Welcome to a new feature on my blog – you guessed it, interviews! Do you like my original headline? I actually spent hours trying to write a clever, witty headline before I realised sometimes simple is best.
Conducting interviews sounds a bit fancy, but really it’s just an excuse for me to connect with people I admire and grill them for clever tips and insights.
First up is one of my longtime friends and unofficial mentors, Erin Harrison. Do you know I first met Erin when I was 14 and doing work experience? She was studying communications (and therefore extremely cool and grown-up in my eyes) and she was happy to hang out and chat with 14-year-old me (which made me feel super special and mature).
We lost touch for a decade or so, but we reconnected a few years back and now we’re freelancing AND parenting at the same time! How cool and weird is life?
Erin will probably cringe at what I’m about to write because she is super humble and down-to-earth, but she’s one of the most generous, caring, and genuine people I know. She’s doing this “business thing” to help people and to make a positive impact, and I think she’s nailing it.
But enough about my thoughts – I’ll let her awesomeness speak for itself. Here is my interview with Erin. Read on to find out about her clever project, The Freelance Village, and for some #realtalk about what it’s like to launch something from scratch.
Tell us about The Freelance Village. How did it start?
The Freelance Village is ‘a place where freelancers and businesses meet’. It’s like a matchmaking service, helping freelancers find work and businesses find freelance talent.
It started one night while I was trying to go to sleep. Haha, of course. I’ve been a freelance writer for years, and I’ve tried to register with websites only to find out they weren’t for Kiwis. So I thought, well hey, why don’t I make one for New Zealand?
I guess I like the idea of being a matchmaker and saving both parties time and hassle by bringing them together. I also have quite a few friends who are freelancers, so I knew I could test the initial idea with them.
What’s your favourite part of running a business?
When a freelancer gets in touch and says ‘oh, this is so cool, I’ve been looking for something like this’. It’s cool to create a space where freelancers can find camaraderie with others doing the same thing.
I also love it when I find out about businesses and freelancers connecting. I get a real buzz of being like ‘wow, I helped make that happen’. It’s achieving what I set out to achieve and realising that yes, there is truly a market for my idea.
And of course, I love that I get to call the shots. That’s why I like freelancing, too. It’s nice to have control over a brand and make all the decisions when it comes to social media, marketing, etc.
What’s the biggest insight/lesson you’ve learned so far?
It’s so challenging to get your voice out there and be heard. Especially as a small business with no money. I’m like ‘hey, this is an awesome new service, and it’s free’, and I guess I thought people would come running? Considering there’s nothing else like it in New Zealand. But it’s actually hard to get exposure.
It’s a continual slog, and that’s frustrating because I see how valuable freelance services are for so many SMEs. But they don’t know we are here. So some weeks I feel I’ve exhausted all avenues and I think ‘what’s the point?’. But that soon passes.
What keeps you motivated? Especially when it feels like a bit of a slog?
Definitely my friends. Particularly those who are part of The Freelance Village. They were my inspiration for getting this project underway, and I know I can always have a whinge and moan to them and they will help prop me back up again and remind me that what I am doing is worthwhile. I love them. *kissy face* *kissy face* hahaha.
What’s your weekly routine like? How do you fit in time to work on your business, do client work, and also be a mum/eat/shower, etc?
I’m not super into routines, even though I do like to be organised. And I think that’s what I like so much about freelancing. With a toddler running around, I basically just try to do what I can while she’s sleeping – either during the day or when she goes down for bed at night. Luckily I’ve always been a night owl when it comes to writing – 7pm to 9pm is usually my most productive time.
I also set realistic expectations for myself by ensuring I give realistic timings to my clients. I find most people are happy to be flexible with deadlines, so long as you keep them informed with how you’re getting on.
The other thing is, I’m really passionate about The Freelance Village so I want to work on it a lot, and that makes it easier to fit it in. I’ll often pop a TV show on in the evening and half-watch it while I’m chipping away at my work.
Who inspires you?
I’m inspired by everyday people who go out and make it work. I have some good friends who have achieved so much, and I guess I want to be brave like them.
Do you have any advice or insight for people considering starting their own business?
Don’t be afraid to just start and continually adapt as you go along. Ensure your branding and everything you put out there is polished – and this doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be expensive.
Know that you won’t have success overnight, but just keep going because there are plenty of highs and lows, and you’ll need to be prepared to ride them out.
Also, be friendly, be polite, be helpful and happy and bubbly whenever you can. You really can’t underestimate the importance of being someone who people will enjoy engaging with. This includes when it comes to networking. Don’t try to sell – just be a nice human being and you will find people respond.
Do you have some favourite words to live by?
I like quite a few quotes, particularly ones around happiness. But my favourite is:
“What you do for yourself alone dies with you. What you do for others and the world, remains and is immortal.” – Albert Pike.
That’s something that is so important to me: ensuring that whatever I do has a positive impact on others.
Well, I think that’s a good place to finish (and that Erin is without-a-doubt achieving her goal).