Sara Frandina is a rare breed of freelance professional who always seems to have it all together.
Whether we’re talking about her own website, the freelancing community that she co-created or the Slack community that’s just budding, Sara is on top of things.
We’ve reached out to Sara to ask her the usual questions that we pose to guests of Fully Booked VA’s Freelancer Spotlight series.
And of course, she overdelivered.
What do you do and how long have you been in business?
I wear two (very different) hats: I started my solopreneur journey three years ago as a copywriter, editor and content strategist. About a year in, I also began co-running the community at One Woman Shop. I now split my time pretty evenly between the two.
How did you start freelancing?
In the spring of 2013, I was running “lunch + learns” for the small business owners in my community (I worked in marketing at a local tourism office), on all things marketing, including blogging and social media.
After one of those lunch + learns, I had a few business owners ask if they could hire me as a freelancer to take on some of the tasks I was teaching them. Well, up until then, the thought of freelancing hadn’t even crossed my mind, so color me intrigued, especially considering I was pretty unhappy with my work environment at the time.
I began freelancing (without pay because supplemental income was against the policies at my job) and for six months, I got up at 5 AM to get a few hours of freelance work in before heading to my full-time job.
(Side note from Gina: Sounds familiar! If you’re trying to find time to freelance, getting up SUPER early sure helps!)
I reserved time after work and on the weekends for doing research on the freelance industry and networking to make connections with people already doing it.
Six months later, I was able to take my copywriting business full time with a full roster of clients and some awesome connections.
At first, freelancing was not at all what I expected, especially as I took it full time.
When I was doing it as a side hustle, I had a heck of a lot of structure. I only had about 10 hours per week that I could really devote to focusing on freelancing. I had a lot going on in my life at the time – I was training for my first half marathon, was in the process of buying our first home and was planning my wedding. That meant I had to make the most of every minute, which I did.
(Gina’s side note: Sara and I sound a lot alike, huh? Maybe I’ve found my new internet bestie?)
Once I took my freelancing full time, I had wide open weeks spread out in front of me — which meant a lot of time squandered.
It didn’t take long before I learned that I needed structure, and put that structure in place.
How did you decide to create One Woman Shop?
The idea was all my business partner’s, Cristina’s.
Three years ago in July, she was in the midst of freelancing and navigating the solo business world, and was looking for a community, specifically for females. She couldn’t find it, so she created it. On her birthday, July 14th, she bought the domain name, and two months later, she launched.
It was during that time that I was doing my own research and networking, and I saw what Cristina was doing. I had a call with her via her solo business, then soon after, followed up with feedback on her One Woman Shop launch. The rest was history. (That’s the short version, anyway.)
How do you make your collaboration with Cristina work?
A partnership is a whole different ballgame, to be quite frank. (Pun, anyone? Had to.)
There are a lot of challenges you don’t quite realize until you’re in it: things tend to take a bit longer to accomplish, compromise becomes a regular activity and you have to learn to trust someone without question.
Of course, those challenges are outweighed by the plethora of benefits: You have a partner to brainstorm with, a partner to divide and conquer with and a partner who can pick up your slack where your skills aren’t strong or on the days when you’re just not feeling it.
In running a partnership, we’ve both learned a lot (Cristina actually wrote a fantastic post about it that I wholeheartedly agree with), and I think it’s safe to say we’ve both become stronger business owners, better communicators and all-around more well-rounded people because of it.
What has been most challenging part of solopreneurship so far?
Two things, that I think go hand-in-hand:
- Battling imposter syndrome
- Staying out of the comparison trap
It’s tough to stay out of the comparison trap when you feel like an imposter, and it’s tough not to feel like an imposter when you’re buried in the comparison trap.
The days I find myself most distracted or unmotivated are the days I spend comparing myself to other freelancers and business owners. It also when I start talking in “should’s” — I “should” be doing this; I “should” be doing that. It’s a dangerous mentality that can lead you very far astray from what you really need and want.
There have been a few things that have helped me overcome the dangers of imposter syndrome and the comparison trap: Finding community, and plastering Post-It notes on my monitor that remind me, “Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle,” and that “There’s always someone who needs what you offer.”
How did you find a freelancing community when you were first starting out?
I found community quickly. I hired a business coach just four months into my full-time freelancing, I built an accountability relationship with an online friend soon after, I was part of a Masterclass for a year and not only do I now co-lead One Woman Shop, but I’m also an active member.
Having community (people in your corner who understand both what you do and where you’re going) is essential for the days when a client gives you the run around, you’re stalled on an idea because you can’t get out of your own head or you just want to stay in bed because your task list is so daunting.
Similarly, community is essential when everything’s going right and you want to celebrate with people who know what that means for you. (I believe strongly in dance breaks on Google Hangouts.)
Constant reminders and mantras are what I like to put on repeat (and, as mentioned, on Post-It notes) so that when my inner naysayer pops up, I have a response prepared, and can keep moving forward out of that comparison trap and beyond that imposter syndrome.
Did you ever want to quit or give up?
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen myself want to quit or give up altogether, but there have certainly been days when I wish I could take a break without my entire business coming to a halt. (Fortunately, my biz partner at One Woman Shop, Cristina, and I often have each other’s backs when one of us is approaching burnout.)
In my copywriting business, I don’t have that, but I do build in buffers that give me a bit of flexibility and leeway when it comes to client work. So if I’m just not in a good state of mind to be writing copy, I can take time to walk away from it for a bit.
The fact that you’ll hit slumps as a solopreneur is inevitable, no matter how much you love what you do.
It’s the reason I preach that passion isn’t everything.
Passion can only take us so far. I like to think of passion as the spark that starts the fire — but it’s tenacity and willpower that will keep the flame burning during the inevitable ups and downs of solopreneurship.
What would you love to pay someone to take off your plate?
This is actually a really tough question for me, because there are very few aspects of my business that I don’t like. My creative side loves digging into the work that comes with writing copy, building content strategy and running a community, but my Type A side loves having to set up processes and manage income reports.
And it turns out that some of the mindless stuff works as a fantastic creative break.
That being said, even as a solopreneur, we cannot do everything alone. One thing I’ve outsourced is my website maintenance. That is a huge relief to me, after two years of doing backups and dealing with bugs myself. It’s like when you buy a house and you miss your landlord when something springs a leak. I have a landlord for my website, and I can’t tell you how much stress that relieves.
What task in your own business would you like to do more of?
Writing for my own business: my blog, my copy updates, my email marketing.
Sometimes I get so deep working in my business, that I don’t get a chance to work on my business.
It’s also why I started a challenge in May called #justwrite to write content for my business at least 30 minutes per day. I invited others to do the same, and I’m incredibly happy to say that it’s evolved into an ongoing community. Community is everything — do I preach that enough?
What are some big successes you’ve had recently?
At the risk of being redundant, my favorite thing to celebrate lately is the launch of the #justwrite community.
I think the reason it still has me dancing is because it’s the first time I did something completely on a whim, and didn’t wait for perfect. It’s still evolving, and the beauty of it is that because I put it out there, I now have community members to give me direct feedback. We’re essentially building the #justwrite community together, which couldn’t make my collaboration-loving heart more happy.
What are some specific strategies, tactics or pieces of advice that helped you grow?
1. Eliminate the word “should” from your vocabulary.
It’s as dangerous to use on yourself as it is for you to say it to other people.
Every time I’ve caught myself saying should, it’s typically because I’m not making my own decision, or because I’m impressing what I believe to be true on other people, despite it perhaps not being the right thing for them.
2. You can’t pour from an empty cup.
For the first year in my business, I worked 14-16 hour days, and most weekends.
When I hit my first period of burnout, I thought I’d never come out of it. It scared me into self-care.
Now, I proactively take care of myself: getting seven hours of sleep per night, taking walking breaks every few hours, actually eating lunch, drinking 80 ounces of water per day and regularly meditating and exercising — so that I am more prepared to take on my work. I treat everyone around me much better, and can do my best work, when I’m filling my own cup up first.
I still have spurts where I’ll do longer days and put in time on the weekends, but it’s usually for a limited period of time when I’m working specifically on one project that I’m amped about, or I’m preparing to take some time off.
I’ve been fortunate to take a 35-day trip to New Zealand and Australia, a two-week trip to California and numerous other, smaller trips since becoming a solopreneur.
3. Find + engage in a community.
I’m pretty sure I’ve harped on that enough, so I’ll leave it right there.
What are you most excited about for your business next?
The best part about being a solopreneur is that every day is different.
So, what I’m excited about right now is revamping my copywriting services based on what I’ve learned from the work I’ve done over the past few months, taking the #justwrite community to the next level and creating a library of copywriting + content resources, both free and paid.
But mostly, I’m excited for the perpetual learning that will undoubtedly keep taking me in new directions, and the people I’ll meet along the way.
Wow, great responses from Sara. She’s super knowledgeable about freelancing, and we’re glad she accepted our invite to be featured in the Freelancer Spotlight series.
What resonated most with you when you read about Sara’s freelancer journey?
Sara Frandina is a New York-based copywriter + content strategist with a relentless love of words and an insatiable appetite for books, travel and popcorn. When she’s not creating copy for clients, she’s helping businesses overcome content strategy barriers with tips, freebies, and workshops at sarafrandina.com, and can also be found co-running the resource hub and community for female solo-business owners at One Woman Shop.