Anna Stroud: Congratulations on your book! Are you ready to retire in Mauritius now?
Shea Karssing: I’m not retiring anytime soon! I got my first sales stats in October: June 2023–August 2023: 1,106 copies sold. This gives me royalties of R17,655.19. Minus a cheeky 20% returns provision of R3,531.04, leaving me with R14,124.15.
Chuffed as I was with the stats and the Dezemba bonus, kicking back in Mauritius will have to wait! On the plus side, I honestly love what I do and I’m not talented enough at anything else to make a retirement hobby of it.
Anna Stroud: Let’s talk about your title, Freelance Like a Boss. What if I want to freelance like a lazy girl? Is this book still for me?
Shea Karssing: The best bosses are the lazy ones! Okay, maybe not lazy, but efficient, productive, and able to balance work and life.
That’s what freelancing like a boss is all about — working smart, not hard, so that you can enjoy your freelance freedoms.
Freelancing like a boss is all about working smart, not hard, so that you can enjoy your freelance freedoms.
Anna Stroud: You dedicated your book to ‘all the overworked, underpaid, generally gatvol employees leaping into the freelance world with the aim of dropping at least two of those adjectives’. Which two adjectives have you dropped since you started being your own boss?
Shea Karssing: Underpaid and gatvol. Proud to say that I recently downgraded from ‘overworked’ too.
Read more in Daily Maverick: How to avoid feast or famine – 8 tips for freelancers from ‘Freelance Like a Boss’
Anna Stroud: I wish I’d read your book before I started freelancing (Especially the chapter on taxes. And the one on how to find clients. And how to market yourself. And how to set boundaries. And prevent burnout.) What’s the hardest lesson you had to learn as a freelancer?
Shea Karssing: To say ‘no’. I’ve learnt the hard way (on the brink of burnout) that saying yes to something means saying no to something else, whether that be a better gig, time for yourself, time with loved ones, or your mental and physical well-being.
I’m still not a no-pro, but I have improved significantly.
If you tend to agree to anything that comes your way, use the criteria below to help you decide when a ‘no’ is necessary:
- You’re not excited about the work.
- You don’t have the time or capacity.
- It’s not your area of expertise.
- You’re not confident in your ability to deliver.
- You and the client don’t click.
- The rate is below the usual pay for the type of work and scope.
- You would be embarrassed to put the project in your portfolio.
If even one of the points above applies to your situation, saying no is probably in your best interest. Taking on every opportunity that comes your way can lead to burnout, lack of motivation and unhappy clients, which can damage your reputation in the long run.
Taking on every opportunity that comes your way can lead to burnout.
Anna Stroud: You’ve been giving away a lot of freebies, like your Freelance Rates Calculator and the Beating Imposter Syndrome workbook. Why are these topics so important to you?
Shea Karssing: There are some seriously skilled freelancers out there. But not all of them are great at the business of being in business. With my book and the freebies on my site, my goal isn’t to tell people how to do what they’re already great at; they’re to help them with all the other hats that a solo business owner has to wear.
Anna Stroud: Taking that leap from working for someone else to working for yourself is super scary. Is there enough work to go around for writers, editors and designers?
Shea Karssing: Yes. There is enough work out there, especially since remote working and connectivity allow us to reach the big, wide world.
Statista estimates that there will be 86.5 million freelancers, 50.9% of the total US workforce, by 2027. Over half the US workforce in just three years! In addition, more and more companies are realising the benefits of using freelancers as a strategic talent-sourcing channel.
But, yes, the leap is scary, which is why I recommend starting with a side hustle. Having a side hustle while you have a full-time job makes the transition easier financially — and it helps you build business acumen and confidence in selling your skills.
Anna Stroud: I love that you also hate the quote, ‘If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.’ What should freelancers focus on instead?
Shea Karssing: Who loves working? Seriously? Instead of focusing on doing what you love and loving every minute of it, rather:
- Identify your strengths and do what you’re good at.
- Do something that aligns with your current interests, even if you don’t know how long they’ll last.
- Do something you like. Which usually happens when you’re doing something that meets criteria 1 and 2.
Anna Stroud: Every so often (usually when I see other freelancers hustling like pros while I’m lying on the couch watching Diepe Waters) the fear grips me: What am I doing? What if I fail? What if I’m not good enough? So your section on ‘Five things to let go of right now’ has really helped me curb my negative self-talk.
What’s the one thing we should all let go of right now?
Shea Karssing: We all need to let go of limiting beliefs. You can be anything or do anything as long as you want it badly enough. Sure, you have to work harder for some things than others, and some things are not worth working that hard for… but nothing’s impossible.
I’ve become a successful freelancer, written a book, completed a full Ironman, run 100 miles [that’s 160.9 km, people], entered (but not yet been selected for) Survivor South Africa (I am a superfan), learnt how to wakeboard and snowboard, bought a house and managed to keep my darling little dog alive — not because I’m talented or especially lucky, but because I tell myself, ‘I can do hard things’, and make a plan to get them done.
Freelancing is not for the faint of heart. Be proud of yourself for being bold enough to take control of your career.
Anna Stroud: Some of my favourite truth bombs from Freelance Like A Boss are:
- The supermarket doesn’t ask if they can increase the price of peanut butter. If you don’t raise your rates, you’re getting poorer.
- Being busy is not a badge of honour. Your goal is building a business, not a busyness.
- Always have a contract in place! (There’s a template on page 16.)
What’s the best (and the worst) advice on freelancing you’ve ever received?
Shea Karssing: Best: Hire a professional to do your tax for you.
Worst: ‘Do [this] to 10x your income today!’ There are few quick fixes, my freelance friend.
Anna Stroud: A final word to all the freelancers out there?
Shea Karssing: Freelancing is not for the faint of heart. Be proud of yourself for being bold enough to take control of your career, despite the challenges. As we say in running, ‘You’re lapping everyone on the couch.’ Oh, and buy my book if you haven’t already, of course! DM
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Anna Stroud is a freelance writer living in Joburg. Follow her on LinkedIn.
Freelance Like a Boss by Shea Karssing is published by Penguin Random House SA (R260). Visit The Reading List for South African book news, daily – including excerpts!