Welcome to 9 to No Thank You! an interview series with freelancers who kicked their 9 to 5 habit and now kick serious business butt. These inspiring ladies and gents are sharing the stories of their cubicle escape, and giving helpful tips along the way.
Today we’re gonna hear from Erika Madden of Olyvia Media. Erika is a remarkable woman who has built a successful business while raising 3 kids. Her story is incredibly inspiring so prepare to get goosebumps!
Where do you live?
Bozeman, Montana is where I call home. It’s a quaint-but-thriving college town nestled at the base of the Rocky Mountains. I grew up here, moved away for awhile, and then eventually returned to raise my children.
Bozeman truly is an incredible place, but I’m such a wuss when it comes to cold. Me + the winters here are NOT friends.
What do you do? What is Olyvia Media all about?
Well, you could argue that what I do is watch too much Les Mis + eat too much sushi. 😀
(Oh wait, you didn’t want to hear about my movie + food indulgences, did you?)
In a nutshell, what I do is help women entrepreneurs, business owners, and business-minded bloggers look classy + irresistible online (so they can help people adore their brand as much as they do, make great money, and generally be amazing).
I do this on my blog by sharing sleaze-free customer service, reputation, and marketing tips; in my business I work with clients one-on-one to improve their digital presence, both via consulting and by performing audits on their website, social media accounts, and their overall brand reputation.
How long have you been freelancing? What were you doing before?
I first began freelancing about 7 years ago. After my first daughter was born I left my job to stay at home with her; at the same time I called upon my hobby from my high school + college education and began doing odd graphic/web design jobs, as well as offering blogging/social media help for friends, non-profit groups, and small businesses.
(Before this I did what I call a “fun smattering” of things. I was an Office Administrator for a national corporation, a nanny for triplets…I even took a job once ironing table linens for catering rentals.)
It’s hilarious to admit this, but I did most of my freelance work over the years for free. It wasn’t until I made the decision to leave my abusive marriage about 1 1/2 years ago that I started my own business and began charging actual money!
What was your transition into freelancing/entrepreneurship like?
I’ll tell you what it was like to get a divorce and go from stay-at-home-mom and lazy freelancer to full-time businesswoman.
It. was. freaking. SCARY.
I didn’t know what I was doing actually running a business (accounting? huh?). I didn’t know how I would find clients (I’m a non-recovering introvert). I didn’t know much of anything, really.
All I knew was that the alternative of going back to Corporate America or scrambling for a near-minimum wage job was a non-option.
(In my divorce I was granted full custody of my three children, two of whom had yet to reach school age. After being out of the job force for 6+ years, any income I could have made in a 9-5 job would have been 100% squandered on childcare costs.)
So I had to make Olyvia.co work. HAD to. And somehow, whether it was through pure grit or pure luck, it did.
What do your days look like now?
I always feel as if I need a 48 hour day (right?!), but I love what I do + am grateful just to be here. So I can’t (and won’t) complain.
My daily routine looks a little like this:
I get up by 6 a.m., do a quick check of my email inbox + sneak in some social media replies, and then begins The Scramble to get my munchkins dressed, fed, and in the car for school.
(As I like to tell people, if you want to know what REAL stress looks like, just visit my home between 7:59 and 8:09 a.m.)
After I get back home, that’s when my work begins. I still have a little one at home with me, so she plays while I do client work, write blog posts, work on my marketing, plan future products, and the like.
From about 2:30 to 7 p.m. I sign off completely in order to go pick up my kids from school, make dinner, and spend time with them. Then I wrap up whatever I can for an hour or two before bed.
(Please don’t ask me when I get my grocery shopping, laundry, or cleaning done. While other solopreneurs make their first hire a project manager or email assistant, mine will most DEFINITELY be a housekeeper.)
What is your favourite part of being a freelancer/entrepreneur?
This actually means two things for me: the freedom to work when I choose, and the freedom to do work I love. I wake up each day WANTING to work. That’s huge.
What were some of the doubts or roadblocks you had when you started, and how did you work through that?
I had no idea how I was going to get a client. I had major misgivings that I would be able to do this. The thought of finding somebody out there who would want to pay me real money was mind-boggling!
As it turns out, word-of-mouth marketing is the single most powerful tool every business owner has at their disposal. All it takes in order to benefit from it is to open your mouth to a few close friends and family members about what you’re doing (or hope to do).
Once I confided in a few people about my new business, my friends told their friends, my parents mentioned it to neighbors…and right away people started inquiring about work! I’m not a gregarious person with a hundred close friends (or 500 Facebook friends), so I think if it could be effective for a shy person like me, it could work for many people.
Is there something you know now that you wish you would have known when you were first starting out? And what are you best tips for freelancers just getting their start?
What I wish I knew? That higher fees save you from bad clients.
Because of my insecurities when I was first pitching proposals, I charged near bargain basement prices…prices that didn’t reflect my college education, the actual years of experience I had doing personal and pro bono work, or my natural talent.
As a result, I paid for it with clients who didn’t respect my knowledge or approach, abused my time, and tried to demand much more than what was agreed upon in our contracts.
The second I raised my rates, the difficult clients fell away. Since then I can honestly say that I’ve experienced nothing but delightful working relationships; it’s fabulous.
That leads to my best business tip: when determining your rates, come up with a fee that you think is rather reasonable and doesn’t totally make you freak out when you put it on your website. Then double it.
What are some of your favourite tools for running your freelance business?
I have a love affair with Adobe Illustrator + InDesign, Tailwind (for Pinterest scheduling), and Screenflow (for screencasts and video editing).
What’s next on the horizon for you?
I’ll be releasing a workbook-slash-eguide soon to help freelancers, entrepreneurs, and other small business owners create an irresistible + smart customer service plan for their online presence (social media + blog + shop). I’m excited about being able to help people in this way; seeing it come to life is a thrill!
Keep up with the amazing things Erika is doing here: