Name: Melanie Beran
Location: Houston, Texas, USA
Bio: Melanie Beran is a digital marketer with a specialty in Facebook & Instagram Ads. She serves small sole proprietor businesses to multi-million dollar organizations.
How long have you been doing freelance work?
1 – 2 years.
Tell us about your freelance business, in 200 words or less.
I help small businesses grow their client lists through custom Facebook Ads systems.
What do you consider to be your specialty. How does it help you in your business?
My ideal client is an entrepreneur or organization that wants to harness one of the most powerful advertising platforms on the planet as part of a long-term marketing plan to grow their business.
What made you become a freelancer?
The career that I loved (and still miss in some ways) was just eating my life, time-wise and emotionally. I was drained and had nothing left for my husband, my growing family, or even just myself. But we knew that we weren’t in a position financially for me to just quit, so we made an exit plan and five months later I left with the birth of our third kiddo. I was a teacher and left on good terms with the school and district, so I still pop in sometimes to substitute teach and it’s fun to get back into the classroom and see all my old work friends!
What do you love most about freelance work, and why?
There are no rules. My schedule is adaptable to how we want to build our family life. Zoo on Monday? Sure! Date nights on Thursday because I can sleep in on a “workday” when I want? Sure! Have a client that’s not a good fit and I need to let them go? Sure! Having left a career that constantly pushes against healthy boundaries, I am VERY okay with saying no to clients and projects that are not right and fully embracing those that are!
What do you hate about it?
Hate is a strong word – but I do struggle with TMT Syndrome (TOO MANY TABS). It’s easy to get pulled off-task with new ideas, open up another browser tab, and then end up not working efficiently. The whole point of rearranging my life through freelancing was to not be constantly working, so my efficiency needs to tighten up. But I’m working on it!
Tell us about your first paid job. How did you land your first client?
My first client was an acquaintance. I had a friend that I reached out to about possibly creating an ads system for her business. She said no but that her mom was a real estate agent and she’d let her mom know. Her mom was a great first client – very sweet and communicative and we worked together for a couple of months. This does tie into the next question however because…
Do you think aspiring freelancers should take unpaid work to gain experience? Why or why not?
My first paying client started off as a free client! I did my first month for free and then worked with her 1-2 more months. Here’s the thing for all you new freelancers: TRANSITIONING A FREE CLIENT TO A PAID CLIENT IS NOT NORMAL. It only worked because when I started, we agreed to a two-month period and that she would pay the second. It was not an “I’ll pay to continue if I like it” scenario.
She was the unicorn. If a freelancer is going to take unpaid work, they need to be very clear on three things: the scope of the work, that it rarely turns into paid work with the same client, and that client may very well be a terrible fit. If they’d like you to do free work, 99% of the time it is because they do not value the skill. So I’m neither for nor against unpaid work, but I’m against unrealistic expectations when taking on free work.
Do you feel you’re charging what you’re worth?
Yes, because I finally can say my fees without flinching. If you feel like you flinch when you state your (fair market value) rates, it’s probably because you don’t value yourself enough. When you don’t value yourself enough, you end up lowballing yourself AND the potential clinch can hear your lack of confidence, which doesn’t exactly give THEM confidence. But it took some time to get here!
Describe your process for finding new clients? Where do you look?
Honestly, I’ve gotten myself to a point where I have built a referral network… but that takes time! My client acquisition strategies are all fairly “slow burn” activities.
1) Being active in Facebook groups where and genuinely helping people… not “here’s my link/challenge/program – please buy it!” Find groups that have members that are your ideal clients OR groups that have members with collaborative skills. If I’m a FB Ads expert, collaborative skills would be copywriters, business managers, website builders, etc. Refer out as much as you can and it’ll come back to you.
2) Local networking – Obviously this is area and no-pandemic dependent, but I’ve gotten some clients and referrals through some great local networking groups. And honestly, I’ve learned some great business skills by being around more seasoned business owners. Plus, one meets at a local greasy spoon… who doesn’t like business with a side of bacon?
3) Stories – I very intentionally pop into my own FB/IG Stories with things I’m working on. Behind the scenes of the ads managers, the training I’m hosting, etc. Show people WHAT you do, don’t tell them to buy it. It just helps remind them without being pushy. It just becomes second nature for them to know what you do… Ross is a paleontologist, Monica is a chef, and Melanie does Facebook Advertising. (We’re all still unclear about Chandler thought…)
Have you ever had to ‘fire’ a client? If so, why and how did you do it?
I mostly communicate with clients via email or text and it’s easy to tell over the course of a month if it’s going to work out or not. I usually just let them know that I’m so happy that we had a chance to work together but that it’s clear I am not a good fit for what they’re looking for. It’s usually the clients who I did a poor job of setting expectations from the beginning, so it hasn’t happened in a while! But basically, I try to just fire myself and end on good terms because you never know where referrals will come from.
Name 3 tools (apps, equipment) that you can’t live without. What makes them so great?
1) Laptop – the Facebook apps for mobile are terrible – save yourself and don’t use them.
2) Zapier – Zaps bridge so many programs and automation is so key to fast follow up and efficiency.
3) Adobe Spark – I prefer it to Canva most days when creating social media posts and such.
What is your #1 productivity hack?
TURN OFF YOUR PHONE.
Do you outsource tasks? Why or why not? If so, which ones?
Nope, I tried it once and I was terrible at it! There are too many moving pieces for me to be able to jump in and out of the flow with someone else. Blessing or curse, it just doesn’t fit how I operate.
In your opinion, what is the most important skill required for freelance work, and why?
Sales skills – if you suck at sales, that’s okay because I did too! But we are all our own sales departments so you’ve got to figure it out. And 90% of sales is listening. Just ask a few questions and LISTEN to the answers and then, if you can help them, say, “I hear you need (restate need) and I help can help you by (skill) so we can get started on (date).”
Do you consider yourself a strong time manager? How do you stay organized?
Not at all! I have zero organization tips and am very much the absent-minded professor. Fortunately, I’m a night owl so it works out for me to stay up late working sometimes. Lean into your strengths and it’ll overcome your weaknesses.
Do you also work a 9-5? If so, how do you balance it with your freelance business?
I don’t have a typical 9-5, but I did get my real estate license last year to begin a second business and I also have 3 kids five and under, so it’s a lot going on – a happy little circus!
Where do you do most of your work?
As mentioned, I have 3 young kids so a lot of work gets done at home either during nap time or when they’re at preschool a couple of days a week. I’m not trying to build a huge empire, just a happy little small business that fits our life instead of trying to build a life that fits work.
Name an entrepreneur/freelancer/influencer who inspires you. What is it about their story/message that resonates?
I freaking love Dolly Parton, always have. As a singer/songwriter/musician, she’s phenomenal, but she’s so much more. She is such a SMART entrepreneur and also an incredible philanthropist. She used her theme park to completely change the economy of her home region and her Imagination Library has given away tens of millions of books. On a small scale, what I can take from that is that she does things on HER terms, tries to love everybody, and uses her success to help those around her.
Name 1 thing you would do differently, if you were starting over today?
I don’t really know that I would have anything… I’m happy with how things have been built and where they’re projected to go.
What is your #1 tip for aspiring freelancers?
Just because you’re working FOR yourself doesn’t mean you need to work BY yourself. The course that I initially took in order to learn Facebook Ads has a Facebook coaching group for ongoing support. In that group, I met my freelancer best friend that has become such an important source of support and understanding. I’ve got a solid roster of go-to’s for celebrating wins and getting picked back up from losses. If you’re not really around any other freelancers or entrepreneurs, you won’t have anyone to relate to. Find your people.