Carolyn Bothwell on her mission to empower independent creatives with Freelance Founders
Describe your business in a few words?
Freelance Founders is a members-only community and resource hub for independent creatives.
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
In the early days of the pandemic, I saw many agency and in-house creatives being laid off and starting their freelance journey. For me, being an independent creative has been very empowering, but I knew how intimidating the process can be. Many of us creatives come from Liberal Arts and Arts backgrounds, and quickly find ourselves running our own solo businesses. I knew there had to be a place for the top talent to come together and connect, while finding the resources and opportunities needed to succeed.
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
I began my career as a copywriter at Rue La La (now Rue Gilt Groupe). About five years ago, I made the leap to full-time freelance for more creative and financial freedom. Since then, I’ve worked alongside notable agencies and venture capital firms doing brand strategy and copywriting for clients like Summer Fridays, OUAI Haircare, Living Proof, and most recently, Kate Hudson’s brand, InBloom.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
Prior to going freelance, I felt really confined by corporate hours and politics. I always felt like there were so many ideas that I could never really execute on. Looking back, I consider my entry to entrepreneurship when I became freelance. Instead of seeing myself as a contractor or a gig worker, I tried to really step into a founder mindset.
Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?
Launching Freelance Founders during a pandemic was certainly interesting. Fortunately, I’m a brand strategist by trade, so I’ve always felt confident in executing on creative go-to-market strategies. I’ve bootstrapped to date, so we really relied on organic efforts – like educational Instagram posts, micro influencers, and word of mouth. In the end, it has gone better than I could have imagined.
We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?
I think my biggest challenge to date has been protecting my own time. As soon as I stepped into a founder role, I found that there were a lot of opportunities out there – to grow, learn, and connect. Of course, I wanted to do it all but fortunately, my mentors have really helped me stick to my vision and minimize distractions. Now, I’m gearing up for our first fundraising round, so I’m sure there will be lots of challenges in the near future.
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
The feedback from our members has really fueled this entire process. I’m so proud to report that through Freelance Founders, creatives in our group have raised their rates, collaborated to take on larger projects, and connected with like minded people worldwide.
When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?
My go-to interview question is: “If you were me, what would you do differently?” I typically hire senior people who have skills that I don’t. We’re still a small team, so it’s super helpful having people I can really trust to excel in their roles.
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
50% of the U.S. workforce is predicted to be freelance by 2027. If anything, I think that COVID has only accelerated this shift.
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
We’re already present in over 5 countries, but we’re aiming to be more intentional about the programming and resources for our members outside of the U.S. We are also teaming up with a developer in our group to make some major changes to our platform. Stay tuned!
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?
Plan ahead, but always be ready to pivot.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?
Everyone else is learning as they go, too. I spent a lot of time in my early days worrying about what I didn’t know how to do – but I’ve soon realized that no one can do it all. I’ve been able to surround myself with some really helpful experts and team members.
How have you managed to stay grounded this year?
My fiance always gives me a healthy nudge when I start overworking or stressing about something outside of my control. It’s helpful to have people in your life to remind you to make time for yourself.
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
In many ways, my work and life are one in the same. I’m productive in spurts, so I don’t always hold myself to traditional corporate hours. Find what works for you.
What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
Everyone always seems to be surprised to learn that I live in Boston. Most of our members – and many creatives – are based in New York, Chicago, and LA.
What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?
I practice time blocking, so I do tasks together. I work in the morning and take my calls back-to-back in the afternoon. I also find I’m more productive after I’ve taken my dog for a walk and gotten some fresh air. And, my final tip is to always have a passion project outside of work that keeps you excited and inspired.
What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?
To me, it means sharing information and empowering others. I’ve gotten so much support from other female founders in my journey, and it’s important to pay it forward.