It’s amazing what confidence can do for a freelancer. It’s tempting to start a business and say yes to any work that is thrown your way, no matter who’s throwing it or (indeed) what they’re even throwing. But as that confidence grows and we start to take charge of own destiny more, the posibilities seem endless. Of course, that doesn’t stop people trying to change is, but that’s what Freelance Heroes is here for. To have your back and encourage you to stick to your guns.
The challenge of confidence affects us all in different ways, including this week’s Featured Freelancer. Enjoy…
What is your name, where are you based, and what do you do?
My name is Hayley Patton of Green Bee Consultancy Ltd. I provide Virtual business services from VA work to Project Management, Research to appointment setting (and everything in between), and am based at Callington in Cornwall, about 15 miles north of Plymouth.
How long have you been freelancing and why did you decide to become a freelancer?
I was working in a corporate environment. High pressured and working day and night (literally) to deliver global contracts. On average, I worked at least 10-15 hours extra a week unpaid. I asked to leave an hour early one day to attend my 5 year olds school show. I was told I had to take it as holiday. That was it, I decided my child was more important and whilst I had no set business plan, I gave notice and decided to go it alone. As a result, I’ve now been freelancing for 6 and a half years.
What support did you have from family and friends? Did anyone advise you against becoming freelance?
My family were very supportive and my first client was in fact a client of my fathers who runs an Accountancy business. I’m sure many people advised me not to, but I am not a person who listens to negativity and once I have made a decision I’ll make it work.
Did you use any professional support resources in starting your freelance business?
Not as such but my father exposed me to his network having run a successful company for many years.
How would you describe your clients or customers?
At first, I fell into the trap of saying yes to anything anyone wanted doing, even if I didn’t enjoy the work. I also, at times, let client dictate fees. It took me a few years to grow the confidence to only accept work that I enjoy, know I can do well and at the rate I was willing to work for. Since then my clients don’t feel likes clients, they are my colleagues. I am part of their team, I challenge them to improve, they challenge me to come up with ideas and we have fun along the way.
Why do your clients/customers select you over your competitors?
I had no idea so I posed the question to my most prestigious client; Jeremy S Askew of Town Close Financial Planning. Here’s what he said; “I contacted multiple VAs before deciding to work with Hayley. I did this via LinkedIn asking for direct responses and recommendations. To get to my shortlist I eliminated those that were illiterate and/or slow in getting back and/or didn’t know what they were good at. I spoke to Hayley and another VA. I deliberately took my time, tried to be awkward, and asked pointless questions to see how they would react. Needless to say Hayley was head and shoulders above the other VA.
She was patient, didn’t hassle me and was professional throughout. She knew what she could and could not do, what she liked and did not like doing and was “properly” set up. She also knew how her absences would be covered and was very clear in all her communications. She gave me a lot of confidence from day one. Thankfully that confidence has been born out. Hayley’s dedicated to the cause, hardworking and honest. She listens and takes on board new ideas. She’s growing more and more into the role and regularly has great ideas that improve how we work as a team.
I can’t (and don’t want to) imagine what would have to happen for us to not be working together for many years to come.”
Is being a freelancer what you expected? e.g. Do you work more hours (or less) than you had first anticipated?
Having committed to it on a whim, I don’t think I had any expectations. I just knew I needed to be free of someone dictating when I could be a mum. Now I am fully established and in the best place I want to be it lives up to every expectation. I work more hours but that is because I love what I do, not because it’s dictated to me. I also work the hours I want to. If I want to play puzzles with my toddler one morning, I do so. I catch up in the evening. I now take my son to every football match, every cricket practice, and every scout group and spend precious time with my young daughter.
What app or website could you not run your business without, and why?
I use lots of apps but the one I find the most useful is Toggl. I stop and start work, only charging client when I actually have work to do for them. This allows me to also tag their clients so they can associate a cost to them. Other apps I find useful are Basecamp and Asana when managing projects. Various email apps for client emails and LinkedIn; my networking go to.
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to start a freelance business, specifically in your field?
Network, Network, Network. This can be online if you are restricted for any reason. Reach out to previous employers, colleagues, family and friends who may know someone who could use your services.
What are the most notable things you have learnt since starting your business; either about running a business or about yourself?
The need to be very disciplined when working from home. Ignore the washing; you’re at work.
The need to have a dedicated work space. We all work from the sofa at times but the need to have a dedicated space to work gets you in the right mindset.
Don’t set unrealistic goals. Building a business takes time and it is not fun setting yourself up to fail to meet targets.
What is it about being a freelancer that you most enjoy?
I enjoy the flexibility it offers which allows me more time with my family. The ability to only work on things you enjoy doing and being able to turn down work you don’t want. The sense of feeling you’ve built something that is yours. Working in my PJ’s if I want to because the boss said it’s OK.
What do you enjoy the least about being a freelancer?
It can be lonely and isolating; another reason to network. Find yourself some other freelance buddies to keep you sane. Share problems, back each other up share work when you can makes a huge difference.
What is your ultimate professional goal as a freelancer?
My goal was to be there for my children whilst still earning a good wage. Once I had achieved this I set small goals; another new client / learn a new skill / increase turnover YTD.
What one thing do you wish you had known before you became a freelancer?
I probably already knew it but it’s easy to get carried away early on. Set yourself up properly from the offset. Put money aside for when the tax bill comes in; it’s all too easy to get excited over what comes in and think it’s all yours to spend. I’m sorry to tell you the tax man will still want his share.
To connect with Hayley, visit: