Freelancing: My First Year

Akvile DeFazio
October 21st, 2015
Akvile DeFazio

And just like that, it’s been one whole revolution around the sun. Until this past year, I didn’t know exactly what I was capable of and as I sit here writing this, gently smiling, I’m beginning to realize. That doubt I previously had, began fading some time between now and last fall. Adding on to previous experiences, I’ve learned an incredible amount about marketing, advertising, business as a whole, finances, behaviors, other people, and myself, more so than ever before. I’m beyond grateful for the opportunities, experiences, lessons, and relationships that flourished since taking this leap. And as you may recall, the first few months were a wobbly roller-coaster and I’m pleased to say, I think that coaster is headed on the right track. While it’s an ever evolving ride, I look forward to what the next turn brings.

Self Optimization

While working for myself, I’ve discovered things I previously wasn’t as aware of, such as my internal workings, how and when I thrive at certain tasks, what drives me, and at times, what stumps me. It’s been super interesting to become more self aware and how to optimize work based on these realizations. For instance, I’ve realized I perform analytical tasks best in the morning. The earlier, the better. If it involves, numbers, math, Excel, and analysis, bring it on. In addition, while working on analytical tasks, to kick that razor sharp focus up a few notches, just add coffee and minimal to lyric-less music in the headphones. Drum ‘n Bass tends to be optimal. After noon, my creative side takes over and thrives, usually accompanied by music with lyrics such as old school hip hop, deep house, experimental, or jazz. While I can’t control all aspects of how my work days go, I aim to schedule projects during times my mind functions best, respectively to the task.

Fruits of Labor

I’d have to say, my favorite part of my job is that I’ve gotten the opportunity to work with some really unique, interesting, and innovative people, brands, and agencies. Having creative freedom with strategies, campaigns, and recommendations, has made work much more rewarding. Experiencing first hand when a client is pleased is such a thrill. The fruits of your labor can be a delicious thing for many to share. It’s quite special to see a user convert into a happy repeat customer, which in turn creates a gratified client. That, right there, is why I do what I do. In and outside of my professional life, I find joy in introducing and getting people excited about things that may be useful, helpful, or could better their lives, be it an experience, a service, or a product. Looking at it holistically, the transition into this line of work over the last six to seven years, now seems natural.

Growing Pains

Though, like with everything, there are victories and there are struggles. While taking the leap to work for myself has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, it wasn’t all easy. Going out on your own is a big life changing decision in itself, which that took me several years, a plan, and plenty of encouragement from others to finally do. It can be quite intimidating, stressful, and even scary at times. One of the main hurdles that I had to overcome, especially from day one was determining my value and my worth. While I’ve been in salary negotiations with prior employers, I didn’t have to figure out exactly what my time and expertise were worth to this extent. What value did I provide as a freelancing strategist and consultant? What made me unique? That took some time and in depth evaluation. I remember the first few months, I questioned myself, wondered if I knew what I was doing, certain days I felt like I had no idea what I was doing, and feared failure. After all, this was my passion and my way of making a living. No pressure, right? I encountered a lot of firsts, good and bad, but I’m getting much better at asking the important questions, confidently explaining my value proposition, knowing my worth, and noticing red flags earlier on. There were a few times I overloaded myself thinking I could I could handle it, however I’ve learned that to do my best work, I can’t burn myself out and endure too many consecutive restless nights. It doesn’t do anyone any good. Ebbs and flows will come and go, however, if I can offer up any advice, which I’m still working on myself, is work hard, work smart, do your best, but also take care of yourself.

Goals

Reflecting back on these last 365 days, I wish I would have composed a list of things I would have liked to learn or accomplish in my first year, but I didn’t entirely know what to expect. Now that I have a year under my belt as a full time freelancer, acquired some wisdom, and collected new experiences, I’m going to write a list here for this coming second year so I can check in next October and hold myself accountable, because, well, I put it in writing and what goes on the web, stays on the web whether we like it or not. By this time next year, I plan to achieve the following:

  • Blog more often. It’s not that I don’t want to nor am I lacking things to say, it’s just that long form writing has been a bit of challenge for me. It requires a unique focus, patience, and at times, resilience to overpower writers block. Or perhaps I should just phrase it as; I need more time. My business and personal blogs seem to have moved to the back of the line, which is fine given current priorities, however, I want to and need to make more time. I will aim to write at least one blog post per month from here on out.
  • Get certified. Unless you work at an agency, it’s a bit rare to be asked for certifications in my line of work. For my own knowledge and continual growth as an online marketer, I am going to complete my Google Analytics, Google AdWords, and Bing Ads certifications before the end of this year. While I’m in these platforms every single day, it’ll be good to test myself and I’m sure I’ll learn some new things that I may be able to apply towards future client campaigns and reports.
  • Sometimes, you just “No”. While this is a huge lesson I’ve been learning, particularly over this last year, I have finally realized how powerful and also relieving saying “no” can be. In many instances, it has tied into determining my self worth. While I have been a “yes, you bet, certainly, absolutely, no problem” type of gal my entire life, I am just one person, and while I want to say yes, tackle more projects, take on more responsibilities, and help everyone I can, I’ve encountered situations and realized saying “no” has been much more beneficial for myself and even for the person asking. Over this next year, I am going to continue working on how to balance this word properly as I’ve kept it away from my vernacular for too long. This topic might even turn into one of those blog posts I’m planning go write over the next year. Stay tuned.
  • Excel like the best of them. By one of them, I mean Annie Cushing. When it comes to Microsoft Excel, she is my hero. Over the years, I’ve had a number of opportunities to see her present at conferences and she makes data fun, sexy, and the farthest things from boring. Even to this day, every time I open up Excel, I think of her and get inspired to make clean, insightful, and beautiful reports. While I have a ways to go before I get anywhere near her level of expertise, I will continue building mine, one cell, formula, and pivot table at a time.

Thank you:

I owe a lot of my success to my wonderful friend and mentor, Pamela Lund. I don’t think I can ever thank her enough. In addition to being a seasoned PPC consulting veteran, she truly is a super star and has been nothing short of incredibly encouraging, inspiring, and helpful over the last year, especially in her willingness to teach me the ways of self employment and how to be a better online advertiser. With the caliber of gratitude I have for what Pam has taught me, I hope to some day do the same by sharing my experiences, skills, and lessons as a mentor to someone else.

I also want to thank Susan Wenograd for being tremendously kind and helpful when I hit a wall with Excel earlier this year. Thank you so much for your enthusiasm in offering to spend time teaching me more efficient ways of making Excel work of PPC specific tasks and for helping me take big data deciphering to the next level.

There are dozens of additional friends and family members I want to thank in this post and I don’t want to leave anyone out. I do think it’s safe to say that I have thanked you personally either in person, by phone, video, or via social. I think if I were to list all of your names out, that may end up being a list longer than Sublime’s “Thanx Dub” track at the end of their “40oz. to Freedom album”, which makes me feel incredibly blessed. When it comes down to it, I’ve got a bottomless bowl of gratitude for everyone that has been a part of this journey and allowing me into theirs. Thank you for having my back, reaching out to collaborate and brainstorm, for referring clients, providing encouragement, support, advice, and of course, inducing many smiles along the way. Life; it takes a team.

I look forward to the second year, and assuredly, many more after that. Let’s do this.

Comments (2)


alanbleiweiss

alanbleiweiss (10/21/2015)

Congratulations on the 1st year Akvile! Those of us who have been down this road can well appreciate all you've gone through, and all the "little" victories along the way.

It's no surprise you've listed three of the most intelligent, Type A experts in our industry in this post either - Annie, Pamela and Susan are stellar role models who exemplify the very best in professional success in our industry.

Here's to many more years of your own success!

    Akvile Harlow

    Akvile Harlow (10/21/2015)

    Alan, thank you so much for taking the time to read my post and for the kind words and wishes. We surely do have some wonderful role models in our industry. While many of us work remotely, it's pretty amazing how tightly knit and helpful our search marketing community is. Glad that you are a part of it as well. Thank you for being so encouraging, Alan!

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