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Article: Monday Must: Lessons From My First Year Freelancing

Monday Must: Lessons From My First Year Freelancing

Hi, my name is Carol. I am the owner of Ca Ching Designs. I’m a freelance web designer by night and a full time e-commerce manager by day. I’ve been in the e-commerce space for the last 6 years and actually started freelancing this year (seized the opportunity during COVID). I’m also a Type 1 Diabetic and an advocate for educating and bringing awareness about the disability and supporting others in the community. 

I was extremely fortunate to have pivoted into the digital space pre-pandemic so being already remote allowed me to transition into work from home. During this time I was feeling alone though and felt like I was lacking in social interaction as well as having all this time that I wasn’t putting to good use (personal development). I ended up jumping on the clubhouse bandwagon and next thing I knew I was freelancing with no actual plan or idea of how to do it! The learning curve was steep, and I’ve learned so much in the last 8 months (that's right it hasn’t been a year yet!) that I think is super important for those who are either looking to break into freelancing full time or part time.

Realizing Your Why.

Why are you doing what you are doing? Both for yourself and for those you are serving. 

It’s important to realize your “why” because that is who your brand identity is as well as what your goals are for your business for yourself so you know how to benchmark your success. 

For me I wanted to monetize my time doing what I love, I wanted to reach some personal goals as well like homeownership and creating a healthier lifestyle in the long run.

I absolutely love supporting small businesses and during the pandemic I was seeing so many businesses fold because they were unable to pivot online and others like creators and struggling to bring their products online. I wanted to provide value and education for people to thrive selling online and offer services at an affordable rate. The pandemic changed my mindset and a lot of other people as well. I wanted to make sure if someone wanted to make money doing what they love and needed help finding the right tools I could offer that service. 

Be Authentic.

What does that mean? Stay true to who you are no matter what the other voices and social media is saying. Figure out what makes you unique and stick to it. It's not always about making money and getting paid for every single thing you do for a client. You have to build trust especially with so many different avenues for people to hire freelancers. I use a value first approach, providing good free advice that builds trust, actionable items that the potential client can see results from. Everyone has their own way of driving business but don’t get lost in someone else’s identity as a brand/ company.

Set Boundaries.

As someone who works full time and balances freelance work I set strict on clock and off the clock schedules. I had to learn this especially during the pandemic when it felt like I could work for hours and hours since there was nothing else to do. You don’t want to face burnout, it slows you down more than just slowing down yourself. Make sure you clearly outline to your clients what times of day you will be available to answer them, outline how many times a week you can have meetings, block out time in your calendar and make sure you are working with people who value your time. And make sure you give yourself rest days where you don’t check your emails or your phone messages and just have a day for yourself. A quick reset leads to better productivity.

Ask for Help

As a solo entrepreneur I was finding it hard to balance it all, between taking client calls and doing the actual work alongside the logistical tasks of book keeping and data work, I realized my pipeline was being slowed down and my profitability was not optimal. I decided to step back and ask for help. I realized if I were to scale my business I would need to ask for help. It’s important to note that just because you can do everything doesn’t mean you should, my advice is find like minded people in your industry, always take some time out of your day to connect with a community of other fellow freelancers because skill sharing is a great way to not only build your business but drive in business. Create strategic partnerships, see the opportunity in every connection, and remember that there is always a positive return on investment when you ask the right people for help. 

Know your worth

Finally, know what you are worth. I’m not just talking about what you think your services are worth but actually do the research and have the numbers. Know what the industry standards are by going on career websites and pay transparency websites, I even go on UpWork and Fiverr to see what the median is for my line of work sometimes. Figure out what your hourly rates are and make sure they match your level of experience. And don’t be afraid to back down from work that isn’t going to pay you what you deserve. Work with clients who value your time and expertise. A lot of potential clients don’t actually know what the industry standard is and it’s important to have a clear and confident understanding of what you are offering and what that translates to in pricing. 

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