Freelancers start their businesses for all sorts of reasons. Debra Jason saw that in a tight economy, more people were willing to hire her as a freelancer than a full-time employee. That gave her an idea that started her freelance career.
Enjoy this interview.
How did you get started?
I’m originally from NY, yes, the Big Apple – the advertising capital of the country, if not the world, but I moved to Boulder, CO to go grad school in the 70s & ended up living there. I don’t have a degree in journalism or English literature. I am trained speech pathologist with a Masters degree in Communication Disorders. So, I understand the art of communicating or the lack of it.
As you may have guessed, since then, I changed careers (a few times). Back in the 80s, I was working for a catalog company in Boulder – that’s where I first started copywriting. However, the company was “shrinking” and I found my self looking for work.
When I was offered a job with a competitor in NYC, since I was born and raised there, I went. It was there that I attended a direct response copywriting workshop at NYU with veteran copywriter Milt Pierce. He was my first mentor and he not only touted my copywriting skills, but referred me to my next mentor, the incredible Gene Schwartz. These two men motivated and encouraged me to pursue my talent.
Alas, after 1 ½ years away and some unkept promises at the N.Y. agency I was at, Colorado’s blue skies were calling me back. So I returned to Boulder, CO in 1989, when times were tough – really tough.
The reason I went out on my own was because people were getting laid off at all the agencies I approached. I was caught in the Colorado recession and repeatedly heard, “Sorry, we’re not hiring. We’re laying people off right now.”
I was petrified back then. I mean how was I going to pay my bills, not to mention my mortgage? Here I was back in a place I loved, with friends that I loved, but no job in place. Talk about scary.
But then, it struck me like a lightning bolt.
In addition to being told “we’re laying people off right now,” many of the people I interviewed with also said to me “we can’t hire you as an employee, but if you were to freelance, then we could use your services.”
So I took this as a sign from above – it was my opportunity to grab the bull by the horns and start my own business. I had always said that I wanted my own business, but I never knew what it was. Well, on January 1st, 1989, The Write Direction was born.
What is your approach to maintaining a successful freelance career?
I have uncovered 8 secrets to staying in business happily & successfully for as long as I have (close to 25 years). I speak about them in From Freelance to Freedom – a teleseminar I presented that is now a Kindle eBook on Amazon.
Here’s a quick summary:
- Believe in yourself.
- Be grateful every day – EVERY day.
- Don’t expect others to get you results.
- Be yourself. People buy YOU as much as (if not more than) they buy your services.
- Give yourself permission to do what you really love to do. In other words, say “yes” to yourself.
- Don’t over think things.
- Be kind to yourself.
- Be consistent and persistent. Don’t give up the ship.
What’s the best way to get new clients as a freelancer?
Get out there and connect with people – online and offline. The online world has made it possible for us to “meet” others virtually and it’s fantastic. However, face-to-face contact is still vital. There’s nothing like meeting people, getting to know them, shaking their hands and seeing them SMILE!
In my program, “Millionaire Marketing on a Shoestring Budget,” I offer a number of ways to get out there and get exposure, but one of my favorites is to speak in public. This provides you with a great opportunity to build and encourage relationships with prospects – without using a hard-sell approach.
By hearing you speak, they get the chance to learn more about you without feeling the pressure of a sales pitch. While you’re sharing your professional knowledge in a relaxed, non-threatening environment – without the fear of losing a sale – they’re observing your expertise, confidence and poise. You increase both your visibility and credibility.
And, let me tell you this, when you speak in public, you’re making make an impression – a valuable impression.
Do you have a favorite book about writing or small business that has helped you?
As I mentioned earlier, I was fortunate to have a great mentor, the late Eugene Schwartz, who wrote one of the most valuable books on writing. Entitled Breakthrough Advertising, my copy was given to me by Gene in 1988. I have read it more than once! It’s not always available. However, I think every so often you can find copies for sale on Amazon, anywhere from $50.00 to over a $150.00 per copy – it’s that sought after by others.
What’s your best advice for someone who wants to start freelancing today?
Despite the Colorado recession, I was able to break ground . . . make an impact . . . find clients . . . establish a successful business. How?
All this happened because of a concerted effort to market myself and keep marketing. I sent out direct mail letters, networked like crazy and followed up with phone calls. I’d take it personally when people said “no thanks Debra” and would have second thoughts, thinking “I must be crazy to do this.
BUT what I will tell you is that I was consistent and persistent. I did NOT give up. My first goal, when I started my biz, was to make it to the 3-year mark. Now, here it is 24 ½ years later. I advise those who want to start a freelance career to do the same. Go for it wholeheartedly. It’s not always easy (there were many times I was in tears). However, hold onto your dreams, keep up the good work and you WILL achieve your goals. Now is the time to let your light shine and live your dream.
I like to share this quote (one of my favorites) with aspiring freelancers and solopreneurs. It’s from Calvin Coolidge:
“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence & determination alone are omnipotent.”
Where can we find you online?