build your brand.  You need to be posting articles and content that are relevant to your industry.  People also find you that way through the hashtags, through the words that you use, and how frequently you post.

I think Hilary has a really great perspective because she’s worked in these different industries. And one thing I'd love for her to break down is the difference between working remotely and working as a freelancer.

The reason I bring this up is because I'm in a lot of communities with other military spouses and a lot of them are looking for remote opportunities.  Because, obviously, they move a lot. They want a job that's going to travel with them. And there's sometimes this confusion between, What's the difference between working remotely and something like starting my own business as a virtual assistant or something like that you've actually done it.  I asked Hilary to share from her perspective, what would you say those primary differences are? And how do you know which one might be right for you?

Hilary said when it comes to what are the differences, it's pretty cut and dry to start with.

A remote job is a job where you might as well be in an office because you have like one client.  You have one job.  And you have one supervisor.  You're probably benefited and get things like  401k and insurance.  You're an employee just like anyone else, except that you don't have that commitment to the office.

Whereas a freelancer, you can kind of like cultivate it and make it whatever you want it to be. It's where you are the business.  You don't work for another business.   But you are the business. So you not only do the work, but you also do the business development.  You go and find the clients.  And you take care of billing and invoices.  So if you're thinking about if a business is like the office, then you are everybody in the office.

Hilary was referring to The Office TV show because she’s finally catching up on it. It's like 10 years too late, but she’s in the final season. When you are the business, you are fearless. You are Michael. You are Angela.  You're everyone if you're a freelancer.  But if you work as a remote employee, then you are just one of those guys and you work from home.

I think that's a great way to explain it.

And I think some of it also comes down to the level of risk you're willing to absorb at the outset.  Because honestly, I know a lot of people are like, “Oh, a full time job, whether it's remote or an office, it's so much more stable.” There's a lot of arguments to make that your job could be eliminated or like the company that I used to work for before freelancing completely closed. So stability and risk is a questionable thing at that.

But when you're starting out, like you said, as a freelancer, you have to go create your own paycheck.  At a job you're showing up and they're telling you these are the things we need you to do. You're going to get the benefits. This is going to be your paycheck,  It's going to drop in your account every two weeks. A freelancer is taking on more of that upfront risk of saying, “Okay, I have to go chase the clients. I'm going to take on the responsibility of paying the taxes as a self employed person.  I'm going to figure out what to do with my benefits, etc.”

Some people are a little bit more averse to that. And others might be like, “Oh, yeah, I absolutely want to be my own boss.” So those are the important differences between remote and freelancing. I think it's helpful for people to know that,  The good thing too, is you could work remotely and still have a freelance side hustle.  There's lots of different ways that you could set it up.

Hilary talked about doing a lot of different activities and using those to land where she is now.  So I asked, for people who are just getting started with digital marketing and freelancing, how do you figure out what it is you want to specialize in or do and pitch that when there's so many options?

I know a lot of people who are like,  “I'm kind of into social media and maybe a little bit of writing and some other things.”  I asked Hilary how do you decide to narrow down or do you not recommend doing that?

Hilary thinks it depends on your personality. She thinks it depends on how much time you have on your hands that is available. And how much of a learning curve there is.  If you got a degree in marketing, and you've kind of been in that world and you already have specialized interests, pay attention to the things that catch your eye. Pay attention to the pages that you follow on Facebook, the brands that you scroll through on Instagram, and the accounts that you follow on Twitter.  What are the topics that catch your eye that you have a natural interest in?

She thinks that's a really great place to start. Because she thinks that you're going to be more invested.  You're going to have more of a passion for those projects. If you're still in the stage of  building a portfolio and finding who you are as a marketer then she thinks that it's good to start small.  Build those personal relationships and personal connections.

Start spreading the word that you're building a freelance business.  Maybe you don't want to ask someone directly for them to hire you or for their business.  Maybe you do.  You can minimally start spreading the word in your network by saying, “Hey, like I'm getting into this. I've always kind of had a knack for social media. I really think that I could help small like mom and pop restaurants, in particular, really nail their social media. I see so many bad pictures of food on Instagram. I really love taking pictures with this amazing portrait mode that I have on my latest iPhone. I really think that I could help people.”

Just start one email at a time or one Facebook message at a time.  You could do one coffee meet up at a time and build, build, build.  Spread the word about what it is that you like. And she  thinks starting with some that you're passionate about and pairing that with a skill that you're confident in is a really, really great place to start. And she thinks that there are lots of different things that you could do. But the more that you narrow down in the beginning, the more success that you can have because you can be confident that this is what you do well and you can really serve your clients well that way.

I love that advice, because I think it helps to be a little bit of a generalist when you get started because you don't know what you like or don't yet.

But I feel like when you say, “Alright, I'm going to be a social media marketer. I'm going to do content strategy. I'm going to do SEO and pay per click ads.” When you take on 6 or 7 different specialities, it's really hard to keep up with the changes and software in six or seven industries. Claim competency in one or two where you're like, “Yes, these are the blogs I follow. These are the podcasts I listened to. I do it enough within my day that I know what works as a best practice and what things are coming down the pike as trends.”

But I feel like I see a lot of freelancers, especially VAs, post on their website, “These are the 45 different services I can do for you.” That sets you up to be so frazzled and constantly having to go back and be like, “Okay, have there been updates in Facebook ads? I haven't worked at the Facebook Ads client in four months. So now I have to go back to the drawing board reteach myself that again.”  That can be really stressful.

So I think it's good, like Hilary mentioned, as soon as you get started, start seeing what you gravitate to.  Start seeing what you like and what converts well with clients.  What are clients asking you to do with them? Are your sales calls easy and they're like, “Oh, sold! I so don't want to do this.  You sound like the expert.”? Those are all signals that you can take and apply to your life.

I asked Hilary, what would be one of her best tips for getting clients to work with you consistently?

This big hurdle for a lot of freelancers both new and experienced.  They do a lot of one time projects. Since Hilary seems to develop relationships with her clients where it's more of a long term situation, how does she suggest that freelancers set themselves up to be open to more of those opportunities?

Firstoff, she thinks this is so important.  A few different things come to mind. The first is to  say yes to projects that you know you can nail.  I think it's nice to stretch yourself.  It's nice to try new things.  But in terms of building relationships with clients that you're going to have for a long time, you really want to build that dependability and that trust. So say yes to things that you feel very confident in.

Also cultivate real relationships. When you hop on a call, don't just get right down to business.  Ask someone about their family or how their sports team did.  You can ask things like what's the weather like today or where you are. She knows it sounds silly to always start with the weather, but it's such a nice icebreaker. And such a reminder of, “Yes, I'm here alone in my home in Northern Virginia, but you might be in your home office in Nashville.” She thinks it's so important to take the time to build a relationship besides just getting down to business.

I love that!  And especially notice that if you live somewhere unique, that can also really be a great icebreaker.

My husband and I just relocated to Minnesota a few months ago. And every single person who finds that out wants to know how cold it is.  They want to know how bad the winters are and why on earth would we move to Minnesota.   It just it instantly breaks people down from that level of professionalism when you show up to a call.  I used to say when people would ask me where I lived.  I would share that my husband is in the military. So we live wherever the Navy sends us.   And it would always disarm people to make them feel like they're talking to a person and less salesy and everything. So I totally agree.

And another one of my tips for that is when you are preparing to talk to a client or to start building that relationship, check out what you can about them online. A lot of people will share things on their LinkedIn or on other social media.  And I just openly admit to it like, “Hey, I kind of stalked you a little bit. I saw you run marathons. That's amazing.”  People are so flattered by that.  They're like, “Oh, yeah, I started doing it five years ago.”

It starts this whole honest communication thing, where you really are trying to get to know them. And you can ask questions about it or use that as an icebreaker. And you're right, it really sets people up to want to continue to work with you, because you took that little bit of extra effort to build a relationship and to have communication.

Move from email to the phone as quickly as possible

When I was talking about hopping on the phone and talking about something like that is one reason that Hilary is a big believer in moving some conversations from email to phone as quickly as possible.  When they email her and ask what her rates are or something like that, she wants to move that conversation from like cut and dry email to the phone as quickly as possible because she wants them to know that she’s a human. She wants to know that they're human. She wants to figure out how she can help them succeed at their job. If she can write the perfect thing for them, then that's going to help them put food on the table for their family. So as soon as you can, move from email to phone.  She thinks that's something that is really not done as much these days as it used to be. But she thinks that that can really be a game changer and building that rapport and building that connection with a client.

I am the same way, I always want my clients to get on the phone with me, even if it is for five minutes, because people can present themselves differently on paper than even in like phone or zoom or Skype communication. So I want them to know I am a real person.  I also feel like it's a much better chance for you to convert the sale.  If you get one of those emails with like, “Oh, send me your rates.”  And then you write back with your rate sheet. It's so impersonal. There's no value demonstrated there.

And the whole conversation is revolving around money, which does not put you in a positive negotiation situation at all.  It's very easy for the person on the other end of that computer to open it and think it’s too expensive. But when they've had that conversation with you, they're like, “Man, she really knew her stuff. She seems pretty organized. I saw her website and clients are raving about her. I just need to get this off my plate.  Why waste further time thinking about it?”  You built up that value there. So I could not agree with Hilary’s advice more.

So many freelancers are like, “Oh, we live in a digital world. Let me just close it over email.”  And not everyone can close over email.   You're still a stranger to them. So let's take that off the table a little bit and have even a 5-10 minute phone conversation. You're in a much better position there. So I love that advice, because I try to do the same thing.

I want to thank Hilary for agreeing to come on the show and sharing so much of her insight. I think that's going to be really helpful for people who are either new to freelancing or who are thinking about expanding their freelance business.  She shared a lot of really valuable insights.

Thanks for tuning in to another episode of the advanced freelancing podcast.  For more freelance advice, get a copy of my book Start Your Own Freelance Writing Business—available now! Buy it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, and more.

Hilary Sutton is a writer, speaker, and consultant passionate about helping people spend their days in work that is wildly fulfilling. She is the host of the podcast, “Hustle and Grace” and the author of several eBooks and courses including More in Less: 21 Productivity Hacks for Creatives. Hilary served as professor of communications, social media, and journalism at Southern New Hampshire for five years. She is a freelance writer for hire with expertise in direct response copywriting and content marketing. As a freelancer she has served clients ranging from Broadway shows, to nonprofits large and small, creatives of all stripes, and consumer brands. She has written hundreds of articles in dozens of publications including USA Today and The Washington Post. Hilary and her family live in the DC metro area. Connect with Hilary on Facebook and Twitter @hilarysutton, on Instagram @hilary.sutton and on her website at hilarysutton.com.

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