The Strength & Power of Peer-Support for Freelancers
Rarely do I write about specific conversations that take place in the Freelance Heroes community, except for the lessons learnt from the weekly polls we run, such as The Future of Freelancing, The Top Bookkeeping Apps of UK Freelancers, and How UK Freelancers Learn To Be The Best. But one conversation took place recently that epitomised the ethos of Freelance Heroes, and highlights just why we do it.
Firstly, here is a post that written by a freelancer who’s a memeber of the group…
I’m struggling at the moment (as I’m sure most of us do as freelancers!).
Feel as though the only way forward is going back on the 9–5 treadmill (which is filling me with dread!) — looking for a full-time job is a job in itself!
I’ve managed to get a small loan to advertise my services (I’m a Virtual Assistant and I want to promote PowerPoint and Word formatting services as these services are what I enjoy doing most and would happily do all day long)
Just don’t know where the money would be best spent (via social media platforms? Google?)
Scared I’m going to spend the money and get no return and add to my already very dire financial situation.
Any advice would be greatly appreciated, TIA”
Now, I should mention at this point, that Freelance Heroes is a safe place for UK freelancers to share their concerns, in spite of the fact there are currently over 4,900 members. So best to keep her name out of it, I reckon.
What followed was a veritable fountain of empathy and support. Such as…
“I know it’s no consolation but I’m a VA in the exact same position. I’m now going back in to employment. Could you get something part time to keep money flowing but allow you time to build your business?”
“That is not a nice feeling. What have you done so far to market yourself? I don’t want you feeling that spending money on Ads is the only answer because a lot of the time it’s not. Ads are fab when you have something that is rocking and rolling and you’re scaling it. To start with it’s so important to get your foundations rolling first. Xx”
“I used to do Word and PowerPoint. The clients who want your skills are design agencies. Designers HATE PowerPoint and Word, but often get asked to work in those programs. People who like Word and PPT are considered unicorns in those circles :) Also…temp recruitment agencies are another avenue, as they’ll get longer-term contracts in to do big pitches, etc”
“As I designer, I would turn down work involving Word or PowerPoint. I now run a virtual design studio and would be delighted to have someone like you to turn to when clients ask for these kind of jobs. Get in touch with me via my website if you’re interested.”
“I had a meeting at one of the Regus serviced offices places the other week and we were discussing the benefits of virtual assistants. Might be worth targeting businesses that use serviced offices as more likely to have everything outsourced/virtual. If you like writing then you could also look to submit an article to Huffington Post or Forbes on the virtual office movement. Hope things pick up soon.”
And then this, from customer spreadsheet designer, Richard Sumner. Yes, I’m mentioning and linking his name and, as soon as you read his response to a freelancer in need of support, you’ll see why. This was it:
“I have a suggestion as a starting point, and if you do your own website, it may not cost you anything but time.
I’ve had a look at your website, and although it is good, it doesn’t really set you aside from other VAs, and there are loads. I see you’re keen to do PowerPoint and Word. Your website mentions that, but it doesn’t really sell the solution, it sells the service. For example, I don’t think I need PowerPoint work done. I may need a more professional presentation though. I may be even more interested in a more professional presentation that I don’t have to spend the time on. Using different wording can sell the benefits of the service, rather that the service.
Here is what I suggest, and then below are some benefits of doing it:
1. Add a service to your services (and possibly put something on the home page too) called something like ‘Professional PowerPoint Presentations’.
2. Link that to a whole other page, where I would suggest doing a presentation of what a ‘normal’ presentation looks like when made by an amateur, compared to what one of your super-duper ones look like. Not necessarily the whole presentation, just maybe a slide or two showing usual mistakes and how yours is better. Then also maybe list a few reasons as to why a better presentation can help them (winning business, etc.). I would do this as a webpage, with pictures and text, rather than a blog post. This will not only be a page on your website, but also a landing page from social media posts.
3. I would then make various social media posts about having better presentations, with some sort of accompanying image, and a link to the new web page. You can even do some vlog posts or blog posts, stating each point at a time. I would also actively ask others (like the rest of us in the group) to like your content (especially on LinkedIn), to get the word out.
Here’s how I see this helping:
1. You set yourself aside as THE VA who does professional presentations. MOST VAs can edit PowerPoint, but you are THE VA for professional presentations. See the difference?
2. The new webpage will eventually start bringing in some clients with the SEO generated, which will be based on the searches people will do.
3. People may come for the professional presentations, but they will also see what else you do, and then maybe ask for more.
4. If you become known for what you want to do, people will refer you for that. I know loads of VAs, but I know what each of them specialise in, so I know who to recommend when asked. If I know you specialise in amazing PowerPoint presentations, I will refer you for that if asked. If I just think you’re a VA who does anything like everyone else, I’m far less likely to recommend you, as I see others more regularly.
If you even want to take this further, start sharing Powerpoint posts, commenting on them, and generally showing yourself as a Powerpoint expert. I know this whole thing may be more of a long term solution than a quick win, but you may get some quick wins and it will set you on the right track for the future.
I hope that is helpful, please ask if you need clarification on anything.”
Needless to say, there was an outpouring of gratitude to the effort Richard had taken, such as…
“This is amazing, how kind of you to spend so much time providing advice to another freelancer.”
The conversation betweek Richard and the freelancer who wrote the original post then continued:
“Wow! Thanks, Richard. So much excellent advice and so great of you to take time to look at my website too. You’re right — I need to make it work for me more. What I’ve done (stupidly, perhaps) is set myself up on various social media platform (I’m so new to SM it hurts!!) and I create flyers/animations and post regularly 2–3 times a week. It works too — it’s just I need it to work more if that makes sense. Again, so great of you to take the time to advise me…definitely going to make changes to my website!”
Richard came back with:
“My suggestion will help, just be sure to set yourself aside as THE virtual assistant who creates professional presentations. If that’s what you put forward, that is what you will be known as, and that is the work you’ll get. Once you have your niche, target your content to suit, and then hit the marketing with all you have! All the best!”
He, modestly added, when others had posted their thanks to Richard “I would like someone to do it for me if I was in her position, so I will gladly help her out.”
Then, for me, came the sucker punch. The vindication, if it was even needed, that this is exactly why we do this. The freelancer who aired their concern at the beginning of all this then wrote…
“This group is so great. So glad I found it — so many great people with such sound advice. Has really lifted my spirits and made me feel more positive.” and added “I’m new to Social Media — I only just set up my Facebook page in the summer! Writing posts still scares me and it takes me ages to finally do it! I don’t know why I find it so scary..weird, eh? I’m OK posting flyers (hiding behind my company) — just find it nerve-wracking when posting as myself! But I have to say — the camaraderie and positivity I’ve experienced this afternoon — definitely feeling more comfortable sharing”
I posted once before about “What is a Freelance Hero?” and this post isn’t just about Richard and the original concern, but about the community as a whole, and the power which we all hold in supporting each other. I’ve written numerous times about how, out of the 4.8m freelancers there are in the UK, the best support comes from the other 4.799999m. One answer on my blog, to what makes a Freelance Hero, was “Someone who works for themselves and supports others on the same journey”
This is why we do it.
This is why Freelance Heroes exists.
As Jerry Greenfield, Co-Founder of Ben & Jerrys, wrote “If you support the community, they will support you”
What about you? What makes a Freelance Hero in your eyes? Where do you seek peer group support from? As ever, I’d love to read your thoughts. Thank you.