Meet Elena, the Top CERT content writer who’s success story quite literally happened overnight!
Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you get into freelancing?
Hey everyone, I’m Elena – a 25-year old copywriter, content marketer & strategist, and a freelancer of course. Apart from playing with words and telling stories for brands, I also spend a lot of my time on exploring new countries. So, that kind of makes me a digital nomad as well. Though I do have a permanent home base in Besancon, France.
I was drifting close to the freelance world for years before I decided to take the plunge myself. My slow, but stubborn, escape from the office started on the day when I’d returned from a trip to India some 4 years ago. Having mingled with other free spirits and unconventional career seekers, I’ve started molding the thought of going freelance too.
However, later that year a friend of mine, and a colleague invited me to join his startup team. The terms and the project sounded curious enough, so I hopped in. However, I already had another trip booked back then to Indonesia, which my boss was okay with.
There in the moist tropical jungles my paths crossed with this guy – he was smart, charming and also hailing from my home country. Two volcanoes later when we were sitting on a dazzling beach under the stars on a deserted island, it turned out he was shortly leaving for France in just a month after our current trip was over. Nope, not for another vacation getaway, but for a 3-year work contract.
I was completely smitten. While I did like my job and my life back at home, this urge for discovery, adventures and greater flexibility than a 9-to-5 offered, kept haunting me.
The next one and a half years were a complete windwhirl. I negotiated a partial remote agreement back at my day job and spent each other month in France. Those constant commutes eventually wore me off. My office job was feeling less and less rewarding and the project creep rose, while my pay stayed the same. I no longer felt fulfilled and as if I was doing what I really wanted to do in life.
My chores included managing a freelance team of 30-35 people. Most of the day I kept wondering how do their daily lives look like. That’s when I’ve started surfing the freelance marketplace and trying to identify how I could position my skillset and what exactly can I expect to earn on a monthly basis.
What was your previous job before deciding to go freelance?
I’ve been an ambitious girl my entire life and started working part-time when I was still in college. By the time I’ve graduated with an MA degree, I already had 3 years of online marketing experience under my belt.
Before joining the freelance workforce, I used to work long hours in a SaaS startup launched by my friend and former colleague from a digital marketing agency. We were a small team with everyone doing everything the best they could. Sometimes the days were really long, tiresome and soul crushing.
I did learn a lot at that period, however – from the essential aspects of project management and time management by being in charge of 30-people remote team to being bold and innovative with various content marketing strategies, outreach and SEO.
At some point I was also responsible for the project’s copywriting and crafting content marketing materials. That’s when I discovered my true passion for words and storytelling. I also started a personal travel blog at that moment – another playground for content experiments, which I couldn’t conduct back in the office.
At some point, the scope of my job requirements was growing larger and larger – more towards the administrative duties, rather than the creative ones. The pay was staying the same, however. My boss implied that as we are still at the “growing” stage, I shouldn’t expect any raises or bonuses this year.
My frustration and deep dissatisfaction with the job was growing with each day. Considering that I was working remotely each other month and travelling to France constantly, I eventually decided to approach my boss and negotiate a 100% remote agreement with a defined scope of tasks I’ll do each month for them, while pursuing some other side projects of mine.
How did you come across PPH?
Back in the office days when I used to manage a distributed team of freelancers. As a client, I really liked the hourlies system and I remember that the quality of the offered services was much higher compared to other freelance marketplaces. When I’ve decided to go freelance, PPH came to my mind as the first place to start looking for jobs.
What was your first job like on PPH?
I’ve registered at the platform late in December, posted one hourly and kind of forgot about it. I’ve also decided to opt for a “limited-time sale” feature available back then – it discounted your product for 24 hours and landed a feature in the PPH newsletter sent out to all the clients.
It was a snowy, freezing afternoon and I was off on vacation in the mountains. Suddenly, my phone started buzzing – I just made the first sale, wow! And then something crazy went on – I got one new sales notification after another! Suddenly, I was booked solid until the end of the month and had to pause the hourlie and refuse some clients for the sake of keeping up with the deadlines.
During my first month I made quite a lucrative pay check and impressed some of the clients, who decided to book me over for the next few months. That was a very solid start and within another month of moonlighting after my day-job I called it quits and went 100% freelance.
It’s been nearly two years so far and I haven’t ever regretted my decision.
What is a typical day like for you?
I’m not an early-riser and typically kick off my workday at 9-10 am by answering emails and messages, putting together a quick to-do list for the day and enjoying my tea. Then I work till noon and go out for lunch with my partner.
I typically leave phone/Skype calls for the 2nd part of the day, along with some editing chores for the content I’ve written earlier. In the evening, I usually reply to messages and update clients from the US and call it a day at around 7-8 pm.
The majority of my clients (except for a couple of long-term ones) never know whether I’m travelling or not. Being smart with time management and prioritizing various tasks allows me to be almost equally efficient even when I’m out of my home office. In fact, airports and airplanes are among my top productivity places as there are less distractions such as all kinds of phone and email notifications.
How does freelancing compare to a 9-5?
Freelancing definitely gives you more flexibility. I can plan my days accordingly and don’t need to worry that I’ll have to reschedule a visit to the dentist yet again, because I got stuck in the traffic early in the morning and now can’t leave the office at 5 pm.
Also, I can take advantage of my productive hours and accomplish the largest tasks at a faster pace and then switch to something personal for a few hours, instead of “just sitting at that desk”, because your employer expects you to do so.
Compensation has proved to be higher for me as well. As I said – I’m pretty productive and can accomplish a lot when I really put effort into that. In terms of freelance, that goes into extra income. Yet, back in my desk job that resulted into a pat on the back and even more work (and no extra pay). That often left me deeply demotivated as I was earning just as much as “Jane”, who did twice less tasks that I did.
What benefits have you found by using PPH?
I love this “boutique” feeling PPH has managed to create. Posting your own hourlies and getting approached by clients saves me tons of time. As a former client myself, I can also attest that it’s much easier to browse existing offers – get an idea of pricing and various options when you are not 100% sure what you need – rather than posting a job offer with some vague requirements, waiting and scanning the prospects while you keep wondering whether your budget and the outlined project scope is right.
What does your future hold? Where would you like to take this?
Sometimes I question myself: “If a company you admire approaches you, will you accept an office position?”
So far, the answer is always no.
I feel more comfortable working on my own terms and at my own pace. Self-education and polishing my professional skills is on top of my agenda. Currently, I’m halfway into the Content Marketing Certification from Copyblogger.
What are your top 5 tips for freelancers who are new to PPH?
From someone who has been on the both sides:
1. Ethics is the backbone of your success. Always be polite and realistic when addressing client’s expectations. I always say directly that I can’t handle a certain task for reasons X, Y, Z, rather than saying a “yes” to everything heading my way and then failing to deliver it.
2. Be proactive – ask questions to make sure you are on the same page in terms of requirements, slightly over-deliver and keep the client well updated at all project stages.
3. Always have a day-to-day schedule – to make sure no task goes under your radar and gets completely forgotten. Our brain has limited memory power, after all.
4. Definite the boundaries and expectations – to avoid any misunderstanding and project creep always clearly state what’s included in your service (e.g. number of edits, topic generation etc.) Additionally, I always indicate that I’m not available on the weekends or late into the night according to my time zone.
5. Create a unique selling point – competing in terms of price will likely lead you nowhere. To stand out from the crowd your best bet is to offer a sweet little extra for the client e.g. faster delivery, or additional free perk that other sellers didn’t include.
What are the top 5 tools that you use?
Here’s what I absolutely love and use on a day-to-day basis:
● Google Docs – from storing, managing and updating all the client files.
● Trello – for personal to-do lists and daily/weekly plans.
● Pomodoro Timer – to work in sprints, make timely breaks and avoid distractions.
● Evernote – from short notes, web clips and storing all the research for the copies.
● Time Zones for Humans – a handy web app to avoid any deadline mess-ups due to time zone differences.
What web browser do you use?
I actually use three different browsers: Chrome, Safari and Tor browser.
If you were an animal, which one would you be and why?
Probably a cat. At least my partner says that I look and act like a cat and has a tons of jokes related to that. But let’s keep those private ☺
What do you think of Elena’s story? Please leave messages of support for Elena in our comments box below!
If you’d like us to feature your story, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.