Morgan, Online Accountant
Hi, I'm Morgan and I’m originally from the United States.
My family moved to South Africa when I was six years old and since then I’ve been traveling the world!
I went back to the United States for university and earned two degrees, one in Accounting and one in International Business (summa cum laude) from the University of North Florida.
After my husband and I got married (my high-school sweetheart from South Africa), we did a bit of traveling and teaching English around Southeast Asia.
When we returned to South Africa, I did the stereotypical thing and got a job as an accountant for a firm in town. It didn’t take long to realize that the corporate finance world and sitting quietly at a desk all day wasn’t for me.
I wanted a life of freedom and flexibility that would enable me to do the things I love, while still earning an income.
That led to the discovery of this virtual freelance world and the start-up of MDK Services (my own business).
What do you say when people ask "What do you do?"
I do accounting, social media management, and modeling/brand ambassador work for clients around the world.
How many years have you been freelancing?
Just over 2 years.
Why did you get started with online/freelance work?
At the time, my husband was doing some building work about 3 hours away from where we lived. He’d be gone for days at a time, which left me with extra time on my hands.
I started doing my church’s bookkeeping on the side for some extra money. It was great, I loved it! It was difficult to manage along with my full-time job, but it got me dreaming about what it would be like to do work like that full-time…
Then the dreams led to action. I started posting some things on my Facebook page letting people know that I wanted to do more part-time bookkeeping on the side if anyone was interested, and it just kind of snowballed from there.
Where did you find your first paid freelancing job?
My church was looking for an accountant so I applied for the job.
How did you price your services when you were just starting out?
Since accounting is quite a niche industry, my initial starting prices were a bit below market-level but not too low. I was privileged to learn from other freelancers, early on in my career, who set their starting rates too low and ended up burning out too quickly. I knew I was in it for the long haul and needed to make my prices sustainable and work for me and my family.
Most freelancers try several jobs before settling down. What jobs did you try before choosing your current occupation?
My husband and I taught English and did some community development work in Southeast Asia for a bit but that was never intended to be long-term. The only other experience I had was as a full-time accountant for a company and non-profit.
What are your favorite things about freelancing/working from home?
I feel like it fully rewards productivity. You reap the benefits of your hard work and energy.
My husband also started a non-profit, called Rural Reach, that helps bring basic necessities to the rural workers in and around Southern Africa. My job allows me the flexibility to travel with him, help with his projects, and quite frankly, do yoga at 10 am or take the day off and work again the next day! Whatever I feel like!
If I’m being totally honest though, I think my favorite thing about working from home is being able to stay in my pajamas as long as I want to. ;)
What's your LEAST favorite thing about freelancing/working from home?
The work never stops. You never leave your work at the office and feel like you’ve switched off.
I’ve really had to learn the importance of work/life balance, putting boundaries in place, getting my priorities straight and not comprising on them.
How long did it take for you to feel like a "successful" freelancer. Until you were able to pay your bills regularly without worrying?
My situation was quite unique in this sense. My husband was starting his own non-profit organization at the same time as my freelance career was taking off.
We were (and still are) both living off of my salary, with no other source of income.
I knew I had to be “successful” from the get go and my freelance income needed to cover all our bills and sustain us both. God is so good and faithful and provides for our every need.
What's your favorite way to find new clients and job opportunities? What worked the best for you?
Word-of-mouth and references are my favorite because I’ve found that those clients are often more like-minded and trustworthy. Otherwise, Facebook has been incredible for finding clients! Amazingly good.
What are the top 5 tools you use most often in your daily work?
In your opinion, what's the most important quality or trait for a freelancer to have?
Tenacity and a strong work ethic. You need to be able to persevere through difficult times and be willing to work your butt off (especially in the beginning).
What does your average Monday look like?
I like to wake up really early before the rest of the world gets started.
I start every day with my cup of coffee and put aside at least an hour to spend time with God, reading His word, and praying. This is seriously what sustains me and gets me through each day.
I’m usually at my desk working by 7am and continue until about 11am or noon. Then I take a break, go for a long run or do some yoga, shower, eat lunch and head back to work.
I work for the rest of the day and make a big effort to close my laptop and stop work by 6pm. Then my husband and I go for a walk, make dinner and enjoy the evening together.
On average, how many hours do you work on a regular weekday?
Everyday is different. Some days are 14-hour work days, others are 2. I think on average I probably work around 9 to 10 hour days.
How do you stay motivated and focused when you don't feel like working?
I look at my to-do list and just choose the items that HAVE to get done that day. I don’t focus on anything else.
The biggest tip is to just get started. Once you get going, it’s easy to get on a roll and gain motivation as you work. I love sitting outside or putting some music on to lighten the mood.
I set little tasks for myself to complete with scheduled breaks like taking my dog for a walk or doing a quick yoga session. Then I try to end the day as early as I can knowing that tomorrow I can make up for lost time.
The nice thing about working for yourself is that when you hit a wall (reeeeal hard), you can decide to take the day off and work again the next day. It’s awesome!
What was one of the biggest challenges or roadblocks that you had to overcome in your journey to be a successful freelancer?
Clients can leave you on the drop of a dime.
I have a clause in my contracts that tries to prevent this from happening but I’ve learned that people do what they want and not everyone works with integrity. It’s been a hard and sad lesson to learn.
What would you say to someone who asks "How can I find freelance jobs if I don't have much experience yet?"
It’s not always about the experience. It’s more about organization and work ethic. I think if you want something enough, you can get it despite the experience.
I love the quote by Richard Branson “If you don't know how to do something, say yes and learn how to do it later.” It’s gotten me in some tricky situations but it’s taught me sooo much and opened up doors I would have never imagined possible.
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, never, never. Sometimes I do miss the stability of a monthly income or the ease of having a boss tell you what to do and show you how to do it, but the pros of working for yourself definitely outweigh the cons (in my opinion) and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
If you could work from anywhere, what would be your dream work location?
Somewhere in South America, like Peru or Chile. Or I’d love to be on a remote island in the Pacific Islands.
My husband's non-profit has taken us to some pretty cool places so far and we have dreams of where we might go in the future. It's very exciting!
Do you have any work routines or habits that boost your productivity?
1. Quiet time in the morning
2. Starting the day early
3. Switching off my phone when I need to get something big/important completed
4. Keeping up with an exercise routine to clear my mind and get my body moving
Your best interview tip?
Be yourself. You don't want to get a job with someone you don't connect well with. Remember that you're interviewing them as much as they're interviewing you.
Also, just because you're offered a job doesn't mean you have to take it.
What do you wish other people knew about freelancing?
It’s a rollercoaster… anyone who has started their own business will know exactly what I mean. Working for yourself is SUPER unpredictable. You can gain a client at the snap of a finger but you can also lose them just as quickly. Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out… watch out!
What advice would you give other people who are just getting started, but are still unsure about freelancing?
It’ll be challenging at times but go for it with all your heart!
You’ll have to make yourself vulnerable and put yourself out there (I remember being so shy to list my prices online thinking “what will my friends think?”). Truth is... no one really cares. Just do it!
Magic happens outside of your comfort zone. Every time I feel nervous or scared about doing something, I get excited because I know it’s going to grow and shape me into something greater.
Don’t let perfectionism keep you from pursuing your dream! Just start. You can always adjust as you go.
If you could go back to your early days as a freelancer and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
Live life with less fear.
I wish I could go back to certain moments and tell myself to stop worrying how things are going to work out and trust God. My favorite quote is: “Be fearless in pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.”
Anything else? Last words of advice or suggestions?
If you’re thinking of starting your own business and doing your own thing, I say GO FOR IT!
It’ll take you on the biggest adventure and the lessons you learn along the way will be worth it.
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