07 May 5 Things I have learnt from working for myself
When I was a little girl, I dreamt of becoming a teacher but when the time came, I wasn’t in the position to pursue that dream and instead, I stumbled upon freelancing. It’s been 5 years since I landed my first gig, so I figured I would share 5 things I have learnt in that time.
1. Fake it until you make it
I am forever grateful for my first full-time freelancing gig. I worked for an events company specializing in bringing gaming parties to you. It was a fantastic job and one that I thoroughly enjoyed. We were a small company; just the owner and I running everything from bookings, sales, invoices, schedules, manufacturing, and even franchising.
My role taught me the true meaning of, “fake it until you make it.” There were times where clients wanted to feel “special” so I’d transfer their call to my “supervisor,” but it was really just me. In fact, my customers and colleagues weren’t even aware that I was based in South Africa, so very often would awkwardly have to comment on the weather in Tampa, without knowing what it was like.
When it came to franchising the business, it was important to come across as a serious operation that you could trust and would want to do business with. So, we sold customers on the idea that they had a dedicated person to handle all of their questions and needs, who would then communicate everything to our different departments. The advantage for the customer was that instead of needing to speak to “several different” people, I would do it for them. Little did they know that I was the only person and between my boss and I, we were handling everything ourselves.
It’s similar to that story of the guy who spent his last bit of money to hire the best sports car that he could find, to show up to a meeting. People immediately took him more seriously and gave him the job.
2. You have to be willing to work
For any job there are benefits, some are better than others. You might find that you get medical aid, pension fund, UIF or you know, basic sick days and public holidays. But as a freelancer, I only get paid for the work that I do, which means that very often, there is no time to be sick. Considering that both Darren and I freelance, this can be a clusterfuck when toddler germs take us both down as it means that BOTH of us aren’t earning a salary for the week.
Truth is, it’s never bothered me. I was very fortunate that when I was due with Eli, I had just started working for a company who understood the demands of a newborn and who agreed to give me paid maternity leave for a month. I haven’t always been that lucky, in fact with Axl and I had gone back to work two days after giving birth because we simply could not afford me being off from work.
Another challenge is that most of our clients are based in America, so we work in the evenings which means we often miss family braais, birthdays and special occasions. We also don’t get much time off and don’t even take notice of public holidays anymore.
At the end of the day, you can’t just come into the office, grab your paycheck and leave for the day. You really have to work it, often have to chase it, and if you don’t, nobody else will.
3. The world is so much smaller than you realize
I have technically worked in the US, UK and Australia, all from the comfort of my home. I love that our jobs don’t limit us in any way and that our office can be wherever we want it to be. Better yet, we get to work with people from all around the world.
Through our jobs, we have learnt a lot about different parts of the world, cultures, foods and the way they do business and life. In fact, I feel it is one of the biggest things fuelling my want to explore, travel and see the world.
With a good internet connection, Skype or even Whatsapp, the world is at your fingertips – you’ve just got to grab it!
4. Never stop learning
I feel that had I studied to become a teacher, I would have stopped learning as soon as I graduated. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with that, but it just isn’t who I am. I love that my job means constantly learning how to do more things so that I can expand my business offering.
Going back to my first point, I have learnt that it is important to assure my clients that I can deliver and do whatever they need to be done, and then figure out how to exceed those expectations. I never want to lose the drive to learn and do more, even though it leaves me exhausted (hahaha!)
This approach has really helped to set our business apart from the rest as it means that customers conveniently only have to work with me instead of finding and hiring several freelancers, each offering a different service. We are your one-stop digital marketing solution!
5. Persevere because you can do it
There have been countless times where I have thrown my toys out the cot and sworn that this will be my last project because I am just not cut out for this industry. But taking a second to break down, have a cup of coffee and regroup always puts me in a better space and helps me reach new goals. Had you told me that 5 years later, this would be my full-time gig and I’d be pretty great at it, I would never have believed you. Freelancing was just meant to be the thing I did until I figured out what I really wanted to do, but now I can’t imagine ever being tied down to a desk and not doing my own thing at my own time.
I am rather proud of myself and the business that Darren and I have managed to build over the last few years. I am so grateful for the clients we have and for all the support we have received. Watch out guys, Dr. Design is going places and I hope you’ll be along for the ride!