Laura McDonald is the owner & digital marketing consultant at LMc Digital Marketing who partners with Yorkshire (& beyond) businesses to drive & maximise digital marketing growth.
When she first started freelancing 5 years ago, she found herself working more hours than she did in her old job. Over time, though, she’s created a work-life balance that works for her. This is Laura’s story…
What is your name and what do you do?
Digital Marketing Consultant, Partnering with Yorkshire businesses to drive & maximise digital marketing growth.
How long have you been freelancing and why did you decide to become a freelancer?
5 years in April 2022 – it’s flown by and I have never looked back! I decided to go freelance after working for an agency doing long hours (& only got paid for 9-5) and not feeling satisfied by the work anymore. I worked with a lot of big corporate companies and the digital marketing I did was only a small part of their success, so I decided to go freelance to work with smaller businesses where what I do has a direct impact on livelihoods.
I was already doing a little bit of freelance work on the side and took the plunge to do it full time. I’d saved a bit of money and gave myself a 3-month buffer in case it didn’t work but I didn’t need any of it.
What strategy do you find most effective for attracting new clients?
I actually don’t have a strategy. I get most of my work through referrals from existing clients or people in my network. I’m very bad at marketing myself which I’m starting to put time into developing.
I’m now working on a referral scheme to be more proactive with it and be more active on social media platforms, as well as building an email database.
What app or social media platform could you not run your business without, and why?
ClickUp is something I’ve found recently and has transformed my business and the way I manage client task lists and workloads amongst the team. Social media-wise it would be LinkedIn probably. I don’t spend enough time on it at the minute but it’s where my audience is and is much more effective for me than Twitter or Instagram.
Do you research prospects before a call or meeting? If so, what information do you look for?
I do – probably too much. I use SEO/marketing tools that I’ve got to see how their website performs & the website history and lots of Googling to understand more about what they do and what people are saying about them.
What do you do to help maintain positive mental wellbeing?
If I’m not feeling productive or ‘feeling work’ then I’ll step away from the laptop and go for a walk, go to the gym or play football and I don’t punish myself for taking a break. I’m so much more productive for it and my mental well-being really benefits. When you’re busy, it’s so easy to feel guilty for stopping working but it’s one thing I do that really helps me and it’s the benefit of being freelance that you can step away when you want.
Is being a freelancer what you expected? Do you work more hours (or less) than what you had first anticipated?
I’m not sure what I expected but when I first started 5 years ago I quickly fell into a trap of working much more than I did in my old job (and that was one of the reasons why I left…). I’ve now finally got a good work/life balance now. I probably still work more than I did before and never really switch off but the difference now is that I work when I want to and when I’m most productive.
What are the most common objections you’ve had from potential clients? How did/do you overcome them?
It usually comes down to budget. I’m not the cheapest but I don’t knock down my rates to get the work and it works out for the best that I don’t get clients that don’t want to pay my rates. So, I haven’t overcome that one as such but instead, I get to work with the right type of clients who invest in my management fee and advertising spend that allows me to take their business to the next level.
Having said that I’m working on a smaller business package to help me offer services to those who can’t afford the fees and then as they grow, they work up to the next level package. I realised I was turning down work by the services I offered so now creating services that fit their needs.
Have you ever turned a prospect away? If so, why and how did you do it?
I didn’t for the first few years but I’m much better at saying no to clients that aren’t a good fit. Usually, it’s just a conversation with me saying that I either don’t have the capacity right now or they need to go away and address a few things on their website or business before we can start working together.
What do (would) you do when a client ghosts you?!
Ooo the good old ghosting clients! Haven’t had one of them yet but as long as they’d paid their invoices then there’s not much I would do – if they don’t want to work together, that’s fine plenty more fish in the client sea!
Are your motivations now the same as they were when you started freelancing?
They’ve changed quite a bit. When I started, I wanted to help as many people as I could and earn as much money as I could to be blunt. But I’ve realised chasing monetary goals doesn’t end well, as there’s never an end goal. You’ll have an aim of £5k a month, then £6k, 7k etc then it keeps going. So now my motivations are around the lifestyle I want to have; how many staff I want, how many hours I want to work, the types of clients I want to work with etc.
Financial freedom is great and money buys lots of things; investments, opportunities, developments etc & sanity but I take a lot of pride and motivation from seeing clients get record-breaking months, created new jobs & achieve their goals. Working with clients who align with the values I have as a business is really important now – it’s taken a while for me to figure out what those motivations are!
What is it about being a freelancer that you enjoy most?
Every day is different, and I love it. I used to hate having set calls/meetings in a schedule and whilst I do still have a bit of a schedule, I’ve got real variety in the work I do and who I do it for and I absolutely love it.
What do you enjoy the least about being a freelancer?
Chasing for invoices!! It’s so tedious. Currently have 8 overdue invoices.
What one thing do you wish you had known before you became a freelancer?
Tough one, I’m not actually sure as I think you learn all the important things as you go. But I’d probably wish I’d have known to spend more time working ON my business, not for my business. It’s something my business coach now works with me on and it’s transforming things massively.
I’d have loved to have known that I could build a 6-figure business and have a small support team delivering amazing results for 10+ retainer clients in a few years. The previous, shy, unconfident me would have loved to have known just how much could be achieved as a freelancer!
Freelancing can do wonders for your confidence so that would have been nice to have known too.
What is your ONE top tip or piece of advice you would offer to other freelancers?
Make freelance friends! When you start out it’s so easy to see other freelancers as competitors but that’s not the case at all – there’s enough work to go around and every freelancer wants to help each other. I didn’t (and still don’t) put enough effort into growing relationships with other like-minded people so that’s what I would say.
And spend your time on building your network, doing a great job for clients and getting work this way – not just on trying to get a load of Instagram/TikTok/Facebook/LinkedIn followers. Building a brand is important but you can be successful without having a big following as I’ve found. Getting a reputation for being good at what you do in your niche will get you far.
Whoops, that was two pieces of advice!
You can find out more about Laura McDonald on her website, and connect with her on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.
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