Freelancing as a concept might not be new to most of us, but it can seem foreign at the same time.
After all, the “conventional” path is to study hard in school, graduate with good grades, and find a promising job in an established firm.
When we hear stories of freelancers striking out on their own, we often have questions such as:
To address these questions, we spoke to a freelance Facebook and Google Ads Specialist, Faye Chuah. She has been freelancing for over a year now, and has taken up freelancing full-time after her graduation in 2019.
In this article, we delve into the start of her freelance journey, how it came to be, and tips on how you can start on freelance work as well.
Faye’s freelancing journey started from a deep passion for digital marketing.
To understand her story, let us trace back to when she first started her love for digital marketing.
The Open Day: You seem to have a lot of interest in digital marketing. Share more about what sparked your interest in this.
It stemmed from a general interest in marketing! When I was in JC, I naively thought that marketing was all about executing creative and witty ad ideas, or planning glamorous launch events. So that led me to choosing to do a Business degree when I enrolled in university.
In addition, I continually sought out internships that allowed me to gain an experience in the field of digital marketing. So this was where I was able to be really specific in terms of what I wanted to take on, and I chose internships that allowed me to have a hands-on experience with Facebook and Google Ads.
I soon came to realise how wrong I was about marketing but also how important it is in running a successful business. So that became the new motivation that continued to fuel my interest. As I explored various aspects of marketing I came to love how technical and data-driven performance marketing is and have been in this field ever since.
The Open Day: What do you enjoy most about digital marketing?
I can’t speak for other aspects of digital marketing, but what I enjoy most about performance marketing would be the constant tinkering and iterating with your campaigns after breaking down and analyzing them.
And of course the moments when you see that your ideas and execution has led to great results! Although I would say the converse still frightens me slightly even today. But that’s part of the fun too - being upfront that the campaign isn’t performing as well as it should be, and what can be done to improve it after you’ve analyzed the results.
The Open Day: When did you first decide on doing freelancing full-time? Why did you choose to freelance over going the conventional path of finding a full time job?
I can’t really pinpoint an exact moment or day when there was a trigger and I decided on doing freelancing full-time. It was more of a natural progression as graduation loomed. Doing it part-time in my last semester really helped this transition to full-time less intimidating and much more achievable.
When starting freelancing full-time, I initially gave myself 6 months to see if I could make it sustainable. After sending cold-emails for 2 months, things started to look better with a handful of new clients and it was then where I felt more confident about being able to do this full-time.
One of the major reasons in choosing to freelance is the sense of ownership that I'll have from my work as a freelancer. Through past internship experiences, I’ve experienced how this sense of work ownership is a huge factor in pushing me to excel in my job. While a full-time job can provide some ownership, being a freelancer certainly ensures that the ownership will always be at the maximum.
Faye has come a long way since she first started.
In this next section, Faye shares more about her joys and struggles when taking her freelancing journey full-time.
If you are on the fence about freelancing, this section might be of value to you.
The Open Day: As you transitioned from freelancing part-time to a full-time basis, how have things changed for you?
One of the things that have changed for me is my mindset. When I was in university, I viewed freelancing as a good supplement to my pocket money. Now, I had to view it, literally, as my ‘rice bowl’. Thus the attitude and amount of effort required has totally changed given that I am now building this as my career instead of an income supplement.
Something that would be more day-to-day would definitely be learning how to juggle between multiple clients instead of just 1 when I was doing it part-time. When there are several timelines running concurrently, it can be easy to drop the ball. Jotting down tasks immediately as they come and planning my schedule ahead definitely helps in maintaining the service and professionalism provided despite having to juggle between clients.
The Open Day: What were some of the challenges you initially faced?
The challenge was definitely at the very beginning where I had to find clients from scratch. And that meant sending out countless cold emails and having to keep at it when almost nobody replied. It’s certainly not glamorous and sometimes it made me think if I was wasting my time.
Other challenges also include fully embracing the perks that being a freelancer entails. I know this sounds weird, but for quite some time I would be guilty if I woke up at 9am or took a lunch fitness class all because I would think that I should be working during these ‘working hours’. Over time, I came to realize that one of the motivations to becoming a freelancer was being able to enjoy its perks of flexibility, so it would defeat the purpose if I were to feel guilty over doing so.
The Open Day: What do you think are your biggest takeaways from this year of experience?
I think there are 2 biggest takeaways from this year of experience:
First, your reputation as a freelancer is highly important and it precedes you. A strong work ethic is crucial in building this positive reputation, so that should also be kept in mind.
Second, which ties in with my previous response above, you never know who in your network can end up helping you. So be kind to everyone you meet and don’t burn bridges!
Faye has now over a year of freelancing experience under her belt.
Looking ahead, we are curious about what advice she would give to aspiring freelancers, and her own future goals.
The Open Day: For someone looking to start freelancing, what are some tips you have for him/her to get started?
It’s bound to be lonely and you’re going to feel insecure that you’re taking the path less travelled. So the best thing you can do would be to seek out fellow freelancers and form meaningful relationships with them!
You’re also going to have to do so many things yourself - business development, marketing, etc. and even more if you choose to incorporate (Think: taxes, accounting and more). So be mentally prepared for the unknown and be ready when the freelancer life throws you curveballs.
But also enjoy the ride! You have your own reasons for wanting to freelance and don’t forget about that when the going gets tough. There are so many perks of being a freelancer so don’t forget to enjoy them too.
Lastly, you really need to be very ‘thick-skinned’ when you’re starting out and trying to get clients. But that’s the fact - if you don’t sell your services, nobody will.
The Open Day: What are some of your future goals?
My personal career goal would be to be at a level where I’m fortunate enough to pick clients whom I’d like to work with. While this sounds rather aloof, the truth is not all clients are easy to work with, or share the same vision as you when it comes to how their ads should be run. And thus being able to pick suitable clients to work with will allow our partnership to be even more fruitful - a win-win situation.
One of my life goals would be to live in different cities, each for an extended period of time to experience the city as a local. Another would be to be able to comfortably provide for my parents as they get older.
We had a great time understanding more about Faye’s journey, and freelancing as a possible career path.