Stevie, Digital Marketing Manager
Hi, I'm Stevie and I’m from Philadelphia.
By the time I was finishing high school, I already knew I needed to spread my wings so I ventured down south to Florida before I was 19 years old. Since the big move, I've worked remotely from countries like Mexico, Colombia, and Costa Rica for weeks or months at a time. I am still currently in Florida but I do have my sights set somewhere with more mountains in the near future though.
What do you do?
I think an easier question to answer would be, "What don't I do?" but I can keep it short and sweet. The main field of work I am in is digital marketing & social media management. The thing about that type of work though is that you need to be skilled in many different areas. That is why I also do graphic design, copywriting, editing, some front- and back-end development, community building/management, blogging, data-entry, consulting, project management, customer service... the list goes on.
How did you become a freelancer?
I became a freelancer after coming to the realization that I have way too many online/digital skills to NOT be working for myself.
I had been eyeing up a social media internship position with a local brand and so I attended community meetings and events for 9 months helping out wherever I could. By the time they were looking for a new intern, I was there and everyone was familiar with me...so it seemed a natural progression that I step in and take on the internship.
I did this for about 6 months, unpaid... then I started negotiating payment per my results. Eventually, this gig turned into a year-long contract and, after it was over, I started working as the co-producer for the entire brand. It was a short ladder to the top since the whole brand was run by a few friends, but it felt really good to grow with an organization.
After my time with that company was through, I started looking for other similar internships that would give me a better and more qualified experience. That is when I landed another internship at a local startup and the rest has just fallen into place since then.
Why did you become a freelancer?
I became a freelancer for the freedom and flexibility of working for myself and living the life of liberation that I always aspired to. Also, once I started getting a few small opportunities, I noticed a bit of a snowball effect and began sourcing more and more long-term contracts with better companies and better compensation.
Where did you find your first paid freelancing job?
Body/Talk, the first community organization to bring me on as a social media intern.
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 thought that social media marketing would be pretty fun, especially since I was working for a party brand. Everything is just fun, music, dancing, memes & sass, right? Wrong.
There was lots of research, testing/experimenting, failure, and stress along the way. People on social media are always braver than they are in real life, so sometimes drama can ensue and hurt the brand. I learned how to deal with that, as well as setbacks in a way that didn't affect my productivity and work ethic.
In a way, it is still what I expected though. I knew that I would be strategizing and brainstorming with managers in meetings, coming up with campaign ideas and whatnot, and crafting an online voice for an entire brand. It's a great, rewarding feeling when you're nailing it on social media and your audience eats it up.
What’s your favorite thing about freelancing/working from home?
My favorite thing about working from home is that I have almost no distractions to worry about.
In my cultivated work space, I have an optimal setup with a fast computer, fast internet, and no one around me for hours to distract me from anything. I can enter my workday in peace and solitude and focus on the work I need to get done.
What's your LEAST favorite thing about freelancing/working from home?
My least favorite thing about working from home would have to be the stigma around it that I hear from some of my friends or family members.
Lots of people think that since I work from home I don't get paid well or that the nature of what I do is not as serious as an office job. I've heard from a couple people that I should be looking into getting a "real job" at a "real company". But I think they just haven't seen the light of working remotely from home.
How long did it take for you to feel like a "successful" freelancer? Until you were able to pay your bills regularly without worrying?
It took me over a year to feel good about my compensation/flow with incoming work. Even now, after a couple of years, it can still be inconsistent with gigs and income, but I usually find a way to make it work.
How did you price your services when you were just starting out?
If there was a paid opportunity I knew I wanted, I always offered unpaid work for a few months as an intern, simply to gain experience and ensure that I was a good culture fit within the company. If after a couple of months, everything seemed to be working out, I would negotiate a paid contract.
I always ask for a little more than I want, because I know that people will come back with a lower offer almost always.
What was your biggest struggle when you were just starting out?
Finding reliable clients can be tough when you're just starting out.
There are people who want your work and nothing else. Sometimes there are dishonest people, but the more experience you get, the more similarities you will notice among those who do not have your best interest at heart.
What do you know now, that you wish you knew back then?
I wish I knew sooner when to say NO to gigs. I’m very good at putting too much on my plate and having multiple projects going on at once. Now I use a little bit more discretion and take on projects that I am truly passionate about.
What's your favorite way to find new clients and job opportunities? What worked the best for you?
The most effective way I have been able to source work has been through networking with people on and offline.
Building relationships with people is a great way to get your foot in the door for opportunities you might not even know exist. Since I am based in central Florida, I have a handful of awesome monthly networking events to attend and plenty of people to engage with offline.
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?
One lesson I've learned the hard way, and still am learning more about every day, is how to not take things too personally as a marketer.
When it comes down to it, my job is to craft a brand voice that is authentic, engaging, and inspiring to my audience. When people meet my posts with negativity and mean comments, it makes me upset because I feel misunderstood by a community that largely influences my career.
Not taking things too personally helps propel my mission forward and learn to have a thick skin. It helps to take all feedback in stride. I am still learning to stay on top of this attitude, because I am human and so sometimes I still have my days.
How do you stay motivated when work is tough or there aren’t enough jobs coming in?
I make sure that my schedule still remains intact. Even if I'm not working/finding work, I'm still up early and doing something productive for a decent chunk of my day like looking for jobs, submitting my resume, networking, working out... You get the idea.
If you met a new freelancer who wanted to get into your line of work, what advice would you give them?
Keep an open mind. It may be tough at first to work for someone else's vision or passion project, but with a little cooperation and commitment, you will start to find the types of gigs you really value and respect. Hang in there!
Any tips or tricks for working with difficult clients?
Client above all. Always make sure your client is being met with respect, honesty, professionalism, and empathy in any situation.
Integrity is a must between all parties for any work negotiation, so really only work with clients you know you trust. If you get dealt a bad hand, finish the contracted work and respectfully move on. You can choose to never work for that person/company again. That’s one of the perks of freelancing!
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 ever ever. No way. There's only one way up from here and I don't intend to turn back.