October conjures up all sorts of images—it’s the season of pumpkin spice lattes, skeleton decorations (of all sizes, species, and positions on the cute to scary spectrum) strewn all over my neighborhood, clear and crisp light that appears in the late afternoon before the sun goes down… and it’s also especially meaningful to me since it’s the time of year when I celebrate my freelance-versary.
2023 marks my sixth year as a freelancer, though (spoiler alert!) I may not technically be a freelancer anymore. I incorporated my company earlier this year (more on that in a moment) so I’m actually both the owner and employee of my company, Ms. Content LLC. But since it’s still just me, I think it’s accurate to use the “freelancer” label.
By the way, if you’re curious to see past editions, you can check out my five-year anniversary post here, my four-year anniversary post here, my three-year anniversary post here, and my two-year anniversary post here.
2023: An overview
As I sit down to write this, I find it hard to believe we’re already in October. How can I summarize this year when it feels like it just started? But since we’re three-fourths of the way done with 2023, I’d better come up with something to say about it!
In some ways, 2023 has felt a lot more “normal” than the past few years. Travel is now a regular part of my life again and I haven’t really encountered any restrictions in any of my destinations. In-person conferences are taking place, though perhaps not with the same attendance or enthusiasm as pre-pandemic. And I feel this on a smaller scale, too. Many of the events I used to attend have not picked back up again, so there are fewer opportunities to connect with other people in the type of casual gatherings that used to be more commonplace.
COVID is still a concern—I’ve known a few friends who’ve gotten it in the past few months. While the threat has not dissipated completely, it has downgraded from a constant state of fear to something that’s just bubbling in the background. I also feel like I still have a lot of pandemic-era habits that I haven’t completely lost, like preferring to sit outside, avoiding large crowds, and keeping my distance from other people whenever possible. I wonder if there will be a point when that changes.
Economically and politically, we’re also at a time of uncertainty. While there have continued to be layoffs and restructuring, especially in the tech world where most of my clients are operating, economists speak of the “soft landing” and the fact that we didn’t seem to enter a full-blown recession. At the time of writing, Israel is under siege by Hamas and Russia is still at war with Ukraine, so we’re seeing unthinkable violence in several areas of the world.
Closer to home, the Bay Area has been receiving negative attention for crime rates and disintegrating infrastructure. Several businesses such as the Westfield Mall and Whole Foods have shuttered their San Francisco locations, deeming them unsustainable. There’s no single cause, but the low occupancy of business offices, increased petty theft, and inability to support workers in these conditions all have a part to play.
I feel a little ridiculous writing this—I have little knowledge of geopolitics, urban planning, or policy, so I’m in no place to offer suggestions or improvements. But it feels worth mentioning what’s happening at the moment, just to have a snapshot.
Despite my brief detour into “negative Nancy” territory, I found plenty to celebrate this year as well, especially when it came to my business.
Attending and supporting Product at Heart
When my client Petra Wille told me she was co-organizing Product at Heart, I felt compelled to offer my social media and content support services. Not only do I inherently trust Petra to bring together an open-minded and lovely group of people (or “curious” as the marketing materials put it), but I knew she’d curate a diverse and fascinating group of speakers. And the chance to hang out in person in Hamburg was a major draw, I’m not going to lie!
It was also super helpful for me to get a sense of the topics that are top of mind for product people and leaders (you can check out my blog recaps of the Leadership Forum here and the main event here) and connect with other speakers. One of the highlights was definitely our rainy boat tour through Hamburg. So many bright and cheerful conversations that day despite the abysmal weather!
Hanging out in/working from Berlin
Since I was already in Germany to attend Product at Heart, I decided to extend my time there so I could spend a few weeks hanging out in and working from Berlin. It worked out really well because I had a few calls and interviews with people in Europe, it was the ideal time of year to be in Berlin, and it’s one of my favorite ways to travel (having plenty of time to explore but also having some work to make sure I take it easy and stay home from time to time). I was on my own during the week but had friends to hang out with every weekend. Berlin has so much to offer and was the perfect homebase for a few weeks.
Alt Summit and Make Your Mark Live
While I didn’t attend quite as many conferences as I have in the past, I did make it to Alt Summit (in Palm Springs) and Make Your Mark Live (in Dallas). Both events attract creative, colorful, and truly inspiring women who are doing amazing things.
I love the crafty, hands-on nature of Alt Summit. Some stand-out sessions for me included getting to chat with a lawyer in the “Expert Desk” session, attending the copywriting roundtable, and getting some awesome headshots from Justin Hackworth. I was so glad I headed to the hot tub on my last night because I ended up meeting tons of lovely ladies there totally spontaneously.
Make Your Mark Live was the first in-person event hosted by Jordan Gill. The target audience was women business owners, or as the website puts it “creators, consultants, course creators, and service providers who are change-makers and thought leaders ready to make their mark by meeting new collab partners.”
There were definitely times when I felt out of my depth—many of the attendees and speakers have extremely successful businesses and seem to have their “isht” together when it comes to knowing their audience, having well-developed and executed marketing strategies, and delegating tasks to team members. In some ways I still feel very much like a “baby business” because I work primarily with my clients in a very one-on-one, high-touch basis (and I like things that way), but it helped plant seeds of what may be possible for me in the future. I also LOVED Zafira Rajan’s session on sensory writing and have started keeping a sensory journal to remind me to pay attention to what I see, feel, hear, smell, and taste and draw those elements into my writing more intentionally.
My First Year as an LLC
It’s officially official! I am now longer just a sole proprietor. I incorporated my company, Ms. Content LLC, this January. I even have a new ms-content.com website to go along with it.
But full disclosure: I haven’t made any big announcements until now because nothing has changed much in my day-to-day operations. Plus, my website is still quite simple and no frills. At some point in the future I may want to invest more in creating a visual brand, but for now I’m keeping it low-key.
Becoming an LLC is helpful for setting myself up for the next phase of growth (I hope) and it’s fun (?) to do the mental gymnastics of considering myself both a CEO/owner and employee in my company of one. Luckily, I’m partnering with an agency to help me manage all those little details (What counts as a business expense? When do I need to pay my quarterly estimated taxes? How do I take care of bookkeeping, a word that I definitely didn’t understand until much too late in my life?). This takes a lot of the stress out of the situation and helps me focus on the tasks I actually enjoy. If you’re interested in looking into them, they’re called Collective (that’s an affiliate link, by the way).
VIP Day Experiment
Towards the end of 2022, I signed up for Jordan Gill’s “Done in a Day” training and developed some ideas on how I might condense my offerings into a single day. FYI, my main contenders were repurposing content, newsletter creation, and LinkedIn profile building. If you’d like to chat with me about any of them, don’t hesitate to reach out!
I ran my first VIP day early this year, focusing on helping a client edit blog and newsletter content. While my client ultimately preferred to sign up for a retainer, it’s helpful to have this as an option, especially when I’m at capacity for ongoing clients but interested in working with someone.
Strong Product Communities, the book!
Ever since working with Teresa on Continuous Discovery Habits in 2021, I’ve been interested in working on another book, but it’s also been a question of how to fit it in with my existing projects. The Strong Product Communities book worked out perfectly since Petra and I had worked together on the blog content and interviews throughout 2022 and just needed to make some adjustments so it worked as a cohesive whole rather than starting from scratch. Want to pick up a copy? You can do that here!
My Skillshare classes are chugging along
In case you missed it, I now have two classes on Skillshare, LinkedIn for Freelancers: Build Your Brand and Business and How to Start Freelancing: A Step-by-Step Guide to the Basics. (Use my links to get a one-month trial so you can check out my classes and any other content that catches your eye on Skillshare). While I definitely can’t claim that they’ve been smashing successes, it’s exciting to see over 1,600 people have taken my LinkedIn course and 150 have taken the freelancing one. If you know anyone who might enjoy them, I’d be grateful if you’d help spread the word!
What’s in store for the next year?
I’m getting ready to do some travel in the coming weeks, both domestically and internationally (I love spending late November/early December in Japan), so my regular routine will be disrupted as I take some time off and work from different locations.
Since having the freedom and flexibility to travel and bring my work with me (or not) was one of my primary motivations for going freelance, I’m loving the fact that I’m getting more opportunities to do that and will continue to prioritize this in 2024.
I’ve loved working on a few bigger projects like the Strong Product Communities book, and a few of my clients have been starting to talk about additional book plans, so there may be a manuscript or two in my not-so-distant future.
Here’s to another year of writing, editing, and collaborating with my amazing clients!