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Inspiring Women in Business Podcast - Episode 15 - Setting Boundaries for Freelancers With Sarah Townsend

podcast Oct 11, 2021

Is transitioning from employment to freelancing leaving you feeling that you have too many bosses instead of one? That can happen, and we don’t like that!

In this episode, I chat with Sarah Townsend, a freelance copywriter extraordinaire and author of Survival Skills for Freelancers. Sarah dropped in a lot of gems, especially about setting boundaries for freelancers and how this gives a full circle benefit for you and your client. Listen up and take some notes.


Key takeaways from this episode:

  • The better your boundary is, the better you are at saying no. The better you are at getting clear on your process, the hours you work, what works for you, and your clients, the more fun and fulfilling your freelance career will be.

  • There are boundaries that we have to set for our clients, and there are the boundaries we have to set for ourselves.

  • When you're working with people you thoroughly enjoy working with, you enjoy the work. If it's a good fit with your business and where you want your business to go in the future, then that's when you do your best work.

  • When you're doing your best work, and your clients are delighted with the work you're doing for them, they will happily write you a glowing testimonial, which you can share to attract more of the clients who do the work you do want to get involved with. They're more likely to refer you to their business friends.

  • Clients don't care if you're working nine to five as long as you deliver high-quality work on time and within budget.

  • Use email autoresponder. It frees up the time and headspace to know that you don’t need to keep checking your email, and it lets your clients know that you received their email. By doing this, you are sending this sort of secret signal that when you're working on projects for them, you're not going to get pulled off task every few moments by replying to emails for other clients.

  • If you've sent a proposal to somebody and they haven't even had the decency to acknowledge the time and the effort that's gone into that, they’re probably not someone you would ever want to work with anyway

  • Appreciate the community around you and the need for connection and community. Everybody needs somebody. It's very easy to feel alone, isolated, and feel like you're the only person going through the challenges you're facing today.


Episode Timeline:

00:05 Episode and Guest Intro

00:42 Intro

02:11 About Sarah and what she does

03:17 Writing her book and what it did to her business

04:34 Sarah’s purpose for the book

07:47 Sarah’s career journey

09:49 Sarah’s transition journey

12:35 Advice on setting boundaries

20:40 The benefits of an email autoresponder

28:36 Ghosting over a proposal

34:43 Sarah’s best advice for those who want to transition to freelancing or business

38:13 On community of freelancers

39:17 How to connect with Sarah

40:17 Outro


About my guest:

Sarah Townsend is an experienced freelance copywriter, copy editor, and proofreader. She helps clients improve their communication – not only by using the right words but by using the best words.

She is also the writer of the book Survival Skills for Freelancers and is a mentor to a lot of freelancers.

Connect and know more about  Sarah here:

Website: https://www.sarahtownsendeditorial.co.uk

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sarahtownsendeditorial/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/STEcopywriting

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sarahtownsendeditorial

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/stecopywriting/


More about Ruth:

Hi, Im Ruth, a business coach specializing in helping freelancers and business owners adjust their mindset and marketing so they can get fully booked with clients they LOVE to work with. Ive helped hundreds of self-employed women achieve the time and money freedom they craved.

Ive started this podcast because when I first went all in and left the corporate world to be a freelancer, I was grateful for any work that came my way. After over 20 years of freelancing and working for other people, I started to realize Id created a glass ceiling for myself.

In 2017, I finally started listening to that voice that had been telling me for a long time that I wasnt doing what I loved and fulfilling my true potential.  It took a critical illness to give me that wake-up call.  I dont want the same to happen to you.

You can expect practical advice, inspiring stories, and a lot of aha moments as we uncover and kick to the curb all the obstacles you have been putting in your way.

Im on a mission to inspire women to start and play bigger in business.


Connect and know more about Ruth here:

Coaching: https://www.ruthgilbey.com/coaching

Free stuff: https://www.ruthgilbey.com/next-client 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ruthgilbeymarketingandcoaching/ 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ruth_gilbey/ 

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ruthgilbey/ 



Ruth Gilbey  00:05

Hi everyone, welcome back to the inspiring women in business podcast, and today I am going to be interviewing Sara Townsend, who is an author and a marketing copywriter. She's the author of the book Survival Skills for Freelancers. This episode is a great one; we talk about what it's like to be a freelancer that adjustment from if you've worked full time, and then you go freelance, and then we dig deeper into the topic of setting boundaries and working with clients and understanding your processes. It's a great episode. I hope you enjoy it.

Ruth Gilbey  00:42

Hello, and welcome to the inspiring women in business podcast. My name is Ruth Gilbey, and I'm a business and marketing coach. I'm on a mission to inspire women to start and play bigger in business. Now I started this podcast because when I first went all in and left the corporate world to be a freelancer, I was just grateful for any work that came my way. After over 20 years of freelancing and working for other people, I started to realize I created a glass ceiling myself. It was in 2017 when I finally started listening to that voice that had been telling me for a long time that I wasn't doing what I loved, and I wasn't fulfilling my true potential. It took a critical illness to give me that wake-up call. And I don't want the same thing to happen to you. You can expect practical advice, interviews, inspiring stories, and a lot of aha moments as we uncover and kick to the curb—all the obstacles you've been putting in your way.

Ruth Gilbey  00:47

Hello, everyone, and welcome back to the inspiring women in business Podcast. I am delighted to have Sarah Townsend with me today, who is the author of Survival Skills for Freelancers that I finished a couple of weeks ago, and I really enjoyed it. So Sarah, do you want to tell everyone who you are and who you help?

Sarah Townsend  02:11

Yeah, so my job is now two-fold since publishing the book last year. I have been for the past 22 years a freelance marketing copywriter, which means that I help business owners to get their businesses noticed and to stand up for the things that make them special. And I do that using kind of powerful, persuasive, clear, and concise copy that might be in the form of websites, email campaigns, all that sort of thing or the marketing side of things. And since last summer, when I self-published survival skills for freelancers, I've kind of have these amazing opportunities to do things like mentoring 100 women as part of freelance 100 projects, just to say I didn't mentor all 100 of them, but ten and doing lots of training. This is about the almost 50th podcast I've guested on; I've been doing training for universities on the kind of realities of self-employment and freelance life. So yeah, I now have kind of two sides to what I do. And it's fantastic. I love it.

Ruth Gilbey  03:10

So has it been a bit of a surprise to you? What's happened from actually writing your own book, the kind of the effect it's had on your business? 

Sarah Townsend  03:17

Yeah, big time. Yeah, I literally thought I mean, I'm somebody who was adamant that I would never write a book, I'd get people approaching me and going, Oh, I should certainly write books, I do quite a lot of blogging. And I've always got opinions on things. So when I spent the best part of my freelance life saying, "No, I'm never gonna write a book." And then suddenly, at the start of last year, I just got the idea for writing it. And within about six weeks, it was written because I'm somebody that has to focus on the thing flat-out 24/7. Otherwise, it won't get done. So I can't kind of be doing the juggling with the copywriting and the book writing. So I took this time out, and I just thought I'd write a book, self-publish a book, I then go back to the day job. And it's just not been like that at all. I think perhaps I was a little bit naive. Perhaps I should have expected or hoped for some of the knock-on effects. But I just wrote a book to help people, and all this stuff has come out of it. So yeah, it's been amazing. 

Ruth Gilbey  04:14

That's really interesting. Just as an aside, I've been learning about writing a bit myself, but I did the undoing the opposite to you, which is I've always wanted to write a book, but I'm not writing it. But I've been learning about the whole thing, but about how it can fit and how it fits around your business. I mean, it's almost it's like the best lead magnet for you, isn't it?

Sarah Townsend  04:34

Yeah, it is. I do know a lot of people who have written books for that purpose to kind of use it as a springboard to position themselves as an expert in their field but not being funny. I don't want to come across as arrogant because I couldn't be less arrogant if I tried, but I kind of was already there because I've been doing this for so damn long. So I was already kind of there. Had over 100 reviews and testimonials on LinkedIn like 50 Do you want on Google? So I kind of already had the reputation. I didn't feel like I needed to do it. For that reason, it just got to the point where I thought. You know what, when I first started out as a freelancer, I was a 20-something-year-old woman who was juggling, starting a freelance business with being a mum. And there were two things that I knew nothing about. So I would have loved to have had this book written in the way it is. It's very much like a conversation with the brand. Naturally, I write in a very conversational way. It's very hard on your sleeve. It's very realistic, but it sort of flipped some of the challenges and busted the myths of self-employment so that you can actually. The idea is to self-employment far quicker and with far fewer mistakes than I made. That was my goal.

Ruth Gilbey  05:44

And you totally achieve that. When I read it, I was like, This is what I needed. I mean, the first time I did my first freelance gig was probably about 20 years ago, and then but I went properly freelance probably about 11 years ago and then moved into having my own business. But it's interesting because I spoke to someone recently, and she was saying how she hesitated for about six weeks before she would even send off, you know, that notification to HMRC to say she was freelance. I mean, if you think about it for so many people who have been working for other people, it's such a massive job, isn't it? Yeah. And this book, when I was reading it, I was like, This is what people need, you know, they need to sort of getting broken down into nice, easy steps. And it's like you've made it. You've taken the overwhelm out of it for people. 

Sarah Townsend  06:30

Yeah, yeah. I'm really glad digests. Yeah, I'm really glad you said that it is. The intention is for it to be a bit of a lifeline. And part of the reason being that when I was in my late 20s, and I started my freelance business, I couldn't find any books that I felt spoke directly to me as a woman, a female founder, or an entrepreneur, whatever you want to call it. All the books I picked up, yes, I learned from them. But they all felt that they were aimed at a certain level of kind of middle-class white American suited, serious business guy. And yeah, I just didn't find anything that actually felt that it spoke to me. That said, it's not entirely aimed specifically, just women. I'd say probably about a third of the reviews have come from guys who've absolutely loved it as well and who haven't been put off by the pink on the cover. Someone said to me, You sure you want the cover to be pink? Like, this is 2021 Come on, or 2020 when I launched it, so um, yeah, I thought it was really important to just set things out in a way that it is just so easy to digest, like manageable chunks and make it easy to work through. 

Ruth Gilbey  07:36

100%. So if when you go back, what led you to where you are today, you know, the business that you in the freelance business that you have today, tell me a little bit about your journey to there.

Sarah Townsend  07:47

So very potted history, I fell into marketing, I was working for a financial services company, this is going back to when I was like early 20s. I didn't go to university. I think that's important to point out. And yeah, I was in financial services admin, I applied for a job in marketing, because their marketing team was relocating from London and a lot of people didn't want to move to Cheltenham can't think why it's beautiful. So fell into marketing worked my way up to becoming their publications controller. So I was in charge of all their internal and external publications. And then they decided to make a third of their marketing department redundant. So the terms that they were offering were kind of, this was the early 90s. So they were offering really attractive terms. And I thought you knew what I've kind of. Yeah, I'm kind of ready for a new challenge. So I contacted the publishing agency that used to publish our customer magazine and said, Look, I'm thinking of taking voluntary redundancy, would you give me a job? And they were like, absolutely. So I left Eagle Star on the Friday with an 11 grand payoff nice, especially when you're like in your 20s, and then started work at specialists on the following Monday. In hindsight, I would have at least taken a week off that I was there for three years, I loved my job, and then I became pregnant. And yeah, it seemed like the perfect opportunity. I knew I didn't want to go back to work full time seemed like a great opportunity to start running my own business. And just kind of having that balance that we all strive for, between being a parent and or whatever the other challenges and the other kind of joys in your life are. That's partly why we're drawn to freelance life, isn't it? We like the idea of freedom and flexibility. So yeah, that's, and the rest is history, literally.

Ruth Gilbey  09:34

Have you ever, for one moment, considered going back into employment?

Sarah Townsend  09:38

I think I'm unemployable now been doing it for so long.

Ruth Gilbey  09:41

Yeah. How did you find that shift? Initially, when you went freelance, and you were suddenly at home? I mean, you do talk about it in the book, but just for people listening to

Sarah Townsend  09:49

Yeah, not gonna lie. It was bloody awful. I really struggled with it. I'm a sociable person, generally speaking, have my friends, and I'd come from working in there. Busy kind of buzzy agency environment with lots of chat and lots of banter. And then suddenly, I was in this office at the top of my house on my own with nothing but the cap for company. I knew nobody else who was freelance. This was 1999. So this was way before social media was the thing. So I talk a lot about communities. And I actually incorporate quotes and advice from over 100 freelancers within the book because I wanted to demonstrate how that power of community actually works. I had no community. I had nobody to lean on, had nobody to kind of empathize with. Oh, my God, what do I charge for this piece of work? And this client is really difficult? How on earth do I deal with it? And how do I market my business? And how do I get the word out there? So yeah, this was kind of the other thing that drove me to write the book because I really struggled. And I don't want other people to struggle in the same way that I did. There's really no need. So when you first start out, you don't know what you don't know. But actually, everything in the book, all the advice in the book, is kind of that stuff. So it's like, you're it's taking away those hurdles, and those unexpected surprises that are waiting around the corner, just to kind of pop out and go, Hey, you know, you hadn't anticipated this challenge. Here we are. So just wanted to kind of bust those myths before people actually came across them.

Ruth Gilbey  11:21

Yeah. And I think there's such a power in reading something like this and going because if I'd have read that, it would have really reassured me that I'm not alone. Yeah. Because for years, I was like, why am I just sat here? And I might I don't you know, I remember like, kind of sitting on my computer. Like, you know, no one's telling me what to do. You know, yes, you've got your kind of client contracts, etc. But it's like, this is down to me to organize my day.

Sarah Townsend  11:43

Yeah, yeah. We. On the other hand, it's a nightmare. Yeah, yeah.

Ruth Gilbey  11:49

Yeah, you've just got to get your balance, the way you want it to look like and adapted. And what we've decided to talk about today actually, is because like, we were going emailing back and forth and chatting on Instagram, there was so many topics, topics, and you said all like that. There are these kinds of topics. And obviously, I read the book. I was like. We could talk for a long time. I think we heard her. I think we need to get a little bit specific on what we're going to talk about. So I want we're going to talk about boundaries today. And it's something that comes up with a lot of my clients. And I've got a membership where people talk about boundaries all the time. And so it comes up a lot about setting boundaries in life and with your clients. So what I guess, let's start with what advice would you give what works for you? And what advice would you give for people around setting boundaries? Healthier? 

Sarah Townsend  12:35

Okay, well, first of all, I think because you kind of alluded to, it's a huge subject, it's probably one of the most, if not the most important things about it, really keeping some form of control over the amount of enjoyment you get from self-employment. So the better your boundary is, the better you are at saying no, the better you are at getting really clear on your process, and the hours you work and what works for you, as well as your clients, the more fun and fulfilling and sort of support I guess your freelance career is going to be. So I talk about this a lot. I do a lot of training in the subject. And I could talk about just this subject for hours. But I think kind of in a nutshell. It's worth mentioning that there is sort of two types of boundaries. There are boundaries that we have to set for our clients. And there are the boundaries we have to set for ourselves. And very often, we're not very good at setting the boundaries for ourselves because we kind of let our clients take charge, and we let them call the shots. And actually, it's really easy to come out of the world of employment where you have one boss and to find yourself with lots and lots of mini-bosses because all your clients are sort of dictating the hours you work and whether you work weekends, and sometimes even what they pay you sometimes they'll say, Oh, well, we'll pay this or that actually shouldn't be the way it is. So there were certain things. Let's just focus on a couple of those kinds of real specific points of how that can work. When we first start self-employment, it's fair to say that we wouldn't really dream of saying no to work, would we? It's kind of an inconceivable idea. Because the whole idea is you're here to make money for yourself. So why on earth would you turn work away? But it's actually really important to get, if not essential, to get comfortable with using the word no and with recognizing that kind of red flags. And those cases where you get an inquiry, and you just know it's not the right fit for your business. It doesn't fit with your schedule. It doesn't fit with your skillset, or it might not fit with your values or just the way you want your business to go. So to have the ability to say no really important to point outside kind of caveat here that, of course, you have to have got to the stage where you do have enough work coming in bread and butter work that will cover your bills and your mortgage or your rent. So that has to be covered. It's not something that you probably are going to be in a position to do as soon as you set foot into the world of self-employment. But when you get there, if you learn to, there's a whole chapter on this in the book, as you know, if you can learn to tune into your gut, and when your instinct is telling you, you know what this job is just not right. For me, this is not where I want my business to go with this client is kind of being a little bit disrespectful. There may be quibbling over your costs and kind of indicating that they don't really appreciate the value, the skills, the experience that you bring to the table. So if a relationship is going to start off like that, you're quickly going to end up sort of up, the client is going to be up here on the kind of I'm the client, I tell you what to do is sort of level, and you're down here on this level as the lowly supplier. Whereas actually as freelancers and freelance business owners, we don't want that we want to kind of readdress the balance. And we want to work with people who consider us to be almost an extension of their own team. Yeah. And the people who, with whom you have a relationship that's built on mutual trust and respect because that is when you are, you're most inspired. You're working with people you thoroughly enjoy working with, you enjoy the work, and it's a good fit with your business and where you want your business to go in the future. And then when those boxes are ticked, as it were, that's when you do your best work. So when you're doing your best work, you create almost a virtuous circle, because you're happy, you're fulfilled, you're doing your best work your clients are delighted with the work that you're doing for them, they will happily write you a glowing testimonial, which then you can share to attract more of the lovely clients who do the lovely work that you want to get involved with. And then also, they're more likely to refer you to their business friends who are equally likely to be the good people in life who trust, you know, when you treat freelancers, like partners, like trusted advisors. So yeah, I think learning to say no is something that's really important when it comes to your boundaries, kind of backtracking, like from before you even get to that stage, you need to get super clear on your process. And by getting clear on your process, you can then communicate that to your client. And by doing so, you are making their life so much easier. But you're also making your life easier because by managing your clients' expectations, they are going to be spending a lot less of their time feeling like they need to chase you. They need to follow up a when's this going to be done. You're just not getting left alone to do the work that you need to do. To manage your clients' expectations, get really clear on your process, spend a bit of time thinking about when you are at your most productive because, as we all know as freelancers, we don't need to stick to the nine to five, that's part of what we're going away from when we become self-employed. If you're somebody who actually does your best work from 11:30 to 8:30 at night, you can do that. If you're someone who likes to start their day with a gym workout or a bike ride. For me, it's swimming. So three times a week, I go for a swim fasting in the morning. And that kicks my day off with so much more energy and so much more focus and productivity for the rest of the day. Because I'm feeling good about myself. Because I've done my exercise, I've achieved my number of steps on my Apple watch or whatever because I walk up to the gym and back as well. So that, for me, is a really good way for me to start my day. But perhaps you prefer to work kind of until two o'clock. And then you know, you have an energy slump. So you go off and do a walk around the block, or you go and fetch the kids from school. However, you need to break up your day. That's okay. Yeah, clients really don't care if you're working nine to five because as long as you deliver high-quality work on time, within budget, they really don't care. It really doesn't affect them all that much,

Ruth Gilbey  19:12

All that you're saying are so useful. And I really liked what you were saying about addressing that balance between you and your clients, and it is on equal footing. Yeah, and it's interesting because I was freelance. Obviously, I worked for other people for like 20 years and was freelance, and then now I have my own business, and I work with a team of freelancers now. And it's really important to me that I am a nice client. I'm a good client. I'm a respectful client. It's almost it's become part of my own brand values. I'm not one persona, and then another persona with them now. Are you happy? Like Yeah, fine. I like it when they sent me boundaries. I like it when they're not working. I like them to tell me that. I like working to make it work for them as well. I think it's got to be. It's got to be mutually better.

Sarah Townsend  20:00

Officially you're helping in someone else's success. Ultimately, a lot,

Ruth Gilbey  20:04

I really get a real buzz out of the fact that I, my business, give other people work. And it's enjoyable to work with them. I mean, some of them are long-term freelancers have now been working with for nearly two years, you know, my team. And so yeah, I just think it's really interesting to hear from both sides, and anyone listening to this is also got their business that it's those days of treating people like you know that hopefully they're gone or less. 

Sarah Townsend  20:30

I don't think they are gone. A little optimistic, but then I think things are better because I think we are starting to realize that being authentic in business is the key, and I think I'm not a big fan of the phrase personal brand. But if you are true to who you are, you're far more likely to attract people to you who are attracted to you know, quirks and all like I said to my I said, am I alright on the video with my quirky plots, but it's part of who I am. So I would far rather work with people who just kind of get me and still want to work with me and think, you know, I'm great as a copywriter, and I make their life so much easier. If you're trying to please everybody, you're going to please no one other thing that's really specific, and in terms of kind of boundary setting, in terms of the boundaries that we're talking about that we set, we need to set for our clients. One really good way to communicate this is sort of a two-fold thing. But if you use your email autoresponder, give your clients plenty of notice of when you have breaks, make sure you take breaks. Ipsy did a survey a couple of years ago. I think it's quoted in the book that was really all about freelancers taking time off and how important it is and vital for your mental health and well-being. And it also helps you to become more focused, more productive, and more inspired in your freelance business. So really worth doing that. But you can communicate things like your office hours. Your office hours don't have to be nine to five. If you, I don't work Fridays, I could put that in my email signature. Most of my clients knew that now anyway, but also with the email. I think one thing that is really underused, and it's a really simple tool, is just the humble email autoresponder. So I use one every single day, not just for holidays, and I say something like thanks for getting in touch. I checked my email just a couple of times a day. So I can focus on writing hard-working copy for my clients. I'll get back to you soon, feel free to call me on the mobile if it's urgent, nobody ever does. I'm a copywriter. I'm not like packing parachutes or something. So it very, very rarely, if ever, is urgent. And what that does, it's a total Win-win. It frees me up the time and headspace to know that I don't need to keep checking in with my email every few moments when I'm writing. But it also it's a win-win that helps your client, so it lets them know that you've safely received our email that it hasn't gone to junk, it takes the pressure off in terms of Okay, they know you've received it, they know you're going to reply, there may be a slight delay before they get a response from you. But that's fine because, at the same time, you're signaling to them that you respect your own time, and therefore you respect their time. So by the time they know, what you're doing is sending this sort of secret signal that when you're working on projects for them, you're not going to get pulled off task every few moments by replying to emails for other clients. So it kind of helps to build that position of mutual trust and respect that we talked about earlier. And it's just a really simple thing that anybody can do. 

Sarah Townsend  20:35

I've got a question for you, actually. And it's something that I suffer from a lot of people suffer from what. What are your tips for replying? Like, late at night and at weekends and things like that, in my mind, I feel like I shouldn't be doing it. But it's too, you know, it's easy to slip, isn't it? But again, I think it can send the wrong signal sometimes that you're always available.

Sarah Townsend  23:55

Yeah, I think if you have an email autoresponder, I think that kind of covers you off, because provided they know that you are focusing on the work that you get paid for during the day, and they would probably expect some element of unorthodox answering time. And one thing I mean, I heard you say, you know, it's easy to slip as if it's a negative, you kind of feel like you shouldn't do it as if it's a negative, but in actual fact, is it a negative, you're doing what works for your business. So as long as you're not expecting, you know, as long as you're not sending a message at 1030 at night and expecting a response from your client within 15 minutes. Yeah, and you're not doing anything wrong. I do it all the time. I'm always leaving, like voice notes and my big thing. So I love Instagram and LinkedIn because you can leave voice notes. And I've had so many people say, Oh my god, I didn't even know you could make voice notes on LinkedIn. It's so personal. I love it. It's so authentic. And it's just really because I type all day I type for a living. So I just kind of relish the opportunity to talk. Also, working at home on your own quite a lot of the time. So Nice. It just feels like a conversation. 

Ruth Gilbey  25:02

 because while I use voice notes all the time. It's just faster.

Sarah Townsend  25:05

Oh, so much faster. Plus, I can't see a damn thing without my glasses. So

Ruth Gilbey  25:11

You don't have to correct your grammar and really.

Sarah Townsend  25:15

It just feels more personal. And I'm quite often just before I switch my phone off at night, I think I'll just quickly I've just had an idea, I'll just quickly fire off a voice note, but my clients and contacts know that that doesn't mean I expect them to so you could even put that in your autoresponder and say, Look, although I send messages that are unorthodox, you know, I sometimes send messages, or unorthodox times a day, however, please understand that I'm not expecting a response outside of your normal office hours.

Ruth Gilbey  25:43

Yeah, yeah, I mean, for a while, I've got this thing on my head. I'm giving away my secrets now. But on my email, you know, that kind of, I've come up with an idea and or I want to reply to someone, and I've got the Send tomorrow at like 7 am in the morning or eight o'clock in the morning, rather than at 10 o'clock at night.

Sarah Townsend  25:58

Ah, perfect.

Ruth Gilbey  25:59

But it's interesting that you say that, because it may be I've been making it into a bigger thing in my head that I shouldn't be doing it because actually, I don't have clients that expect me to reply out of hours. If they sent I've met I rarely chased off by someone, there seems to be mutual respect with our clients, you know, is one of those things that I think should I be sticking to not replying out of those hours? Is that a boundary, or should it be set, but I think the way you've just talked about it's really helpful actually, that it's there isn't really there had doesn't have to be one way of doing things the right way for you.

Sarah Townsend  26:32

Yeah, exactly. And I genuinely think that if it's working for you, then continue to do it. Why the heck wouldn't you? And I think actually following up on what you've just said. I think that we should all and there I am. Look, I'm saying it now, I feel like it would be a good idea if we all banned the word shirt from our vocabulary because that is when you are feeling obligated to do something that you don't necessarily, you know, you're not fully behind, you're not fully committed to. So yeah, if we could get all kind of catch ourselves when we say, Oh, I should be doing this, I should be doing that. I heard a nice little kind of trick the other day; I think it might be an hour. And I can't say it. It might be an NLP thing. Where if instead of having to say or have to do this, you know, you kind of feel like you've got the weight of these tasks on you, instead of saying, have to just say get to and just kind of say, Oh, you know, I have to, I have to quote for this project. So I get a quote for this project. Like how lucky that I've got inquiries coming in. And because I am not a fan of doing proposals, they are like costings are just my worst, and you can't outsource them either. Or at least if you can, please tell me, I just find them. So time-consuming. And I'm kind of like, ah, gotta do this costing. But actually, it's such a positive thing for our businesses, isn't it still getting inquiries, despite the fact that there's a lot of turmoil going on out there? It's really a bit of a gift. So just try that habit switch from saying have to get to and see if it actually makes you feel mentally lighter? 

Ruth Gilbey  28:03

Yeah, it's interesting. You brought up proposals, actually, because it's a big that's a big topic. I'll ask you very quickly about it, because or should we stick with talking about boundaries?

Sarah Townsend  28:13

Up to you, it's your podcast?

Ruth Gilbey  28:15

So proposals? It's interesting. You say that because I have quite a few members in my group in my membership, they talk about I've got this proposal that that proposal out. And I just wanted if you've got any tips around when someone goes quiet when you've sent them a proposal because it's a hot topic,

Sarah Townsend  28:32

it's a hot topic,

Ruth Gilbey  28:33

and you're feeling you're being ghosted by someone over a proposal. 

Sarah Townsend  28:36

I can't bear it. I didn't get me on my ghosting soapbox because I just think it's the rudest thing. I had, I had somebody recommended, sorry, I was recommended to a potential client. A couple of weeks back, maybe three weeks back, we booked a zoom call. I felt like a kind of we had the click. I thought, okay, yeah, I could do this work. It wasn't a huge project. But I was a bit like, well, I've got to quote for it to make it worth my while. But at the same time, it's not a huge amount of work. So I sent him a quote. And this was after going to the trouble of sending an email, arranging the zoom call, taking the time to have the zoom call, and get to understand a little bit about his business. Then I put the proposal together, and I didn't hear anything. And I followed up, and I didn't hear anything. And you know what, I couldn't care less if I get a no. It's the universe's sign that that client is not right for me, as far as I'm concerned. So I am a big girl. I'm not scared of the word, No, but just have the decency to let me know that it was too expensive. It was outside of your budget. It was not this or not that we didn't feel we clicked. Just you know, have the balls to at least tell me what the reason is. So, in the end, I left him a voice note on LinkedIn and just said, I just said exactly that. I said, Look, I'm a big girl. I'm not scared of No, I said, I just really like to know what you've decided so that I can take you off my follow-up list. I don't want to keep pestering him. So wasting my time, it's a waste of his time. So he did after that actually have the decency to follow up. I really don't know. I think you've watched it just a couple of times on email. But I think that the voice note thing did give him a bit of a hang about this as a human. And I'm a human too. So actually, I probably. It's just rude. I really do think there's no excuse for it whatsoever. Oh, I was so busy, but I mean. We're all busy, man. You know, like, it doesn't take a moment just to have the decency to let somebody know it's not right for you.


Sarah Townsend  28:42

It's good feedback, isn't it? It's data for us. It's something we can learn from we need to Yeah. I think we should all get back to each other, you know, to work both ways. And we should get back to people on the proposal. I said, I think maybe people just get awkward, and they don't know.


Sarah Townsend  30:46

Exactly. Yeah. I think as soon as I said, I think people are afraid of telling people no because they don't want to hurt feelings. They don't want to offend anyone. And I think that is the reason behind it. But I feel as if as soon as I'd given him the permission to actually say no, and say look, no is okay. It's not always going to be a yes. And we have to be resilient as freelancers, don't we? Because there's a lot of potential for rejection out there. And we just have to learn to take it professionally and not personally. But as soon as I'd said to him, Look, it's okay. If it's No, just let me know. So that I'm not wasting your time, and you're not wasting mine. So I think the voice note helped. 


Ruth Gilbey  31:22

Yeah, I think that's a really good tip, actually. And it's because also it's about protecting our own energy as well, isn't it the energy, and time and effort we can put into a kind of like chasing things up? If Actually, we just need to give people a nudge to say is actually giving them permission to say it's okay. Suppose you say no to me. Yeah, I think that's a brilliant tip.

Sarah Townsend  31:41

And I think in all honesty, if you haven't heard back from somebody within a week, it almost always is a no anyway. So I feel like by that stage, you kind of know that you haven't got the work, but it's just our human decency. Just have the guts to let me know what you've decided. Because I gave you some of my time to talk about your business is the least you can do. It's just courtesy. But I'm old-fashioned in that respect. I just.

Ruth Gilbey  32:06

Yeah. And I think I think the thing is, sometimes when we pitched an idea, we knew we know how much time goes into a proposal. And you know, if we get faster at doing them, but they still take time is there is a decent thing to get back to people. It's interesting, though, when those peak clients do come back out of the woodwork. I mean, I've had a client that I spoke to wants five years ago, and then they were like, I'm ready to work with you now. And I was like, wow, okay, well, my business has completely changed. So I don't offer that anymore.

Sarah Townsend  32:34

For less than I think, isn't it because not everybody, I just a bit of an aside. Last week, the audiobook version of survival skills for freelancers went live. So I thought, I probably should have Audible, I don't have it. I don't know how it works; I need to get it. So Amazon, we're doing a Prime Day deal. And it's 99 p for three months. And I thought, okay, I'll sign up for that. And I'm listening to this is marketing by Seth Godin. And it's just full of gems. It's absolutely brilliant. And it talks a lot about kind of things like it might not be the right fit, it might not be the right budget, you might not have the right approach, you know, the client may not recognize that you're solving their problem, because you're not using their language, for example, or it might just be they're not ready. And that doesn't mean they'll never be ready. It just means they're not ready. Now.

Ruth Gilbey  33:20

That's so true, though, because it isn't always the right time. So it's like it's tying up those loose ends as professionally as we can. Yeah. And it's all right to be firm with someone like I love that. I love that technique of just been like, the voice notes. I'm a big girl. Kind of thing. It's like giving them permission to is probably a relief for them.

Sarah Townsend  33:39

Yeah, yeah, I think. And I also think, you know, if somebody if you've sent a proposal, they haven't even had the decency to acknowledge the time and the effort that's gone into that. They're probably not someone you would ever want to work with anyway, certainly, in my case, I just, you know, if he'd come back and go, Well, actually, I would have had to think twice about it. So just because rude, but actually, what you were just saying about no, it's gone. Gone. What you just said made me think, Ah, yes, I need to mention this, but no, I forgot what it was.

Ruth Gilbey  34:11

Oh, no. What was that? What was I saying about people coming back or giving people permission,

Sarah Townsend  34:16

Possibly. But I can't remember.

Ruth Gilbey  34:21

A promise for another time. So just last couple of questions for you. What's your best advice that you'd give someone? I bet you've been asked this loads of time, Sarah. What's your best advice for someone who's starting out going freelance or if they're actually kind of like making that move from working full time to going freelance or starting a business? What would be your best advice for them?

Sarah Townsend  34:43

Well, yes, you're right. This is the one question that gets asked on every single interview and every single podcast that I've done. And to be honest, I quite often mix up the answers because the obvious clear winner is you have to just buy a copy of this because there On 300 odd reviews over on Amazon of people saying, I wish I'd had this when I first started, but even though I haven't. So I don't know if you know, Andrew Bolton is another copywriter and a published author. And he said today. This is the book that 22 years old me needed, but 39 years old me is learning something on every single page. So, you know, it's 22 years of experience crammed into 200, easy-to-read pages with 100 quotes from other freelancers in all different disciplines. And it's 15 pounds of tax-deductible expense, it's an investment, but you know, I would say that what nine So yeah, I guess probably the one thing that I want to isolate as the best advice is really to appreciate the community around you and the need for connection and community. And there are so many reasons for this, not least, that we're all social creatures, and we don't really do however introverted you are. Everybody needs somebody. And it's very easy to feel alone, isolated, and to feel like you're the only person going through the challenges that you're facing day to day, whereas, in reality, there are 2 million freelancers in the UK, you are so far from being alone, it's not even funny. So it's all about the choice of how you see the people who do the same or similar job to you. Do you consider them to be your competition? And do you kind of act from this place of fear where you are cautious? Because you are afraid that they're going to step into your territory? Or pinch your ideas? or whatever? Or do you see them as your community? And if you pick the latter, you are going to benefit from experience from support from advice. And it's just the best feeling in the world. When you find that kind of team of like-minded people very much for me, I have kind of this community that I found through Instagram, and it's fantastic. So not everybody is a copywriter for some reason. I've got loads and loads of translators and interpreters. I think that's because I've done training for the Institute for translation and interpreting, but there are also so many social media managers there are like yoga teachers, gardeners, all sorts of people who were all in the same business, running their own small business, struggling with the same challenges day in day out, and we can all support and advise and help one another. That's just a fantastic place to be, so lean into your community. Brilliant advice, Sarah.

Ruth Gilbey  37:23

Absolutely brilliant advice. And actually, it's something that I wish that I had tapped into sooner when I went freelance is finding my community because it's actually you think it's competition at all I've ever seen is the opposite happen, where actually people stop passing work to each other, and links to each other and collaborating. And it's like it just creates is the opposite of abundance. You know, it's really, really interesting. And there is enough work for everybody is really.

Sarah Townsend  37:51

Yeah, absolutely. And I think if you come from that kind of it's like the mindset book by Carol Dweck, and she talks about the Fixed Mindset and a Growth Mindset, it sort of feels like a growth mindset type thing, you are coming from this kind of place where you firmly believe in the whole sounds Woo, but the general vibe,

Ruth Gilbey  38:11

I'm all about the woo.

Sarah Townsend  38:13

You know, I just think that's so important. And also, just to circle back to what we were saying earlier about the power of saying no, when you do have that community of other freelance, whatever you are supporting you and you get to understand what their own individual strengths are, and the areas that they specialize in. And this sort of thing, when you get a client or an inquiry that you want to say no to, it actually makes saying that know so much easier because you can say, this isn't quite the right fit for me right now. But I can recommend you to a trusted client, a trusted colleague, who may be able to help you. Would you like me to introduce you? So you're solving the client's problem. You're able to exit the situation with your head held high, with no loss of respect. In fact, if anything, the fact that you recognize that you're not the best fit for that piece of work probably makes them respect you even more, and you're helping out another freelancer, so what's not to love?

Ruth Gilbey  39:07

I love that. That's great. The last question is, how can people find out more about you apart from buying your wonderful book Survival Skills for Freelancers?

Sarah Townsend  39:17

Well, I am. Definitely connect with me on social media. So if anybody wants to connect with me, and they found me through the roof, then do drop me a personalized note and say, because I get quite a lot of random ads, and if I don't know where someone's come from, sometimes I won't accept it. But yeah, you can find me on LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, and you can find the links to all of those on survivalskillsforfreelancers.com, which is the page that gives you a bit more information about the book it links to buy the book on Amazon. If you're boycotting Amazon, by the way, just DM me. I will gladly sell you a copy direct, and I can post that out to you. It also links to my copywriting websites if you want to know more about how I can support your business to copywriting. You can get into the catch that way. So all the links are on there. And that's probably just the easiest thing to remember.

Ruth Gilbey  40:05

And they'll all go in the show notes as well. So, thank you so much. That was such a brilliant episode. And so helpful. Thank you, Sarah.

Sarah Townsend  40:13

Thank you for having me on. It's been lovely to talk to you.

Ruth Gilbey  40:17

Thanks for listening to the inspiring women in business podcast. I hope you found this episode helpful. If you did, I would love it if you would leave me a review. Also, I would love to connect with you on Instagram. That's where I hang out most of the time. I'm @Ruth_Gilbey. I'll put a link in the show notes for you as well come and connect with me. Tell me about your business. And also tell me what you'd like to hear next on the podcast. And lastly, go and check out the business building hub on my website. There you can find more amazing free resources to help you take the next step in your business. And you can also find out other ways that you can work with me. I'll see you soon.