If you’ve often wondered how other people structure their freelancing lives and what on earth got them into running their own business in the first place, you’re in the right place for a good old snoop around.
This Friday, Hayley Williams of Keystone Marketing gives us her insight into the world of freelancing, balancing multiple clients with family life, this inspiring freelancer tells us how she came to run her own business and discusses creating any location around her into a makeshift office… because she can!
So, first of all, give us a mini bio and tell us something we won’t know about you!
Hi there, I’m Hayley Williams, owner of Keystone Marketing, based in St Neots – working with a variety of businesses to establish or increase marketing and communications activity. I’m really passionate about marketing and what it can achieve for businesses and am loving being able to demonstrate this each and every day in my freelance work.
Something you won’t know about me? I share my name with the lead singer of a popular American rock band called Paramore but that’s where the similarity ends – I can’t hold a tune and don’t have 3.9 million followers on Twitter!
How long have you been running your business and what got you started?
I’m just over a year in as a full time business owner and freelance marketer. I actually established the business a few years ago to support businesses outside of my main employment as Head of External Relations for a not for profit organisation, but having been made redundant last summer, I felt that it was the right time to launch Keystone officially!
Did you launch straight into your business idea or did you spend time planning, training or even worrying before you got kicking?
Running my own business full time was something that had always been in my mind, as I really believed in freelance marketing services from the businesses I saw and worked with throughout my employed career. I suppose as I already had the business established, you could stay I jumped straight in. But I will admit that it was still a learning curve and it took some time to feel comfortable working in the business and how best to present it.
Tell us about your typical working day – Are you an early bird or do you tend to work throughout the night?
Working for multiple clients means I have to be really organised and structured with my time, dedicating clear hours/days to each project. I wouldn’t say I’m naturally an early riser but the four year old and two year old are, so after an hour of negotiating with them to get dressed and get shoes on, it’s off to nursery before usually starting the day into the office, turning on the computer (and the kettle!) by 8.30am. I’m either out and about in meetings or tapping away progressing projects on the computer until around 5.30pm…but I also find myself logging on in the evening to keep on top of emails when I need to.
What’s your biggest challenge as a freelancer?
Giving the business itself a little TLC and attention is the hardest thing for me. Clients come first, but sometimes there’s not enough time to get my other jobs done too – like accounting, maintaining my own online presence and sorting out my expenses claims.
And what’s the best element of being your own boss?
Do I have to choose just one?! All in all, I’d say the freedom. It is so rewarding to be able to work for myself. The business is wholeheartedly my responsibility, injected with my ideas and plans – and I am building something up that I am really proud of and excited by.
How do you manage a good work/life balance (or do you struggle with this at all)?
Every week is different – the nature of the work I do is that campaigns can become quite intensive in the build up to a launch or event, and if that happens with more than one project, and for different clients, it can be a challenge. I can honestly say I don’t mind working late into the night or setting the alarm very early in the morning if I need to. I like to see a project all come together and I get a real buzz from being busy and seeing the impact I can make. It is important to take a break from it though, it’s amazing how much more refreshed I feel, or how I can see things so much more clearly after a night away from the computer and not checking those email notifications on my phone.
Where do you work from and do you co-work at all?
The beauty of the work I do as a freelance marketer means that, in many cases, I can work anywhere. I often base myself at customer sites to manage activity in house or to contribute to team meetings, I fire up the laptop after a networking event to check in remotely and I also have a lovely home office tucked away looking out onto the garden. I would like to co-work but it’s an option that’s not on offer in St Neots – but I think it offers such huge benefits – so I’m keeping my eye out!
Do you allow yourself a regular break for coffee, exercise or lunch?
Every day is different, depending on the work I’m doing. Getting away from the computer is so important though so I do try to stretch my legs every now and then – often when the printer is whirring away with content that I need to proofread. I have to print things out, I can’t approve text on screen.
Are there any apps/tools/gadgets/people that you just couldn’t work without?
As the business develops, I’m finding I’m using more and more tools to support me. I use Google Drive for all my files, a cloud based server, meaning I can access files anywhere (and so can my clients) and Hootsuite helps me to maintain that online presence I struggle with my scheduling all my content for me. But more than anything else, I have to admit, the most valuable tool to me is a pen and paper – to do lists are everything to me.
We would love to hear your thoughts on “networking” – do you go to any regular events or meet ups to meet other freelancers?
I get myself out and about to local networking events when workload allows. It could have felt a bit isolating setting up a new business on my own, but there is so much peer support from attending networking events, especially in those that I now go to as a regular visitor – I am starting to build some really great relationships.
That’s probably the best part of it for me, not about finding business, just about meeting people. I love a chat and find it so inspiring to meet other professionals and business owners. It’s not just face to face though – online networking has its place as well. Social media is a fantastic tool for me as an individual whilst I’m sat in my home office and it has the added bonus of raising awareness of my business too.
What essential advice would you give to anyone thinking of becoming a freelancer?
Give it a go, at the very least, it’ll be a huge learning experience. Many new businesses start up in evenings and weekends around other work commitments to make sure it’s viable and the reality of running a business sits comfortably. But do ask for help – there are lots of business support organisation out there that can offer support, advice and training.
Anything else you would like to add or share?
I’d like to mention Destination Digital – and encourage any businesses in Cambridgeshire to take a look at this portfolio of free advice and grants to encourage businesses to utilise digital technology. The grant funding is something I’ve been able to take advantage of and I think lots of other businesses could too.
How can we find you online (and offline)?
Hayley Williams, Keystone Marketing
M: 07974 135072
Thanks so much Hayley for taking part in our Freelancer Friday series, if you would like to put yourself (or somebody else worthy of being featured) forward, let’s talk!