Debbie, Marketing Consultant
Hi, I'm Debbie and I’m from Malaysia
I am currently based in Petaling Jaya, the home to many hipster cafes. But really, I could be anywhere, anytime – thanks to the freelancer lifestyle!
I'm a digital marketing consultant. I’ve owned an independent business for about 3 years plus. I'm also a full-time, remote Product Marketer for a local tech company.
What do you do?
I consult with businesses that need digital marketing solutions. Depending on their needs, I propose a solution; so I generally don't pigeonhole my skill sets and projects. From copywriting to social media marketing, I now transfer and expand my skill sets to my new job in product marketing.
How did you become a freelancer?
A prospect (now client) reached out to me on LinkedIn for a digital marketing role. I was attached to a startup at that time but wanted more side income. I thought this could be an opportunity for me to negotiate. After all, I have a full-time job, what is there for me to lose? One gig led to another. And the rest is history...
Why did you become a freelancer?
I couldn't thrive in a political, drama-induced environment. Toxic work environments make me sick (literally!). So it's a no-brainer for me to work independently. Plus, I was never comfortable with the idea of someone dictating when I can or should take leave.
Where did you find your first paid freelancing job?
My client found me on LinkedIn. Outside of that, I’ve gotten most of my other jobs via Linkedin too, and word-of-mouth.
What expectations did you have going into this kind of job? And how has it been the same or different from what you expected?
I've always been an analytical person. So I articulately analyze all possible outcomes before arriving to a decision. Being realistic with my business and finances also keeps me grounded and always prepared for worst-case scenarios.
It still is one amazing journey, although I wish I'd known that I'd be working longer hours. Even now I still have trouble switching off after work but I truly enjoy my work so it's not all bad ;)
What’s your favorite thing about freelancing/working from home?
No distractions or office politics! Also, meetings are kept short and straight-to-the-point. People would schedule a call with you, instead of calling you in for unnecessary, impromptu meetings which usually happens in an office. This also means that you can plan your daily schedule/routine better!
What's your LEAST favorite thing about freelancing/working from home?
You need to be highly disciplined, if not you'll end up procrastinating since there isn’t anyone breathing down your neck! Also, it can get boring at times with no face-to-face interaction.
How long did it take for you to feel like a "successful" freelancer? Until you were able to pay your bills regularly without worrying?
Honestly, I still don’t feel like I'm successful even though family and friends tell me otherwise. I definitely feel like I’m on the right path but I haven’t managed to start saving any money yet. I anticipate being able to do that in about 6 months… hopefully!
How did you price your services when you were just starting out?
I set a fixed price. I never really go by hourly rate because I don’t really feel you can get what you’re worth that way. What if you’re just really good at what you do and can produce a high-quality product with a fast turnaround? You’ll still only get your hourly rate which doesn’t seem fair. Especially since clients rarely seem willing to discuss hourly rates that are actually decent.
What was your biggest struggle when you were just starting out?
To me, my biggest struggle was deciding how much I'm worth - pricing my services in other words. I googled quite a bit and researched until I decided to go with a fixed rate. Also, the uncertainty that comes along with a contract, e.g. will your contract continue after this task ends? All these unknown factors are what put me in panic mode when I think about them at night.
What do you know now that you wish you knew back then?
The red flags of a difficult bad client. I almost didn't get paid more than once. I was lucky that I eventually got paid, but it's a heart-wrenching experience. I wish more people would share their experience and tips on how to spot a bad client.
What's your favorite way to find new clients and job opportunities? What worked best for you?
LinkedIn has worked wonders for me. I love the robust and active connections there.
What are your favorite tools for work? Any apps or programs you love?
What's one BIG lesson you learned the hard way on your freelancer journey?
You must love your work if you’re going to get through the tough times. Pick a skill you're good at, hone that skill and make money out of it. Because even with a great skill set, you might still have days without work or prospects.
Those are the times that you'll question whether you've made a big mistake by being your own boss. Don't do that as it's counterproductive! Get out there and go for the kill (metaphorically)! Never stop until you find what you love to do.
How do you stay motivated when work is tough or there aren’t enough jobs coming in?
I keep connecting with more people, and keep them in my network. I ask friends and these connections to spread the word about my services. I also ask them to keep me in mind if anyone needs my services.
If you met a new freelancer who wanted to get into your line of work, what advice would you give them?
Take a leap is advice I don’t agree with. Always take calculated risks. You can do what you love, but with patience. Instead of just taking a leap, set weekly, monthly and yearly goals. That way, you can be laser-focused on what you can or cannot do. It's okay to fail. Just be sure to learn from your mistakes.
Any tips or tricks for working with difficult clients?
Look out for red flags. Always have the terms of your agreement in black and white on a contract. If you are already deep in the working relationship and the client bullies you, show them the concrete proof of your agreement. Never start a job without an upfront payment or contract.
Now that you've experienced all the ups and downs of being a freelancer, would you go back to a regular 9-5 job?
Maybe. If it was for a brand I highly respect or cares about their impact/making a difference to the world. But of course, the pay would have to be enticing and lucrative enough for me to survive through the office hours and politics.
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