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Interview Series #2: When opportunity knocks

“My first project was creating my own brand”

‘Freelancing’ is assumed to be an easy walk of life by many. We chose to chat with a freelancer, who is relatively new to this choice. Vishrutha Venkatesh, an advertising professional who founded Vivify, gives her take on the issues a freelancer faces on an everyday basis.

TL: Can you give us a little bit about your background in freelancing?

VV: I am relatively fresh to the world of freelancing. I have been in this space only for 8 months. Before this, I worked in an Ad agency as a designer. I have some exposure in the various media fields. I chose to become a freelancer as I felt that my job was getting rather monotonous.

TL: How has your journey been so far?

VV: To be truthful, it has been challenging. Especially in the beginning. After I quit my job and started working as a freelancer, the first few months were rather slow. I joined a co-working space thanks to someone’s suggestion. But even after that, it took some time for the business to pick up. Now, I have a variety of clients to whom I offer my services to. I constantly am looking for opportunities to get new projects and expand.

TL: How was the challenge of getting started?

VV: In my field, freelancing has become pretty common. However, the people who freelance are usually the ones with a lot of exposure. They are ones who have worked in agencies for over 15 to 20 years, reached high levels and choose to step out and experiment with freelancing. I on the other hand am only 26, and have a year’s experience in an ad agency. So, I have to compete with people who have a thorough understanding and exposure on an everyday basis. But, fortunately I have done a lot of internships as part of my education including print and radio. This helps me providing a large variety of services to my clients.

TL: What was your first project and how did you land it?

VV: Technically, my first project was creating the branding for a hospital. But before working with them, I had another more challenging and important project in hand. This was creating my own brand. As a freelancer, it is crucial for you to have a strong branding and portfolio to speak on your behalf. However, I was new and had nothing to include in my portfolio. All the work I had done in my past jobs couldn’t be shown as they belonged to those companies. Thus, to win a client I took it upon myself to showcase all my skills through my brand I was going to create. From the name to the design, I put in a lot of thought in every step to highlight my skillsets. After this I used my portfolio to market myself to various people. I landed my first project through reference and started my journey as a freelancer.

TL: How and where did you land your first client?

VV: I landed my first client through a reference. When you are a new freelancer it is important to keep your eyes open to any opportunity coming your way. The chances of your first project coming through one of your social circles are very high.

TL: Can you tell us a little about your experience when handling your first client?

VV: Handling my first client tested my interpersonal skills and communication skills in many ways. When a client is very close to the brand, it becomes a little more difficult to convince them. The line between their likes and the company’s requirements are a blur. And as a professional I had to be accommodative to both- their personal likes and dislikes and also what would be good for the company. I tried using “the customer is always right” mantra in many cases. When coming up with suggestions I had to be very tactful, and make them realize the logic being used by me as a professional and distance them from their personal likes.

TL: What would you recommend to a new freelancer?

VV: I would suggest new freelancers to focus on networking and building a client base first. This is crucial for the growth of business. When looking for clients and projects, I would suggest settling for smaller clients and projects in the beginning as the risks in them are limited. The figures you quote for a project have to be reasonable and lower than the market prices to guarantee you getting the project. Clients have to see a value for their money in your quotes. First find out where you stand in the market in terms of the quality of the services you provide and come up with figures based on that.

TL: How do you network?

VV: Being a talkative person, played to my advantage as e freelancer. Luckily, I was sitting in a co-working space where people requires my services. But I knew I had to create an impact on the mind of my colleagues to get projects from them. For this reason, I designed notebooks using my artwork as covers with the logo and gifted/ sold it to people in the workspace. This created curiosity about me in their minds and led to an easy conversation starter. I made it a point to attend all the events that happened in the workspace and introduced myself to people. Soon, I became a popular face in the space who people knew.

TL: What advice would you give to a new freelancer who isn’t an extrovert?

VV: I know it is difficult to chat up conversations with people if it isn’t in your innate nature to do so. But for the sake of your business it is crucial to put yourself out there. You could use digital platforms like LinkedIn if you are more comfortable. But most importantly I would recommend against working from home in the beginning stages of setting up your business.

TL: Do you consider Freelancing as a viable career option, and would you advice more people to take it up in India?

VV: I definitely consider freelancing to be a viable career option. Freelancing as a way of work has been increasing, and the number of people who are opting for them have also risen drastically over the years. I would actually advice more people to consider freelancing as a workstyle to many and feel that is the future.


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