Francesca, Content Creator

 
Francesca Guavabean
 

Hi! I'm Francesca and I'm from a small British town you've never heard of. 

I was the girl expected to do great things the traditional way: by going to university and getting a 'real job'.

I started off doing things this way, having worked in insurance, shipping and retail, but then the recession hit and I found myself out of a job. 

It was soul crushing to apply for jobs I didn't want for a measly salary, competing with hundreds of other people. Since taking the plunge and going freelance in 2011, I've traveled to new places, gotten married, added fur babies to my family and moved house a couple of times. Most importantly, I'm much happier and freer than I ever thought possible!

In a nutshell, what do you do? 

I help internet businesses nurture their customers. I do this through community management, content creation and customer support.

How many years have you been freelancing?

Seven years! Wow, does time fly...

What made you decide to take the dive into freelance work?

I didn't want to fight for a position in a company that I didn't want, just because the recession made it hard to find work where I lived. I didn't want to have to settle for something. I yearned for something I could call my own, that used my passions and strengths. Freelancing seemed to be the way forward.

Where did you find your first paid freelancing job?

On a website called Freelancer.com. It was a ghostwriting project, creating articles on a variety of topics.

How did you price your services when you were just starting out?

I feel almost embarrassed to admit that I started out accepting work for $5 per 500 word article, just so I had reviews I could share. Yikes! I definitely DO NOT recommend anyone do this. When I had a few clients under my belt, I began increasing my rate. It definitely reflects my experience now.

Most freelancers try several jobs before settling down. What jobs did you try before choosing your current occupation?

Before freelancing, I worked for: a supermarket; three insurance brokers; a furniture company; a shipping agency. I saved all my creativity for the evenings where I'd write, draw and play music.

Once I became a freelancer, I stuck to what I was good at and enjoyed - creating content and making people happy. I have managed to combine those two things and haven't deviated much from that since. 

What are your favorite things about freelancing?

I love working when it suits me - it feels quite rebellious in a way, especially as I'm surrounded by family and friends who all took traditional routes. If I want to learn something new, I can just do it off my own back instead of waiting for an employer to tell me what training I can have. I get to spend time with my husband (who also works from home, as a broadcaster), I can play sports in the middle of the day if I like and I don't have to leave my animals all day!

What's your LEAST favorite thing about freelancing?

I always feel tied to my work, even when I'm 'not working'. I feel guilty if I switch off and need personal time away from my clients. Splitting home life from work life has always been a challenge.

What was one of the biggest challenges or roadblocks that you had to overcome in your journey to being a successful freelancer?

My own mind! I think it's common for anyone starting out in business to wonder if what they're doing is the right thing. Even years on, I still doubt myself occasionally.

What's the scariest thing about freelancing? How did you overcome this?

Going into a project with a new client can be daunting, even now. I'm fortunate that most of my clients have been absolutely amazing, but having one or two experiences with bad clients has made me wary. Having a trial period with every client before committing to a long-term relationship with them has been the best way for me to overcome this.

What's your favorite way to find new clients and job opportunities? What has worked the best for you?

Upwork worked great for me; I know there's a lot of bad press surrounding poorly paid jobs by unprofessional clients on that platform, but hear me out. I've only ever applied for positions where the pay rate was in line with my expectations, the clients were transparent about their business and they cared about building a relationship with the freelancer they chose. I consistently worked hard to raise my profile and was featured as their top Customer Support freelancer in the UK and I'm a Top Rated freelancer.

Having my social media channels up to date and my own website definitely helps though and I've secured clients by having a combination of all of them.

In your opinion, what's the most important quality or trait for a freelancer to have?

Discipline. Both for getting work completed before a deadline and for not raiding the fridge every ten minutes just because you can!

What does your average Monday look like?

Mondays are like a semi-weekend now (no more 'I hate Monday' memes for me!).

I start by getting up around 9am and enjoy a coffee with my husband. I then usually play badminton, squash or racketball, which gives me a super positive start to the week. I might have lunch out, or cook something when I get home. I then plan the week ahead - my system involves both digitally setting myself tasks using Slack and writing in a paper diary. I'll work on the most pressing matters first for my clients, then prepare anything I need for the next day. In the evening I walk my dog and get food shopping done for the week!

After that, I'll typically finish off my Monday playing video games or doing something creative like drawing. 

On average, how many hours do you work on a regular weekday?

Around 6 hours.

How do you stay motivated and focused when you don't feel like working?

I start by physically writing down what I need to do, then breaking those things down into smaller tasks. I feel like this takes the burden off my brain to try and remember what I need to get done. I use the Pomodoro Technique (I have a Chrome extension which works wonders) to keep me focused for short periods of time. I couple this with A Soft Murmur which delivers ambient sounds through my browser. Listening through my noise cancelling headphones means I can't think of anything else other than what's in front of me!

What are the top 5 tools you use most often in your daily work?

Slack, Canva, Google Docs/Sheets, Zendesk, MyHours.

Do you have any work routines or habits that boost your productivity?

I organise my work when I feel able to do my very best. Things like answering customer enquiries, co-ordinating projects and admin or technical tasks are best done earlier in the day. In the evening, my creative brain comes to life and I do my best writing.

Your best interview tip?

Don't be someone you're not. It sounds so clichΓ©, but it's true!  When you present your best, true self, you'll find out if the job is a great fit. 

If you could work from anywhere, what would be your dream work location?

I'm in love with Berlin, Germany. I would love to move there one day. Set me up in a cozy loft apartment in the old part of the city with my dog at my feet and a big cup of coffee in my hand - yes please!

Now that you've experienced all the ups and downs of being a freelancer, would you go back to a regular 9-5 job?

Never!

What do you wish other people knew about freelancing?

That it can be hard, but so rewarding! It's often much harder to be a freelancer than it is to work for someone as an employee, because you wear all of the hats and you're responsible for literally everything.

What advice would you give other people who are just getting started, but are still unsure about freelancing?

Test the water. If you already have a job, don't dive into freelancing full-time unless you are in a position to. Struggling with paying your bills is not the added stress you need when you're first setting up. Also, offer different services until you get a good sense of what you love to do, what you're good at, and what you absolutely detest!

If you could go back to your early days as a freelancer and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?

Keep going, don't give up. Even when you're not sure about what you're doing, it's all a learning curve and doing is better than procrastinating. Nobody really knows what they're doing 100% of the time anyway!


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