Featured Freelancer: Hannah Dossary, Digital Designer

Hannah Dossary is a web designer and tea addict who loves to work with creative small businesses.

With a freelance career of 6 years, Hannah began by working with a London agency. She then decided to work for herself to have more autonomy over the work she did and to have more control over her time. It’s hard work and “not for the faint-hearted” but for Hannah, it’s been an “enjoyable rollercoaster”. This is her story…


What is your name and what do you do?

Hey, I’m Hannah and I’m a digital designer at Shiny Happy. I design all things digital including websites, social media and email marketing.


How long have you been freelancing and why did you decide to become a freelancer?

Ooh I’ve been a freelancer for almost 6 years now! I started my career working in a London agency with great clients but soon realised I didn’t have the power to choose which projects I was able to work on and didn’t have much say. That’s why I went freelance – so I had that choice! I also wanted to travel more and have control of my own time.

What strategy do you find most effective for attracting new clients?

Definitely networking – online or in person. I work with small businesses and it’s important to get myself out there and speaking with business owners so they feel like their problems are being heard and in turn, they get connected with a digital designer who can help! I also then get referrals from past clients which of course is great.


What app or social media platform could you not run your business without, and why?

Hands down Facebook. I’m a part of 20+ different Facebook groups that act as my online support system so I never feel alone. Of course, Freelance Heroes is one of my faves because it’s so active and you really do feel that everyone is in the same boat as you and have no judgements! For me, Facebook is engaging, interactive and assists connection, whereas I feel Twitter and Instagram are more “here’s my post, look at it”.


Do you research prospects before a call or meeting? If so, what information do you look for?

Absolutely – I look at their whole online presence (websites, social channels, blogs) and try to understand how their business is currently being portrayed to their online customers. Then I mentally compare this to how they describe their business on the call. Usually, they have an idea of how they want to come across so it’s my job to improve their online presence to match their ideal.


What do you do to help maintain positive mental wellbeing?

I love making time to get creative whether that’s attending a pottery class, painting in my office, potting plants or doing yoga. I believe getting creative is always great for your mental health – it’s my way to express myself and just switch off from everyday thoughts.

I also make sure to have clear boundaries at work –  I NEVER work past 6 pm and I don’t communicate with clients through text/Whatsapp. I have to keep reminding myself that I became a freelancer to have more control over my time and not let clients control me.


Is being a freelancer what you expected? Do you work more hours (or less) than what you had first anticipated? 

It’s been a lot tougher than I expected, but an enjoyable rollercoaster. I didn’t realise how many hats I’d have to wear, how much I’d learn about business and marketing and in general, how my head never switches off (especially when I’m trying to sleep).


What are the most common objections you’ve had from potential clients? How did/do you overcome them?

A lot of small business owners have never worked with a designer before so I can tell when potential clients are cautious and ask lots of questions at the beginning. This doesn’t put me off though – I’m a very patient person and love to help others so answer their questions as best as possible and have adjusted my onboarding and communication processes so that my clients know what’s happening at all times, what stage we’re in and know what’s coming up. They are never left in the dark. This is one of the things I get praised for my past clients so I’m glad it’s worked!


Have you ever turned a prospect away? If so, why and how did you do it?

Yes – its important to watch out for red flags. Once, I was a quarter of the way through a project and I noticed this client didn’t respect my boundaries, messaging via phone when it was agreed that communication was only via email. They tried to get more out of the project than what was originally quoted for and was micro-managing me. I had that horrible feeling where I just didn’t want to work on the project anymore and knew it was only going to get worse later down the line. I explained that they were paying me for my services, as an expert in the topic and that if they couldn’t appreciate or respect that, it just wasn’t going to work. I stopped the project there and didn’t invoice for the last bit of work I had done. I lost a bit of time and money but I learnt a BIG lesson – always trust your gut!


What do (would) you do when a client ghosts you?!

Luckily this hasn’t happened to me (yet) but if a client ghosted me by not paying my final payment for a website project, I would take their website down and would ensure it doesn’t go up until payment has been made.

That’s why I always ensure I get 50% upfront payment and 50% on sign off so that if anything happens, we are both down 50%. I always have a concrete contract in place before starting any work so that I’m covered if I need to take legal action.


Are your motivations now the same as they were when you started freelancing?

When I started freelancing I was just happy to work with everyone and anyone who would pay me and I was giddy at the idea of not having a boss and not having to commute to an office. But I’ve realised that not having clear plans or goals was restricting me even more.

I’m now more conscious about the choices I make and whether they match up with my values and goals. That’s why I’m launching my business ‘Shiny Happy’ where I will focus on working with uplifting, community-driven, creative entrepreneurs and small business owners whose business values align with mine. This way I know I can put my heart and soul into every project.


What is it about being a freelancer that you enjoy most?

I love that I have the flexibility to carve my career and life into how I want it to be. It’s not dependent on industry and social expectations. As long as I find something new I want to try, I can do that. I don’t have a boss telling me that’s not within my role.


What do you enjoy the least about being a freelancer?

I don’t like the unpredictability of being a freelancer; finishing a big project and then realising I have to go out there and find new business again. That’s one thing I’m working on in 2022 – working on bringing some more consistency in my workload.


What one thing do you wish you had known before you became a freelancer?

Being a freelancer is bloody hard work! It’s not for the faint-hearted and definitely not for everyone. It’s not just “working-from-home”. It’s everything around it that usually, a whole team of people is working towards – but as a freelancer, it’s just you!


What is your ONE top tip or piece of advice you would offer to other freelancers?

Automate as much as you can. You don’t realise how much time you spend doing EXACTLY the same actions in every process. It might be that in every client onboarding, you type out exactly the same email welcoming on a new client. Automate it so it’s a simple email signature you select. It will save you time to work on the things you actually love doing.

You can find out more about Hannah Dossary on her website, and connect with her on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

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Hannah Dossary

Hannah Dossary