Welcome to the very first interview in my new series, which I’ve titled, Freelancer Success Stories. The interviews are in a Q & A format, and are designed to shine a spotlight on people just like you and me, who have made the leap into freelance work, either full-time or as a side hustle. Find out how they did it, what they love about freelancing, and what they hate. They’ll share some of their best tips, as well as their favorite tools. My hope is that you will draw inspiration from their journey. Ready? Let’s dive in!
Name: Laura Gariepy
Location: Winter Haven, FL
Laura Gariepy is the owner of Every Day by the Lake, a content creation company. She provides custom content solutions to business owners to reduce their level of overwhelm and keep them top of mind within their markets. Laura blogs about business, careers, personal finance, and of course, content creation. When she isn’t writing, she’s hanging out with her fiancé, her mother-in-law, and her cats, sitting happily by her lake.
How long have you been doing freelance work?
Less than 1 year.
Tell us about your freelance business, in 100 words or less.
I provide written content solutions to busy business owners who don’t have the time to do it themselves. Depending on the client, I write blog posts, website copy, newsletters, emails, and more. I offer a premium all-in-one solution called Content That Connects for clients who want to outsource all of their written content needs. I also offer my services a la carte.
What do you consider to be your specialty. How does it help you in your business?
I do have a premium service package that I market to successful, but busy business owners. However, I like to keep my options open. I write for a variety of clients across multiple niches. I also work on different projects like blog posts, ghost written articles for magazines, website copy and more. This diversification helps me feel like I can weather the loss of a client or two without issue.
What made you become a freelancer?
The 9-5 life wasn’t working for me. I needed more flexibility in my schedule to attend to what mattered in the moment. Originally planning to retire early (I still may), I realized that keeping my traditional job for another 15 years meant missing out on a lot in the interim. I work more hours now than I did in my office job. But! I decide when and where to work.
What do you love most about freelance work, and why?
In addition to the schedule and location freedom, I love the variety of the work that I’m doing. I’m always learning, always growing, and never get bored. The new knowledge and experience that I pick up from each gig makes me a better freelancer, which results in future wins.
What do you hate about it?
Fluctuating income makes it tough to plan ahead.
Tell us about your first paid job. How did you land your first client?
Yes! It was the summer of 2018 and I responded to a tweet from Women Who Money. They were seeking another writer for their team. A few emails back and forth, and I was hired. I’m still happily writing for their site!
Do you think aspiring freelancers should take unpaid work to gain experience? Why or why not?
I have mixed feelings on this one. But, ultimately, I think working for free for an extremely limited time when you’re just getting started can be appropriate. While exposure doesn’t feed you today, I do see it as a form of compensation that can pay off in the future. Just don’t get stuck at this level for long. Jump start your portfolio and then start charging for your services ASAP.
Do you feel you’re charging what you’re worth?
Yes, for the most part I believe that I do. Sometimes, I’ll accept a lower rate because I really want a certain byline or I’m doing work for a friend. But overall, I have raised my rates/accepted higher paying gigs as I’ve built my portfolio and taken on new clients.
Describe your process for finding new clients? Where do you look?
I cast a wide net. I use social media, my own website, and networking to land new business. I’ve gotten good results from all fronts. I think it’s important to NOT become reliant on a single way to get clients. Online algorithms change. Social media platforms lose popularity. Networking groups disband. It’s important to insulate your success by finding many ways to draw in new clients.
Have you ever had to ‘fire’ a client? If so, why and how did you do it?
I haven’t had to do this yet. I honestly hope that I never do!
Name 3 tools (apps, equipment) that you can’t live without. What makes them so great?
Freshbooks (accounting software), pen and paper, my laptop.
What is your #1 productivity hack?
Each week, I make a list with all client deliverables and business tasks that I need to do. I carry it around with me so that I always have something to work on. The list also ensures that I don’t miss completing important items.
Do you outsource tasks? Why or why not? If so, which ones?
I don’t outsource any client deliverables. But I do outsource some business functions. For example, I have a CPA for my quarterly and annual taxes. I have also used (and will do so again) outside help for some technical and design aspects of my website. These areas are not my forte so I would be wasting time doing them.
In your opinion, what is the most important skill required for freelance work, and why?
Every freelancer should be able to communicate well. Communication is the basis for sales, negotiation, ensuring client satisfaction and more.
Do you consider yourself a strong time manager? How do you stay organized?
It depends on the day! Some days, I get through my to do list in record time and others I’m distracted by everything. I’m continually trying to improve in this area. For the most part, my organization system is a notebook and the calendar on my smartphone. I’ve tried programs like Trello or Asana and they’re just not for me.
Do you also work a 9-5? If so, how do you balance it with your freelance business?
I quit my 9-5 to start my freelance business.
Where do you do most of your work?
Most of the time, I work from various spots in my house — bed, couch, porch. I don’t have a dedicated home office.
Do you use a co-working space? Tell us a bit about it.
I have access to a room in my local library that’s reserved specifically for writers. It’s quiet, there’s a coffee shop on site, and I don’t have to pay a fee. I really enjoy the space, but I also enjoy staying home, too.
Name an entrepreneur/freelancer/influencer who inspires you. What is it about their story/message that resonates?
There are so many! It’s tough to name just one. However, I’m inspired by Holly Johnson of Club Thrifty. She has been freelance writing for many years and started in the same place I did: wanting to structure her life differently while still making a living. Her steady rise over the years is extremely motivating. If I can be half as successful as her, I will reach my goals!
Name 1 thing you would do differently, if you were starting over today?
I’d offer to write a lot more guest posts to deepen connections within the community and get back links for my site. I write some guest posts now, but I don’t have the time to do as many as I would like.
What is your #1 tip for aspiring freelancers?
Understand both the pros and the cons of being a freelancer and be aware how working for yourself differs from working for someone else. Often times, people are caught off guard about things like the self-employment tax, how to set up a business, the need for an emergency fund, income fluctuation, and so much more. Of course, you really don’t fully understand these things (or anything) until you live them. But knowing what pitfalls and challenges exist can help you keep a realistic perspective and can allow you to anticipate them in advance.
MMM: Thank you Laura for taking time out of your busy schedule to give us a look inside your freelance journey so far. I love so much of the advice you’ve provided here, especially your perspective on taking unpaid work when starting out, and how you look for new clients!
Be sure to check in next week, as I feature Kevin Udy, a full-time digital marketer and traveller, living and working on the road!
- Every Day By The Lake
- Follow Laura on Twitter
- Connect with Laura on LinkedIn
- Visit Every Day By The Lake on Facebook
- Club Thrifty
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