Do you need to make a change in your business? Feeling a bit daunted? This episode is for you.
My guest is Heather Pownall, a media marketing and comms specialist who has been making some big changes in her business. Heather shares what prompted her to pivot and how it’s going so far.
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Louise Shanahan is a freelance health and medical copywriter and a big fan of finding your freelance niche. She's on a mission to help others build a freelance business that feels easy and works for them – in weekly snack-sized bites.
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Welcome to 15 Minute Freelancer, your snack-sized guide to being your own boss and building a business and life you love. I'm your host Louise Shanahan. My LinkedIn bio says I'm a freelance health copywriter. But for the next 15 minutes, I'll be tickling your ears with practical strategies, behind-the-scenes stories, and nuggets of wisdom so you can create a freelance business that works for you. Whether you're just starting out or you've been self-employed for a while, I'll be right here with you to help you navigate the ups and downs of freelancing life. So grab a coffee relax and join me for 15 minutes of freelancing fun. Don't forget to hit subscribe.
Louise: Hello, everyone, I hope you're all very well, getting back into the swing of things after the summer holidays and raring to go for the final quarter of the year. Maybe you've come back from holiday thinking about making a change in your business, and maybe that's feeling a little bit daunting. Well, worry not because my guest today has your back. Heather Pownall, or Heather Powerhouse, as I like to call her, is a media marketing and comms specialist helping brands figure out how to get their message out and have plenty of fun along the way. So hi, Heather, welcome to 15 Minute Freelancer.
Heather: Hello, Louise, thank you for inviting me.
L: So we've known each other a while haven't we? And I know that you've been making some changes in your business lately. So perhaps you could start by sharing your experience of making a pivot in your business over the last year or so, what prompted it, and how is it going?
H: The pivot kind of started when everybody was having to pivot through the disruption of the last couple of years. And what happened for me was I was offering some digital products and because of the disruption of COVID that accelerated what I was doing, and people were needing a lot more of what I actually was offering and some. So for the last two years, I've been working on that, looking at what the clients need and evolving with them.
L: Yeah, absolutely. I'm just curious about your thought process around what inspires a change if you've been changing your business strategy and things like that?
H: You and I are both on the mastermind coaching with the lovely Kirsty Waite and it's really just getting clarity on my business. I'm very quick to evolve with what's needed with my clients. But I'm also looking to see how I can grow the company, and what that would mean with pivoting with my products. So I'm about to embark on a subscription model for my clients as well as a service package so there'll be different ways that people can work with me.
L: Yeah, I think that's interesting, because it sounds like you have to make a bit of a balance between listening to what your clients need, and what will help them get the most out of their businesses, and solving problems for them and working in a way that serves them. But also doing that in a way that makes sense for you and what your goals are and your own personal situation and all of that.
H: I think that's what it is, I'm realising that I don't just go to implement, that's not really what I'm doing for my clients. It's all about, they have an idea of a set of goals to hit, but they've got ideas and they've got vision and that's what I can come in. So how do I make that process easier? How do I make that easier for us all to work together. I'm working on a new website to facilitate all these changes that I'm doing as well to make things more automated, to make the process smoother, but also so that I can control the deliverables that are going out to the clients as well. And when I was going through the process of that, it was quite clear that it's not a peg that I just stick in, say this is a solution here you are this is what I'll do for you. It's more about, this is everything that I can do, but where is it you want to go? And it's really understanding where they were, for example, if I'm working with a society that's over 100 years old, what is their history, what is it that makes them different, and what is it that makes a modern now and where is it they want to go? So there's lots of things that I work on with my clients, and it's all about getting the message out, it's all about extending their reach.
L: Are you able to share a bit about what the subscription model would look like? Because I think that might be something that feels a bit different to lots of freelancers in the way that they run their business.
H: Yeah, I'm still working on that, I could tell you, but I'd have to kill you. So yeah, I'm working that out just now and it's getting all the processes together. It's to make things affordable for people as well, because when you look at one big project, it can feel really daunting to the actual client as well. If they're launching a podcast for the first time and everything that that kind of takes because, you know, and I know, that when you put a podcast together, it isn't just about getting the guests on to record. Obviously, that's a huge part of the content of what you're putting out, but that isn't what it takes to put a podcast together. So you have an element of kind of training the client as you're going along of what's required, what their positioning will be, and things like that. With the subscription model, it’s to look at what they might be doing over a 12 month or 24 month period. With a lot of my clients they usually have a big event in there in some way. So there's usually some sort of media, whether it's a podcast or webinar series, or something like that, to help promote the overall society or membership, but also usually the event as well. I thought if I put a subscription package together, where they could take elements that they might need, whether that's a short run podcast along with a marketing strategy, and then there'd be an element of well that’s what we will do over 12 months, we'll hit this point to get the strategy ready and then it'll be this point for launch. It's kind of, as I say, controlling the deliverables, but making it really easy for them as well to slot what I do into everything else that is that they do.
L: So kind of like a retainer maybe or would you not really describe it that way?
H: I think it's a play on it, I think it's a play on a business model, it's a play on making sure that there's monthly cash flow coming in. But for me that the main agenda is the smoothness of the working. Obviously, you do want money coming in every month, so that you can pay everybody else that's working with you. But it's also about controlling those deliverables and making it really clear from the start what it is you're going to be doing when you come in. So they know, I know, and I can just get on with it and actually get them to the goals that they want to get to.
L: Change can be quite daunting, can't it? I'd be interested to know how you felt as you've gone through this process, has it been exciting, or are you a bit apprehensive about what's going to happen? I wonder if you could share a little bit about your thought process there?
H: I'm quite an excitable person, as you know, and I really quite like change. It gets me excited and it means it's new things doesn't it, means that you're working on something new. And I find that exciting because you're usually learning something new as well, along with the client and for your own kind of skill set as well. I do think you need a bit of apprehension, though, because that's where the sensible questions come in. So not just running ahead with the full excitement. When it's working with a client, I just get really excited about what they're talking about and I can have lots of ideas sparking when they say, I'm about to work on this programme, or the society's doing this, and I start thinking how they can get international reach, how they can have different people involved, and all these ideas start sparking. So that's what I get excited about. But the apprehension is just like bringing it back and thinking, right how are we going to do this, how can we make sure that it can happen within the timeframe. But it does give you a bit of clarity when you do that. But for the last few years, I've pushed myself and worked massively outwith my comfort zone, like constantly. And I don't want to say it's easy, because it isn't easy, there's peaks and troughs with it as well. And you can feel overwhelmed when you're in a constant kind of state of either change, or state of learning, or trying new things. To balance it out is just make sure you are in control of what's happening and that's why I want to put my structures in places, to control that more. So I can keep getting excited, I can keep pushing myself, but the actual running of the company is a bit easier.
L: I often say on this podcast that running a business is a massive exercise in personal development, because as your business evolves, you're having to evolve to aren't you to kind of keep up with it?
H: Yeah, absolutely, and I think that's what surprised me in the last few years of running my own businesses. You know, when you’re in employment and you think I want to be my own boss, and then I'll do this, and I'll do that, and it's a lot harder than you ever think it's going to be. Because it's generally you if you're a one man band or one person who's pulling on different freelancers to help with a the project, it can feel really overwhelming at points. But I think when you keep your eye on the goal and what it is you're trying to achieve, then you get past that overwhelm. And then that's as you say you adapt to it, you evolve to bring those processes in to keep making things easier, and I think you're a master of processes, Louise aren't you?
L: I do like to have a plan, it’s true. I think what I'm really picking up here is how having a growth mindset and being adaptable is so valuable in terms of helping you be more resilient and spontaneous to adapt I guess to the changes in your business and the changes in the market that you're working with. And although I'm a big advocate of having a niche, it's not for everyone, so I wonder if you could say a little bit about that. Do you think being a generalist has helped you in this situation to be more resilient and spontaneous?
L: Yeah, I've been thinking about this too, because we talked about it last week, and is your niche your product or is your niche your audience, that was one of the things we were talking about. I would definitely say I do have a niche in my audience, or the clients that I serve, but the generalist side of things allows me to be transferable. I would say, if you want to niche down and it's really clear, like yourself Louise, you're really clear on what your niche is and you're really clear in what it is that you do. Whereas I can turn my hand to most things, and my business has evolved that way. It's evolved through adapting to what my clients need, and the love of learning and pushing the boundaries and all that kind of stuff. And I'd like to think of myself as an expert generalist. I bring my years of experience and then what I have been learning and evolving into the last four years in my own company, and using those transferable skills to help a niche that I'm working on, but also to know that I can work with others and just know that I can transfer that.
L: And I guess you could bring in specialists in particular areas as and when you need them. And then your role is then joining the dots and making sure it all makes sense and solves the bigger problem for the client.
H: Yeah it is, and I think when you own your own business as well, and you don't have a huge team, I think it's really important to understand what it is that you're doing and what you need. And what I mean by that is when you've learned to do something you've never done before, like produce a podcast, whereas before it was putting magazines together, what I did for the last 18 plus years was working in magazine publishing. It's taking that and understanding that you're putting that into a package. So to help you grow if you understand, that's what it takes to do a storyboard, that's what it takes to do a loose script to help produce a podcast for another person, this is what it is to put something together. You start understanding those points and you don't have to be the expert. But when you take somebody else on, you have a way of briefing them, you have a way of understanding what it is you need, and to the standard that you would like it. And then you're able to communicate that to who's coming on. And hopefully they'll be more of an expert than you, because that's the point isn't that you bring on people that know how to do things better and faster than you.
L: Yeah, I think that's a really important point about being an intelligent customer so the other specialists that you're working with, for example, I'm a copywriter, I don't know very much about design, but I do try to keep up to date on the latest things and understand how designers are working. So that when I'm speaking to a client, or when I'm putting a white paper together, I'm thinking about what would the designer find useful and how can I do this in a way that makes their job easier. What questions should I be asking and things like that. So the overall process feels smoother for the client and for the other people that you're working with. So it sounds like you've been through quite the process of evolution over the last year or so. I wonder if there's anything else that you've learned about yourself or about the process of change, and any tips that you would pass on to other freelancers who are considering making a change or looking to step outside their comfort zone a bit?
H: Don't worry about not knowing things. I know that sounds really daft, but what I mean is, whatever you're starting from you have your skill set, you have your experience, you're not starting from nowhere, you have a base that you're starting from, that you can upskill from. So don't worry about not knowing certain things, you can learn it. You can adapt, and you can adapt fast if that's what you'd like to do. And as I was saying earlier, I do love to learn, so my big tip is just keep learning. I follow so many people that I'm interested in across social media and I think what are they doing, or I really like that tip, or there's loads of people bringing out books. Just read, learn, do courses, get into memberships, pull up a bank of people that you can work with. I know this is said a lot in your podcast when people come on, but the freelance community is huge and really do support each other. A lot of people say it's all about collaboration and not competition, isn't it? So that's what I would say and keep pushing your boundaries. Don't be afraid to be different, and don't be afraid to innovate. And don't just stay doing something because it's comfortable, do what's comfortable, but add bolts on to that and keep learning and say this I know how to do but what would make this a little bit sexier or what would make this just a little bit different or give a wee bit of a different outcome to what would normally happen is what I would say on that. Put trust in your ideas and run with them
L: That’s so good. Thank you so much Heather, it's been a delight to talk to you as always, and I hope that any listeners who have been pondering a pivot or thinking about stepping outside their comfort zone are feeling reassured and excited about that. If people want to come and say hi to you, Heather, where can they find you?
H: I'm pretty much hanging out in LinkedIn, you'll find me there. And I'm bopping about a little bit on Twitter as well. I do have other platforms, but they’re two you'll find me on most.
L: Okay, we'll put links in the show notes. And thank you everybody for listening. Remember, you can sign up for the newsletter, I should give that a plug, you can find the link in the show notes. It's 15minutefreelancer.substack.com and that will make sure you don't miss any episodes and also lots of bonuses that you won't find anywhere else. Until next time, happy freelancing.
You've been listening to 15 Minute Freelancer with me Louise Shanahan, freelance health copywriter and content marketer at thecopyprescription.com. If you enjoyed this, please hit subscribe, leave a review or share it with a freelance friend. And if you've got a freelancing question you want to be answered on the podcast, find me and say hi on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram. Thanks, and until next time, happy freelancing.