“The Communication Stylist” by day, proud military wife and toddler mom by night, Nikki Elledge Brown is a fun-loving communication expert who helps bright entrepreneurs attract their dream clients, one brilliant message at a time.
I’ve followed along with Nikki’s journey, seeing how she started and how her business exploded in less than a year (with no website!). There is a lot to learn from her story, I hope you will enjoy!
What kind of freelancing do you do and how did you get started? Tell us your story and how you decided what kind of freelancing to do.
For as long as I can remember, communication has been “my thing.” Through grad school and beyond, I spent nearly 2000 hours teaching it at the college level – writing, public speaking, and the social science behind it all.
Not surprisingly, when I was inspired to start a business back in early 2013, all signs pointed back to communication – sharing my love for connecting words + people in a smart, authentic way.
I describe myself as “The Communication Stylist” because much like a stylist-stylist helps her clients find the perfect wardrobe to showcase the very best versions of who they are, I help my clients find the perfect words to showcase the very best of what they have to offer. It’s a pretty sweet gig.
I sincerely believe that if it has to do with words and people, I can help. I work with clients on crafting copy, developing confidence in public speaking, creating offers that make SENSE (and make money), and refining overall brand strategy. Due to my unconventional launch story, I also get a lot of Qs on the how-tos of building an online business. I’m only six months in, but I’m more than happy to share what I’ve learned so far!
Whatever I do, my goal is to help bright entrepreneurs attract their dream clients, one brilliant message at a time. By mastering their own unique brands of smart, authentic communication, they can build businesses that are more fun AND more profitable. (And isn’t that what we ALL want?!)
Are you freelancing full-time or on the side? Tell us a little bit about it.
Both. My part-time schedule is as full-time as I want to be at the moment.
I’m a proud military wife and toddler mom. We’re in a fortunate position not to NEED my income to support our lifestyle. I work because I want to, and I only want to as long as I can be home with my little guy most days of the week.
Ideally I can get my work done during his naptimes, after bedtime, or when he’s at daycare two to three days each week. Sometimes work sneaks into family time, but I’m trying to get better about that! (It just doesn’t feel like “work,” so it’s hard to turn it off. I consider that a good thing.)
How long did you freelance on the side before you made the jump?
I didn’t hold onto my two part-time jobs for long once I launched my business in April 2013. I was working more for personal + professional fulfillment than for finances, so it was a matter of where I wanted to spend my time and energy.
I was an online faculty member for University of Phoenix for almost five years, but I finished facilitating my last class in May 2013. After serving three years at WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument (home of the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor), I hung up my big ol’ park ranger hat in July 2013. It’s the end of an era, but it’s also the start of a very exciting new one!
What is your favorite part of working for yourself?
Flexibility! Normally I don’t travel this much, but in the past couple of months I’ve been in Hawaii, Texas, Germany, the Czech Republic, England, Massachusetts, and now Connecticut. It’s crazy to me that as long as I’ve got my laptop and wifi access, I don’t even need an out-of-office message. Love that.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome in working for yourself?
Time management for SURE. I can be very easily distracted, especially by social media. When it comes to productivity, Facebook is my frenemy.
Most of my clients + readers come from Facebook traffic at this point, so meeting and greeting on there can be a VERY a productive way for me to spend my time. That said, I can also waste redonkulous amounts of time just scrolling down to see what friends, fam, and peers are up to lately. That’s fine (and important to me!), but not when I’m trying to get stuff done for my business.
When I’m serious about tackling that issue, I can just turn off my wifi, set a timer, and…when I’m REALLY serious about it…I may even delete the app from my iPhone. (I’m just not there yet :))
Walk us through your typical workday.
My favorite way to start the day is to wake up early (before my guys) to have some quiet time and do a daily devotional. To be honest, with all this travel, that hasn’t been happening lately. BUT when it DOES, it’s magical. When I commit to those regular “staff meetings,” I have the most productive and profitable weeks of my business – no question.
As I referenced before, we’re pretty flexible. I don’t have a typical workDAY. I get my work done at odd hours – usually during my son’s naptimes or after he goes to bed around 8pm each night.
In a given work HOUR, I could be doing any of the following:
Consulting: I hold my Power Hour Style Sessions on “school days.” During my summer-long launch party, I held up to four or five one-hour sessions per day, up to three days per week. It was fantastic. (And slightly insane.) In “phase II,” I’m only offering a couple of sessions per week to open up more time for content creation and bigger projects. I love working one-on-one with my dream clients and will continue that for the indefinite future, but the change of pace has been refreshing!
Communicating: I also spend a good amount of time engaging with my “tribe” by reading and responding to emails, updating social media, and sharing content. I like taking time to answer client Qs, respond to any inquiries from my site, and engage in the comments on my blog and social media posts. That’s fun for me!
Creating: When I’m not doing either of the above, I’m outlining, creating, and/or polishing “bigger” content. Could be for my blog, for my upcoming course, or for online interviews + profiles like this one. Actual content creation is the most challenging AND the most valuable piece of the puzzle for me at this point.
What advice would you give to someone a few steps behind you in their freelancing entrepreneurial journey?
1. Do it. Don’t make excuses for why you can’t. Just do it! What’s that quote? “A year from now, you’ll wish you’d started TODAY.” Whether it’s putting out your first offer, writing content for your site, or making a few new contacts, just DO IT. (And if it helps, repeat after me: It doesn’t need to be perfect; it just needs to be shared.)
2. Do it YOUR WAY. It’s good to be aware of “the competitive landscape” and to know your market. Sure. BUT. Once you know the basics, put your blinders on and do YOUR thing. Pretend like nobody’s ever done this before (because truly, nobody’s ever done this YOUR way)! In your copy, in your design, and in the way you present your offers, be 100% yourself. As an up-and-coming leader in your industry, you don’t want to follow the trends; you want to SET them. The only way to do that is to be original.
Nikki created her free guide, The Conversational Copy Cheat Sheet, to help you write copy that sounds like YOU. Click to grab your free copy here! You can also follow Nikki on twitter @nikkielledge or hang out with her on Facebook.