Finding Freelance Success: Jackie’s Story
[Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes, 44 seconds] Freelancing is a career option that has attracted a lot of people. And we say “a lot”, we mean 1.57 billion freelancers on the planet (as of 2023), with 73.3 million of those in the United States.
So, if you’re a freelancer or contemplating this type of career, you’re in plenty of company. And while it can be tricky to figure out, plenty of professionals have—able to draw enough income to make it sustainable.
One of those people is one of our own: AMA Columbus member Jackie Murphy!
Owner of Queen Bee Jackie, she offers social media management and strategy, marketing consulting and creative services for small to medium size businesses–both service providers and product-based brands. She specializes in Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
But that’s not all: she also offers social media coaching, especially for entrepreneurs, real estate professionals, and coaches.
In the Beginning
Jackie wasn’t always a freelancer.
“I have had traditional “steady” jobs in the non-profit, service-based and creative space, but always wanted to own my own business,” she said. “I like variety and problem solving.”
Her first taste of real entrepreneurship was a personalized stationery and paper company, which had a lifetime of 13 years: 2003 through 2016.
“My stationery business was rewarding and I employed friends to help and had a great community, but I didn’t make a lot of money,” she recalled. “I freelanced social media and graphic design projects on the side to supplement my income.”
Eventually, she found herself giving everything to freelancing. And after coming at it from different angles, she finally decided to craft a “very informal” business plan in 2019.
“It included clients I was pursuing, the core services I would offer, time dedicated to various services, and how and when I would invoice them,” she explained. “I decided to seek ongoing retainer clients versus special projects, since I wanted as much predictability with income as I could.”
She put the plan in front of clients, offering a simple proposal and agreement.
“Seeing these, clients took me seriously and I appeared to know what I was doing,” she said. “My systems and processes have evolved since 2019, but transparency, word-of-mouth, networking and telling my community what I do were and still remain critical to my success.”
“Of course, I have to deliver what I say I’m going to as well!” she added.
Start on the Side
For those thinking about freelancing but hung up on how realistic such an endeavor really is, Jackie offers sound advice.
“If you are in a traditional job and can start freelancing on the side, I say go for it!” she said. “Start gaining experience and building your reputation. You have the comfort of the steady paycheck while figuring out your side gig. Consider it research as to what people want or need, how your offering will help, and the value of it.”
Network, Network, Network
She emphasized how critical it is to get the word out about your new freelance business, which includes telling your family, friends, and peers. And, of course, networking is absolutely crucial.
(That’s just one reason why you should attend networking events hosted by AMA Columbus!)
“If you are not talking about it, how can you expect others to spread the word?” she said. “They may not be your clients, but they can be your ambassadors and talk you up. The power of word-of-mouth and timing is huge in business. Period.”
She said as a freelancer, you could have a friend who might be at a party or lunch and hear someone cite a need that you can fulfill. All of a sudden, you have a referral.
Another piece of wisdom from Jackie: Decide if you are seeking more ongoing retainer work or project-based work that has a time limit.
“If it’s ongoing, you’ll need to determine the volume you can handle and keep networking, but the pressure for looking for the next client is less,” she said. “If it’s project-based, you most likely have to continue networking to always fill your pipeline with future potential projects.”
Know Your Worth
Freelancers encounter hurdles, and Jackie is no exception.
“When I started freelancing 100%, I struggled with what to charge and had no routine,” she recalled. “It was very loosy-goosy and I had no consistency with my rates. I didn’t even invoice clients on a timely basis. That sounds ridiculous, but I was uncomfortable charging for my time and skills. My mindset has definitely changed, but it took time.”
In fact, it took her between four and five years to realize her worth.
“Clients stayed with me and I realized what they were willing to pay me because they didn’t have the time, interest or skill to do what I do,” she said.
While she saw potential for her business to grow, she felt “stuck” and wasn’t sure what the next right move was. Her solution? Hiring a business coach who works with social media marketers.
“She helped me implement processes and systems for work efficiency and client communications,” Jackie recalled. “She also worked with me to raise my prices. Having her support has been a game-changer for my business mindset.”
AMA Columbus Can Help Freelancers Succeed
Jackie remains a faithful member of AMA Columbus, which she joined around 2016.
“After the stationery business and freelancing, I had my first traditional job in 16 years at a creative studio,” she said. “I wanted to formally network in a business setting and learn from others.”
An event with AMA Columbus was her first taste of networking, and she admitted to being intimidated at first.
“But the more I went, met people and got to see the same faces, I realized I liked it,” she said. “People were open and not competitive or closed off. I still have great relationships with people I met through AMA and referred business to some. “
And Jackie hopes you’ll be willing to meet her at a future AMA Columbus event.
“I am always open to helping people who want to start a business or start freelancing, especially in the social media, marketing or creative space,” she said.