Russell O’Sullivan had spent almost two decades gaining experience in digital marketing before he decided to branch out and start his own freelancing business two years ago. Since then, he’s focused on helping SMEs and brands to thrive online. he’s enjoyed the work life balance that freelancing allows and makes sure he allocates time to switch off and spend time with family. For Russell, focusing on what your strengths are and referring or declining work you aren’t as strong in is key to a successful freelance business. This is Russell’s story…
What is your name and what do you do?
Russell O’Sullivan – I am a digital marketer with 20 years experience across all areas of digital marketing, but focus on increasing the presence of SMEs and brands to thrive online.
How long have you been freelancing and why did you decide to become a freelancer?
2 years – I had the opportunity a few times over the last 5 years or so to start out on my own, but 2 years ago, 3 people approached me looking for the services and I decided to make the jump. Wouldn’t look back, work life balance and working with a range of different clients over the last 2 years has been amazing.
What strategy do you find most effective for attracting new clients?
Usually referrals, which can be through past or current clients, Facebook Groups and so on.
What app or social media platform could you not run your business without, and why?
Not so much of an app, but software for SEO and Spreadsheets.
Do you research prospects before a call or meeting? If so, what information do you look for?
Yes, I check LinkedIn, website and then companies house.
What do you do to help maintain positive mental wellbeing?
Take allocated time to exercise and be with my family, put the laptop and phone down and only work outside of my designated core hours if there is a problem.
Is being a freelancer what you expected? Do you work more hours (or less) than what you had first anticipated?
I did at the start and occasionally if a bigger project comes in or a lot of work, then I am happy to put in extra hours to get it complete. But I have made a conscious effort to try and make sure that I only work what I allocate.
What are the most common objections you’ve had from potential clients? How did/do you overcome them?
Hard one, sometimes it can be an educating style approach, they know they need a certain service or to change the way they work – so you have to make sure they are along for the journey. I am open, visible and transparent and tend to tell people what they may not want to hear, but back that up with – “I don’t want you to spend budget on something that won’t drive ROI” etc.
Have you ever turned a prospect away? If so, why and how did you do it?
Yes, 20 years experience gives you a bit of a gut feel that it’s either going to be a client that takes too much time over what’s been agreed, doesn’t work to Scope of Work, doesn’t actually want to pay what’s been agreed, or has a budget that isn’t reasonable in what the expectations are. I am happy to have exploration calls with prospects for 30 mins and can “eek” out of them information in that time, to understand if I will be happy working with them, and them with I.
What do (would) you do when a client ghosts you?!
If you can’t get through via email, then call, and if that doesn’t work – speak to the person higher up the chain. If there isn’t one, then I would email them, with a firm request for a response or will have to take the matter further – especially if they are holding payment.
Are your motivations now the same as they were when you started freelancing?
Slightly different, I choose more of the type of client and work I want to do and luckily in a good position to not have to chase anything that will pay.
What is it about being a freelancer that you enjoy most?
Work life balance… and working with a wide range of brands who need my help. Also, seeing the performance of the work you have put in for them.
What do you enjoy the least about being a freelancer?
Being bombarded in LinkedIn, emails and calls for services I already provide haha. Sometimes it’s hard and a little isolating, but a co-working shared office really helps.
What one thing do you wish you had known before you became a freelancer?
Payment terms – make them work for you and unless a client has BIG reservations on 10-day payment terms, then make sure you stick to what works for you.
What is your ONE top tip or piece of advice you would offer to other freelancers?
Hard one… some people are happy to chase any work that is going, some like to stick to a niche… but make a choice on the work you know you can do and love and either refer or decline work that isn’t your strong point. I am all for developing and pushing myself out of my comfort zone, but as an example, website builds – not my thing, there are far more experienced and talented people out there who do them, so I wouldn’t take them on.