Today, let’s meet Sandra West! Sandra is one of the leading freelancers at FreeUp with expert-level skills in freelance digital marketing, graphic design, and web design.
Sandra has been freelance marketing on FreeUp for nearly two years… Let’s take a look at what makes her shine in this freelancer spotlight!
Growing up as a military brat, I’ve lived all over the US. I now reside in Boone, North Carolina in the heart of Appalachia. I absolutely love it here in the mountains. I’m a nature lover and feel most at home when I’m surrounded by trees.
My pastimes revolve around hiking, camping, music, art, and family. Health, both mental and physical, is very important to me. My daily routine begins with exercise and meditation, without it I’m less focused and my day feels chaotic.
My family is by far the most important thing to me. I have two grown daughters, 18 & 20, with whom I am quite close. The youngest still lives at home. My fiancé is my best friend and business partner, I couldn’t imagine life without him. We’re a close-knit household and enjoy playing music together and just relaxing at home most weekends.
My primary skill sets are graphic design, web design, and marketing. I began my freelance career over twenty years ago in commercial art and print advertising. Shortly thereafter I began learning web design.
I have always been a writer and over the years I learned copy writing and then began to branch into digital marketing about 10 years ago. I began freelancing primarily because I had kids at home and needed flexible work that allowed me to be a mom first.
I was able to be present for the important moments and family time, as well as to home school my children. Eventually, as the kids became self-sufficient, freelancing became a way to build my own brand and business, as well as financial stability.
Over the past two decades, I have steadily invested time and money into improving my skills and staying on top of the latest trends and technology in graphic design, web design, and marketing. My knowledge of branding and marketing allowed me to set my own business up for success while helping my clients succeed in their goals.
Currently, I co-own a marketing consultancy, Ex Machina Marketing. I also run a branding and design business, Bella Strega Design. In addition to building both businesses, I do freelance/contract work through FreeUp.
I do work long hours some days to juggle all my goals, but I also get to set my own time off to make up for those days. My fiancé, youngest daughter, and I work together so it’s nice to be able to coordinate our vacations and plan times when we can all get away at once.
What I love about FreeUp is the sense of community and amazing customer service. I feel like I know many of the FreeUp staffers well and can reach out if I need anything. I have confidence that any issues I encounter will be handled promptly and professionally, and I genuinely feel heard when I provide feedback.
I work through a few other platforms, all of them are impersonal and lacking in customer service. FreeUp has created a wonderful environment for freelancers to thrive and communicate with one another while landing clients they can trust and build long-term relationships with.
The most important things I have learned from freelancing are surprisingly not ‘skills’ but lessons. First, money is freedom, but money is an end, not a means. You must focus on your passions, your work, and building your skills.
The money will come as a result of putting in the time and effort. If you focus all your attention on the money, your business will not grow. Second, do not be afraid to set boundaries and maintain them.
You may be tempted to take any job for any hourly rate when work is slow, but that will hurt your growth and professional image. You must set a rate you will not go below, a limit to the hours you will work, and most importantly you must set principles for yourself on how you want to be viewed as a business professional.
Finally, aim high! One of my favorite sayings is “Dream big. You can’t build a roadmap if you don’t know where you’re going.” What I mean by that is do not be afraid to set big future goals, even ones that others may view as unachievable.
If you want to make a million dollars in the next 5 years, great! That can be the goal you are working toward. Then set your yearly goals for years 1 through 4, and plan out how you can reach them.
The key to success in all freelancing is balance. You must strike a balance between work life and personal life. You must balance your own professional goals with the goals you achieve for clients.
Building good relationships with your clients is essential, but you also need to set boundaries and ensure your kindness is not exploited. Many freelancers are tempted to work long hours once they see the money start coming in, this leads to an imbalance in their personal life and can negatively impact mental health (and physical health).
To avoid burnout, you should set a schedule and balance your working hours with hours for rest, play, and socialization. As for client success, in both marketing and design I would say the key is knowing your audience. Everything you create, from websites to ads, to product packaging must appeal to the optimal target audience or it will not succeed.
Your client may have the best on-trend school supplies for teen girls. However, if the branding, design, and marketing are styled around professional office supplies the products will not sell. It is essential that you ensure each client has a clear understanding of their correct target audience before proceeding with design and marketing efforts. Personally, I require an onboarding period where I do some research myself to verify correct targeting before beginning work.
I keep my initial interviews short and to the point. I provide a brief rundown of my work history, experience, and relevant skillsets.
I ask the client to provide information on their business, their current project, and the history of that project. For instance, if I am being hired to handle social media marketing, I need to know what they have tried in the past. Establishing what has worked and what has not, as well as the current budget & goals is usually my focus.
I also take time to explain how I bill, what I bill for, and how communication will be handled. Many clients will try to use initial interviews to ask strategy-based questions, which I do not allow. I am always happy to give examples of past projects, or an overview of client success stories, but strategy is one of the things I am paid to do that has no place in a free interview.
Set clear boundaries. I find it is best to set boundaries like those mentioned above during the interview. That way there are no surprises. My clients come into the working relationship understanding how we will work together and knowing what to expect when it comes to billing.
Maintain a portfolio. I have an ample supply of samples for all types of work and industries, and I am happy to do paid trial period projects. However, I do not do free ‘test projects.’ Having a good portfolio to showcase your work will help streamline the interview process as well.
Be clear about your work hours. I make it very clear that I set my own hours. This is a boundary I created for myself to be able to balance work and home life. I am always happy to accommodate scheduled meetings.
However, I do my design and marketing work on my own time and finish by any designated deadline. You may choose to work a set schedule for a client, if you do, be firm about those times. If a client asks you to work 9 am – 5 pm, don’t make a habit out of working much later and showing up for 8 am meetings. These are necessary boundaries to build good working relationships and avoid burnout!
Define clear scopes to projects. This is one of the most frequently overlooked, and most important parts of freelancing. Make sure to detail everything that is included in your quoted hours/price and everything that is NOT included (don’t forget to cap revisions). Scope creep can be a huge source of lost income and contribute to burnout.
Create clear proposals. Along the same lines as scope creep, you should make sure all the project details are documented properly in a written proposal. This proposal should include not only the scope, but the timeline, any assets you need access to, methods for communicating, and anything else essential to the completion of the project. This helps both the client and you to be certain of the process and outcome.
Maintain realistic expectations. As a professional, it is your job to create and maintain realistic expectations for your clients. If a client comes into a project requesting or expecting results you know are unlikely to be achieved, correct them.
Similarly, do not promise results you are not certain you can deliver. It is perfectly fine to discuss best-case scenarios or give examples of past successes, but you should balance these with the reality that your client may not see those same results.
This is incredibly important when you are handling only one piece of the puzzle, so to speak. If, for instance, you are setting up a client’s emails but you have no involvement in the lead generation that will build the lists, you cannot guarantee any results.
Communicate. Communicate with your client regularly about what has been completed, what is left to be done, and ask for feedback. Be open to constructive criticism but set boundaries on revisions/adjustments. Communicate with other team members if you are part of a team.
This is essential to project success when large teams are handling various sections of a project. Lastly, communicate with FreeUp! The staff is incredibly helpful and always happy to help whether you have an issue, a question, or just need help with your pitch.
Be nice! Always assume positive intent when dealing with anyone professionally. No harm can come from replying politely to a message that may sound rude. Sometimes people can’t convey things properly when writing/typing, and sometimes they are just having a bad day!
One of my favorite quotes is “Act well your part, there all the honor lies.” I grew up hearing this from my grandmother as something her father, my great grandfather, taught her (technically it’s an Alexander Pope quote from the 1700s). I can honestly say it has been a guiding principle for my entire life and has never steered me wrong. Just do your best to be kind, it will always turn out better than being rude or spiteful.
Client success story: In May of 2020 I began work with a client in the coaching niche. She had been doing executive coaching for years and was working toward building her brand.
I initially took on a project to design her new logos and branding. Over time, the scope of our projects expanded to include web design, marketing, and a lot of asset creation.
I have been involved in building her brand and supporting the growth of Cross Impact Coaching for about 20 months now. It has been an absolute joy working with Betsy and helping to expand the team from just her, a VA, and myself to a team of 7 coaches and multiple support staff. We have built a fantastic relationship and can be quite open and honest with opinions and criticism, which makes workflow smooth.
Most importantly for her, she has been able to increase both her number of clients and the company’s revenue exponentially. I am looking forward to continuing my work with Cross Impact and helping take the company to new heights in 2022.
Being a freelance Digital Marketing Freelancer is simple with FreeUp.
Sandra West is a shining example of what a freelancer can become on the FreeUp Marketplace. Whether you are interested in Graphic Design, Digital Marketing, or any other skillset inbetween FreeUp can help make your dreams a reality!
If you are considering virtual assistant jobs on FreeUp Marketplace we have a tip for you…Get comfortable with the tools of the trade! Tools like Asana and Trello are incredibly useful for freelancers trying to stay organized and communicative with clients, so don’t forget to brush up on your skills today!
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