The Power of the Freelance Network

freelance business or marketing professionals

When I decided to begin this freelance journey, I was a little worried about how much competition there would be. In business school, we were taught the importance of assessing external threats (good ol’ PEST and SWOT analyses!) when developing a strategy. You’re supposed to analyze the market to find the perfect opportunity where you can excel over the others in your industry. When translating this mindset to my own business venture, however, it caused quite a bit of anxiety.

All I had to do was google “digital marketing expert” or “freelance writer”, or hop onto a site like Upwork, to see a long list of people who have the same qualifications, background, and skills that I do. Even worse, there are dozens of marketing agencies in the area who have in-house graphic designers, writers, webmasters, and SEO experts (I know, because I’ve applied to work at many of them). It felt like these agencies could offer everything I could, and more. I had no idea how to distinguish myself from the crowd, and was nervous about being able to handle all the needs of my future clients. (The irony of struggling to market myself as a professional marketer is not lost on me…)

But as I began to connect with many wonderful people in the marketing/freelance space here in Waterloo Region and Guelph, I’ve had the chance to see how they’ve chosen to position themselves – as writers, graphic designers, SEO experts, web designers, digital marketers, PR specialists, and more. We are all different parts of the same complicated machine that is Marketing. If you’re an individual freelancer, there’s no way you’ll have capacity to actively cover every aspect of the industry. Everyone has certain areas that they prefer over others, and eventually (hopefully), you’ll get to a point where you can choose what projects you take on. And that makes me less worried about competition, and hopeful about the potential for collaboration – because there will always be people who don’t want to do what I do, and vice versa. Together, we can take on bigger projects and better serve the needs of our clients.

My first experience with this symbiosis appeared at the beginning of August 2020. A colleague reached out to me through the wonderful organization Coworkers Collective (which, by the way, has a delightful slack channel that helps get me through lonely days working alone). She was working as a copywriter for a client who needed some extra social media support, but she wasn’t particularly interested in expanding her role into that area; would I be interested? She connected me with the Owner of the company, who brought me onto the team. I have had a wonderful time working with their Marketing Coordinator over the past several months managing the organization’s four social media accounts – they are glad to have my help, my colleague is glad she doesn’t have to handle social media, and I am glad to have a steady project that I enjoy. It’s a win-win-win.

An example where I was on the other side: A client for whom I had written some web copy asked me if I could design a promotional postcard. I said yes, then asked a friend if she would be available to subcontract the graphic design portion. My job would be to project manage and write the copy; hers, to work her magic on Photoshop. Not so different from my work at an agency after all.

I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished this year. It’s been extraordinarily rewarding to be able to look at a final product and know that I was responsible for every part of it – the strategy, the words, the implementation. I’m accountable for it all, good or bad.

But I’m also finally realizing something…I am more than the sum of my own skills. I don’t need to carve out a lonely niche in a crowded world of marketing professionals. The relationships and friendships that I’ve made over the years provide me not only with a wonderful support system, but also a network of extremely talented people open to collaboration. And that gives me flexibility and stability all at the same time.

If you’re a freelancer or marketing professional in Canada and would like to collaborate some day, please reach out to me at hello@valeriechong.ca. Let’s help each other excel!

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Millennial Dreams for Our Hometown

Originally published in the seventh and final edition of #AloneTogether: A Cambridge Quaranzine. This special edition was created to be part of the Welcome Cambridge virtual event, and to celebrate the stories of our thriving and diverse community.

I’m a relative newcomer to Cambridge; to be honest, I only moved here from Guelph in 2019 because my partner, Blake, already had a place here. So while I have come to appreciate the natural beauty, people, and local businesses here, I decided that it made sense to include Blake in this article for the Welcome Cambridge edition of the Quaranzine.

Blake loves mornings. A natural early riser, he enjoys eating a quiet breakfast before heading outside for his “morning commute”. These days, his usual route takes him across the pedestrian bridge, through Queen’s Square and back across the river for a wander downtown Galt before heading back to start work in his home office.

“It’s a nice start to my day,” Blake tells me. “It’s good to get some exercise and see the neighbourhood.”

Blake first moved to Cambridge in 2015 when he got a job with Gore Mutual Insurance. He quickly fell in love with the architecture and history of the Galt area. On his lunch breaks, he would often take a walk outside or meet his colleague for coffee downtown. He joined the local chapter of Toastmasters to practice his public speaking, which used to meet every week at Monigram. Eventually, Blake decided that he no longer wanted to commute from Waterloo, and bought a condominium in the Galt area.

“I was inspired by the potential in the three city cores of Cambridge,” he says. “I like this area and wanted to invest in its future. I’m glad I found a place within walking distance of downtown Galt.”

Together, we enjoy driving around old neighbourhoods to look at heritage houses, or walking along the trail behind Preston Memorial Auditorium. Before COVID-19, we often went to the Queen’s Square Idea Exchange or Old Post Office to read, study, and work. I particularly enjoyed eating at local restaurants.

What do we hope for the future of our adopted home city? Our dream is to see even more independent stores and businesses thriving in each of the three downtown cores; for increased walkability and bike lanes; and for more inter-city transit (we’re looking forward to the ION light-rail system extending to Cambridge!). I hope for greater diversity and cultural celebration. And, of course, we can’t wait for the day when we’re allowed to meet with friends and neighbours again. Until then – we wish all newcomers a warm welcome to Cambridge. We hope it becomes your home too!

The Drive-In: A Perfect COVID-19 Activity

Originally published in Volume 6 of the Idea Exchange Quaranzine at: https://www.flipsnack.com/IdeaExchange/alonetogether-issue-6-retrodiscoveries/full-view.html

When our lovely Idea Exchange Volunteer Coordinator, Shannon, reached out to me to write an article about my first experience at a drive-in theatre, I jumped at the chance. I grew up in Vancouver, where the closest drive-in was in a suburb an hour away. I don’t think I even knew what a drive-in was until I came to Ontario! After a quick Google search, I decided to take myself out for a Thursday night date at the Mustang Drive-in to see the 80’s classic films Dirty Dancing (which I had only recently seen for the first time on Netflix) and Footloose (which I knew nothing about).

I wasn’t quite sure when people tend to arrive at a drive-in, or what the quality of the food at the concession stand would be, so I drove to Guelph early to grab a quick dinner. I stopped by Royal City Park to eat my sandwich and say a socially-distanced hello to a few friends from the Flying Dance Community; I used to be a regular at their Friday night social dances, back when those existed. The familiar Latin music piping from their speakers as they set up for a lesson in the gazebo put me in the perfect mood to head to the drive-in for some Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey!

I arrived at the Mustang five minutes after “doors” opened to find about 30 pick-up trucks and SUV’s already parked on the simple gravel lot. Most people had backed into their appropriately distanced spots and were setting up with blankets in their open trunks. I found a place with a good view of the large screen and ventured out of the car to check out the single building at the back of the lot. The cash-only concession stand had a small selection of candies and cold drinks, with just a few pre-wrapped burgers under some heat lamps, the sight of which made me glad that I had eaten before attending. The washrooms were well-maintained and clean (for some reason I had been expecting Port-a-Potties), but I wished I had brought a flashlight as I navigated puddles on my way back to my spot.

I leaned my seat back and settled in for several hours alone in my car. I found myself wishing for a hot drink and a blanket as I waited for the movies to begin, especially as the evening grew colder and rain began to pour down in sheets – it almost completely obscured my view of the first fifteen minutes of Dirty Dancing. Thankfully, the rain did not return for the rest of the evening as I enjoyed the feature films. I was originally hesitant about the sound quality in my very old little Toyota Matrix, but the audio came through loud and clear through the radio.

In the end, I thoroughly enjoyed my first experience at a drive-in, despite being alone and cold. I look forward to returning with friends and blankets some day!