Freelancer to Founder in Six Months

WARNING: Slightly long read ahead.

Like many crazy stories, mine began with a messy break up.

After a rough ride, I stepped down from a food startup that I co-founded. It was a difficult decision but one that I had to make. The whole it’s not you, it’s me sorta thing. This freedom however came with a price: loads of free time and no income. While I did have other projects ongoing, none of them would allow me to sustain myself. So with zero experience and not a single client to my name, I did the unthinkable.

I became a freelancer.

SEPTEMBER 2016
I had no leverage, no credentials. The desire was there but the portfolio was missing. Why would anyone hire me? The solution I had was a little extreme but it made the most sense.

I had to do work for free.

I posted on Facebook groups looking for businesses interested in a marketing audit. No costs on their part and an opportunity to build my portfolio. Win-win! After my initial posting, I had about 12 people sign up for my service. For one month, I did research, crunched data, and gave a plan of action all for free.

The output I gave provided much-needed clarity on the opportunities these businesses could grab. The report was my way in.

OCTOBER
Of the 12 who signed up, 3 of them became my first paying clients. They hired me until the end of the year to help keep their marketing teams in check. My job was to create strategies but I ended up doing more than I bargained for.

Their teams simply could not execute the plans I had set. Out of necessity, I became a one-man agency. I started running my first Facebook ads, creating posters, and writing articles for my clients. I had to do it to prove that my strategies were effective. The weirdest part?

I enjoyed it. I really did.

NOVEMBER
I now understood clearly why so many enjoyed the freelancer life.

I was doing work that I found exciting, I was running my own pace. Heck, I worked in my boxers for a good part of the week. This balance allowed me to do as much extra learning as I could possibly absorb. It was the most enthusiastic I have been in a long time. I felt so alive.

DECEMBER
The holidays rolled in and I was on cloud nine. I talked to family and friends about what I did with so much pride. It also felt fulfilling spending money I had earned myself. It wasn’t from an investor or a boss or my parents. It was mine. There was something oddly dignifying about that.

I had one final meeting with my clients to help them wrap up the year. They gave me great feedback and expressed a lot of excitement to have me back again after our contract is done. Merry Christmas indeed!

JANUARY 2017
I came into the start of the year with so much energy. I was ready go. I didn’t think anything could stop my progress.

Then it all came crashing down a week into the new year.

My contracts with my clients all ended and none of them would renew. They all cited financial reasons that made it difficult to get me again. I took it with no hard feelings but then I suddenly found myself earning nothing. It was quite the blow to my confidence.

When I locked in my clients a few months back, I stopped looking for new ones. I worked under the assumption that if I do good enough work, they would keep me long-term. I did not take into consideration the possibility of them ever ending our engagement. Idiot.

It was quite difficult staying optimistic the rest of the month. I struggled to decide on any sort of plan since I had no leads.

Should I look for job orders online? Should I offer free services again?

The uncertainty was crippling but in it I found clarity.

I realized that everything I had done at that point was all about financial gain. While there is nothing wrong with making a profit, it felt off to work solely just for that. It was quite humbling actually to catch myself just trying to make money and not really trying to solve a problem. The realization came with the decision to search for opportunities to not only be outsourced work but provide clients with the spark they needed. I had to focus on solving problems for others and letting the money follow.

I would spend the remainder of the month talking to business owners and finding the gaps I could fill in with marketing. I realized that quite a number of businesses had the same problems — they lacked the attitude and the knowledge to go digital.

I found my opening.

I put all my efforts now in building frameworks and a process I could use to help businesses embrace the online space. It went beyond just a Facebook ad. I wanted to help more businesses become digital leaders in their own right.

Before the month ended, I was given my big break. I was referred to a client who, at the time, was a tenant in Acceler8 Coworking. I got the chance to pitch to them with a renewed sense of purpose and a better grasp on how I can solve business problems with marketing.

After a couple of meetings, I won the account. I was back on track.

(Note: I’m also happy to say that this client is still with me a year later!)

FEBRUARY
When it rains, it pours. It happens for the bad days. It happens for the good days too.

I ended up landing a couple of more accounts — all referrals from people whom I told about my newly-discovered desire to help businesses go digital. It got to the point where I was onboarding too many clients. More than I could handle alone.

At that point, I had two options. Scale down my efforts so I can retain the quality of my work or go all-in with my vision of helping businesses.

The decision was too easy. Huskee Digital was born.

JUST THE BEGINNING
My time as a freelancer will always serve as a reminder that there are bigger things than making money. The insights I got working so close to my clients is invaluable. It will continue to be the foundation of the success that is yet to come.

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