A few months ago (in May actually), shortly after I launched my blog, I decided to start a series called Behind the Blog, profiling and interviewing various bloggers that inspire me. I started with Lauren Hooker of Elle and Company – you can read her interview here. I was hoping to profile someone once a month, but life and busy things got in the way and I haven’t touched the series again since then.
BUT, with excitement I am back, and hoping again to start up and profile someone once a month. This month’s edition features Leah Kalamakis of The Freelance To Freedom Project. I first met (e-met) Leah a few months ago when I joined her Freelance to Freedom Project Facebook group. It’s such an amazing resource and community for bloggers, entrepreneurs, and freelancers of every level, and I’ve gained so much over the past few months by being a part of it.
The Freelance to Freedom Project was started in October of 2013 by Leah Kalamakis, a web designer and entrepreneur living in New York City. What started as a blog has now evolved into an incredible resource and community for entrepreneurs wanting to become freelancers. Leah freelances as a web designer and developer by day, and encourages others to make the leap to full time freelancing. She preaches the benefits of being your own boss, setting your hours, and finally feeling free within your career. Reading some of what Leah has written on freelancing is a huge part of what made me decide to take my freelance design work full time, and I’ve loved every second of it.
Here are a few fun facts so that you can get to know Leah better, followed by her answers to some key questions that I always wonder about people when reading their blogs and interacting with their online personnas. Enjoy!
Coffee or tea: Coffee
Cats or dogs: neither (I’m allergic)
WordPress or blogger: WordPress!
Summer or Winter: Both, that’s why I love NYC :)
Pen or keyboard: Keyboard
Sweet or savoury: Savory (buttered popcorn!)
Morning or night: Night
Serif or sans: Sans
Indoors or out: Indoors
Apple or Android: Apple
What obstacles did you face in the beginning?
The best thing I could think of to do so was starting a blog and community and sharing my experiences along the way.
At first the hardest part was getting people to actually come to the blog! I feel quite lucky that it “took off” pretty fast, meaning I grew my subscribers and traffic enough to motivate me to keep going and grow even further. After about 6 months it was a snowball effect and took on a growth path of it’s own. The biggest struggle I think is getting that momentum in the beginning (by focusing on the right things) in order to have the motivation to not give up.
What’s the meaning behind it?
The name has two meanings for me: Finding freedom through freelancing (when you start freelancing, you’re getting closer to your definition of freedom), or finding freedom beyond freelancing (by scaling beyond one-on-one work for example).
I knew I wanted to grow this blog – beyond on a blog. I wanted it to be a community with shared goals and dreams and not just about me. So although I already have my business under my name, I knew it had to be a more meaningful, general name using the word project to invoke that community feel.
How many hours a week do you spend on your blog?
This year however I realized I wanted to be able to share more topics on the blog, topics in which others are better experts than me. I wanted to feature more people from my community and knew they had a lot of wisdom to share. So I’ve recently transitioned to a more multi-author style blog. I have Featured Writers and one-off guest posters.
So with that, I’m personally writing a lot less (when the inspiration strikes and I have something interesting I really want to share). My blog routine has become more about outreach and management. I have a couple virtual assistants that help with the management. And boy, there is a lot more work than one might realize. Reaching out to writers, reviewing submitted posts, creating images, formatting posts, getting them into the calendar, creating social posts for them.
Although I’m slowly outsourcing more and more of this, I probably spend about 10 hours a week making sure everything is getting taken care of.
I stay productive by blocking out certain hours per day to take care of blog tasks, and by finally handing stuff off to others so I can focus on creating products and my web design clients. There are so many small tasks as part of maintaining a blog, and there are so many talented people that can do them even with a small budget. Like blog post images for example, this is something you can find someone so easily (and cheaply) to do for you on a website like Upwork.
If yes, how long were you working alone before you brought on help?
How did they inspire you and your blog/brand?
Why do you like them?
What advice would you give someone else on their first day?
What have you spent money on that wasn’t worth the investment?
The only thing I’ve spent money on that I shouldn’t have at the time was an ecourse. Shiny Object Syndrome can be hard to resist and there are many great courses out there that do a great job of making us feel like we have to have it. The time I regretted it was not because the course wasn’t good. It’s because I was using it as a distraction from actually doing the work that needed to get done. I convinced myself on a whim, “oooh- I want to start doing video, I should take a course on doing video”. That was not the thing that was going to help me grow my business the most at the moment and as soon as I figured out what I needed to be working on, I never looked at the course.
What have you wasted time on with the least reward?
– Putting a lot of time into creating my Freelancer’s Toolkit & Community (which are the freebies I give away when people sign up). Making sure it was interesting and helpful enough for people to want to sign up and stay signed up.
– Optimizing my website to get people to sign up by getting optin forms in lots of strategic places.
What was the turning point?
I want to say a huge thank you to Leah, not only for participating in my series but for inspiring me to take the leap to full time freelance. It’s support and encouragement like her’s that makes it possible for so many people to be following their dreams. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to take a look at The Freelance to Freedom Project website and join the Facebook group to reap the full benefits of all of Leah’s wisdom!