I first met Lenka at a networking event I hosted about 2 years ago. As it turns out, I’ve met Lenka at every networking event since then too. I don’t think I met someone who networks quite like Lenka, but that would explain why so many people know who she is, even if they haven’t met her. You’d think, therefore, that this would be her number one tip for anyone thinking of going freelance. But it’s not. En route to the answer of that question, here is Lenka’s very honest freelancing story…
What is your name, where are you based, and what do you do?
Hello, I’m Lenka Koppova and I’m a Cambridge-based Social Media Consultant. I help other freelancers to understand social media and use it to grow their businesses, without spending too much time and money on it. I like to say that I help people to use social media ‘the clever way’.
How long have you been freelancing and why did you decide to become a freelancer?
I’ve been freelancing for the past 18 months. I officially set up as a freelancer in May 2016 after I was let go from my previous agency.
Ultimately, I always knew that I wanted to run my own business, but always thought I didn’t have enough experience to do it yet. I wanted to get some proper experience with an agency first.
The past few months of my last job were really stressful and I was often depressed. I wanted to leave, but knew I needed a backup plan. In the end, they decided for me. At first I was really upset and started looking for a new job, but later on I came to realise that getting fired was the best thing that could have happened to me.
Also, as a child, I watched as my mum ran her own freelance business alongside her main job. That inspired me to dream to do this full-time at some point in my life.
What support did you have from family and friends? Did anyone advise you against becoming freelance?
I’m a bit stubborn and I like doing things my way. Since I moved to the UK 4 years ago, my family have only had a small influence on my decisions. I’m sure that my parents and family back home would advise against it, as it’s a really scary move for someone who has just freshly moved to a foreign country.
My friends here in the UK were more supportive and encouraged me to make my own luck. It was really interesting to see the different perspective between those two ‘camps’.
Did you use any professional support resources in starting your freelance business?
I was lucky that when I decided to set up as a freelancer I already had a few freelance clients (bringing in a small income to help me cover the bills). Id been doing a bit of networking while employed to meet new people and keep my knowledge up-to-date, and I managed to connect with some inspiring people along the way. So when I decided to give myself a chance, I reached out to them for help.
One of the people with the biggest impact on my journey was Ed Goodman from Cambridge Business Lounge, who I met at one of the events he organised. He offered me help and guidance, but most importantly, he gave me the encouragement to do the scary step of believing in myself.
Having some ‘business friends’ to bounce ideas off and being able to safely ask ‘dumb’ questions without any judgements was priceless!
How would you describe your clients or customers?
My clients are mostly micro or small businesses based in and around Cambridge. I work a lot with startups and social enterprises as well. They are generally spread across different industries, but the majority of them are from professional services or health and wellbeing.
Why do your clients/customers select you over your competitors?
The answer to this questions is quite simple – because of me. There are many talented social media freelancers and creative digital marketing agencies out there, but they are not me. I have my own way of doing things and my clients want to work with me because of that.
I often hear that people like working with me because of my ‘no nonsense approach’, which comes from being straight forward, open and honest all the time. There’s a lot of myths surrounding social media and I’m trying to cut through the noise to help other freelancers understand the power of social better.
Is being a freelancer what you expected? Do you work more hours (or less) than you had first anticipated?
It’s completely different than I expected, but it’s also more than I ever imagined it could be.
I expected to work more and I always had some part-time job or volunteering role in my spare time, so that wasn’t a problem. For the first 6 months, I was working almost every hour of every day, but I soon realised that this wasn’t the best way. I was tired, stressed and completely stretched.
I also didn’t expect the variety of tasks I’d have to do – from finances to admin and sales. The biggest shock was the realisation that I’d have to ‘sell myself’. Even though I knew what I’m doing with digital marketing, there was much more marketing to do that I hadn’t realised earlier.
What app or website could you not run your business without, and why?
For me there are many apps and websites that I need for my business – starting with all the social media networks and other digital marketing platforms. Can I be cheeky and say Google? I’m completely dependent on Google calendar, Gmail, maps, documents, keep notepad, analytics etc. I love the integration between all the Google tools.
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to start a freelance business, specifically in your field?
As I usually jump straight into things, I might say ‘Just do it’, but I know that it’s not the most helpful advice for everyone.
I’d say – get to know other people in your industry and around and build friendships with them. Having someone to talk to can be life-saving in the first few months!
To the people considering setting up a social media business I’d say – go out and meet real people face-to-face.
What are the most notable things you have learnt since starting your business; either about running a business or about yourself?
- Starting your own business is the biggest personal development lesson you’ll ever get.
- Surround yourself with like-minded people! Building relationships with people around you is the most important task on the journey to success.
- Don’t try to do everything yourself – get people on board as soon as possible to help you with tasks you don’t like doing.
- Be social, but stay yourself! Don’t pretend you’re something you are not. If you feel sad or if you struggle with something in your business, just say so. People appreciate honesty.
- Find time to relax and have fun. It’s too easy to get sucked into work and burnout. Make your own health (both mental and physical) a priority!
What is it about being a freelancer that you most enjoy?
Freedom and control! I absolutely love being in charge of my fortune, being in control of my success (or failure) and being able to do things ‘my way’. I’m a proper control freak and running my own business allows me to decide when, where, how and with whom I’m going to work.
Freelancing gives the power to travel more, enjoy the things I love doing in my free time and be creative.
Also, I love meeting all the inspiring freelancers and small business owners. I’ve managed to build a lovely community of like-minded people over the past year or so and I’m incredibly grateful for their friendship.
What do you enjoy the least about being a freelancer?
Nothing. I love every second of it. If there’s a task I don’t like doing I outsource it. If there’s a client I don’t enjoy working with, I end our contract. If I don’t feel like working, I take a break. If I feel motivated and energised, I hustle really hard!
Ok, there might be one thing I don’t enjoy – it’s waiting for my invoices to be paid.
What is your ultimate professional goal as a freelancer?
My ultimate goals is to have a creative digital marketing agency of sorts. One day I would love to have a small team of freelancers and colleagues working for/with me on bigger projects.
The life of a digital nomad is really appealing to me and I hope that soon I’ll be able to travel more and for longer.
What one thing do you wish you had known before you became a freelancer?
I wish I’d had the guts to start earlier (or someone to give me the idea that it’s possible to do it).
Being a freelancer is one wild roller-coaster ride, it’s scary and exciting at the same time, but ultimately it’s worth it. I’m surprised how quickly I’ve learnt to be comfortable with stepping outside of my comfort zone.
You can connect with Lenka at the following places:
And, if you’re new to social media and just getting started, check out Lenka’s Social Media Starter Kit which will guide you through building your own social media strategy: www.lenkakoppova.com/go/social-media-starter-kit/
Finally, you can also connect with Lenka in the Freelance Heroes FB group. Click here to join in the conversation.