So excited to welcome my online friend and colleague, Amanda Klausmeier! She’s on the blog today to tell us how she made the leap from corporate and how niching down her target market resulted in a 40% increase in sales.
I LOVE stories like this and I know a lot of us struggle with trying to market to everyone in our businesses, afraid that niching down will result in less opportunities for work. So I found this incredibly useful and I hope you do to!
Take It Away Amanda!
What kind of freelancing do you do and how did you get started?
My career as a freelance web designer + developer began shortly after I realized I was spending too much time daydreaming about leaving my full-time corporate job as an in-house designer and zero time implementing those dreams. Looking back, it seems that the moment I switched my mindset to, “Okay, I’m going to take the leap and leave this job after I have X amount of dollars in my savings” and started making plans and baby steps toward my dream, the Universe took over. I was part of a mass layoff. I was terrified but so damn excited at the same time. I knew this was my chance, I just got a big push in the direction of my dreams and I wasn’t going to let it pass by.
I freelanced throughout college part-time so I wasn’t new to the idea but I was very comfortable with my salary and not so comfortable saying goodbye to that steady and sizeable paycheck. But I have been so grateful for the experience of getting laid off ever since. The Universe knew I needed that push. I asked and I received.
I immediately started reaching out to smaller, successful agencies and fellow freelancers within my local area mainly to learn from them on how they got started and what made freelancing successful for them. What soon happened was they were referring clients to me and filling my client roster… an unexpected benefit of networking with others in my industry.
These clients were all over the map as far as the type of industry they were in. The only thing they had in common was they were small businesses. At the end of that first year I evaluated which clients were easy to work with, which ones I enjoyed working with the most, etc. What rang most true for me was that I really enjoyed working with other women who had values and personality traits similar to myself.
They were mostly strong, independent women who were introspective, socially + environmentally conscious and in their early 30’s – late 40’s.
I dove headfirst into saying yes to more clients like this and saying no to those who weren’t, even when I didn’t have another client on the books. But guess what? I survived all of 2013 by doing this and I made more money than the year before… 40% more. I let my heart and intuition guide me and it has not steered me wrong. This gets a little tricky to explain because I’m not diving into one specific niche or industry, it’s more of a target market (women in their 30’s + 40’s) and then narrowed down by similar values + personalities (introspective, socially + environmentally conscious).
Are you freelancing full-time or on the side?
Full-time and can’t imagine doing anything other than freelancing. I try to stick to a typical schedule of Monday – Friday, 8am-6pm BUT I allow myself the flexibility to take time off when needed or have lunch with other freelancers in my local area.
How long did you freelance on the side before you made the jump?
I freelanced part-time on the side from the time I started college. Once I finished my degree I went into the corporate world and didn’t seek new freelance clients but I did keep a handful throughout my corporate years. So on the side, about 6 years.
What is your favorite part of working for yourself?
This one is two-fold.
I love interacting with other women entrepreneurs and helping them start and grow their own businesses which, in turn, gives them the flexible lifestyle they crave.
I would never give up my own flexible lifestyle. I don’t talk about being a mom very often because I’ve just chosen to keep that part of my life somewhat private but nothing gives me more joy than simply being there for my kids and shuffling them around to baseball practices or being able to pick them up when they are sick. In my corporate job this created the most stress for me and that is something I no longer have to worry about.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome in working for yourself?
Allowing the ups and downs of having inconsistent income to just be the “norm.” Once I accepted this, worrying about it became less and less of an issue. I may not book one or two new clients every single month…it may be three in one month and then none for two…but it always evens out. I pay myself a regular paycheck, the same amount every two weeks, so it doesn’t matter if my income comes in bursts because paying myself a regular amount lets it all even out and become stress free.
Walk us through your typical workday.
I’m actually still working on this one! I’d love to create a regular weekly schedule vs. a daily schedule. For example, marketing on Monday and Fridays and client work on Tues-Thursdays, but I’m still working that out.
Right now my days typically look like this:
7am – Wake up with kids, get them fed, ready & off to school
8-8:30am – Some form of body moving, yoga or elliptical
8:30-9am – Breakfast while catching up on emails
9-10am – Reading business + marketing + design related blogs (or books)
10am-1pm – Client Work
1:00-1:30 – Lunch at desk while checking emails
1:30-3:00 – Client Work
3:00-3:30 – Walk to kids school to pick them up and back home for a snack (chatting about their day along the way)
4:00-6:00 – Client Work and Admin tasks (such as invoicing) to wrap up the day.
I probably work longer days than I did at my corporate job but I love what I do so it doesn’t bother me and it allows me to take a lot of time off for vacations, like a three-week long trip to see my mom in Germany and taking time off when the kids are on their holiday breaks. Also nights + weekends are off-limits for me… that is strictly family time.
What advice would you give to someone a few steps behind you in their freelancing entrepreneurial journey?
Know who you’re working for and why you want to help that specific tribe of people. That knowledge guides you in all aspects of your business. It’s your foundation and helps you with everything from what projects to add to your portfolio to what to blog about. Everything you put out into the world attracts the type of client you desire to work with. TWEET THAT!
Also, never be afraid to network with others in your industry. I promise they are NOT your competition. Make it a point to meet one new freelancer every month in your same industry that is maybe a few steps ahead of you. Their experience + knowledge is priceless.
Amanda Klausmeier is a web designer + online strategist for the modern woman entrepreneur specializing in results-oriented websites. Learn more about Amanda and her business, Paper & Crush and connect on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.
Let us know…
in comments if you have any questions for Amanda about her transition to freelancing. I know a lot of you are hoping to escape corporate, and since she has experienced it first-hand, maybe she can help you with something that’s holding you back!