Running a small business brings a lot of challenges to the one who has decided to do it. If you’re a freelancer or an entrepreneur, you know that not every day is a positive experience. In order to help you see the big picture instead of the obstacles along the way, I started the interview series “Freelance Tips With…”.
Freelancers and entrepreneurs from all over the world share their stories and best tips on how to be productive, focused, and zen.
Check out all the interviews from the series “Freelance Tips With…”!
Today I’d like to introduce Katrina Cobb, business consultant and digital nomad. Read the whole interview now…
Hi, Katrina! Please, introduce yourself and what you’re doing with a couple of sentences.
I’m Katrina, and I’m currently living in and exploring Latin America while developing educational programs and coaching for freelancers, solopreneurs, and others who aspire to location independence.
I was originally trained as an architect, but have spent the last 9 years studying, starting, growing, and coaching small businesses. I love combining the creative thought process of design with pragmatic and proven business systems.
What I’ve come to love most about my life and those I help is applying creative problem solving to the issue of creating a business and a life you love.
What’s your freelancing niche?
I started freelancing on the side in content strategy and creation (primarily blog copy and social media content), but in truth, I’m more of an entrepreneur these days. I can’t escape my love for coaching. So I’ve blended my years of accumulated business knowledge with my knack for having conversations that move people forward, combining education with the hands-on help to implement changes to a business and see real results.
I have a soft spot for creatives, so I love helping creative freelancers figure out the business end of their freelancing so they can actually hit their financial goals and take the stress out of the day-to-day. My other passion is to travel and to have a location-independent lifestyle. Therefore, I also really enjoy helping service providers build a business that allows them the flexibility to work from anywhere.
Why did you decide to become a freelancer?
I was working as a business coach for a company that originally helped me grow one of my businesses successfully, but once I started traveling I realized it wasn’t just location freedom I was craving – it was also time freedom. I began to increase my freelance work until I was ready to give notice and step out on my own.
That’s not to say that being an independent consultant takes less time than my former employment demanded, it’s just that now it’s on my terms.
What was your job before that?
I’ve done many things and continue to be a bit of a polymath – from starting in architecture and sustainable design through being a personal trainer and fitness studio owner, to running a direct sales business in fashion, and becoming a business coach for other small business owners.
Directly previous to going 100% independent again, I was creating online business courses and coaching small business owners on how to sustainably grow their business and achieve their personal and financial goals.
What’s the biggest challenge you face as a freelancer?
I think personally the biggest challenge when you are on your own is self-doubt. Call it imposter syndrome, doubt, or lack of self-confidence… you will have moments when you question your sanity and your ability to make it work on your own.
There’s also a lot of noise out there about how to achieve success as a freelancer, and it takes some effort to tune into your intuition and trust yourself to follow one course of action and not get distracted thinking you have to do everything at once.
What’s the best advice you can give to the people who’re making their first freelancing steps?
If you can, start small and give yourself the space to test things out. This may mean overlapping freelance work on top of your current job. The other piece of advice would be to reach out to other freelancers or people who have what you want – find a mentor, or hire a coach, and ask a ton of questions. They can help with everything, from processes to pricing, to remind you that you can do this.
You’ve got an amazing series, the 6-Figure Freelancers Interviews. What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned from the people you talked to?
There are so many great nuggets of wisdom from those conversations! I think if I had to distill it down, the message is that financial success as a freelancer is totally possible for anyone, but you’ve got to think of it like a business, not a ‘just a freelancer’, and don’t be scared to charge a good rate for your services.
What would you say to the people who hate being trapped in their office from 9 to 5 but don’t see another option to make a living?
I’ve always believed there is a creative solution to any problem. It’s true, running a freelance business might not be for everyone… BUT you’ll never know unless you try. You might surprise yourself. My advice would be to think of something you’re great at and you enjoy doing (even if it’s not what you’re doing currently!) and go find one person you can help by doing it. Test the waters on a small scale and be open to possibility.
What’s the best part of being a freelancer according to you?
Autonomy. Having the power to make choices. I choose how to structure my days, who I want to work with, which projects and opportunities to say yes or no to. The choice to allow myself days without an alarm clock is also mine. I can also choose to work late when inspired by a creative project.
What advice would you give to the freelancers who’re struggling to find clients? What’s your secret to finding clients?
This is everyone’s top question… and actually something I teach in my Fulltime Freelance Accelerator program. The short answer would be to get very clear on how to describe the value of your services and who your best clients are. Then put yourself in networks or circles of those people, and tell them how you can help them. So many of the 6 Figure Freelancers I interviewed built their businesses off of networking, leveraging their existing contacts and forging new ones.
The key is what you think you do isn’t what you actually do – prospects want what’s on the other side. They don’t want a new logo, they want eye-catching imagery that gets attention and increases sales revenue. They don’t want copywriting, they want emotionally charged messaging that increases open rates and conversions by a significant percentage. You have to rethink the value of your services and how you describe them to others to make it easier for prospects to say yes to working with you.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made as a freelancer?
Not getting super clear on the scope of work I was going to provide for a client. I think we all make this mistake and have to learn the hard way. Once we get into a project, there’s so much more to do than we anticipated. I ended up doing a BUNCH of extra stuff for free because I failed to ask enough questions and truly understand what was needed. And I chose to own my mistake rather than renegotiate the contract.
Should freelancers be active on social media or have a website presenting their services?
One way or another, you need to be visible online. I think where to show up and invest your time and energy depends on if your services are for consumers or other businesses. If your clients are individuals, social media can be great. If they are other businesses, spending more time on LinkedIn might make sense.
A basic website is helpful. But I also know successful entrepreneurs and freelancers who earned their first 6 figures without it by mastering their message and offers through social media and networking. Don’t let not having a polished website stop you from growing your business.
When are you the most productive: when working from home, from a coworking space or from a cafe? How do you stay focused?
As a freelancer and now a nomad roaming from country to country, this is a major piece of self-awareness I’ve needed to have.
My truth is that working from home isn’t the best for me. I feel most productive at a coworking space. There’s something about the ritual of ‘going to the office’ that gets me in a good mindset when I want to knock a bunch of things off my to-do list.
For more creative work, such as content or thinking and planning, I prefer coffee shops. Small, quiet ones really stoke my creative energy. Some of my best-written content and ideas were brewed over a cappuccino.
What are your best time management practices?
I’m a serial list-maker and quite possibly addicted to Evernote. I try to plan the night before (or at the least that morning over coffee) the top 3-5 things I want to get done on my creative days.
I also block some days in my calendar for creative work ON the business, and others for client work and time for calls and coaching. This way I don’t forget to take care of my business as I preserve time for marketing and growth.
How do you boost your productivity? And creativity?
There’s one thing I’m very aware of and have to do a quick audit of periodically. I ask myself, am I doing things just to do them or am I doing things that directly affect my desired results? This helps me eliminate time-wasters and really prioritize things that move me forward.
For creativity, I try to leverage putting myself in a great environment. But also have patience with myself – if I don’t feel like it, I don’t force it. And if I get a creative urge outside of the time I have allocated, I might allow myself to switch gears and channel that creativity. If I can’t do that I at least make some quick detailed notes in Evernote to come back to.
How does one of your best days look like?
I wake up without an alarm, do a little workout and journaling, then get ready for my day. I head to my favorite coffee shop for a couple of hours to think, write, create marketing content, or work on a creative project.
In the afternoon, I have a couple of coaching calls and some client work. The evening is for having dinner and a glass of wine with friends. If I’m solo, I take a journal to write down whatever thoughts and creative ideas were percolating, and what I want to do tomorrow.
My best days are relaxed, unhurried, inspired, and energized by the creative and client work I’m doing.
How do you stay zen?
I’m naturally an introvert, so for me staying zen means allowing myself enough quiet time to recharge, think, and create. Some days this is going to a coffee shop with nothing but a journal. Or curling up in a hammock and writing a microblog or reflection about my travels or life on my Instagram. Sometimes it’s as simple as giving myself permission to stay in and watch Netflix instead of going out and about.
As far as staying zen with the business, I have a coach. I also continue to invest in my personal learning and development. Having a guide and a sounding board is invaluable in this line of work. No one gets to where they want to go without help!
I’ve also started to build a network of like-minded entrepreneurs and freelancers. The idea is to have a place to talk about the ups and downs of this life. We share our dreams and challenges to keep each other inspired and moving forward. I believe whole-heartedly in surrounding yourself with people who bring out the best in you.
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