Freelance Interview Series – Finding Balance as a Freelancer with Kaleigh Moore

Freelance Interview Series – Finding Balance as a Freelancer with Kaleigh Moore

Kaleigh Moore is a freelance writer with bylines in publications like Forbes, Vogue Business, and Adweek, and a client list featuring some of the biggest brands in eCommerce. With an impressive portfolio comes a demanding workload. Below, she shares her personal experience with burnout and boundaries, and some hard-earned tips on cultivating balance as a freelancer.

How to Find Work-Life Balance as a Freelancer

Talk to us about what work-life balance means to you.

These days, I’m taking better care of myself and trying to avoid overworking, but… there’s a lot of room for improvement. Some background: In the first year or two I was freelance writing full-time, I worked a lot. These were long days with short breaks and *maybe* a 10-minute lunch. I woke up in the morning mad at myself if I’d overslept by even a few minutes, sweaty with panic and already worrying about whether or not I’d get everything done for the day.

The reason: FEAR.

Those first few years of full-time freelance writing were 100% fear-driven.

Fear that I wouldn’t make enough money and would regret leaving the security and stability of my full-time job.
Fear that I’d look like an idiot failure to my friends and family.
Fear that I wasn’t smart enough to manage running a business on my own.
Fear that my clients would think I was a charlatan or my work would suddenly dry up.

Lemme tell you: It wasn’t a great way to live.

Turns out existing in a constant state of low-grade anxiety isn’t all that healthy, either. I got really sick. Not only was I dealing with a variety of ongoing health issues, but I couldn’t sleep well and I had terrible back pain from so much sitting at the computer (even with a nice chair). I started doing some things to regain that work-life balance thing I’d heard so much about.

What is something you do regularly that helps you achieve balance?

Getting a massage every 3-4 weeks, drinking lots of water (the secret is lemon!), going to therapy, and implementing a sleep routine. The other big shift that happened was that I finally gave myself permission to chill. I toned down the self-competition and started asking for help when I needed it. I made myself get out of the house and go be around other human beings during the day. I stopped letting that fear dictate my days.

What boundaries do you set with clients to protect your time and capacity?

I instituted office hours (kinda).

I think a lot of people are lying when they say they don’t check email around the clock. I know I do. It’s just another app I open as I’m checking social channels. But by turning off push notifications, it put some of the power over that back in my hands. No more incessant DING! at all hours of the day. Now, I use flags to mark the emails I need to respond to when I’m back at my desk. And while I read emails outside my office hours, I don’t respond until the next day. It helps me mentally prepare for what’s coming and stay on top of messages without being pulled into reacting right away.

I learned to say NO.

If you’re a people-pleasing person like me that JUST WANTS EVERYONE TO LIKE HER, DAMNIT, this is a hard thing to learn. But I did, and it helped me be more selective about how I invested my time and energy… which also made me resent my work a lot less.

What are the signals that your work-life balance may be off-kilter? And how do you course-correct?

Sleep issues, constant stress/anxiety, resentment toward your workload, and general grumpiness are some top signals. You can course-correct by outsourcing some of your work, asking for a deadline extension, and making a plan to prevent overloading yourself in future months with a project planner.

What advice do you have for freelancers who are struggling to find balance?

Stop being so hard on yourself, and remember: You’re the boss in this situation! You set the rules.

Your Freelance Client Onboarding Checklist

Your Freelance Client Onboarding Checklist

Bringing on a new client can be daunting, especially if you’re recreating the wheel every time. You have to gather lots of information to be successful and then organize your tasks to stay on deadline. It can be overwhelming, and we want to make it a bit easier. Here’s a list of client onboarding questions you can pull from to make sure you’re kicking off new client relationships on the right foot.

We used these questions when running our own freelance business. It made an incredible difference to collect this info upfront. Rather than chasing clients down for info well into our working relationship, we had a clear understanding of their vision and needs from the get-go. You can ask clients to respond to these questions via email or cover them all during a kick-off call. We recommend keeping the answers in a document that you can reference easily.

Your Freelance Client Onboarding Checklist

Get to Know the Product and Brand

  1. Who was your product or company built for?
  2. What are some common problems and stressors for your customers?
  3. How are you solving those pain points?
  4. How do you want your customer to view your brand?
  5. What brands, publishers, thought leaders, etc. are important to your target audience?
  6. What are some of the most common questions your customers have about your company or industry?

Align on Your Client’s Goals

  1. What are your short- and long-term goals?
  2. What is the primary goal (conversion) of your website? Do you have any micro-conversions?
  3. What are the top three KPIs you have been measuring?
  4. What is your business focus right now?
  5. What channels are you using to drive growth?
  6. What channels are you not using to drive growth?
  7. What do you want to accomplish in the next 3-6 months?

Uncover Their Competitive Advantage

  1. Who are your competitors?
  2. What are their key value propositions?
  3. What are your competitive advantages?

Learn About Their Pain Points

  1. What are your obstacles right now? (no strategy, product positioning, no resources, etc.)
  2. What strategies have you already tried to overcome them?
  3. What are you interesting in trying?

Nail Down the Details and Set Expectations

  1. What does the success of this project look like?
  2. Do you have success metrics in mind or should we build those together?
  3. Are there any additional needs that may arise down the road?
  4. Do you prefer weekly, biweekly, or monthly calls?
  5. How do you prefer to provide feedback?
  6. How quickly will you be able to provide feedback on my work?
  7. Are there any other team members who will be involved?
  8. Have you worked with freelancers before this project? What went well? What didn’t?

 

We encourage you to mix and match based on what makes sense for your own business and clients. We can’t stress enough how important it is to align with your clients upfront, gather the right information, and get organized from day one. You’ll thank yourself later!

Freelance Interview Series – Lessons Learned in Year One of Full-Time Freelancing with Claire Beveridge

Freelance Interview Series – Lessons Learned in Year One of Full-Time Freelancing with Claire Beveridge

A year ago, Claire Beveridge left the corporate world and transitioned into full-time solopreneurship, offering marketing, copywriting, and inbound strategy services. We asked her to share the learnings that she gathered during her first year as a small business owner.

Lessons from Year One as a Full-Time Freelancer

How did you determine that it was the right time to take the leap into full-time freelancing?

Ooh, a great question! After a layoff from a B2B SaaS startup, I was offered a few full-time, in-house roles at other companies, but none felt like the best fit for me. I had a bad experience at my previous job, so I was feeling extra careful about where to place myself next.

Being candid, I had also reached my peak of receiving comments from men who told me, “You’re too aggressive, you’re too confident, you’re too direct.” In my experience, unfortunately, the tech industry has a few bad apples who think it’s okay to use language like this under the guise of “feedback.” All this does is silence women and ensure their voices aren’t heard, respected, or prioritized. I desperately wanted to avoid putting myself in a situation like that again.

So, after some soul-searching and speaking with trusted folks in my network who’d taken the leap to freelance full-time, it felt like the right time to start my own business — and I am so happy I did!

Freelancing has allowed me to work with companies like Hootsuite, ConvertKit, Picnic, Pilothouse, iPullRank, Graphite, and Headroom on various projects related to content marketing and inbound strategy.

A massive benefit of freelancing is it allows me to focus on myself, my family, and our well-being. I don’t have to sacrifice those areas of my life for office stuff like commuting, meetings that could have been an email (we’ve all been there, right?), and the constant ping of Slack.

Having the gift of time has been a game-changer. I’m now someone who goes swimming in the afternoon, takes long walks in the forest when inspiration and creativity are lacking, and devotes time to hobbies such as cooking, hiking, and cycling — without any guilt or anxiety. There’s no one to answer to except me, and that’s incredibly freeing.

What was the process of transitioning from part-time to full-time freelancing?

I’ve been freelancing on and off since 2011, so I felt more than familiar with best practices that would set me up for success. I moved quickly to establish a separate bank account, invoicing and accounting software, a contract, proposal, and SOW template, and Google Workspace.

The transition itself was very simple. I reached out to a few trusted contacts in my professional and personal network, went for some IRL and virtual coffees, and got my first contract a week later.

Fast forward 12 months, and on average I bill $15,000 monthly, sometimes more if I take on ad-hoc projects outside my recurring, long-term contracts. I think sharing information about rates and income is super important — especially as it opens up conversations in the freelance community that help ensure people who are typically underpaid (women, Black folks, disabled folks, LGBTQ2+ community, etc) actually get paid their worth.

Additionally, I choose to work a four-day week and take six weeks of vacation a year. I’m fully booked until Jan 2023 and have a continual business pipeline. I think it’s safe to say that I have zero regrets about my decision.

In what ways did you lean on your community for support during your first year?

The Superpath community has been instrumental in giving me the confidence and tools to go freelance. I value and appreciate the conversations and community that Jimmy Daly has worked so hard to build. I also got more active on Twitter and used the platform to engage with other marketers and small business leaders.

A team of Vancouver-based marketers, including Ali Cameron, Haley Cameron, and Jesse Ringer, were also very supportive and helped rebuild my confidence, along with my good friend and senior PayPal manager, Marin Nelson.

Additionally, Dani Stewart, ConvertKit’s content lead, and Rebecca Staffel, Picnic’s director of marketing, have been inspiring leaders to work alongside during my first year of business, and I value our relationship immensely.

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned during your first year of full-time freelancing?

Without a doubt, always include a late-payment clause on your invoices. After adding a line about a 5% compound interest charge for every seven days an invoice remains unpaid, I haven’t been paid late once.

Also, figure out when you work at your best. For me, it’s between 8am-2pm. I’m usually up at 6am to workout, drink tea (I’m English, so this is a non-negotiable!), and then dive into my day.

Between 2-4pm I struggle to focus, so I spend this time doing hobbies or seeing friends for coffee. Then, I regroup around 5ish for another hour or two to wrap up the day before shutting down in time to enjoy the evening.

Additionally, I don’t work a full four days in a row — I usually do Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and then either Friday or Saturday depending on my mood and what needs to get done. So take the time to figure out a schedule that works best for you, and remember that everyone is different.

What advice do you have for freelancers who are just kicking off their journey?

Apply for the thing even if you’re not sure you can do it. Teach yourself. Take risks. Take on lots of different projects. Build your portfolio. Learn not just how to be amazing at what you do but how to work with clients and earn their trust.

Don’t just meet client expectations, smash them. Deliver consistent value. Learn how to manage a small business (that’s what you are!). Study negotiation tactics. Work hard. Like, really fucking hard — especially if you’re not a cishet white dude. Trust yourself. You have the ability. Don’t be afraid to cut clients or people who mistreat you. Learn the power of “no.”

Use your voice. Support Black women, women of color, trans folks, disabled people, and other marginalized groups. Don’t put people down. Don’t compare yourself to others. Shake off the shitty feedback. Focus on you.

And, lastly, take time off when you need it. Absolutely nothing is more important than your physical and mental well-being. Good luck!

AMA: Taylor Harrington on Self-Accountability for Solopreneurs

AMA: Taylor Harrington on Self-Accountability for Solopreneurs

Taylor Harrington, Head of Community at Groove, was a recent guest at one of our Harlow Office Hours sessions, which was focused on holding yourself accountable as a solopreneur. For those of you who aren’t yet familiar, Groove is an accountability club for anyone with a to-do list who wants to find focus. Our community had some juicy questions for Taylor, so we turned her answers into a post. From daily best practices to finding your community, Taylor shared her top tips on mastering accountability.

How to Build Self-Accountability as a Solopreneur

What’s your advice for those who struggle with self-accountability?

There are two things I want to point out. But, before I do that, I can’t stress enough how important it is to figure out the WHY — as in why you’re struggling with self-accountability in the first place. Nailing this down will help guide you through your internal struggle.

My first and biggest piece of advice, having worked with so many freelancers who are working solo, is to figure out what your ideal to-do list looks like. Not everyone wants to have a big, sparkly to-do list or system. For example, some may use Notion or Evernote or even a pen and paper. There are so many different options, so nailing down what works for you when it comes to a to-do list is a very important step in knocking out the items on it.

My second piece of advice is to seek out support. You don’t have to do self-accountability alone. I work from home and use Groove, but before I joined the team, I was working solo and joining different online communities hoping to find my fit. Connection was hard to come by, especially during the height of Covid.

So many freelancers who are a part of our Groove community find a ton of value in that little burst of social connection and the accountability that comes with the commitment: “At the end of this 50-minute Groove, I have to tell someone whether I got that done or not.” As folks who work for ourselves, we don’t typically have that.

How did you figure out what time of the day is most productive for you?

I don’t necessarily have one time every single day that I feel productive — which I think is just the human answer. I know I’m not a morning person, and some of my teammates are on the other side of the world. So the morning is usually when I’m checking emails and Slack while catching up on what’s happened since I last signed off.

Around 10:30 am, I start to get into that flow. I’m caught up, I know what’s on my to-do list, and I’m ready to conquer it. After some afternoon calls, I pick back up on that flow. But I try to listen to my body. I’ll look at my to-do list and say, “Okay, I have some writing that needs to get done, some deep thinking that needs to get done, and some other small tasks.” Then I do my best to determine what is energizing for me by thinking, “How am I feeling and what can I tackle first?” That’s how I structure my days so I’m writing and doing creative work at a time that’s nourishing for me.

Are there any habits you implement into your daily routine that help you keep yourself accountable?

Thanks to my small team and co-founders at Groove, I plan my week in sprints. It’s quickly become a practice for some of the freelancers we work with too. Planning sprints that I know are visible to other members of my team helps keep me accountable. I have a designated time to evaluate last week’s progress and plan ahead, which helps me manage my time more efficiently. I open my sprint every single morning. It’s how I intentionally plan out my day.

Using a sort of personal prioritization system is another tool I use to keep myself and my deliverables in check. For example, I mark the items I must get done that day in green (or use a green emoji), the items that can wait in yellow, and the items that aren’t necessarily a priority and can wait until the following week in red. Using color and emojis signifies what my priorities are for that day and is something that really works for me.

I’m also a big believer in monitoring your energy levels throughout the day and doing your best to maintain them by filling your cup and holding firm on your boundaries. As someone who does a lot of social on-camera work, I try to balance that with some self-care. For example, I practice “No Plan Mondays” — I refuse to make plans after work on Mondays. Instead, I have a day to re-energize myself, set up my week, and get things done for me. This weekly ritual is outside of my work hours, but it sets me up for a productive week. And I look forward to the quiet!

How do you keep yourself from over-committing? How do you communicate this with clients/colleagues?

If your work is somewhat repetitive, get super clear about how long those repeating tasks take you. And if you’re trying something new, bake in additional time. As you continue to commit to new projects, you’ll get better at estimating the time commitment — and at saying no when needed.

Whether you’re working with clients or a small team, it’s important to communicate how long something is going to take you. The more often you do that, the more powerful; it helps people realize that the “little silly task” they’re throwing on your plate last minute is not actually little or silly — it’s going to take you two hours.

Are there any tools you use that help keep you on task?

I’ve tried to create different boundaries around signing off of work at a decent time, and it’s not always easy. One of them is setting daily reminders in Slack that remind me to log off — it’s like a little gift to myself every day that reminds me to check in and see what I need to accomplish in the next few minutes to make sure I’m offline when I want to be.

I also log completely out of my work account on my computer and into my personal account at the end of every day. Then, I’m not logged into anything work-related which creates that additional boundary. Once I’m off, I’m off.

I’m also (obviously) a huge fan of Groove, for when I need a nudge to get working, and Harlow, which helps me manage my tasks and keep track of how much time I’m spending on each one.

Your Freelance Rates Cheat Sheet

Your Freelance Rates Cheat Sheet

Figuring out your pricing is one of the hardest parts of ANY business. What should I charge? Should I raise my rates? Am I charging enough? One simple solution: Find out what others in your industry are charging.

We’ve compiled some of the best reports, tools, and posts from our freelance community to give you a sense of what other freelancers are charging. These resources can act as your sounding board, helping you adjust your current pricing or set your rates for the first time ever.

Start your research with these resources, but don’t be afraid to reach out to your community to compare rates too. Talking about money is healthy and normal — it should be the standard, especially for freelancers. We’re all here to help each other!

 

For Freelance Writers and Marketers

Peak Freelance’s Writing Rates Report

The Freelance Writing Rates Report from Peak Freelance is an incredible resource for content marketers and writers. Peak Freelance surveyed more than 200 freelancers in this space and generated insights on pricing and income for newbies and veterans alike. Dig in to figure out what to charge for white papers, blog posts, emails, and more, and see what others in your industry are making overall.

Ashley Cummings’ Freelance Writing Rates Report

This report, specifically for writers, was put together by Ashley Cummings because she spent so much time researching rates as a new writer. She couldn’t find the exact info she wanted, so she did the work herself! After surveying more than 260 freelance writers, she created this report. Check out her findings to see the rates other writers charge and how they structure their pricing. Ashley also shares data on how often other freelancers work each week, how they find clients, and lots more.

Superpath’s Content Marketing Report

Compare the potential earnings of full-time versus freelance marketing with this handy report from Superpath. It includes data on total income in both categories along with breakdowns for B2B, DTC, and job title, and the wage gap between men and women. This is especially helpful if you’re currently working full time and considering the shift to freelance — or debating going back to full-time work.

Credo’s Digital Marketing Consultant Rates

This survey data from Credo is simple but super helpful. It shares insights on contract length and average monthly retainer. I’d recommend pairing this data with their overview of rates, retainers and project minimums for digital agencies if you operate more as an agency than a solopreneur — or if you want to grow into that!

For Freelance Designers

Dribbble’s Freelance Graphic Design Rates Guide

The calculator in Dribbble’s graphic design rates guide is a perfect starting place for pricing. Add your location, role, and years of experience to get a suggested rate in your local currency. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the guide too. They give you an equation to calculate your hourly rate based on how much you want or need to earn, and advise you on whether hourly or fixed-rate pricing would be better.

Payscale’s Freelance Graphic Design Guide

Payscale provides a variety of tools to help you define your rates, including a calculator to figure out your “market worth.” You’ll also find information on average hourly rates for designers and skills that affect salaries.

For Freelance Developers and Product People

Say My Rate’s Calculator

The team at Say My Rate can help you discover your “true” hourly rate with their free rate tool. Once you specify your name, the type of work you do, your location, your experience, and a few more details, their team emails you an hourly rate that they’re “fairly confident you could earn on the market.” It’s truly that simple!

Arc’s Freelance Developer Rate Explorer

The rate explorer from Arc is unique in that it shares average hourly rates for specific development skills, including WordPress, blockchain, Ruby on Rails, and a dozen other development niches. This could be helpful if you work with a variety of development languages and want to price more challenging projects at a higher rate. Never undervalue your skills!

For All Freelancers

Freelancing Females’ Rate Sheet and Calculator

Freelancing Females developed a super helpful rate calculator and an extensive breakdown of freelancing rates worldwide. This is one of the most comprehensive rate sheets we’ve seen. It includes details like gender, location, rate type, industry, job title, and more. Scroll to find your job type, which is listed alphabetically, and then use the industry column to find the rates that directly correlate with the work you do.

Upwork’s How to Calculate Your Freelance Rate

This comprehensive guide from Upwork gives you step-by-step directions for determining your freelance marketing rate along with helpful equations. They encourage you to think about your annual income goal, expenses, and value too — important pieces of the puzzle that are easy to forget when you’re setting competitive rates.

More Resources on Setting Your Freelance Rates

How to Figure Out Your Pricing

Harlow’s pricing guide helps you calculate billable hours and working days per year. We’re passionate about helping find the best work-life balance possible, and to do that, you have to factor in your downtime too.

How to Discuss Freelancer Fees With Clients

Do you get anxiety sharing your rates with a prospective client for the first time? Big same. It can be so nerve-wracking — What will they think? Am I asking for too much? In this article, we break down a few common scenarios that crop up when discussing pricing and help you navigate each one.

How to Repackage Your Services and Sell the Value of Your Work

Finally, learn how to charge the rate you deserve, and more importantly — how to own it! This post will inspire you to refine your pricing and make sure you’re charging based on value and results.