Interview with Martina Russo –
a Freelancer at Work

Posted on July 25, 2017

This month Olatunji chatted with Martina Russo, founder of Freelancer at Work : a great source of information, inspiration and tips on how to be a successful freelancer and have fun in the process!

How would you describe Freelancer At Work and what it hopes to accomplish?

Freelancer At Work was born to help – you guessed it – freelancers, entrepreneurs, creative people and anyone who works from their laptop to connect with clients and peers, open up new opportunities and bring more business their way.

Freelancer At Work creates unique, professional decals you can place on your laptop, tablet or any other flat surface. You’re ready to stand out in co-working spaces, coffee shops, and public places where other people might see you.

BOOM! instant, offline, free marketing for your services wherever you go.

You started out as a translator, but you’ve pivoted into producing decals. What was it like pivoting into another business with an already busy schedule?

The decal business happened completely randomly and, initially, it was just meant to be a fun thing to do in my spare time:

In May 2015 I was living in Croatia, and day after day I noticed people looking at me as I worked from bars and coffee shops. They were wondering what the heck I was doing all that time in front of my laptop (and with their Wi-Fi).

So came the idea of making one decal for my laptop that would say ‘Translator At Work’. It looked nice and I shared a picture of it in one of my translation-related Facebook groups just for fun…
…and, much to my amazement, people went crazy about it! Everyone wanted one, so I set up shop. Translator At Work, (now Freelancer At Work) was born.

I kind of stopped working on it for about a year and a half, since I didn’t consider it ‘business’.

But in February this year I realized people kept buying the decals even though I was doing ZERO efforts to market them, and realized there was a big potential to it. That’s when the rebranding, website redesign, expansion of our professional decal range (e.g. programmers, web designers, copywriters and +50 more) and all things marketing started taking place.

Now that it’s all up and running, it’s a hell of a lot of work!

I mean: How is a human being supposed to run 2 businesses, study for a Master’s degree, do sports, eat healthy, spend some time with their family or friends, enjoy some social life, and get enough sleep all within 24 hours?

Do you still do translations? If yes, how do you marry the two businesses together?

Translation is my first love, and I would keep doing this even if I were to suddenly win the lottery.

I’ve had to surrender to and accept the fact that I can’t do everything by myself. At this stage, Freelancer At Work is mostly a one-woman show (me!), but I do work with amazing people from time to time. This allows me to focus on my main business, which is being a translator, project manager and linguistic consultant, and taking care of what really matters and needs my undivided attention at Freelancer At Work.

For example, I still like to communicate with customers in person. A lot of people know that it’s me behind the project, so it’s nice to keep it close and personal.

How would you encourage our readers to, one, identify new business opportunities in their freelancing and secondly, how they can also validate these ideas?

Keep your eyes and ears open wherever you go and whatever you do. Attend industry meetings and talk openly to people about what you do. You’ll be amazed about what your network can do for you!

Validating a new business idea can be tricky, but I’d say just go ahead and try it out. The only way you’ll know if it’s sustainable is to go out and sell it. Once again the market will give you the feedback you need in order to make a final decision.

From your experience what’s the hardest thing about being a freelancer with multiple streams of income?

Knowing when to let go of income streams that don’t work for you and when to move on to the next income earning opportunity is one of the hardest things.

There’s a real mental barrier to giving up a business opportunity that you have invested time, money and sweat into. People tend to think that if they can stick it out just a little bit longer things will work out.

Seth Godin calls this ‘The Dip’ and only your gut instinct can tell you if it’s worth sticking with a failing business idea or if it’s better to quit while you’re ahead.

Secondly, I find it pretty hard to make enough time to manage all these businesses at once. Being organized and having a support system is extremely important to keep everything running smoothly. Having a team of collaborators that you can delegate certain tasks to also really helps.

How important is it to have multiple streams of income as a freelancer?

It’s extremely important! If you’re just starting out there will be dry spells from time to time. Having other streams of income to fall back on will help you get through them.

If your business is more established and you have a regular client base, multiple streams of income will help you future proof your business. By diversifying your income you can protect your lifestyle from unexpected financial burdens or raise capital for long term projects (e.g. buying a house).

Lastly, kindly give a brief description of how our readers can benefit from the Freelancer At Work decals – marketing and money-making wise.

Freelancer at Work decals get you relevant, personal and local marketing for the price of breakfast.

We often work from shared offices, coffee shops and other public spaces, attend conferences and travel around. When you show the world what you do and use a simple but direct CTA (‘Let’s talk!’ or ‘Ask me!’) to prompt communication, you open up a whole new world of business and networking opportunities. And it doesn’t require you to change your habits! You just keep doing what you always do – work from your laptop.

It’s so simple, yet so powerful.

Here are a couple of real life examples:

One of our customers uses her laptop decal to transform her daily train ride into the city from a boring, everyday routine into an exciting business opportunity. Or, take me: I attended a conference and sat at a table to work; the guy opposite me (also working from his laptop) noticed my Translator At Work decal, asked about it, and before I knew it he ordered a 300 € translation gig. That’s already x30 times the decal's original price!

Isn’t that an amazing deal?

Give it a try! You’ll be amazed at what a simple decal can do for your business!

Images courtesy of Freelancer at Work
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