The 5-Minute Freelancer Q&A #22 — Kayli Barth
In this regular feature, Story Board asks Canadian writers to share a few details about their work habits and their strategies for navigating the ups and downs of freelance life.
Kayli Barth is a Montreal-based freelance content marketing consultant who does a little bit of everything — from social media management to blog writing to digital marketing strategy. Last winter she decided to take full advantage of the freelance lifestyle: she gave up her apartment and moved to southeast Asia for four months. Earlier this month, as she was settling back into life in Montreal, she took the time to speak with Story Board about mentorship, working abroad, and her personal blog about freelancing.
What does a typical day of work look like for you?
Oh there’s no typical day for me! I do have a few regular clients that I’ve been working with for a long time. So if they have campaigns coming up or new product launches, program launches, whatever their business is, I work with them to develop the marketing and communications strategy for it. Some days I’m creating graphics for their Twitter or Instagram accounts and some days I’m writing blog content. Some days I’m writing an opt-in piece and designing a PDF guide. So there’s a really big variety. Email newsletters, sales copy sometimes. Creating landing pages.
So you’ve found diversifying your skills has been good for your freelance career?
For me I’m just a little bit all-over-the-place. I would get bored of just doing one thing. So I’ve tried to create a career for myself where I get to do writing, I get to do social media management. I get to do some design work. Even a little bit of web development. It’s nice to have the variety.
I do try to specialize with the type of clients that I work with, to streamline it a little bit. I work with mostly coaches and online entrepreneurs. So while I do a bunch of different stuff for all my clients, it all kind of falls under the same umbrella. It makes it easier to manage with such a crazy amount of stuff to do.
What’s the best thing you’ve done over the years for professional development?
I’m constantly learning stuff. It’s actually something that I struggle with. I just want to know everything, I want to know how everything works, I want to be able to do everything. I’m one of those people that’s constantly reading books and buying courses and I want to do everything myself. So right now I’m taking another web development course through Skillcrush.
It’s an online tech learning platform. It’s for people who don’t have a tech background at all and you can learn web design and web development. They have courses from very beginner — like learning basic HTML and CSS — to different programming languages. It’s really cool.
But I think the best thing that I’ve ever done [for professional development] is probably working with mentors. I’m constantly trying to learn new skills and add new things that I can provide for my clients, but I think the best thing in terms of actually growing my business is working with mentors and talking with people that have that bird’s eye view and more of an unbiased opinion about how you’re running your business.
So you have to be able to take criticism?
I would say, yeah. Taking criticism, taking advice that you maybe don’t want to hear. You don’t want to hear that you need to stop and focus on one thing when you’re like me — I’m all over the board. But I think it’s probably the best thing that I’ve done for my career. Because I find that when you’re freelancing, you’re working by yourself all the time, it’s really easy to get stuck and it’s really easy to overlook things that are really obvious to outside people. So it’s nice to get that advice and then apply it and see how it helps you grow.
Tell me about your blog The Freelance Hustle. When did you start it and why?
I started it last fall, I think. I just really liked the topic of freelancing and I like the idea of helping other people to start their careers. When I started freelancing I had a lot of friends coming to me saying “you quit your job! How are you doing this? How are you affording this? How are you getting clients?” And so I thought “I should just start a blog and help other people to navigate their careers.” Over the years I have met so many people that hate their desk jobs, they hate their day job, they want to start something else. So that’s why I started it.
And it actually does help me help clients, which is interesting because the people that I work with aren’t the people who would necessarily be reading my blog. My blog is really for people who are new to freelancing, they’re just getting started, they’re trying to answer some of those basic questions and then the people that I work with are people who have had businesses for a few years and they’re ready to outsource some of their marketing. So it’s actually been interesting that I’ve been able to get clients through this blog that doesn’t really talk about what I do for my clients.
I think it shows that if you have a presence online and you can tell people what you do and that you’re available for work, people will find you. It’s grown my network a lot, too.
I think especially for writers just having a website and a blog and an online presence, even if you’re not necessarily writing about what you get hired to write about, it’s still really helpful because then people can then see your style, they can see you’re a good writer. And then hopefully on your website you have a way for people to hire you really easily!
Any other advice about starting a blog?
Even if you’re not a very visual person or a designer, take the time to create really good shareable images for social media. That will help people to find you on Facebook and Pinterest, especially. I think it’s really valuable to put in the time to learn how to create a good shareable blog graphic.
You’ve been working abroad this year, how did you manage to balance work and life in that situation? Is it harder than when you’re working at home?
I wouldn’t say it’s harder. It’s definitely different, but I don’t think it’s harder. I was travelling with a lot of other freelancers and entrepreneurs, so everyone that I was travelling with was also working all the time. So that definitely made it a lot easier, having this built-in accountability group.
We also worked at co-working spaces a lot. So you’re just in a working environment, even though you’re maybe two steps from the beach and you would rather be swimming, but you’re in this productive environment.
And I also found one thing that I didn’t expect, which was really interesting, was the time difference. It was a pain for any client meetings that I had to do, but just in terms of being able to get work done and be productive, it was amazing. I would work all day and not get a single email because it’s the middle of the night in North America. So I would have completely uninterrupted work all day, I was able to get more work done in less time.
I structured my day so that I could work until noon or 1 or 2 and then take a break to go do something, either go to the beach or go for a swim or go sightseeing. I was pretty disciplined. Still flexible but pretty disciplined about setting my schedule up to make sure I was getting enough work done to be able to go out and enjoy the amazing places that I was.