Here's why I started #AFreelancersLife: To highlight different freelancers every month from all sorts of backgrounds and pick their brains about what they do and how they do it. Check out all previously featured freelancers right here. If you would like to be featured just drop me a line and let me know! Today's post features Julienne from Buffalo, NY. If you ever wondered what the term "virtual assistant" refers to, be sure to read on - Julienne shows you how she does a million different things - all while taking care of her 5 month old son Luke.
How long have you been a freelancer and what exactly is it that you do?
I offer digital marketing and virtual assistant services. I spend much of my time focused on social media management and email marketing. I started with some side work in 2013, and transition to the role of Virtual Assistant the next year. In early 2015, I took the leap to full-time self-employment and it’s been great!
How does your typical work day look like, if there is one at all?
Well, I’ve had a big pivot lately - I gave birth to my son, Luke, 5 months ago! I used to be very traditional with my biz; I kept 9-5 hours with weekends off. These days, I work during nap time and when my husband comes from work. I also do some prep on weekends to get a jump on the next week. The lifesaver is my childcare! My dad watches my son 2 days each week, so I’m really able to tackle a lot during those times. As for a typical day for me, it involves a few cups of coffee, a client meeting or two and lots of tabs open in my browser!
What does your freelancing work entail regarding activities and duties?
Social media management involves a lot of content curation, graphic creation and analytics review. My email marketing offerings require that I’m able to work in different platforms for different clients; so any given day you might see switching between MailChimp, Ontraport, ConvertKit and Mad Mimi. As a VA, it’s helpful to know what tools and platforms are out there, so I budget in education time. (And I take advantage of ALL the free trials out there!) My clients trust my opinion and they’ll often ask “How can I do X?” and I’m always able to share some ideas off the top of my head.
What has been your biggest highlight so far as a freelancer?
Last year, my answer would probably have centered about a specific project or client. But lately, it’s been all about my son and time freedom. I’ve been here for the firsts with him and it’s been incredible. Smiling, rolling over, laughing - I was there. We’re able to read books, play and take walks during the day; and I’m still able to contribute financially and get a creative outlet through my work. My clients afford the opportunity to have the best of both worlds. It’s amazing!
How does your previous education and experience tie in with your current freelancer work?
My undergrad is in International Studies, and, in my previous work, I spent 5 years at a refugee resettlement agency. My post-grad work is more in line with where I am currently, though. I have a Masters in Public Administration and I’ve done advanced study in digital marketing at NYU. I think all of my education has prepped me for small business ownership, though. Completing a degree of any kind involves discipline, attention to detail and perseverance. And even though my Masters focused on administration of nonprofits, it trained me in things like marketing, accounting and leadership. This is really helpful. For instance, I work with a CPA to file my taxes - but I’m able to handle my own bookkeeping for the business throughout the year.
Do you sometimes have motivational lows, and if so, what do you do to get out of your low?
This is a definite yes! When I get here, I do 2 things. I start by reevaluating my work: Do I need to change my offerings? Is there a task I’d like add - or something I’d like to stop doing? Is there a specific client that’s dragging me down? And sometimes this is as simple as some time away. So I’ll go for a walk; spend time with my husband and son; or take a few days to break from extra biz tasks, like blogging.
What do you love about being a freelancer? What do you hate?
I don’t miss the hiccups of working in an office. Running to not miss the bus, arguments over the thermostat, sitting in under-productive meetings! I love the increase in productivity when things like a commute are removed from the equation. I wouldn’t say hate, but I do miss friendship and community. I’ve had to work hard to find that in the digital space. There are several freelancer Facebook groups that are great for this. And my biz BFF, Jill, and I chat on FaceTime and in our private Slack channel throughout the day. And the Rising Tide Society has Tuesdays Together, meet ups of small biz owners around the country - so everyone should check to see if there’s a group in their area!
How do you structure your day: When are you taking breaks, when are you working, when are doing which tasks in particular?
This looks a little differently for me each day, because I’m working around my son’s ever-evolving schedule. But I usually start my day with email and linking up in promo and share threads in Facebook groups. I work throughout the day when I can, and I complete my crucial tasks for that day usually between 5pm - 8pm. I prefer to work a bit on each of my clients daily. To manage this, I keep a recurring task list in Asana with all of my clients’ names and I check them off as I go.
Which are your favorite 3 websites and/or apps you’re using on a regular basis regarding your freelance work?
I really love the Freelance to Freedom Project. It was a huge help to me when I started out, and I recently became a Featured Writer for the blog. I love that I’ve been able to give back to the community there. As for tools, I really love Asana and Google Apps. Asana is a project management system that lets me collaborate and organize tasks with clients and it’s totally free. And Google Apps is everything! I use it for business email; and I love the calendar, and Google Sheets, Docs & Drive. It keeps me so organized.
Tell us about an exciting project you have worked on which made you proud.
A recent victory has been the switch from MailChimp to ConvertKit for my own business. I used Leah Kalamakis’ course, Set it and Forget it, to develop a welcome sequence (something I’d been lacking) and a forever sequence - which is basically a bank of my best newsletters that will be sent to new subscribers. It feels great to have those systems in place now.
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