I have loads of respect for anyone who takes the plunge and goes out to start a business on their own. In May 2013, I did just that, after six years of trying to grow a content marketing business while also working a full time job. It was a struggle to work all day, returning calls and emails for my own biz during my lunch break, then heading home at the end of the “work” day to work my biz into the night.
During those six years, I called myself a freelancer. Heck, even after I formed my LLC in late 2011, I continued to call myself a freelancer. But as a freelancer, I started to feel like my work and my time wasn’t being respected by my clients. And as my business started to grow and I eventually quit my day job, I knew I could offer so much more than just a straight product—content. In fact, I saw many clients who didn’t really know what they needed or wanted, as far as content or website development was concerned. And they were making a lot of mistakes that were costing their businesses time and money.
As a freelancer, I felt it wasn’t my place to tell them the strategy behind content—like where and when to share it and why their content wasn’t reaching the right audience. They hired me to write the content they wanted, no matter that it wasn’t what their audience wanted.
One day, I said, “Enough. I am not a freelancer.” And even today, I literally get shivers when someone calls me a freelancer (and not the good kind of shivers). As a freelancer, I wrote website copy, edited books, posted to social media, conducted research, spun articles and more. And I enjoyed it.
[bctt tweet=”I literally get shivers (not the good kind) when I’m called a freelancer.” username=””]
But what I didn’t enjoy was not having a say in the content I was writing. I didn’t enjoy not feeling empowered to develop a content plan of action alongside my clients—I was told the plan of action and had to follow it, regardless of whether it was in the client’s best interest. I also didn’t enjoy working on someone else’s time, which is exactly why I quit my day job in the first place.
So one day I stopped.
I’d been working with a business coach to restructure my business and knew that I had more to offer. I knew I wanted more for my business and for my clients. And I knew that “freelancing” wasn’t going to get me there.
What was going to benefit both my business and help clients grow their own? Providing professional consultation to go along with the content I was already delivering. Walking business owners through the process of developing a quality content plan. Heck, teaching business owners how to do it themselves. And so I stopped calling myself a “freelancer” and became a “business owner” who offers consultation, education and copywriting services.
For me, it was a huge mindset shift that made a big impact on my business. Using a different word to describe myself and my business changed the way I do things and moved my business forward in ways that I didn’t think were possible. Here’s how things changed:
- Business owners know they need online copy, but don’t always know how to execute it. As a freelancer, the client made those decisions. As a consultant and partner, I can help them make those decisions.
- As a freelancer, I did what the client wanted, at the price that was offered. As a consultant, I have expertise to bring to the table. I provide direction, mentorship and guidance to help clients achieve their goals.
- As a freelancer, I simply completed the work to the client’s specifications. As a business owner and consultant, there’s more ownership in it for me to please the clients. I don’t just give clients what they want; I help guide them so not only do they know what they want, they get what they need.
- “Freelancer” feels temporary to me. A “consultant” is a business owner who has a vested interest in clients’ success as well as growing their own business.
- As a freelancer, I worked on others’ deadlines, which didn’t necessarily mesh with the scope of work or the time required to complete a project. As a business owner, I can help steer the deadlines to the best interest of the end goal. So my work is never compromised because a client needs something done by a certain date. We work together to ensure they get what they need in a reasonable timeframe.
- As a freelancer, I scrambled to seek out every opportunity to bring in that almighty dollar. As a consultant and business owner, I’m an expert in my field and others seek me out.
- As a freelancer, I was not compensated fairly for the value I brought to the table. As a consultant, I feel like I am more highly regarded because I am a part of the team. And because of this, I bring value to the table and am rewarded for this value. Not only that, but I can name what that value is.
- As a freelancer, I was paid by the project. As a business owner, I get a regular paycheck (granted, from myself) twice a month. I formed an S Corp, pay my taxes monthly and feel like I have more vested interest in being successful than I ever did as a freelancer.
So what benefits of being a freelancer was I able to carry over when I started working as a consultant?
- I make my own hours. Some days, I start working on client projects at 6 a.m. and others I don’t sit down at my desk until 10 a.m. And some days (not often), I don’t work at all.
- I work from home. Probably one of the best things about owning my own business is that my office is 10 steps from my bedroom and even closer to my kitchen. I’m available to take my daughter to and from school and am available for field trips and other school-day activities (though as a high school freshman, those don’t come around often). I started working in my business full time when she entered middle school, which I don’t think I could have timed better. I longed to be home when she was little, but I feel like it’s even more important now. Truth: Teenagers are better at getting into trouble than toddlers!
- I work in my pajamas. Okay, this is the best part of my job. If I’m not meeting with a local client, I’m in a comfortable set of pajamas. And if I have a video conference during the day, it’s business on top and a party on the bottom!
- I provide quality, professional content to my clients in hopes of developing an ongoing relationship that benefits my clients’ businesses. This hasn’t changed one bit from my freelancing days, except that I feel like clients now expect more value and more services than when I called myself a freelancer. And I deliver.
I realize that not every freelancer has the same experience I did. It’s all about mindset. But I found that once I stopped thinking of myself as a freelancer and started consulting my clients as a business owner myself, my business started growing leaps and bounds. I am so happy I made the switch because now I feel like there’s nothing I can’t do for my clients. Except their accounting!