Each week, feedback tells us that these Featured Freelancer interviews are inspirational, and that they inspire freelancers to feel better about the decisions they make, as well as the reassurance that they’re not alone in how they feel about themselves and their business.
I’m now going to do something I haven’t done in the previous 65 interviews, and that’s focus on the very last words, which are: You can do this! With the right support to help you over the hurdles – another reason the Freelance Heroes community exists – you absolutely can build the freelance business that you want. And here is Featured Freelancer interview #66 to help. Enjoy…
What is your name, where are you based, and what do you do?
My name is Dehra Sweet, I am based in beautiful Fife, Scotland and I am a freelance Digital Marketer looking after client’s websites, social media and marketing.
How long have you been freelancing and why did you decide to become a freelancer?
I have been freelancing for just over a year and a half and had previously always been employed. So it was a big, big step for me to take to set up on my own. I have twin 8 year old boys and have worked since they were 9 months old. Life had become a constant juggling act between the demands of being a Mum, working part time as an Operations Manager for an online retailer and my husband often working away – and when one of my sons was diagnosed with autism, I decided to take back a bit of control. Initially I had asked my employer if I could change my hours slightly but this was not possible, so instead I took the decision to set up on my own and have not regretted it for one second since!
What support did you have from family and friends? Did anyone advise you against becoming freelance?
My husband and sister were super supportive, in fact my sister set up as freelance just after me, but I did definitely get some negative concern from some people, who felt that it was too risky and not stable enough. Funnily enough my Dad, who has been self-employed for 40 years, was the main person who was anti it as I think, as a baby boomer, he wanted me to use my education to get a “good” job for life with all the benefits he perceived went along with that. They seem proud now though!
Did you use any professional support resources in starting your freelance business?
I went along to a series of local Business Gateway sessions that were very valuable, more as a confidence boosting exercise than anything else. Otherwise I am all self-taught from late night training sessions and trying to make sense of the HMRC website!
How would you describe your clients or customers?
Varied! I have clients who are small local artists, I’ve worked with Gift shops, private Nurseries in London, a Yoga supplies manufacturer, the local Council, restaurants, and my biggest client is a brand new whisky distillery! The thing they all have in common is that they are all super talented at what they do, but they do not have the time, or want to know or be bothered with the social media, digital side of things, which is why they outsource to me.
Why do your clients/customers select you over your competitors?
Almost all of my clients have come to me through word of mouth, so I would hope that because they like me and the work that I have done for others.
Is being a freelancer what you expected? e.g. Do you work more hours (or less) than you had first anticipated?
More or less. I definitely work more hours than I did as an employee, as the main thing you need to be aware of as a freelancer is that billable hours are not the same as working hours! Saying that, I am able to choose when to work those hours so can work around my boys.
What app or website could you not run your business without, and why?
Buffer and Canva – they are a lifesavers for social media scheduling. That and my accountancy software Freeagent. I was so worried about the Finance side when I started as I had always had a Finance Department to rely on before, but Freeagent has made it ridiculously easy to get my head around.
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to start a freelance business, specifically in your field?
Build up to it. Get a client or two under your belt before you launch into it full time. I spent 6 months starting my business whilst working, and it was really difficult but at least when I handed my notice in I knew I could pay the mortgage the next month! And never stop learning – join groups, workshops, training programmes and keep up to date with new technology, upgrades etc etc. Your clients will expect you to be experts so you need to continually educate yourself.
What are the most notable things you have learnt since starting your business; either about running a business or about yourself?
No one pays an invoice on time. Ever.
As for myself, I have learnt that when I want to be, I can be really self-motivated, which to be honest I was a bit worried about. I was concerned I might be tempted to watch a bit of daytime TV but in reality I have ZERO time to do that, so it has not been a problem. The other thing I am slowly learning about myself is that I am quite good at my job – imposter syndrome is a big problem as a freelancer, you constantly doubt yourself, but 1 year in, I get great feedback from my clients and they keep recommending me, so I must be doing something right!
What is it about being a freelancer that you most enjoy?
The flexibility of not having to ask for time off from your boss! If I need time to go to a doctor’s appointment with my son, I can. If I want to walk the dog I can, and the dreaded childcare issues (and HUGE bills) have disappeared. I also love the fact that every penny I bring in, belongs to me! (apart from Mr Tax Man)
What do you enjoy the least about being a freelancer?
The relative isolation. It can be a bit lonely if you are having a bad work day or having a nagging problem as you do not have someone to chat it through with. That’s why I love Freelance Heroes so much, as you can always reach out on there and get great advice.
What is your ultimate professional goal as a freelancer?
Initially it was to just earn enough to pay the bills, but 1 year on I am earning far more than I did as an employee and so am currently re-evaluating. The good fairy part of me wants to say that I would like to teach and motivate others in some way, but the materialistic side says I want to pay my mortgage off by the time I’m 50 and go and travel the world again!
What one thing do you wish you had known before you became a freelancer?
I hilariously thought I would have more spare time. I do not. I work every spare hour and haven’t cleaned my house for weeks, so I suppose I wish I had known to employ a cleaner…that and you need to always remember when you are feeling like an imposter…your client isn’t paying you to know EVERYTHING, they are paying you to know more than them. You can do this!
To connect with Dehra, vist: