You know, it's tricky to use a catchphrase like "We support the local community" as one of the company values you want to communicate. I mean, it's less tangible because few get to actually see the impact of your work.
And yet...we still use it.
Otherwise, it'd be impossible to capture the whole range of side stuff we're hosting, supporting, and empowering.
The latest initiative on the pipeline is a series of meetups in collaboration with Untitled - The Almost Ultimate Marketing Experience, a community aiming to gather advertising and marketing enthusiasts who want to create authentic experiences.
Meetup #1: Intro to Freelancing (March 27th) turned out to be a full-house hit powered by Andra Lazar's insights into storytelling and building the strongest premises for a realistic approach to a full-time freelance career.
Meetup #2: Kickstart Your Freelancing Career (April 19th) was hosted by Gabriel Apavaloaie, who's already built an 8-year freelance career in event planning and advertising.
He shared the spotlight with 3 other versed freelancers:
- Adrian Lauruc, digital marketer and content specialist
- Robert Gal, graphic designer for the past 7 years, former art director at an advertising company
- Alexandru Raduca, specialist in digital projects management.
But first, we had to answer some questions: What's up with Around25 being all in with supporting these freelancing events? Do we have an agenda? Why do we meddle in this initiative?
As a matter of fact, yes, we do have an agenda and yes, we indeed meddle in because we feel we have something to give back in this respect.
Our own CTO Cosmin Harangus took the stage to explain why. It was a touching speech about how he and Paul started out as freelance web developers in high-school and pursued this path because they wanted to make the world a better place (not because they had to stop asking for money from their parents, obviously :) ).
In all seriousness, though, they were actually driven by a common desire to take charge of their lives and also see where they can innovate. These two are also firmly convinced freelancing is what makes people become more responsible, get more proficient at ownership, and turn into masters of networking and spotting opportunities.
Long story short, Around25 and this series of meetups were a natural fit.
Now back to meetup #2, it's time we get to the nitty-gritty of taking the plunge in this shape-shifting world of being your own boss.
First off - as you may imagine...
1. Freelancing Opportunities
Gabi prepared a few ice-breaking questions about each guest's experience both as freelancer and employee, about their first freelancing projects, and about prepping up for the big scary unknown of getting the first clients.
While Adrian and Robert talked about large user base platforms like Upwork, Alex explained how, having started out before 2000, there weren't as many opportunities as today and thus his starting point was performing small web-related tasks for anyone who'd ask. Now, Alex prefers to find project opportunities by interacting long-term with companies on various projects.
For Gabi, who's an event manager (i.e. a jack of all trades - management, planning, production, advertising), it was more about finding the right connections in the local environment and taking any opportunity -even though he didn't necessarily have all the skills required. But he took the plunge, learned on the go and just...went with it.
How does one find the successful formula that makes clients go "That's it!"? Of course, you 'iterate' several times to check what works, but there are some distinct approaches you can take.
If you're a copywriter, Adrian recommends that you display your profile info in a clear-cut yet offbeat manner.
Then Robert discussed the niche vs generalistic approach to building a portfolio from a freelance graphic designer's point of view. He advised against bulking up your resume just for looking like less of a rookie. Rather, select a few works that match a field or client you're targeting (and also, in Robert's words, "follow the money" a.k.a. always seek for current trends bringing the big bucks in). Another one of Robert's insights was that - at least in the design world - choosing a niche could be tricky because you might lose sight of work opportunities in other sides of the design spectrum.
For Alex, a portfolio is rather a referral system since we're talking about the freelance project management environment. What he does is he offers a full package of services, delivers everything flawlessly, then lets the good work speak for itself and bring other followers in.
Gabi referred to the beginning of his freelancer days and how significant the community was - the marketplace for event management was practically non-existent, so it was easy to find connections, take projects on, and "build a portfolio" that way.
3. Brand Building
This actually works hand in hand with the previous paragraph, so let's get straight to the takeaways:
- Take the liberty to choose your clients.
- Publish stuff on your own platform.
- Let projects recommend you.
- Seek for relevant events in your field.
- Up your LinkedIn game.
- Seek to get referrals. All of them.
- Target repeat customers.
- Team up with specialists in other fields.
- Have your eyes on collaborating with already established. This is going to do wonders for your brand as well.
Long story short, the first commandment of personal brand building would be something like: Your Brand Is The Quality and Style of Your Work.
The rest is pretty much up to each one of you, freelance hopefuls.
What is your personality type, how much you're willing to go the extra mile, whether you have a flair for identifying opportunities. And last but not least, whether you have a hacker mindset - always hungry to research ways of edging out your competitors.
4. The Mighty Pitch
Talk as we might, freelance platforms are still the go-to place when you kick off a freelance career. Which means everyone's cramming in there. And wants their piece of the pie, of course.
So how do you get it? With a wickedly good pitch, that's how.
Naturally, our 4-freelancer panel had a few tips to share:
- Relentlessly research your prospective client.
- Formulate your proposition - nice and clean, brief and straightforward.
- Highlight your strengths and ditch the extra noise. Pair this up with communicating a clear vision about how your work is going to reach the client's goal.
- If possible, aim for one-page propositions.
- Communicate a clear vision.
- Read/learn about/practice techniques of influence and persuasion.
If there's a recurring theme throughout this whole discussion about freelancing, it's the one about growth and how to always be on your toes regarding the directions to take.
This is where it comes down to your skills and competences, which are obviously specific to your craft. Here you have them, as heard from our guests:
- Adrian: Read a lot, but read diverse stuff to make your vocabulary a kick-ass ace up your sleeve ('cause you never know where inspiration could come from).
- Robert: Learn how to mediate between your vision and the client's needs. Also, be patient and resilient because you're facing quite the competition.
- Alex: Work on yourself, understand your behavior and reactions, then how you should channel them towards getting the most out of your business interactions (here's a resource Alex used to understand what makes him tick and how it projects on his career).
- Gabi: Learn how to assess your delivery times and to say "no" when you are too eager.
The panel agreed that time management is pretty much the skill to rule them all - basically, get shit done but learn when to slow it down.
Last on the menu, a part where the guys got a bit more personal and shared some missteps they made along the way and stuff they'd do differently:
- Fear of holding your ground
- Not enough confidence (especially when it comes to self-promotion)
- Comparing yourself to others
- Being unrealistic
- Not being natural.
Wrapping It up
Laid-back atmosphere, cool speakers, snacks, insights, takeaways, free discussions, post-meetup gathering - we had all the good stuff.
The best part is there are still 3 meetups on the roll and the upcoming one sounds straight up exciting: Kickstart Your Freelancing Career. Finding Your Clients, Cash Flow Manangement.
If you want more pro tips like these, come and join the meetups in person!