Each Featured Freelancer interviews are designed to provide the reader with an insight into freelancing, and inspiration from which to draw upon and help them to make the right decisions for themselves. As is so often the case, however, answering the questions can often be a catharic experience in itself. As this week’s Featured Freelancer told us, “They really made me reflect again on why I have chosen this rollercoaster journey and hang on even tighter!”
Read Katherine’s story to understand why it was as inspiring to read as it was to tell…
What is your name, where are you based, and what do you do?
I’m Katherine Ledger and I live in the tiniest town in Hampshire, a rural bolthole from which to run my business ‘Copy That Sells’. I help businesses sell effectively and stand out with unique brand stories and marketing messaging which emotionally connects with their ideal clients.
How long have you been freelancing and why did you decide to become a freelancer?
I have been a freelancer for 6 years, the first four as a Marketing Contractor in charities and IT companies. I set up Copy That Sells two years ago, about the same time Freelance Heroes started; I wish I had known about them when I was starting out!
After a long career in corporate marketing, I started contracting, which was essentially no different. As an employee and contractor I was burning out with soulless work I did not enjoy. The last manager, a slave driver, had me regularly working a 12 to 14 hour day. I tried to quit but she pleaded with me to stay, so against my better nature, I did, with terrible consequences.
The crunch (quite literally) came when I was so exhausted that I fell off a ladder out of my loft and broke my back in two places, hit my head, getting concussion. I did not take proper care. I had to leave my contract and take a year out thinking ‘this is not working; what do I do next?
That painful year of recuperation got me thinking about the high and low points of my career and what I should do next. Should I launch out on my own?
I remembered how I loved marketing storytelling. I was happiest when I was the Storymaster’ at BT. I was marketing a complex portfolio of products to 6000 sales people and they were struggling to sell it. Stumbling upon storytelling, the new big thing, I made a marketing toolkit full of metaphors and people stories which created common ground with clients. Some major deals were signed and I’ve been using storytelling in marketing ever since.
The lows were the politics and noise in the corporate world (wrong environment) which left me struggling to get my quiet voice heard and work for others who managed by fear.
Finding my Why
From my sickbed, I discovered my Why? I realised I wanted to help smaller companies also get heard above the noise of their competitors by telling the story about their amazing people and clients. It’s the people behind the business which customers buy not just what they sell. Copy That Sells emerged. Definitely watch Simon Sinek’s video about finding your why and read his book.
What support did you have from family and friends? Did anyone advise you against becoming freelance?
My dad was brilliant and funded the development of my website. He’s always believed in me. My husband worries about me doing long hours (initially I did not have a clue what I was doing and struggled with everything). But I am winning him round. I am meeting some lovely people in networks who support me. My business buddy keeps me on track.
Some of my ex BT colleagues and old school friends advised me to wind up my business and take it easy. But I ignored them and did it anyway!
Did you use any professional support resources in starting your freelance business?
At first I threw a lot of money at my business to make it work. I would advise against that as it’s best to build up gradually. This included investing in an expensive website and a very costly motivation group until it became a financial drain.
I then discovered https://www.popupbusinessschool.co.uk/ a completely free resource which holds 2 week training sessions, around the UK on how to set up a business. I also attended http://www.therealbusinessclub.co.uk/ which holds free business start-up and finance workshops in Berkshire.
At the end of the day, cash is king so you have to accumulate to speculate rather than the other way round. I was using up a lot of savings so now I only invest after I’ve built up some capital.
How would you describe your clients or customers?
I have rather a diverse selection! Some are larger corporates which pay me good money but often don’t treat me very well. Some are small and medium sized companies which treat me better.
My best clients are coaches, IT and finance companies, who need to define and grow their businesses by targeting right audience. They need to market themselves through a strong and very human story. I work best with people who listen and embrace what I tell them because if they don’t, they won’t put their core story at the heart of their marketing strategy to help their businesses survive and thrive. My best clients are thoughtful, honest, trustworthy, kind and giving. I work best with people who have the same values as me.
Why do your clients/customers select you over your competitors?
They hire me because I combine storytelling with my professional content marketing & marketing strategy background. A marketer for 25+years and brand storyteller for 18 years I know how it helps companies to sell. They tell me they love my kind heart. They love my intuition and model and mind-set for teasing out the unique passion and combination of skills which I help them market themselves across a whole range of marketing channels. I help them see what they can’t see for themselves because they are much too close to what they do.
Is being a freelancer what you expected? e.g. Do you work more hours (or less) than you had first anticipated?
It was nothing like I thought! I often work long, unsociable hours for less money than before, with a bad habit for looking at social media late at night! Finding business, doing back office tasks and planning takes lots of time! I invest time in showcasing my work (writing blogs at week-ends and posting social media content) as I feel it’s important to work on my business as well as in it, to take it to the next level. Michael Gerber’s E-myth book explains that really well.
My hero Steve Folland gave life-changing advice at the recent Freelance Heroes Day about not feeling guilty about having time out. Even if we’re busy, it’s important to remember a balanced lifestyle is well within our reach. I haven’t quite cracked it yet!
What app or website could you not run your business without, and why?
I’m constantly on the lookout for new content so trawl Hootsuite and Google Alerts extensively: there are gold nuggets of information in there I use to get ideas for original content of my own. I use Grammarly to check my grammar is correct and I carry a notebook everywhere I go, so I can spot stories in everyday life I can use in marketing. I look at the Content Marketing Institute’s content and read all the major business storytellers websites for inspiration.
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to start a freelance business, specifically in your field?
Definitely join Freelance Heroes! I wish had done that sooner. Attend a PopUp Business School. They can teach you the basics of running a business. Marketers should walk the walk, talk the talk; ‘eat their own dog food’; ‘drink their own champagne’: easier said than done I know! I would suggest writing a marketing plan to work out where you will get your revenue and clients.
Relationships are really important so join offline networking groups as well as online forums. Find a business buddy to keep you motivated. Form collaborations with trustworthy people so you can do more with less effort and offer a wider service to a bigger market. I’m looking to collaborate with marketing people, web developers, social media and SEO experts.
What are the most notable things you have learnt since starting your business; either about running a business or about yourself?
Crazy as it sounds, ‘Just Do It! Often I put up my hand to do things out of my comfort zone like presenting because I know I will grow my confidence by doing that and appreciate my value. What’s the worst that can happen? Also always ask for help when you struggle. Don’t go it alone!
What is it about being a freelancer that you most enjoy?
I love the freedom that I can work with people I like and respect rather than those whose behaviours and values I don’t. When they tell me ‘you’ve nailed it’ and that my content has converted conversations into paying clients, that’s the best feeling! I Work is a thing you do, not a place you go and I enjoy not being tied to an office every day.
What do you enjoy the least about being a freelancer?
I don’t like the feeling of isolation when working alone for extended periods. Selling and chasing invoices from clients slow at paying bills are also a challenge.
What is your ultimate professional goal as a freelancer?
My quest is to help more people relate to others through storytelling, be sought out as an expert and to write books to inspire them. I want to be able to scale up so I can help more people Soon I will be on the lookout for working collaborations and people who can manage the back end activities so I can focus on what I love doing most. Forums like Freelance Heroes are perfect for doing that.
Getting more successful means I can do pro bono work to help young vulnerable people tell their stories, particularly those with mental health issues.
What one thing do you wish you had known before you became a freelancer?
It’s not for the faint-hearted! Don’t fool yourself you can do it all yourself. Outsource the work you don’t enjoy. Dig deep to determine your calling. Monetise and make it work through a marketing plan. That way you can guarantee a good living doing what you love for people who love what you do. What’s not to love about that?
If you enjoyed Katherine’s story, you can connect with her at one (or all) of the following places online:
and, of course, in the Freelance Heroes Facebook Group