We’re in the midst of a series of interviews with WordPress freelancers, exploring some of the keys to their success. Today we talk with freelancer Michelle Schulp. She describes herself as a “graphic designer, WordPress fan and epic nerd.” Michelle lives in Minneapolis and creates WordPress sites, PowerPoint presentations and visual design at Marktime Media.
“Many freelancers are held back by a combination of lack of skills, lack of connections and lack of faith in themselves.”
We’re going to talk about the benefits of freelancing, developing your skills and profitability through time tracking.
What do you love most about being a freelancer?
I think each person has a different reason for going into business for themselves. For some it’s growth or a specific income or solving a specific problem. For me, it’s my time. What I love about my job is that I can make enough to support myself, doing something that I (usually) love, but can also get a good night’s sleep, ride my bike, exercise, and get out and experience life.
What’s held you back as a freelancer, and how have you overcome it?
Many freelancers are held back by a combination of lack of skills, lack of connections and lack of faith in themselves. For the first two, in addition to reading and upping my skill game through practice, I’ve definitely plunged headfirst into learning and networking through my involvement with WordCamps, Meetups, the AIGA and recently Girl Develop It, as well as the many Slack groups, Twitter and other community conversations. Approaching networking from a position of genuinely wanting to help, rather than trying to sell, will pay back times one thousand.
For that last one, that is always the struggle isn’t it? Surrounding yourself with a supportive community helps a lot, which I think WordPress definitely has going for it. People can help be your cheerleaders.
What are some things you’ve done to improve your profitability as a freelancer?
Obsessive time tracking, for one. I spent two years tracking every single work-related thing, billable or not. That included calls, emails, volunteer time, meetups, travel, you name it. That gave me a lot of data about how I generally spend my time and what percentage of my time doing “work” I actually get paid for. Now I am able to target a certain amount of billable hours per week (generally 20) which gets me the income I want, and balance the non-billable work around that. It also lets me see if my life is tilting too far in one direction or the other (too much billable work or not enough or lots of time working on non-billables).
The other is just working smarter to own my time, set client expectations and not be a slave to other people. Keeping my rates competitive, raising them and quoting accordingly, not trying to outbid people on price and remaining firm with my own value.