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Tackling growth and other obstacles as a freelance strategist

Tackling Growth as A Freelance Strategist | Freelance Strategists
Kat Shepherd
Kat Shepherd
March 16, 2022
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When it comes to creating a successful strategy for any project, it’s all down to scoping, something freelance Strategist Lydia Taylor has learned through, as she puts it, “trial and error”, during her nine-year career working on various client projects. We spoke to Lydia about her own experience handling tricky briefs, how she works through challenges with clients and what being a strategist means to her.

Having only used YunoJuno for briefs in the last 2 years of her freelance career, Lydia picked up a contract within 6 months of using YJ and has had multiple briefs over the past 2 years. Handling client expectations is one of the key features of any great strategist and we asked Lydia how she manages expectations at the beginning of a new project;

I've found that scoping is everything when freelancing. After chatting through a client brief I will look over the key documents and make a one-page plan of how I will approach the task and the time it will take. Getting a scope agreed upfront helps set expectations and allows me to clearly define my role vs client input or other input from the team in order to get the job done.

When asked what kind of clients tend to work best with a freelance strategist like Lydia, she feels;

Clients who are able to impact relevant business areas and step a little out of their comfort zone in order to make the best customer experiences are the ones who get the most impact. So I would like to see more holistic thinking across verticals.

Example Work: Walkers and KFC teamed up to capture a generation who chase big flavours. The integrated TV, digital and social campaign connected the two brands with the uncanny resemblance of Gary Lineker to Colonel Sanders and activated the Gen Z UK audience.

If a client hasn’t previously worked with a strategist or wants to prepare their teams before working with a freelance strategist, Lydia recommends;

Spend the time to sweat the brief so when they talk to a strategist, they know what success looks like and can be open with their ambitions for the project. And to be honest, the more relevant context you tell us, the good the bad and the ugly, the better we can help.

In an ideal world, clients would always prepare to work with strategists, but when that doesn’t happen, we asked Lydia to share the more common challenges she’s faced on projects;

One challenge I’ve had on a project was negotiating and managing a wide array of stakeholders across the business. When implementing strategy there is a degree of trust needed and this takes time to develop. Coming in as a freelancer with a defined scope (and now also being remote) it can be a challenge to gain the trust needed from multiple stakeholders in a short period of time.

And like any great strategist, we asked Lydia how she typically handles challenges like this

To overcome this, I now arrange initial 15-minute introductions with all the key stakeholders I will need to impact on the project. Having a call for the sole purpose of getting to know someone allows me to understand what their personal ambitions and frustrations are, as well as introduce my specialist skills for their project. It sets a good base so that presenting work isn’t the first time they see me pop up.

Working on many different projects with lots of different people exposes you to some great lessons and advice, so we asked Lydia to share the best piece of advice she’d received as a freelancer so far;

To work out the types of projects I like working on and be active in that area e.g. on LinkedIn by showcasing relevant projects or by engaging in conversation/thought leadership in the area. By doing this, you start to build a reputation associated to this area and you attract more of the work you are passionate about.
Example Work: CHECT charity campaign with reflective posters to teach adults how to detect eye cancer.These were shot with real child survivors of childhood eye cancer and when you took a photo with a flash, it showed how the tumour would look in real life (see article).

We then asked Lydia if there was one thing she would change about working as a freelance strategist, to which she shared;

One downside of being freelance is that your growth will be on your own time. Whereas previously in agencies I used the downtime to explore a new area or get deep into research, maybe even taking a course, all of this learning is now on my time and my budget. You grow through new freelance projects of course but being paid to generally explore an interest or grow your skills is an underrated perk of being a perm employee.

Finally, we wanted to know what being nominated as a finalist in the Freelance Awards 2021 meant to Lydia;

Great, it’s always nice to be recognised and have a bit of an ego stroke!

If your project needs some concrete direction or you’d like to find out what working with Lydia could mean for your future projects, book her here.

AspectEmployeeIndependent Contractor
Control and supervisionDirect control over how, when, and where to workFreedom to set their own schedules and methods
PaymentRegular wages; taxes withheld by employerPaid per project; responsible for their own taxes
BenefitsHealth insurance, retirment plans, paid leaveMust arrange their own benefits
TerminationOften requires notice and may include severanceCan usually be terminated at any time without benefits
Tools and equipmentProvided by the employerTypically use their own tools
Whilst I have done my time at the big agencies, I'm not a typical agency strategist. Having spent some years in fast moving social video content startup, my skills are adaptive and practical. My specialism is digital and I'm fast to pick up methodologies and create novel ways for clients to win on social channels.
Lydia Taylor, Senior Strategist
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