Lisa Gust started freelancing in 2017. Going into her new venture, she had no expectations other than becoming her own boss and enjoying what she was doing. Now, she’s gone from just wanting to get started to developing her business, expanding her portfolio, and most importantly, waking up excited to start the day. Read Lisa’s story on how she reignited her motivation…
What is your name and what do you do?
My name is Lisa and I’m a freelance translator (English to German), writer and teacher of German as a foreign language.
How long have you been freelancing and why did you decide to become a freelancer?
I started freelancing in June 2017. I was working an office job in London which I wasn’t happy with, and I had always wanted to be my own boss and run my own business. So, I just thought, “Why not?”
What strategy do you find most effective for attracting new clients?
That is something I’m still trying to figure out, even three years in! Word-of-mouth has not really become a thing for me yet, so I’m actively seeking out new projects. I mostly trawl through LinkedIn, Indeed and various Facebook groups. I also make sure to keep my website and social media channels up to date in case someone stumbles across them!
What app or social media platform could you not run your business without, and why?
Twitter, Toggl and Trello. Twitter is great for staying connected with fellow freelancers and clients as well as promoting my business. Toggl helps me keep track of how much time I’ve spent on which client per month, which has proven to be really useful. And I use Trello for keeping an eye on upcoming, outstanding and paid invoices.
Do you research prospects before a call or meeting? If so, what information do you look for?
Absolutely. I start by looking at their website and social media channels and gather as much information on the brand as possible. Who are they? What kind of work do they do? What is their brand image? What sort of projects have they been involved in in the past? I also write down some questions to make sure I can steer the conversation a little bit if needed. Other than that, I just go into the meeting with an open mind!
What do you do to help maintain positive mental wellbeing?
Take a step back from work if needed. I really had to learn this one as the internet mostly talks about “hustling” and all that. I found that it’s about working smart, tailored to your own way of working, and about creating a balance for yourself. About knowing how much work you want to take on, how much you can take on and how much you need to take on. And schedule some time off! Proper time off!
Is being a freelancer what you expected? Do you work more hours (or less) than what you had first anticipated?
I didn’t really expect or anticipate anything – I just did it. I think I work a good number of hours, and certainly a more productive amount.
What are the most common objections you’ve had from potential clients? How did/do you overcome them?
Oh, good grief, I could write a whole essay about this! I’ve had more objections with translation and copywriting than teaching. It can be difficult to make people understand that making a text come to life in another language, with all its intricacies and subtleties, or creating high-quality copy from scratch is actually something that not everybody can do. That it takes more than just “somewhat knowing the languages”. It’s an actual skill, and not a lot of people see it as such. I guess that’s because language is something that is seen as universal, rather than a skill that is learnt and studied for.
Have you ever turned a prospect away? If so, why and how did you do it?
Yes, this happened a few times, actually. I mostly rely on my gut feeling. If the communication is lacking from the get-go, questions are left unanswered or they cannot point out what it is they really want, I usually leave it. Likewise, if their budget is way below anything anyone should ever be paid for their work and they’re unwilling to discuss, I automatically decline. But I always do so in a polite way, sending a friendly but definite email – something I really had to learn, as us Germans like to get to the point and not fanny about..!
What do (would) you do when a client ghosts you?!
This has never happened to me, but I think it would depend on which stage we were at. If no contract had been signed yet, then I would follow up once, maybe twice, and then let it go. But if I’d already done work for them and they just stopped communicating, I would definitely chase it (and probably ask the Freelance Heroes for advice!).
Are your motivations now the same as they were when you started freelancing?
No. When I first started, my motivation was to just get started. Get a client, any client, and get my feet off the ground. Now, three years in, I absolutely adore my job and I know I’m in a very lucky position. I want to constantly develop, become better at my job and at being a business owner, learn more and expand my client portfolio. And continue to be in this amazing position where I wake up every day and am actually excited to work.
What is it about being a freelancer that you enjoy most?
The freedom. Being my own boss, choosing my own working hours (as much as possible, anyway), working with a variety of clients and working with languages every day is just amazing.
What do you enjoy the least about being a freelancer?
Anything to do with taxes. And cold calls.
What one thing do you wish you had known before you became a freelancer?
Just how much patience I’d need. So much patience.
What is your ONE top tip or piece of advice you would offer to other freelancers?
Know your worth and set boundaries. Whilst there are lovely clients out there, a lot of people like to take advantage of freelancers, whether that’s financially, in terms of scope of work, or both. It’s easy to lose your focus and be tempted to just take on any work for any amount of money – I’ve been there! But all that’s going to result in is a loss of joy and motivation. Remember why you started.