I get asked all the time by working moms, especially who work in advertising, what it’s like to be a freelancer. First I guess I should start with what I do: I'm a Freelance Marketing Strategist. Put simply, I help clients develop and execute marketing plans, primarily in the digital space. I work with a range of clients that include big ad agencies, startups and local charities.
I've been at this for a little over a year. Although I'm fairly new to it, I have learned a few things along the way. In case you're considering it or are just curious, here are the top 5 questions that I get asked all the time.
WHAT'S THE BALANCE LIKE? Gut response: The freedom is amazing but life is messy. That said, I've grown to love my mess. It's a fairly unpredictable schedule but the flexibility is priceless. I pretty much don't miss a thing. In a given week I can volunteer at school, work out, pick up my kids, take them places, see friends and family and deliver quality work. Yes, I fall asleep with my clothes on probably 3 nights a week. Everyone said enjoy it when it's slow because when it's busy it's crazy. This seems to be holding up! But like I said, I don't miss much. Do I miss structure? God yes! But I continue to learn how to put structure into a life that has many variables.
IS IT HARD TO GET NEW BUSINESS? Like all the good things in life, it requires hustle. You have to build your business from the ground up. You need scope documents, invoices, templates, a bank account and so much more. No one hands these to you. It takes research and non billable time just to get your business off the ground. Oh, don't forget networking. No one is thinking about you unless you remind them to. After you've worked with a client once, they know who you are and the work that you deliver. You enjoy working together and things usually continue to develop from there. That said, your "main client" can come and go because of budget in a heartbeat, so it's important to stay ahead of the curve on the new business front. Never stop hustling.
DO YOU MISS GOING TO THE OFFICE? I never thought I'd say this in a million years, but not really. I get to go meet with clients in person fairly often, which is important to me. So yes, I do actually have to get dressed sometimes. I love the structure and the camaraderie of an office, so I defiantly miss that sometimes, but I can do my work from my home office, from a coffee shop or on site at a client. I've worked while getting a pedicure, crammed while waiting in car line and don't even mind working from vacation, because, hello, vacation is unlimited. The stress of showing face is gone and the freedom of living life by some semblance of design is pretty fantastic.
The best news of all is you still have work friends. I definitely miss running into great people in the halls or the kitchen to say a quick hello, but I still see a lot of my people. I make the time. It was my decision to work from home so I try to put in the effort to still have my work friends in my life. And super bonus round, I've made some really great new work friends from my freelance jobs!
HOW DO YOU MAKE IT ALL WORK? If you're a parent of young kids, child care is required. There is no way you can do this alone. You have to have multiple days a week where someone can help you take care of your kids. I've found keeping those days consistent helps with booking client meetings and managing deliverables. You can't do this alone. It takes a village.
Most importantly, organization and efficiency are table stakes. If you're one of those people who "has a project manager for that" then freelance life is not for you. You project manage, you bill, you pitch, you QA (always a work in progress for me, OYE!). You do more things that you had a team for than you can think of. You also learn to become incredibly efficient. It's amazing how quickly you can bang out a social media calendar if you have to go pick your kids up soon or have fun plans for the night.
WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE PART? With every single freelance job I've taken I’ve 1. Always learned something new and 2. Met some really great people. You "figure things out" every day. For me it's anything from a new Facebook ad type, to website mechanics, to best practices to a new newsletter system and more. The learning list goes on and on, which I know for some might sound stressful but in my opinion, is the really fun part. It's invigorating to figure something new out.
THAT'S IT for now. For all the working moms out there who are considering going out on your own, I hope this helps. It’s a messy life, but I've learned to love the mess and enjoy the ride! If you want to know more about what I do check me out on LinkedIn or shoot me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Here's a few pics of the balance...