Jennifer Nelson has a lot on her plate. She’s a sales and marketing consultant, a content strategist, and in her “free” time—haaa, what free time?—she teaches a 10-week Digital Marketing crash-course at General Assembly’s Santa Monica offices.
We caught up with Jennifer amid her crazy schedule to learn about how she got started as a solopreneur, her proven freelance hacks and why the mornings are her time to shine.
So, what are you working on right now?
Oh my goodness, everything! I am currently working with Blue Label Labs, a New York based mobile app development company, on their sales and marketing. I am also teaching a course on Digital Marketing at General Assembly in Santa Monica, Calif. Additionally I am working on a couple of content strategy and creation projects with a content marketing agency.
I’ve also been enjoying working on a smaller, but just as important content strategy project with a business owner in Vancouver who will be starting his own podcast. On top of all that, I am still working on creating an online course for my own business. I recently launched my very first course to test out the waters, and plan to roll out a more extensive course teaching business owners and entrepreneurs how to create meaningful content.
How would you articulate your personal brand story? What’s the headline?
Manhattan born, Miami raised, Brooklyn formed, Haitian brewed, world embraced. But still, my hair gets all the attention!
What’s your favorite location to work from, or where are you most productive?
I’m most productive from home, as long as that home has a lot of sunlight coming in. While I do enjoy going to co-working spaces and coffee shops to get the buzz of other workers, in truth, I get the most done when I don’t have to dress up and get ready.
Any weird work habits to report?
I wake up extremely early! Whether I have an early meeting or not, I still make it a habit to get up by 6 a.m./6:30 a.m. There’s something about getting up at the crack of dawn, making a hearty breakfast and beginning work before most people are even up that gets you energized. I’m able to get right to work, while my mind is completely free and distracting emails are not coming in. This also allows me to finish work early and have the afternoon/evening freed up.
What’s the biggest perk of working independently?
The biggest perk is that I get to control my own hours, and effectively monetize more hours instead of wasting them. I don’t have to worry about taking a break to run an errand or taking a lunch at 11 a.m. instead of 12 p.m. or 1 p.m. The hardest part: Distinguishing between holidays, weekends and night time cut-off hours.
How did you start working independently?
Before I quit my [full-time] job, I started writing pieces of content independently for agencies and companies that needed blog posts. I thought that if I could only get strategic about this, I could figure out how to make a substantial living. It surprisingly didn’t take too long after I quit my job to secure a contract. It was a learning curve to understand how to work as a 1099 contractor (vs. a full-time W-2 employee). For instance, I have to pay my own taxes and health insurance. I had to really learn how to get disciplined about things like time-tracking, expense-tracking and financial planning. I also got to learn A LOT about self-employment taxes!
What’s one early career mistake you made as an entrepreneur that you wish you could have avoided?
I would have crafted out my ideal “customer persona” earlier on. I think the natural instinct as a freelancer is to just jump and go for it, and start your own business. But one of the most important things that you can do (that doesn’t cost any money) is craft out who exactly, your ideal persona—or target audience—is and how your product or service fits into their world.
What’s one freelance hack that you’ve perfected?
On my mac, I created two user login accounts. One account I use for doing all client work. The other account I use for working on my own business. This has helped me to focus! We don’t notice it but it’s so easy to start working on one thing and then get distracted by emails or other open browsers. When I’m working on the login screen for my business, I am only logged into accounts that have to do with my business.
Where do you look for inspiration?
What’s one tool or utility that you couldn’t live without?
Drip, which is a powerful email automation software that allows you to segment out your audience and send them emails that are relevant to their interests. The best part of Drip is that it’s built with automation functionality and workflows. You can literally have your auto-responders working for you. It’s like a personal assistant, packaged in an email marketing platform.
In your opinion, what is the most important personality trait that one must have to find success as an entrepreneur?
You have to be adaptable. There are so many moving parts and changes in running your own business, you have to know when to pivot and change direction (and evolve).
If you could be living and working in any year or era, which would you choose and why?
There’s no time like the present. The world is so connected—this is the greatest time to be working independently. Any earlier and the internet wouldn’t have been fast enough (or non-existent), and in the far future, I think many things are going to be automated, and freelancers will have to do a much better job at automating some of their own services.
Where do you see the future of freelance heading?
I think more companies will look to hire independent workers in fields that weren’t traditionally classified as freelance, for example, sales. I also think that many freelancers will have to discover how they can productize their services, to relieve their workload and diversify their income. I think it will be an incredible time to be a freelancer, I’m excited to see what will come.
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