Interview with freelance publicist Odette Barry
A looming company restructure had Odette reconsidering her options in her relatively small town of Byron Bay. After some gentle encouragement from friends, she decided to take her future into her own hands and step out on her own as a freelancer. Odette talks about her cash flow fears, the stress and the perks of being her own boss in this fearless freelancer interview.
TELL US HOW YOU ENDED UP HERE AS A FREELANCER? WHERE DID IT ALL BEGIN?
To be completely honest I was very hesitant about diving into business. Many years ago, I had my own business in retail and it was EXPENSIVE. So many costs and so much emotional and physical commitment. After that, I was pretty gun shy about business ownership.
I’ve had a few freelance clients on the side for a couple of years but never intended to do more than that. When my employer started restructuring all my friends and family were on my back to start freelancing but I was very resistant. But as the universe tends to have its own agenda for things, clients and opportunities just popped up out of connections as soon as I put some feelers out, so here I am.
I’ve just really started investing in the business and have brought a couple of girls into my little team so that I can take on bigger projects. But gawd it’s stressful! Of course, that’s equally matched by the fun, the flexibility, and stimulation. It’s a totally different experience being a service provider selling your brain rather than being a retailer! Hello…minimal overheads!? Love that!
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START FREELANCING?
I am a natural communicator, so much so that I'm a conversation hog, so it only makes sense that I work in comms right? I have worked across various digital marketing, public relations and events roles for the best part of a decade and my experience really lends itself to working with businesses to define their own comms strategy.
WHAT WAS YOUR LAST 'REAL JOB' AND HOW DID YOU MOVE AWAY FROM THIS AND START WORKING FOR YOURSELF?
My last employed gig was as Regional Business Partner for TAFE NSW. The role was working across both internal and external communication during a pretty hectic restructure that saw a bunch of job losses in regional NSW. For those of us choosing to live in the sticks it is pretty scary when your employer starts a restructure, because we don't have a lot of job opportunities. When the restructure was announced I was pretty concerned about my future and wasn't sure where I was headed.
It wasn't until I saw a call out on the 'Like Minded Bitches Drinking Wine' Facebook group for freelance PR and copywriters that I landed something that was juicy enough to step away from my role with TAFE. I tried to juggle freelancing and my job for a few months before the freelancing workload grew enough to fulfil way more than a five day week. It was sweet relief being able to hand in my notice but I would be lying if I said I wasn't scared stiff.
IN THREE EMOJIS, DESCRIBE YOUR LIFE AS A FREELANCER...
WHAT WAS YOUR BIGGEST FEAR BEFORE YOU STARTED FREELANCING? ANY TIPS ON OVERCOMING THIS FEAR?
Cashflow! I guess the crux of your worry is always, will I have enough business and will I be able to feed my family? Then that's closely followed by imposter syndrome...can I even do what I say I can do?
How do you overcome that? Dive right in and work your little butt off. The best way to create cash flow is to sit down and smash out the work (oh and remember to do your invoices in a timely fashion - gah!) and pay the bills.
And, parallel to that, as you get the work done you prove to yourself what you're capable of. There ain't nothing sweeter than reflecting on your killer outreach that you have achieved for your clients or the mountain of blogs you've written or the fabulous reach you're achieving on their social media.
WALK US THROUGH A TYPICAL DAY IN THE LIFE OF YOU?
Email and social scrolls at 4.45am. I normally squeeze in a quick half an hour to catch up on anything that has come into my inbox overnight. I am pretty lucky to do boot camp at the beach just outside of Byron Bay, followed by a dowgy walk at the beach with my pals. Back home for brekkie and lunch prep for my son and school drop-offs. I start my workday about 9.30am where I am checking in with my team to allocate workload. Then I'm generally strapped to my desk doing anything from developing strategy, copywriting, pitching to media targets or chasing my own tail around my inbox.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT FREELANCING?
The flexibility, the variety and the thrill of the chase.
WHAT SUCKS THE MOST ABOUT FREELANCING?
THE STRESS! oh my god, the stress. As a small business, you deeply feel the highs and the lows. My client wins are soaring highs, emotionally I'm so pumped when 'we' win. Equally though, when you have a writer’s block or your resources are stretched...that really sucks and it drains you so intensely.
WHAT THREE QUALITIES TO YOU NEED TO SUCCEED AS A FREELANCER?
Dogged determination, optimism and be easy to work with.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE JUST STARTING OUT?
Have a crack. Be optimistic about your success but plan for failure. Allocate as much time as you can to grow your business and reach out to likeminded folk so that you can outsource or support their projects as you move through the ebbs and flows of the business.