Name: Raina Willick
Location: Houston, Texas
Bio: I’m Raina, a Professional Community Connector. I help online entrepreneurs create human connection and culture within their digital platforms and build meaningful, profitable memberships. Also: A Reader of Books, Baker of Pastries, Doer of Yoga, and Watcher of Downton Abbey.
How long have you been doing freelance work?
Less than 1 year.
Tell us about your freelance business, in 200 words or less.
I help entrepreneurs create membership sites, build community, and create the culture of their brand within that community.
What do you consider to be your specialty. How does it help you in your business?
All of my clients thus far have come through referrals, so up to this point I haven’t had to do much in the way of marketing. The more clients I have though, the clearer picture I’m getting of those I can help the most and the kinds of projects I enjoy the most. So when I do start a marketing plan it will be targeted to those types of clients.
What made you become a freelancer?
I started as a blogger, but I kept offering help to other bloggers in the form of community building projects because I enjoyed it and believed in their missions. A blogger I knew saw that work, reached out and asked for help starting a membership site. Before long I realized I enjoyed community management and membership building much more than blogging, so I shifted to focus on freelancing in community management and membership building.
What do you love most about freelance work, and why?
Getting to choose my projects. I love helping people build things. I took a job recently that involved a platform I don’t love, but I felt so strongly about the project and being a part of it I said yes to it. Totally worth it. I never had that kind of choice in my previous job.
What do you hate about it?
Working for multiple clients who all have their own deadlines and project ebb and flow. It can get tricky to juggle. Even though you “set your own schedule” as a freelancer, you don’t necessarily have control over your client’s busy seasons, which of course your own schedule has to respond to.
Tell us about your first paid job. How did you land your first client?
I referenced it above, but a blogger I knew reached out to me after seeing some work I had done in an online community as a member and asked if I’d be interested in helping them start a membership site.
Do you think aspiring freelancers should take unpaid work to gain experience? Why or why not?
For me, this happened by accident. I was doing a service as a member of the community I was a part of before I realized it was a skill that people pay for. I was offered my first official job through that connection. I guess that speaks to how much I enjoy doing this work, that I was doing it voluntarily unpaid for fun before it became my freelance work.
That said, in general I would say no, do not do unpaid work or work for vastly under market rates to get experience. I’ve discovered people tend to value your work less and be less respectful of your time when you do things for free or for too little. You would think it would be the other way around because they would appreciate it, but I have not found that to be the case.
Do you feel you’re charging what you’re worth?
This has been an area of struggle for me. I didn’t know any others who were doing what I do when I started, I didn’t know where to research, and I was completely new to freelancing. I very much let my first client set my rate, which is not a good approach. I’m gradually transitioning to figuring out the best model for charging for what I do.
I’m realizing the hourly model doesn’t work very well for most of my services and I need to format them based on value delivered instead. It’s definitely a work in progress and I’m still figuring it out, but in dollars and format. A friend (another freelancer) recently gave me a book called “Badass Your Brand” by Pia Silva and it’s absolutely changing my mindset around how I charge.
Describe your process for finding new clients? Where do you look?
Thus far, it’s been through referrals and being active in the online communities I want to work with.
Have you ever had to ‘fire’ a client? If so, why and how did you do it?
I haven’t had this experience yet. Hoping to avoid it for as long as possible!
Name 3 tools (apps, equipment) that you can’t live without. What makes them so great?
Square Appointments, Wave Accounting, Zoom Video Conferencing
What is your #1 productivity hack?
LOL, I have not figured this out yet.
Do you outsource tasks? Why or why not? If so, which ones?
Not at this point. There isn’t anything that has a clear enough ROI to make sense for me at this point. I do plan to outsource creation of some branded worksheets for before and after client consults. I know I don’t have those skills and it will take me twice as long, lots more frustration, for a less great result than to outsource that one time task so I think the investment makes sense.
In your opinion, what is the most important skill required for freelance work, and why?
Confidence. You are out there selling your skills, you have to believe in them yourself! This is also totally easier said than done. When I doubt myself I remind myself that whatever it is you’re freelancing in, at whatever level you’re at, you (most likely) know more, can do it quicker, better, or more efficiently by some % than your client. This is why they hire you. You don’t have to be the best in the whole world to deliver a great value.
Do you consider yourself a strong time manager? How do you stay organized?
This has been one of the MOST challenging things in transitioning to freelancing for me. For many years I did shift work as an RN in the hospital setting. You clock in and out. You show up when they tell you. Now I am responsible to set the time I need aside to focus and get things done. When I have a l lot due, time blocking has helped.
Also, it takes a bit of time to become realistic with how much time things actually take you or what your schedule allows in reality. I realized I can’t count on doing much at all that requires concentration once my daughter is home from school, so if I work at all during that time it’s on admin work that can be easily interrupted.
Do you also work a 9-5? If so, how do you balance it with your freelance business?
I luckily do not. I took a couple years break from nursing as a stay at home mom, then started freelancing when I felt ready to go back to work but didn’t want to go back to long shifts in the hospital.
Where do you do most of your work?
I mostly work at home. I find myself really distracted in coffee shops. I guess that’s the community manager in me. I end up watching all the people interacting and I’m fascinated, but I get no work done!
Do you use a co-working space?
No, see above about why I don’t work in coffee shops. Ironically I DO miss having co-workers and have considered this option as a stand in.
Name an entrepreneur/freelancer/influencer who inspires you. What is it about their story/message that resonates?
Chelsea Brennan of Mamas Talk Money Summit and Smart Money Mamas blog. She genuinely wants the best for each person she comes in contact with in her business. She comes to every interaction I’ve seen looking for the win for everyone, without compromising her own values or boundaries.
Name 1 thing you would do differently, if you were starting over today?
Find a group of peers in my freelancing niche right away.
What is your #1 tip for aspiring freelancers?
Go ahead and put yourself out there. It is scary, no doubt. But you know your skills and you know you can deliver. Do it! : )
MMM: Thank you Raina for giving us an inside look into your freelance business! I find it very interesting that you started out doing something different (blogging), but were able to change course after discovering something you enjoyed more.
Tools & Resources
- Connect with Raina on LinkedIn
- Follow Raina on Twitter
- Check out Raina on Instagram
- Square Appointments
- Wave Accounting
- Zoom Video Conferencing
- Chelsea Brennan
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