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Journey of a Freelancer with Preeti Gupta
Episode 107th March 2024 • The SEO Mindset Podcast • Sarah & Tazmin
00:00:00 00:47:15

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In this episode, Tazmin talks candidly with Preeti Gupta about the realities of being a freelancer. From mindset to business acumen, Preeti shares a wealth of knowledge on what to be aware of, and the benefits of this style of working.

About Preeti:

Preeti Gupta is an SEO consultant and founder of Packted. She advocates for user-friendly SEO and shares resources to learn SEO through her LinkedIn, YouTube, and website.

Where to find Preeti:

@Ilovechoclates_ on Twitter

Preeti's Website

Preeti on YouTube

Preeti Gupta on LinkedIn

About 'The SEO Mindset' Podcast

Build your inner confidence and thrive.

The SEO Mindset is a weekly podcast that will give you actionable tips, guidance and advice to help you not only build your inner confidence but to also thrive in your career.

Each week we will cover topics specific to careers in the SEO industry but also broader topics too including professional and personal development.

Your hosts are Life Coach Tazmin Suleman and SEO Manager Sarah McDowell, who between them have over 20 years of experience working in the industry.

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Transcripts

Tazmin:

Hello everyone, and welcome to another episode of the SEO Mindset podcast. Today we are joined by the wonderful, wonderful Preeti Gupta and we have been trying so hard to get this episode recorded, so let's make the most of this one. Preeti is going to talk to us all about the realities of being a freelancer. What made her do it, all of the pros and all the cons. So it promises to be a really insightful episode. But before I welcome Preeti on, just want to remind everyone that if you're enjoying what Sarah and I are doing and want to support us, then there are many ways that you can do it. One is to send us a one off donation via the buy me a coffee link which is in the show notes. Another one is to subscribe to the podcast because that way you never miss out on any episodes that we release. Now, I want to tell you a little bit more about our wonderful guest, Preeti. She's an SEO consultant, she's the founder of pacted and her theme is really about making SEO user friendly and the resources that she shares, the LinkedIn post that she does, her website, it all resonates with that user friendliness. She adds humor, she adds humility. And she even posted about all of the times that we were trying to record this podcast and were not having any joy. She loves cooking. I love cooking. She loves chocolate. I love chocolate. She loves wearing sarees. I love wearing sarees. And we've said if we ever come to Brighton SEO together, we will be sari twins for the. So welcome, Preeti. So excited to have you on the podcast.

Preeti:

Hello. Hello and thank you for so much for having me.

Tazmin:

Oh, brilliant. It's brilliant. And it's a really important topic because it does feel like more and more people in the SEO industry are going down the route of freelancing. And definitely COVID and lockdown had an impact on that. People started seeing life in a different way and I've got my own thoughts on it, but I'm really interested in what you have to share today. So just going to ask you straight off, what made you take the plunge?

Preeti:

Okay, so I think it's kind of weird because ever since I was a child, especially in India, parents always think that you will grow up, get a degree and then get a job. But I never wanted to do a job because I didn't like the idea of having a corporate career and going to the offices and doing the commute and everything. It just felt like not me, basically. So I didn't like the idea of doing this thing. But life happened. And after graduating my college, I did a few internships, and I also did a job, like, in the actual office, going there, commuting and everything. And that made me realize that it's not something I should be doing because the vibe wasn't there. I was feeling constantly like I am doing something that I should not be doing. Also, there was moments where I was doing a lot of things that I was not supposed to doing. I was saying yes to everything in order to be in the good books of everyone to do that. I was just doing random things. And it took a lot of toll on my mental health, and I was also having a lot of anxiety and also taking anxiety pills. So it was so bad that basically motivated me to just go all into freelance. I'm like, let me just try it for once. What's the worst that could happen? I could just not do it. And then, okay, I'll go back to doing jobs or something, but let me just take this chance for once and just do it.

Tazmin:

But what you've said, there's a lot of gold in what you just said. Your awareness that that corporate life wasn't for you, and then you took the plunge. There will be many listeners, I'm sure, that also are feeling that this isn't for them. They're not enjoying this. But to take the plunge is hard.

Preeti:

It sure is.

Tazmin:

Yeah.

Preeti:

For me, it's like, even after thinking that, okay, I'll do this, there was a lot of constant self doubts and everything. Like, how would I even navigate this thing? And nobody in my family is more like, nobody supported me. So it was definitely a hard decision.

Tazmin:

So what helped you make that decision? So you realized that it wasn't for you. You'd already had that inkling that actually the corporate world isn't for me. You gave it a go. It took a toll on your mental health. You were compromising your own values. What helped you take that plunge?

Preeti:

I think it was just me trying to risk everything. I'm like, I don't have anything to lose, right? I just graduated college. I just did this job, and it's not like I am a millionaire or something, or I have things to lose. I have nothing. So I was just like, okay, let's just risk this thing. We should forget about all the, what's the worst that could happen? So that I was like, okay, let's just do it forward.

Tazmin:

All right, so you've taken that plunge. You've become a freelancer. What's the reality of being a freelancer? What have you learned from the other side?

Preeti:

Damn. I think the first and the most important thing I learned is that this career is not easy. It's not all the rainbows and sunshine thing. You know how they make posts on social media saying that, yeah, doing freelance is so cool. You can get on beach and sit with your laptop and do work from wherever you want, sitting in a van or something, but you can make six figures a month or something. I think it's not very realistic. And I have seen a lot of people take those kind of posts and think that, okay, this is something that they want to do, but they don't really see that. What's the real side? And I think the real side is to, you have to do everything by yourself, right? It's not like when you're doing a job. It's just that, okay, if I got the job as SEO executive, I'm just doing the SEO work, right? But when I started my journey, I was like, okay, I have taken the plunge. Now what? I don't even know what to offer, what people would pay me, and even if I got a client, how would I make sure I onboard them correctly and I accept the payments in the correct way? I didn't know how to set up stripe or whatever, and how to accept payments from clients, how to invoice them and stuff like that. I'm like, nobody told me about these things. I just knew that I could do SEO for them. But even in SEO, there are thousands of things. It's not like you can just go and be like, okay, I can do SEO, but what exactly in SEO do you want to do? So these are the realities, I guess. It's like you have to figure out everything right from the scratch. What are you offering and how do you want to approach this career? Because I have seen a lot of people who do freelance as a side thing. They have their main job, but they are listing themselves on freelance platforms and then they take on clients like that. That is very different from being the freelance person. Like, twenty four seven. The mindset is different. You are not just thinking about doing SEO at this point. You are doing 20 different things at once, trying to make everything sound good. And also, the other thing is that it took me a lot of time to realize and understand that, that you have to market yourself to people. You have to tell people what you are doing. Because at the start I was like, okay, I am offering SEO, so I should not be go out and put myself in front of people. It would be very hypocritical. Of me to do that, to market myself to people. But with the time I realized that you are the one man team, you have to do everything. Just as big businesses, big agencies have all the marketing and sales and other departments, you don't have that. So you have to do it all by yourself. You have to market yourself. You have to go and tell people and yeah, you have to do that also. The other thing is that getting clients right, getting clients is something everybody talks about. If you go on social media, like YouTube or whatever, people have an opinion on how to get clients. There are like 25 different things that people are saying, you should do this, this and this and this. I have tried almost everything. Like, I have tried getting on the Facebook groups and doing cold calls or not cold calls, like cold messages, cold emails, and, I don't know, just talking to people. But none of that has worked for me. It's more like what has worked for me is posting on LinkedIn and sharing my experiences and my story and through my website. So I think the reality is that you have to do a lot of things at the same time, try to figure out a lot of things also. Nobody will help you in this journey. You are basically alone. And even if there are people who say that, yeah, we are with you, we are in this together, but they are not. And you can't even compare yourself with the people who have six figures agencies or something, because it's not like you and them are at very different positions. And you constantly try to compare yourselves with people who are not very much on your level, because you don't find people who are at your level. And also asking for things is hard sometimes, because sometimes people are like, if I gave away my secrets, what would I do? So these are some of the realities.

Tazmin:

I think, because you're not just a freelancer, you are running a business. You've become a business person. And I think even when I became a coach, it took me a while to understand. Being a coach and having a coaching business are two very different things.

Preeti:

Exactly.

Tazmin:

Very different things. And you're so right that there are many people who will tell you, oh, if you do A, B and C, you'll get clients, and if you do X, Y and Z, you'll get clients. And you have to really start trusting yourself to figure out what works for me. And that takes courage. This mindset you're talking about. It's so relevant. I know I'm putting you on the spot. Can you give me three elements of a mindset that helped you?

Preeti:

I think it's the mindset of the first thing would be to be vulnerable and to talk about things, to talk about things that are not very common. So one of the things is that I have seen a lot of people, I have personally talked with a lot of freelancers who are just starting out, try to build their business and stuff. And I always tell them that if you are trying to get clients, you should create content in some shape or form and try to put yourself out there. Because if you try to do cold calls or things like that, sometimes it might not work because some people think doing cold messages and whatever is kind of pushy sort of thing. So I always suggest them to just create some sort of content so that you can just get yourself out there and not just any content. You can always showcase your expertise and tell people what do you do and what are you best at. But not everybody shows you the flawed side of yours. Not everybody tells you all the challenges you had, all the weird things going on in your business and life and whatever. So I think there should be some sort of balance, because if you were to post negative things all day, every day, it would be kind of weird. People will pull away from that. People will be like, why is she posting negative stuff all day every day? It doesn't even make sense. So I think there should be a healthy balance between showing your vulnerable side and showing your expertise. Other thing is that you should try to learn about how businesses work. I am still in the phase of learning how businesses work and how they do the whole profit generation thing. I still learn a lot. I follow a lot of people for that. But it's something like the mindset of being somebody who do jobs and somebody who do freelance is that they have to understand how actually are you running your business? For me, things like how to even register packed as a sole proprietor company and how to go to the bank and make a current account, or I don't know how to do accounting and how to. It took me a while to find a software for accounting. My friend helped me in that a lot. But it took me a while because there are tons of options in the market and you don't know how to navigate all of that because I never had experience in these things. So I think learning about how business works and how people work, like how people's minds work and how they perceive value in your products and services and how you can showcase those values to people is something I would recommend.

Tazmin:

Brilliant. So it's the mindset, the business acumen, the marketing, and we're going to talk a little bit more about after the break about advice so that we can continue that conversation. But already lots and lots of golden nuggets in what you have shared with us. Thank you. I'm going to take a little bit of a break, give Preeti a chance to have a drink and everyone else, all of you listeners, to just take a bit of a pause and then we'll return with more golden nuggets from Preeti. Hello, everyone, and welcome back. Today in our episode, we are talking about the journey of freelancing with Preeti Gupta. And we've already talked about what made her take the plunge into freelancing and the realities of being self employed. And we've gone through the realities in terms of the challenges that a freelancer will face from even going from a part time freelancer to a full time. The whole concept of having to run your own business, marketing, all of that. So, Preeti, you've talked to us about the challenges. Let's talk about the benefits. What have you enjoyed about being a freelancer?

Preeti:

I think the biggest benefits of being a freelance is that you have the freedom, right? You have the freedom to basically work from anywhere, not from beaches, but from anywhere you want as long as you have your wifi and your laptop. So I think it's so great. And you don't have to be in a specific place or position. You could just work in your pajamas if you want to. So I have done a lot. I still do it. And for example, if I went on vacations or something and I know I have to do something, I can just take my laptop there. It's not like I have to be in a certain environment just to do my work. The other thing is that you have far more potential to earn than your job or something. So if somebody is earning x amount of money in their job, and for me, for example, I was earning $120 a month when I was doing the only job that I did. And it was hard for me to understand when I got into freelance that, okay, you can charge more, you can make more profits and like, as long as you're okay to put in more work and do more things and I guess not be satisfied with your current things, you can charge as much as you want and there is a lot of potential. And also you don't have to deal with all the corporate things like talking to somebody who is higher in position than you, having to explain things. There are a lot of times when, let's say for my own website, I'm trying to experiment with some feature or something. If you were to do that in your jobs, in your company's website, first of all, nobody would let you do that. It's like, why are you experimenting with our website? You don't have any authority to do that. So you have all the things in the world to experiment. You can do almost everything. And also the other thing is that your hours are very much flexible. If you want, you can work all day, all night, and I don't know, don't go to sleep or whatever. It's not like you just have to work from say nine to five or something. So your working hours are very much flexible. And you don't have to go to commute. You don't have to go sit in a bus or cab or something to get to work. You will save so much time and so much resources and money, I guess try not to do the whole commute thing. And also, for me personally, I feel very content and I feel very calm, I guess doing the thing that I am passionate about, helping people with their websites. And I think I was constantly having a lot of anxiety, thoughts, almost panic attacks and something when I was doing job because that was not something I was really interested in doing. So as much as there are perks of being in a job because it's kind of secure and whatever, but for me doing this thing, I just feel very content and I just feel very good about myself. At the end, you will learn a lot more than when you are doing a job. It's like you will get to talk to a lot of people. Let's suppose I was doing a job. We could not have this interview. We could not have this podcast if I was doing a job and I could not have met a lot of people, obviously online, not in person yet, but you have the opportunity to meet a lot of people and do the things that you never thought you could do. There are people who are running YouTube channels and are getting to meet so many awesome people they could have never met. So you have awesome opportunity to meet people, to get their experience, to talk with them, to learn from them. So I guess there are certainly benefits of doing this thing.

Tazmin:

I resonate with everything you just said because the potential for your growth is so much more when you are running your own business than when you are in a corporate job. You're saying that if you weren't a freelancer, you wouldn't be on this podcast. If I wasn't a freelancer, I wouldn't even have a podcast. I never even thought about it. And I think, first of all, you're managing yourself. You don't have to deal with a toxic manager. So many of my clients, their problem is their manager. And the more I think about it, your mental health relies more on your relationship with your manager than anything else in the world because it can be horrible. Also, as you said, you don't have to ask permission if you want to go for a new client, if you want to offer a different service, you don't have to have anyone telling you what to do. And it's that independence that you can get through it and the growth in your own confidence. So many people I have talked to recently have said, yes, it's hard. Yes, you're not doing nine to five, you're doing 24/7 albeit in different shapes and forms. But they still don't want to give it up. The freedom is too gold.

Preeti:

Exactly. The freedom has like the higher thing in my list, so I can't give it up.

Tazmin:

Basically, you're stuck now.

Preeti:

Exactly.

Tazmin:

Okay, so imagine somebody, one of our listeners right now is thinking, I want to do this. I want to do what Preeti is doing. What advice would you give them?

Preeti:

Okay, I think the first advice is that you have to be prepared that you will not do just one thing. You have to do a lot of things because let's say you are good at writing content. And so you think that, okay, I can offer services for writing content, doing business, like doing the freelance thing myself, I have realized that the time that you are spending on actually doing content writing thing is very less. And doing other things takes much more of your time, like doing all the admin work and try to get the contract thing and making invoice and doing all other things basically will take a lot more time and catching up with the client, talking with them. It will take much more time than actually doing the work. So you have to be prepared that you will have to do 25 other things than what you are good at, basically. And also the other thing is that a lot of people who start in freelance, even me, you know how we always go to YouTube for searching how to price my services and what should I offer and things like that. I also went there, I also searched for it. And a lot of people give advice that you should charge hourly. I would say just stay away from it as much as you can because it will incentive. Basically. I just don't like hourly pricing because it incentivizes you to not be efficient. Because if you were to do this one thing in like 2 hours, why would you spend 10 hours doing it. So just stay away from hourly pricing and also figure out what you offer and what you can help with people as quickly as you can. I guess I'm still in my process of building another offering because in my last two years of doing freelance I have changed my offerings like a million times. Every single time I think that, okay, I will do this, this and this. Something happens and I'm like, okay, I can't do this anymore. So I'm still in the process of building my new offering. But it's more like the only advice I can give you is just to be clear on what you are offering to people because there are a lot of times if you're listening this, you know that you have tons of potential. You can do million things for your clients and you can help them with a million things. But when it comes to your offer, just decide on one core thing that you will do that you will help people with and just build your whole website and your brand around that. Because speaking from personal experience, it's really hard to change your offerings. Once you are done with making the website and doing everything and writing the copy, it's very hard to go back to the first place and just start with the offer once again and also have systems for things. If you were to work with foreign clients, for example, you would have to have a registered company for some sort. I can say for India that I registered as a sole proprietorship because that's something you need at least to be a legit business, I guess. So just know all of those things and register yourself and have a business account for your bank. We say that current account in India, I'm not sure what do they say? Yeah, these things and how to do the contract thing, the invoices thing, your accounting and also having basic things like having your professional emails. That's something you should also do. And the point is that have systems for things because I have seen that a lot of people, they are very much hurry to get a client, but when they get the client, they're like, okay, now what should I do with this client? How would I even start this thing together? So I know you are sometimes we all are desperate to get clients, but it's more like if you have all proper systems in place before even trying to find clients, you will be much better off and you will feel much more better basically when you do that. Also I also learned this the hard way, that don't offer a ton of services. As I said, you would be tempted to do a million things because you know a lot of things, but don't offer a lot of things, especially in the starting. Just have one core offer that you know that you are extremely good at. Just have that and just offer this thing. You can always build on top of this anytime you want to. Like when you have, I don't know, a team or something and you scale things up. But in the very beginning of your freelance career, just offer one to two services. This is more for when you're doing this, for full time, when you are doing part time. I guess people do offer a lot of different services. And also the last thing I would say is that I also, I guess, learned this the hard way, that we are very afraid of putting our real opinions on social media and telling to people. And you also take up bad clients just because you want to fit in and just because you are desperate to get clients. I have also done that. I have regretted that big time. Don't work with people that doesn't resonate with you. And also don't be afraid to put your real self on the front. Basically, don't try to be somebody else because it will take a lot of time and it will take a lot of energy for you to do that. You can always use that energy to do the better things. Why would you use your energy to be somebody else and why would you fake it? So these are some of the advices.

Tazmin:

That, because it is exhausting being somebody else. Absolutely exhausting. You should be teaching this, Preeti, this is golden. Wonderful. Great advice. Really great advice. I feel like we've only scratched the surface of this and maybe we create a little bit of a series on each of these strands that we've talked about. Because all of this advice, even getting your finances in order, understanding, maybe even having that phased entry into full time business so that you are building up those connections before you actually take the plunge. There's so much merit in doing it that way. It's not for everyone. Everyone is different. But yeah, absolutely. Let's talk about doing a little bit of a series on this topic. Preeti. It's brilliant. Brilliant. Okay, so we have sadly know we're running out of time. Preeti, we ask all of our guests some wrap up questions. So one of the questions is, what one thing would you like the listeners to take away from today's episode?

Preeti:

I guess. Okay, so the first thing is that people take the freelance career as very, I don't know, with a very dreamy perception. They can do whatever they want and things like that. Obviously, you can obviously do whatever you want to, but I think just don't have the wrong perception that you can do less work and earn more. I have seen people talk to me all the time saying that how could I do very less and I earn a lot of money. I'm like, sadly, you can't do that. It doesn't work this way. Obviously, you can do this very much later in your process when you have automated a tons of things and then you can work less and earn more. But in the starting, you have to maybe work more and earn less. That's how it works in the starting. And the other thing is that don't try to be perfect basically, when you're starting. I was also thinking this, that I need to be perfect in every aspect just to get my first client. And I'm like, you will never be perfect. I am not perfect today, and I will never be, and you will never be perfect. So just do this thing, okay? It's not like you will. And also, the other thing is that everybody is human. Everybody's trying to figure the things out. It's not like everybody has. Let's say if somebody is a millionaire or something, he is still figuring things out. It's not like he has everything done. They might also learn new things every day. So don't feel the self doubts and don't feel like you are not good enough or something. You are the best, okay? Let me tell you, you are the best. You can do this. Just don't feel the impostor syndrome. And don't be like, I have not figured this out. You will one day. But not everybody is perfect. And the last thing is that just try to be as real as possible and try to build connections with people instead of try to sell everybody. Because once you go and build connections with people without having to expect anything in return, okay, if I say, go to Tazmin and I talk with her, and I'm like, okay, let's be friends or something. It's not like I'm trying to offer my services to her or I'm trying to sell her on something. Just try to go and build friendships and network with people without having to expect anything in return. Because if you go to build network with people and expect something, it will not work. They will sense the vibe that you are trying to sell something and they will pull away. And they might also say that to other people that Preeti is like, she's trying to sell everything to everybody, so just be away from her.

Tazmin:

So these are the three real authenticity isn't it and being genuine with people, that's brilliant. Thank you so much. So in terms of advice you've received, what's the best career advice you've ever been offered?

Preeti:

The best advice that my friend gave me is that the advice is that you won't get what you don't ask for. So just ask for things. A lot of times what happens is that let's say you are, I don't know, try to put up price, or let's say somebody came to you and be like, okay, how much is your services? And stuff like that? And in your head you're like, okay, I want to offer at this price, but your inner self basically is like, we could obviously charge more. There is like a little voice in your head I would say, just do it, okay? Just ask for it. The worst they can say is, no, the worst they can do is leave you or something, but just ask for things. And ever since I got this advice, even I was doing the free trial for this software and I was afraid that I have not poked around the software very much and I still need a little bit more time to understand if this is for me or not. So my friend told me that you should go and ask them to give you some free extra days of trial. And I'm like, can I do that? Is it legal? Can I do that? And he was like, yeah, sure, go ahead. So I did. And I asked them, can you just give me two, three extra days of free trial? Because I'm not sure yet. And they gave me, and I'm like, this is such brilliant advice. I could have never thought of that. I feel just too imposter sometimes to not to do things. So the best advice I can give you is just ask for things. Don't hesitate, okay? And it's not just in the aspect of business and stuff. It's everywhere in life. Just ask for things.

Tazmin:

Brilliant. Good friend of yours. So the last question I have is, and this doesn't have to be in the SEO industry. This can be anywhere. Who is somebody who inspires you that you would recommend that we follow?

Preeti:

Apparently you can't follow them because they are my grandmothers and stuff. So my nanny and my great nanny, so like my grandmother, basically they inspire me a lot because even though they are not alive, but they do inspire me every day to do, because they always told me to do things that brings you happiness and brings you freedom and whatever brings you freedom, just do it, okay? And don't be afraid of people. People will always have things to say. Just be yourself and do the things that you want to do. And also, who else? I would recommend following my awesome friend Sebastian. Just follow him.

Tazmin:

What's his surname? Or if you can send me a link, we'll put a link in the show notes.

Preeti:

I'll give you his link.

Tazmin:

But I love what you said about your grandmothers because we can learn so much from them. And sometimes when we, especially in the space of technology, we focus on the greats in that technology field. We focus on the people who are doing well there. But when we look at what especially our mothers and grandmothers and great grandmothers have done for us to be able to be where we are now, there is so much wisdom and strength that we can gain from them, learn from them. So, no, my grandfather was very poor. He built up big businesses. He used to go and scrape coconut for households before he went to school to earn some money. And he was only about eight or nine at the time. And I think back to him now, he's no longer with us. But what would he have had to go through to then in his older years, to be speaking at conferences in Singapore and we lived in East Africa. So to be able to have those opportunities, he must have had to go through so much. But there's a lot of inspiration in our ancestors. Definitely. Exactly.

Preeti:

Also, as a last thing, I would say that you should also like, if you are obviously a woman, you should go and check out the women in tech SEO community. Because it's the best. It's literally the best. You might find your best friend there because I find Josephine my best friend.

Tazmin:

That community, the ethos behind it, the spirit within it has helped so many. It's where you and women in tech, exactly. Everything that it embodies is brilliant. That's a really good shout out. Thank you Preeti, and thank you so much for all of the wisdom you have shared today and just remains for me to say thank you to all of our listeners. We love having this podcast. We love having the connection with all of you who listen. We love it when you connect with us, so many of you do. So anytime you see us, want to message us, please, we're always happy to have a chat and connect more. And lastly, just reminding that if you're enjoying what Sarah and I are doing, then be great if you could subscribe to the podcast because that way you don't miss any episodes. And if you'd like to send us a donation via the buy me a coffee, all of the links in the show notes. So thank you so much, Preeti. And thank you, everyone, for listening.