Interview with digital marketer Toni-Marie Aston
Toni has a passion for supporting small business with her expertise in digital marketing and branding. In December 2015 she quit a successful role as an eComm and Digital Marketing Manager to launch her own business, 2aT Startup. Her mission is to not only support small business, but also to educate them about what makes a great brand both off and online.
TELL US HOW YOU ENDED UP HERE AS A FREELANCER? WHERE DID IT ALL BEGIN?
I always wanted to start something but it wasn't until I got back home from a South East Asia journey in 2015 that I just couldn't bring myself to start applying for a "real" job again. So whilst I was making those tough life decisions, I naturally started freelancing to earn pocket money and eventually I enrolled myself in a full-time small business management course to understand all the ins and outs.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START FREELANCING?
During my time freelancing, I soon realised the struggles that startups were facing; lack of funding, lack of resources, and especially lack of education around about what makes a great brand and how they can leverage their digital presence. And whilst I Iove digital marketing and design, my true passion stems from helping startups and small businesses and that is what inspired me to continue pursuing this, to start something that could be a supportive platform but also provide valuable services.
WHAT WAS YOUR LAST 'REAL JOB' AND HOW DID YOU MOVE AWAY FROM THIS AND START WORKING FOR YOURSELF?
My last "real" job was a Digital Marketing & Ecomm Manager for a small fashion boutique in Collingwood. I absolutely loved this role, in fact, I loved all my past roles. But, I also love working autonomously, having that creative freedom and I have always wanted more, I get bored easily and I just love thinking of new ideas, and thus I found "real" jobs to be restrictive and never really fulfil my needs. I think this naturally led me to start something on my own.
IN THREE EMOJIS, DESCRIBE YOUR LIFE AS A FREELANCER...
WHAT WAS YOUR BIGGEST FEAR BEFORE YOU STARTED FREELANCING? ANY TIPS ON OVERCOMING THIS FEAR?
I guess the "am I good enough" fear was the hardest to overcome. The number one tip to get through the imposture syndrome is to be your own cheerleader and surround yourself with people who get it and are on a similar journey. A good support system is key.
WALK US THROUGH A TYPICAL DAY IN THE LIFE OF YOU?
I am an early riser and usually up by 6am, so the day naturally starts with coffee. I then get ready and make my way down to the office, I work from One Roof, coshare in Southbank and I am fairly luckily to live a 40-minute walk away from there.
My days are unpredictable sometimes, which is why I like to get a little old school and map out my days/weeks with pen and paper on a daily calendar, so I can prepare as much as possible.
From client meetings to design projects and networking events and plenty of coffee, no two days are the same, which I love.
As it can be a little stressful working for yourself, I try to incorporate meditation into my days and a new thing I am trying to do is make sure I take a lunch break!
I usually leave the office around 6ish, and try to switch off as soon as I get home.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT FREELANCING?
The people I get to meet. I am fortunate to get to hear startups stories day in and day out, the passion they have to start something is so inspiring. And then getting to work with them throughout their journey and see it come to life has to be the biggest reward.
I also love the opportunities that can arise if you work hard enough. For example, I planned some RnR time in Bali earlier this year for just 7 days, but soon found myself presented with the opportunity to teach at 5-star digital marketing retreat for 10 days and then ended up being there for a month... (I found) those once in a life time opportunities are so much rarer when you work for someone else.
WHAT SUCKS THE MOST ABOUT FREELANCING?
Hmmm this sounds ironic but sometimes not having a boss and/or team can suck. Every obstacle or issue that arises is yours to face, there's no leaving at 5 on the dot, waiting until Monday or taking annual leave when your friends plan a holiday, it's all on you. And that can sometimes be a lot of pressure for one person.
I think working from a coshare had to be one of the biggest advantages for me, just being around like minded people and part of a community helped me get through some really tough times and then having them around you to also celebrate the wins!
WHAT THREE QUALITIES TO YOU NEED TO SUCCEED AS A FREELANCER?
Determination - you need to be someone that follows things through and doesn't give up.
Organisation skills - prioritising and meeting deadlines is all up to you.
and last but not least, passion.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE JUST STARTING OUT?
Start with capitial or savings behind you, bootstrapping is hard and living pay to pay will only cause stress. I highly suggest doing some financial planning and forecasting before you quit your job. Having financial contingency plans for those quite months will really help and if numbers arent your thing engage with an accountant, that's something I wish I had done sooner rather than later!