I recently sat down with Micala Quinn, a former English teacher who runs Overwhelmed to Overbooked and helps moms launch their own freelancing business. We talked about what steps to take to grow a profitable side hustle. Micala had a wealth of information she gave me during our interview – so much so that I will be breaking it down in two blog posts!
Micala was a high school English teacher for about four years. In her third year of teaching, her daughter was born. Going back to work that year was rough for Micala. She wanted to be a stay at home mom, but it wasn’t feasible with her family’s finances and budget. She started searching for ways to make money from home. I’m sure this story sounds familiar to all of us.
Micala didn’t want low pay. She didn’t want to be stuck at a desk all day. She wanted to be able to go explore and do all the fun things with her daughter. She finally found the answer in freelancing, and she started as a Virtual Assistant/Social Media Manager. Growing her business quickly, she was able to add on more clients, eventually replacing her full time teacher income.
She was able to quit her teaching job. In this process, she found a ton of other moms who had the same frustrations. Micala transitioned to an online course education role to help these moms realize that they too could successfully work from home. She wants to help women discover that it isn’t a black or white choice to be a stay at home mom or a working mom.
Technology and social media have opened up a whole new world, which is helping the freelance economy grow. The opportunity for freelance work will only continue to grow and become more popular. Not only can you work from anywhere, but you can be your own boss.
Step 1: What Do You Want?
The first thing you need to do to get started is to figure out what service you’re going to offer. There are many different options in the freelance industry. You could start as a Virtual Assistant – which is where Micala started. Or, there are social media managers, Pinterest managers, web designers, graphic designers, copywriters, and more. There are so many options.
Micala recommends that you think about what your strengths are, and then see which industry aligns with that. Start with what you’re currently good at or what strengths you currently have. That way, you’re not trying to start a business and learn a new skill at the same time.
It may be hard to see how your current work experience translates to the online space. Break it down, think about the tasks you do and the skills you have, and make a list. Your skills and experience could be valuable in the online space. It doesn’t even have to be all work experience. Perhaps you do something for your friends or family. Look at all the areas of your life to find your talents.
Step 2: Being Visible
To really get going, you will need to work on your visibility. Get out there. Let people know that you offer those services, or that you are selling a product. Tell friends and family. Tell acquaintances. You can even reach out to people who you think may need your services.
Figure out who you want to work with – who would be your ideal client? What type of businesses do they own? Do they have an online business? A local business? Also brainstorm if they are male or female, their age range, what industry they are in, and what are their pain points. You can get very specific with crafting your ideal client. Everything else will build off this.
Start hanging out where they are hanging out. When Micala started out, her ideal client was an online business owner who was also a mom. She found Facebook groups that catered to those types of women, and started “hanging out” in those groups. Spend time engaging with posts in those groups, answer questions, build relationships, and work on becoming the “go-to person” for your type of business.
Step 3: Securing a Client
Once you know what you want to sell, who you want to sell it to, and where they hang out, you are ready to secure a client. This goes back to knowing where your ideal client is hanging out. Facebook groups? Local networking events? Online job boards or forums?
Micala does not recommend places like Upwork for longterm, but it is a good way to get started and build a portfolio. They tend not to be the highest paying, but they can be great for someone who is a beginner.
Do some research to find out where the profitable business owners are hanging out online to network, grow, and learn in their business. Start hanging out in the same group and provide value to those people. Advertise your services when it is appropriate. You can also create a Facebook business page, or an Instagram, or other social media profiles, and advertise yourself that way.
Step 4: Selling Yourself
I know a lot of people are worried about “sounding salesy.” No matter what you’re doing, selling is going to be a part of your business – whether you’re selling products or services. One thing that will really help with your mindset regarding selling is to think of the value you are bringing to the table.
Look at the big picture of the value you provide. Your client is able to pay you $30 an hour to do tasks that they don’t want to do, don’t have the time to do, or don’t have the skills to do. Now they can spend more of their time on areas in their business that will directly generate income. They may use that hour to have a strategy session with one of their clients and make $200.
You are helping them grow their business, and it is important that you realize the true value that you’re bringing to that client. You’re not selling them something – you’re offering them something that can be massively helpful to them. You are helping them out!
When Micala first started her business, she would sometimes hear from potential clients that her rate was too high. They would say, “Oh that’s too much money.” or, “I can’t pay that much – I will just figure out how to do the task myself.” At first, that was hard to handle. Now, Micala is confident in her rates and does not budge. Her tips and strategies are proven to work, and she can help the business owner reach their goals faster. If they want to do it themselves, go for it – but it’s their loss.
You have to be confident in the value you provide. You will find the right clients who are more than willing to pay you what you are asking.
Step 5: Finding the Time
Whether you are a stay at home mom, or you are a working mom building your business on the side, you need to make it a priority. Look at your weekly calendar. Figure out how many hours you have each day to devote to your business, and sketch them in.
Of course, not every week is going to perfectly follow the plan. However, when you have the plan written down in front of you, it’s much easier to stick to it. If it isn’t on the schedule, it doesn’t get done. That’s just the way life works – something else will come up.
So, make your business a priority, follow through with making a plan, and then stick to it. Ask yourself: “Do I want to have a business or do I want to have a hobby?” If it is going to be a business, you have to treat it like one. You have to devote the time, energy, and mental capacity to building a business.
Bonus Step: Build Confidence
One of the things that draws people to the freelancing world is the low startup costs. There is not a whole lot you need to start a freelance business. If you have a phone or a laptop, you’re good to go. There is one thing you absolutely need, and that is confidence.
It’s hard to have confidence when you are getting started because you don’t have experience. There are a couple of different things you can do to build your confidence. Offer to do free work in exchange for a testimonial. This will also help you gain experience, and you can use the work you do to build a portfolio. Also, you never know – this person you are doing work for could turn into an actual paying client down the road. Or, they could refer you to their colleagues.
If you don’t want to do free work, Micala suggests making a “port-fake-lio.” Create a fake client, like your ideal dream client, and do work for them. Whether it be a content calendar for Facebook, a blog post, or social media graphics for Instagram, this will give you examples of work to put into your portfolio. It isn’t work that you’ve done for a client, but it’s work that you could do for someone.
Either way you go, make sure you treat it like it is actual work for actual money. Do your best job and put your best foot forward. The best way to spread word about what you do is through word of mouth and people giving you referrals.
Ready to work with Micala? Check out her signature program, Overwhelmed to Overbooked.