Welcome to the first installment of [free]lancer. A [free]lancer is someone who has chosen to work for themselves for the independence and freedom that comes with it. It may be difficult, but it’s definitely worth it. This blog is a place for freelancers to write about freelancing. Everything you didn’t know you didn't know. For our first interview I got to learn a little bit about the life of Ashley Madden, founder of both Waypost One and Helianthus Advising.
Ashley Madden is a free-spirit described to be unorthodox and altruistic by those around her. When she’s not off galavanting to save the earth, she’s a writer, photographer, marketer, traveler, wife, and optimist. Based out of Atlanta but soon to be traveling the earth, she is the founder of both Waypost One, a travel guide and tips site, and Helianthus Advising, offering content creation and marketing services. Not done yet, she’s soon to launch photo and video business with her husband.
What type of freelancer are you?
I would say that I’m a creative jack-of-all-trades freelancer. I don’t like to sit still, plain and simple. I started in writing then branched into editing and from there just didn’t stop. Now, I freelance all kinds of content creation services as well as marketing management and consultations. I run a travel site that hosts city guides and tips as well as a blog and soon to be videos. My husband and I are starting up photography in our free time with both traditional photo and video as well as drone footage and shots. Though I think I’ll always be in a creative industry, there’s no telling what I’ll get myself into next.
What got you interested in freelancing?
In college, I knew I never wanted to work “for the man.” I told my family I was determined to work for myself from the moment I graduated. They told me, that was crazy and not how the world works. Nevertheless, I kept trucking. After I graduated, I couldn’t find a fulltime job, so I thought, why not do what I had planned all those years ago?
I had plenty of experience from working during college and planned on traveling full time in less than a year anyway. I started doing research and within a week, had three jobs. I was so happy. No slacks, skirts, or fancy clothes. I could be myself, set my hours, and help more than just one company. If I wasn’t convinced before, it was those three jobs that convinced me that I could do it.
What are/were some of your favorite resources when you were just starting out?
I got my first three jobs from nomadic and freelance based closed Facebook Groups. I’ve since gotten jobs from Upwork, ProBlogger, and referrals. Personally, I’m still a fan of the Facebook groups I used when I first started. I have found that some of my best clients have come from Facebook Groups as well as those that I’ve worked with before. For those just starting, my favorite is Female Digital Nomads, where I’ve gotten four or five jobs in the past month as well as many of my questions answered. [Editor’s note: Ashley and I connected on the Female Digital Nomads group, it is a really great resource!]
Do you freelance full time? If not, is that your goal?
I’ve been very privileged in life. Since I started freelancing right after graduating, I never had a “full-time job” like everyone else. I’ve also been lucky to have family that’s helped me get my business off the ground as well as a supportive husband that works in a profitable industry. To be honest, I never plan on getting a real full-time job. I like the idea of having a small part-time job here or there as we travel, but I’m glad I can be selective in the work I do. As of right now, freelancing is my only job. While it’s not full time, it’s enough for us to get by and growing each week.
What are some of your life goals you’d like to share? (they don’t have to be related to work)
When I was a child, I knew all I wanted to do in life was to help the earth and all the creatures that lived on it. It’s something I got from my grandmother, a full time volunteer librarian for over 30 years. Because of her teachings, I’ve always been the hippy of the group. As I’ve gotten older, her teachings have only made my dreams grow larger.
In January 2018, I had goals of eventually traveling the world to film new places and help new people. I wanted to create travel guides, documentaries, and podcasts to help connect people of all backgrounds. After that, I knew I would own an organic event farm where I would employ special needs and homeless people to help me run all the operations on it. I wanted to dedicate my life to not only help those around the world but in my community as well. Now, I’m lucky enough that I might need some new dreams in just a few years time.
It’s the end of 2018 and in less than 6 months, I’ll be traveling the world with my husband and filming new places. After two to three years, we plan to come back and open our farm. I never thought I’d find a life for myself as lucky and perfect as this.
What is your most common job?
Right now, I’ve been doing a good bit of content creation. My most common job is writing followed by editing for a wide variety of websites and themes. At the same time though, I’m seeing a big uptick in website work as well as LinkedIn and CV updating
Being the end of the year, there are a lot of people wanting to get a jump start on their new year's resolutions whether that’s looking for a job, updating their website, or launching into freelancing themselves. Other businesses are also looking to catch these people. I’ve been working with health websites and education websites to create better content for these newly motivated people.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I describe my typical day as both flexible and a dream. As many freelancers will say, I, in general, can get up when I want and work when I want. It’s created a better home life for my family and allowed me to do what otherwise would pile up for the weekend.
I tend to wake up early just because I like to. My husband and I are able to eat breakfast, get ready, and take time to play with our dog and cat before he has to leave. After a bit of picking up, I drive to a free parking place a mile away from the co-work I work in.
The walk gives me time to enjoy the day and get my plans in order. I work for about 6 hours a day with a long lunch and plenty of time in the afternoon to run errands, workout, and just live. At the end of the day, my husband and I play video games before going to bed at 930 or 10 like an old couple. It’s a dream really.
Where are you hoping to be in 5 years?
That’s a really good question. If you would have asked me in May, I would have said what everyone else says. “Working a good job with a nice house and happy family.” Now? I can’t say I know what I want. I know I’m on the way to have my life’s goals completed early. If I do that, I guess I can hope that in five years, I’ll be living my dream on an even deeper scale.
As I said, we plan on traveling the world for the next two to three years. After we get back, we plan on buying some land and starting an organic farm. If all goes to plan, hopefully, that’s where we’ll be. However, that plan only came to fruition in the past few months. We might still be traveling or we might do something completely different. I’m open to change.
Do you travel a lot when you work or do you have a home base?
Right now, my base is in Atlanta, Georgia at my home and at WeWork close to the house. However, starting in May, I’ll be leaving with my husband to travel the world. At that point, we’ll be traveling at a minimum on weekends with city changes at least every 5 to six months.
I use a mobile base to begin with. So, even though we'll be traveling, my laptop and supplies will fit into a duffle bag that will go everywhere we do. Having not had home internet in a few months, we’ve gotten used to finding alternative ways of working. I hope it’ll make the change easier but I’m sure there will still be hiccups and questions as we go from having a home to mostly nomadic.
What is the most common question you get asked about freelancing?
I have two that come with equal timing. The first is “How did I start freelancing without a traditional job after college?” It’s a good question, and unfortunately, the best answer I have is luck and hard work. I was lucky enough to have amazing jobs during college. I helped and founded multiple marketing departments during internships and regular jobs while going to night classes. After college, I just kept trying. Eventually, my efforts paid off. If it wasn’t for my background, it probably would not have worked out the way it did.
After answering that question, usually, I get asked: “Do you really know enough about marketing to do that?” In truth, this question does still make me mad sometimes. Yes, I know enough. No, I don’t know everything. What many people don’t know about my favorite quote is that it has a second half.
“A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.”
It’s true, I’m no expert. In fact, I only know a good bit about a few marketing fields and the rest of my knowledge is very diverse. A college friend used to call me an encyclopedia. For a while, I let this question get to me. I thought that maybe I didn’t know enough. Now? I know my diverse knowledge and interesting background make my best selling point, not my worst feature.
Lastly, is there anything else you’d like to add?
If there is one thing that will help you more than the education you have, more than the network you’ve made, and more than work experience you’ve gotten, it’s your past. Who I am as a person has been changed by the experiences I’ve gone through. Each person, each memory, and each event. Great things and awful memories alike have made me exactly who I am today. For a long time, I thought that what made me good at what I do was the stuff I’d learned in college and at work. The hardest thing I had to learn was that it was my past.
It’s easy to think nothing useful came out of an abusive relationship or a traumatic memory. What’s harder to say is that there was good that came out of it too. My past being bullied created a desire to help. An abusive relationship caused me to understand and empathize more than I ever had before. Don’t look at yourself and think you don’t know enough because you don’t have enough “experience” to do anything. Rather, think about everything you’ve learned by living and use that to your advantage. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that dreams are closer than we think that are.
Check back often for freelancing tips and tricks, as well as more interviews with freelancers!
A [free]lancer is someone who has chosen to work for themselves for the independence and freedom that comes with it.
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