Today we have the opportunity to speak with The founder of Freelance Founders: Carolyn Bothwell. We talked about everything from her journey in freelancing, how to navigate some of the speed bumps that may arise along the way, and how to join or build a community to help you stay on your grind!
Wally: Thanks for spending the time with us today! Let’s start with the easy stuff: What is Freelance Founders and why/how did it start?
Carolyn: Freelance Founders is a digital members-only platform designed for freelancers, by freelancers. It gives top-tier creatives access to business experts, exclusive job opportunities, and a network of like-minded people to maintain their creative freedom, charge their worth, and build financially viable businesses for the long-term.
I started Freelance Founders because I felt like there was a lack of resources out there. While there are some Facebook groups and job board sites geared towards freelances, I struggled to find answers to my questions about the business side of freelancing. And, then, during COVID, I saw so many of my in-house creative friends facing layoffs. I wanted to create a community that felt supportive and would help alleviate some of the fear of freelancing by providing resources from experts and vetted remote jobs.
Wally: Obviously, you’ve built a community around freelancers to help build and support this community. How important is a sense of community among freelancers?
Carolyn: I think community is so important for freelancers. Working by yourself can feel lonely and siloed, so it’s really nice to have friends that understand the day-to-day of freelancing. Sometimes you just need to vent or ask a pricing question, but other times your community can serve as the best source of referrals. As a copywriter, my clients are always looking for designers and developers, so it’s nice to have a freelance directory of vetted talent that I feel comfortable recommending to my clients and vice versa.
Wally: A lot of questions (and risks) can come with being a freelancer. What made you decide to go that route and what things did you do to best prepare yourself for the road that was ahead?
Carolyn: To be honest, I fell into freelancing by accident! I began helping out my team at a previous job on a freelance basis when they were understaffed. And, then one client led to another. I was taking on a lot of freelance work while working full-time at a start-up. And, soon I realized I had enough work to sustain myself as a full-time freelancer. I made the leap a little over three years ago and have never looked back! Before going full-time freelance, I did a lot of research on the business side of freelancing. I set my business up as an LLC, got an EIN, opened a business bank account, met with an accountant. I decided if I was going to go freelance, I was going to “do it right.”
Wally: What is the one thing that you wish you had known before taking the dive into becoming a freelancer?
Carolyn: You don’t have to say yes to every project that comes your way. In the beginning, I really felt like I couldn’t say no to any opportunity, even if I knew it wasn’t a good fit. But, now, I’m much more selective with the projects I take on. I only work with a brand if I would actually be a consumer of their product or service, and I try to find companies that align closely with my personal values.
Wally: With the pandemic, people with a more typical 9-5 are now finding themselves in a routine that is more similar to that of a freelancer. What are some hacks you and other freelancers have found useful to keeping yourself on track and getting through the day?
Carolyn: I’m a morning person. (Annoying, I know.) So, I wake up super early to get my creative work done before I’m constantly interrupted by calls, emails, and Slacks. I think the flexibility of working from home allows you to have the freedom to work when you personally feel most productive.
Wally: I feel like even without a pandemic, navigating things like health and dental insurance can be a real drag regardless of your employment status. Now add to that everything we are faced with today and it is very daunting! What are some tips you have for freelancers who may be feeling lost or overwhelmed when trying to find these things?
Carolyn: Totally! On the bright side, there are so many amazing resources that are being created today for freelancers and self-employed folks. I would definitely recommend checking out Wally, along with Decent and Catch Benefits.
Wally: What tools or resources would you like to see in this regard that you think could help make it easier on the freelance community to either educate themselves on these things or even make sure they’re getting the coverage that makes the most sense for their individual needs?
Carolyn: It’s really helpful to have companies that are specifically serving freelancers. There’s no one-size-fits-all health or dental plan. So, it’s really encouraging to see companies such as Wally popping up!
Wally: We're also noticing people locked out of self-care and wellness sources that they were used to going to. What self-care and wellness tips do you give to your freelance community to help people remain balanced and healthy so they can continue to perform at their best?
Carolyn: Definitely. I think I’m still figuring this one out myself. When you work for yourself, work and life end up meshing together more than you would think. But, I think it’s important to set boundaries with your clients (working hours, preferred methods of communications, etc).
Wally: Finally, what is the one piece of advice you’d give to someone who is about to make the jump and become a freelancer themselves?
Carolyn: Keep learning! Enroll in online courses, read books, listen to podcasts. There are so many great resources out there and they can really help you level-up your freelance game (and charge more!)
Carolyn Bothwell is brand-focused copywriter and strategist that helps bring ideas to life and drive teams forward. She works to craft compelling brand narratives that start meaningful conversations while delivering on her clients’ business goals.