Our featured Guru member this week is Angela Rose, aka “The Quirky Creative”. Angela began freelancing while employed full-time as creative director at a small marketing company specializing in the mortgage and real estate industries. Read on to learn about how she made the jump and the most important thing she’s learned about the freelance world.
Guru: How did you get into freelancing?
Angela: When the housing bubble burst after the sub-prime mortgage crisis, business started to falter. Concerned about the time it might take to find a new position should the company go under, I began reaching out to local businesses and bidding on jobs on Guru. Thanks to a lifelong love of writing, a background in journalism, and more than ten years in marketing, I found I had numerous skills to draw upon that were of value to potential clients.
In March 2012, just two months before turning 40, I made the jump to full-time freelancing. My former boss elected to sell the business, and I recognized her decision as my opportunity to make a move I had contemplated for some time. Fortunately, I had built a sizable pool of repeat clients through Guru and referrals so I was able to meet my financial obligations without tapping into savings. I even turned a profit last year.
G: What was the most challenging obstacle you faced as a beginner freelancer, and how did you overcome it?
A: My biggest obstacle as a beginner freelancer was my full-time job. After my first few freelance assignments, I knew I eventually wanted to work solely for myself. I enjoyed it that much. However, I didn’t want to rely on savings while building a client base. This meant I needed to take on new business while still working 9-to-5. There were many weeks when I put in 60 to 80 hours between my two careers. Sometimes I didn’t get a lot of sleep, and I couldn’t take on projects that required interviews during business hours. But I worked around my obligations and can now say it was definitely worth the effort.
G: What is your favorite thing about Guru?
A: Guru has helped me to connect with clients from around the world. I’ve worked with professionals all over the United States, as well as in Canada, Australia, Sweden, Switzerland, England, Singapore and other countries. While every freelancer should have a website, it’s rather unlikely that I would have connected with some of these clients through that channel alone.
G: What is one thing you’d like to change about Guru?
A: It’s a minor thing, really, but I’d like to see Guru make the profile Work Samples Portfolio more attractive. Right now, rather boring icons represent any PDF or Word documents uploaded. I think employers would be more likely to view the portfolio items if they could scroll through images of the documents instead.
G: What other sites do you use to find and manage freelance projects?
A: I have an Elance profile, and I occasionally log on and update it, but I’ve never bid on a project there. Much of my current business is repeat clients and referrals from past clients. Some of my business comes from professionals who find my website, read one of my published articles online, or connect with me on LinkedIn. I use Guru for prospecting and still pick up a client or two each month through bidding.
G: What assurances do you ask for before beginning work with a new client?
A: Whether working through Guru or with a client who has contacted me through another channel, I always take the time necessary to ensure I understand their business, needs and expectations before proceeding. I then create a project agreement and require their approval before beginning the assignment.
G: What are your usual work terms?
A: I find project agreements are the best way to ensure that the client and I both understand the scope of the assignment. As far as payment, I require escrow of the full amount for any first time Guru clients. Once we’ve established a relationship I will switch to invoicing at their request. For clients who provide assignments every month, I generally invoice at the end of the month and require payment in full within 15 days.
G: Do you have any tips for acquiring health insurance in the U.S.?
A: I’ve always been responsible for my own health insurance so the Affordable Care Act doesn’t really worry me, though I certainly hope it doesn’t cause my rates to go up. My one tip to other freelancers would be to determine the deductible you’re comfortable with and then shop around for the best offer.
G: What do you consider your specialty when it comes to freelance work?
A: While I can write about anything and everything, I suppose my specialty is working with clients who are looking for content with personality. I favor a conversational style and love assignments that benefit from my quirky sense of humor and approach to life. I’ve actually connected with a number of professionals through Guru who value that approach and have had great success using my copy to market their businesses.
G: What do you find the most rewarding about freelancing?
A: There are two things I find particularly rewarding. The first is the opportunity to help small business owners grow their customer base and achieve their own dreams of running a successful business. While I work with major corporations as well as startups, I often find the clients with smaller budgets are the most appreciative of my services. Second, I love learning something new every day, and freelancing enables me to do so while earning a living. I still consider myself an expert in mortgage, real estate and small business marketing, but I now know a great deal about fitness, nutrition, weight loss, recruiting, human resources and more as well.
G: What has been the most unique or memorable project you’ve taken on so far?
A: I find the majority of the projects I work on memorable, but there’s one client in particular who has allowed me to cover a topic about which I’m particularly passionate—namely, CrossFit. I’ve been active in the CrossFit community for years and now write for a CrossFit focused magazine out of Toronto that I connected with through Guru. Their assignments have afforded me the opportunity to interview dozens of truly inspirational athletes, nutritionists, CrossFit gym owners and CrossFit enthusiasts.
G: What is one thing you’ve learned above all else while breaking into the freelance world?
A: You need to be comfortable with some degree of uncertainty as a freelancer. I worked the same job for more than ten years, collecting that paycheck every two weeks and always knowing what to expect—at least to some degree—every day in the office. Freelancing is not like that, and that can be a good or a bad thing depending on how you choose to feel about it. While it was nerve wracking at first to not know how much I would earn in a given month, I chose to channel that anxiety and convert it into productivity—and I can now say I don’t think I would ever go back to working full time for someone else.
G: Thank you for taking the time to be interviewed!