#478 WP-Tonic Show With Special Guest Abbey Woodcock

We Discuss All Things Freelance With The Founder of Freelance Co-op Abbey Woodcock

Abbey has been a direct response copywriter since 7th grade when she wrote a 30-page sales letter asking her crush to the dance. Since then, she’s converted better… writing sales pages and emails you’ve probably read from some of the biggest names online.

Now, she teaches the business side of copywriting including setting up systems to grow a freelancing business and building out an in-house content team that seamlessly “gets” your voice.

She’s also a chainsaw instructor and mom to 2 awesome kiddos in Upstate NY.

Jonathon: Welcome back folks to the WP Tonic show. This is episode 478. We’ve got a great guest. Unfortunately I haven’t got my cohost Adrian. The good looking one and the intelligent one of our partnership. He’s busy working away on the next update to Groundhogg. So I thought we’d give him the week off. But he’s been a good boy lately. But we’ve got great guest. We’ve got Abby Woodcock. And we’re going to be talking about all things freelancing. I know audience that a lot of you are freelancers that are going to be covering the whole subject. And Abbey is an expert on it. So welcome to the show and would you like to give us a quick introduction?

Abby: Sure. Thanks so much for having me. I’m super excited. So yeah, I’m Abby Woodcock and I run the freelance co-op, which is both a physical coworking space in upstate New York. And a virtual online membership resource bank for freelancers. And before that I was a freelance copywriter for about 10 years.

Jonathon: That’s great. Before we go into the main part of our conversation, folks, I’d like to talk about one of our major sponsors and that’s Kinster hosting. And Kinster it’s a premier WordPress only hosting provider. They’d been hosting the WP tonic website for over three years and they’ve been a sponsor for almost three years. They are superb hosting providers. So if you’ve got a client with a WooCommerce site, membership or e-learning site, you need better quality hosting either for your own project or for your client’s projects. That’s what you get with Kinster. You get all the bells and whistles, you get staging site, and you can choose what version of PHP you will be running the site. You have every day backup really easy to install the backup. And to be truthful, when I’m working on clients’ websites and they’re not with Kinster. And I look at what there hosting is like, I think myself, I couldn’t use that hosting.

Jonathon: If you get used to the best, it’s hard to down grade. So, if that sounds interesting, go over to Kingston, have a look at their plans. I suggest that you should get one for yourself or for your clients. And also the most important thing. Remember to tell them that you heard about them on the WP tonic show. So let’s get into Abby. So I was looking over the website, and some of the facts. And I think he was saying that a very large percentage of the population, the working population going to be freelance in the next few years. What are the kinds of figures actually?

Abby: So there was a big study that was done in the US in the last couple of years about how many people are freelancing. And they predict that by 2027, half of the American population will be freelancing. Already about 44% of millennial people are doing some sort of freelancing, either full time or on the side. And there haven’t been a lot of studies worldwide, but I would guess that those numbers are pretty consistent in other countries as well. Because just from my anecdotal experience working online internationally, freelancing is just really skyrocketing as well. So it’s a huge opportunity. It’s also a huge shift in how we think about work and how we think about the economy. And so that’s been really the central, what I’ve been working on for the past three years is how can we, if this is the, the truth of it, if 50% of people are going to be freelancing, what resources are available for people to work better. And kind of create the life that they want through their work.

Jonathon: Now, I think probably, the biggest buck bearer of being freelancer, apart from making a decent salary from it is health care. You know, obviously under Obama, I live in the US so I have to pay for my own health care. And I’ll get it for the Obama’s exchange. So the situations improved a little bit over the past few years, but it’s still very problematic. Can your association help at all with this, with advice or specific plans? Or if we got any kind of insights that might help listeners around healthcare?

Abbey: Sure. Yeah. So the big issue with healthcare well there’s many, but one of the big issues is that you buy it through a state exchange in most cases. So it’s kind of different from state to state of what kind of healthcare that you can get as a freelancer in the US. So one organization that we’re working with, it’s called Trupo which is T, R, U P O through the freelance co-op, and they help freelancers with all kinds of benefits. So not just health care, but helping with kind of dental plans and insurance plans. And all these things that when you’re working for a corporation or you’re working a nine to five, that’s all kind of included in your compensation package. But you’re absolutely right. It’s one of many things that freelancers learn pretty quickly that they’re responsible for.

Abby: And so yeah, we have a lot of conversations inside the coop about all kinds of freelancer benefits, not just healthcare, but, but that’s obviously a major concern. Cause a lot of freelancers either don’t know how or you go through the process which you’ve gone through. It’s not an easy process to sign up for healthcare. And so I do the same. Even though we run our business and we are a corporation now and I have a team because of how small we are, it’s basically the same process that an individual freelancer goes through. And so it’s really that’s one of the many kind of difficulties. So yeah, absolutely. We talk about that a lot inside the coop.

Jonathon: Well that’s great. Well because you’ve been running your kind of association for over three years now. So what are some of the most common questions that you are asked and what are also a couple of the basic mistakes that a lot of freelancers do when they are starting out as a freelancer?

Abby: Sure, yes. So freelancers, we’ve discovered to be a successful freelancer, you really need three skills that you have to master. So the first one is you have to be good at whatever it is you do. So whether you’re a photographer or graphic designer, web developer, copywriter, you have to be good at that. So you have to build those skills. Number two, you have to learn how to find clients and close those clients, which is a whole other skillset. And number three, you have to learn how to run a business, which most freelancers, especially creative freelancers, which is the majority of our co-op members, they focus on the craft. They learn that they can get paid to do something that they really enjoy doing, whether it’s development or design or writing. And then all of a sudden they realize, Oh no, I need to figure out how to pay taxes.

Abby: And Oh no, this client won’t pay me and I have no contract and I don’t know how to write a contract or what to do when the client doesn’t pay me. So well, we’ve discovered inside the coop is usually the biggest mistake that people make. And that goes along with the questions that people have is they focused on the craft. And I’m not saying you shouldn’t get good at what you do. Absolutely you should, but you also need to learn how to be a business owner or learn where the resources are that can help you with that. And so a lot of the questions that we get inside the coop around legal questions, how do I form, how do I write a contract? How do I find a lawyer to help me write a contract? What happens when the client doesn’t pay?

And also tax time is a really busy time for us. Because freelancers, especially new freelancers, you know, maybe you’ve just done it your first year, you’re freelancing and say you’ve made $40,000. And it’s like, wow, that’s like a, that’s a, that’s a pretty good year for the first year. And then you realize, Oh, and that means I owe seven to $10,000 to the government. That I had no idea that that’s how it works. Because again, if you worked for a corporation that’s taken out of your paycheck and it’s, it’s not really as stressful of time. But for freelancers, that’s a huge mistake too is, is I’m not planning for those kinds of things, both, both legally and taxes. So that’s a lot of what we do inside of the go up.

Jonathon: Yeah. Especially I’m in States when you go, you got the state corporation tax or income tax because they can be more, especially, you know, I live in Nevada where we don’t have a state called pricing tax, but we have a lot of people we work with that are living in California and the California and tax state tax collecting can be more aggressive than the federal law.

Abby: Absolutely. New York is the same way, which is where I live. So, yeah, New York and California are big ones. With the state Texas, they are, they are much more aggressive than the federal tax. The federal taxes and in some States even you have to pay sales tax on certain types of services. So there’s a, there’s a couple of States where if you’re a graphic designer for example, that you have to charge your clients and sales tax and then pay that sales tax to the government. So to the state government. So yeah, it can get really, really confusing really, really quickly.

Jonathon: Yeah, you have to watch that folks. So the other side of it, you know, the business side, but then you’ve got the sales side. So you’ve got any insights that you’ve observed through your free years when it comes to advice in freelancers around sales.

Abby: Sure. Yeah. So this is a big issue as well, is like, okay, great, I have this skill, but now where do I find clients? And even when I find them, you know, how do I turn them into clients? How do I have a sales call, for example? And I think one thing is, especially creative freelancers because they tend to be a bit introverted. So sales is a really difficult a process for them. And one way that I’m actually in San Diego today, I’m at an event. Live events has been a huge way that that I’ve found clients. And that we coach people through finding clients at live events and how to have those conversations. Really it comes down to making sure that you follow up with anybody that you talk to. So just like you would in marketing with your leads, you’d send them emails and you’d follow up. And it’s really important to do that with your prospective clients as well. And I think that if I could give one tip about better sales as a freelancer, it’s following up and keeping in conversations with your leads and staying top of mind. Even if they’re not ready for your services, you know, you never know when they’re good to meet somebody that would be interested in what you’re doing or they’re suddenly going to have a need and you’re going to be the first person that they think of.

Jonathon: I think also it’s one of the great benefits that a lot of people don’t realize in working in a facility.

Abby: Yeah, for sure. We just had a really great project that we did. The mayor of the town we’re in, which is Oneida New York came to the coop and said, Hey, we want to do this promotional video for the city. We have no idea where to start. Well, we, because of the coop we had a videographer, we had writers, we had editors. And so we kind of supplied all those people through our space to the mayor’s office and did a project together. That’s why it’s called the coop. You know, we do projects together. But yeah, getting out and just, I hate the word networking, but, but being in communication with other freelancers both in your industry and out of your industry.

A good friend of mine is a graphic designer. Like I said, I was a freelance copywriter. We would refer project back and forth all the time because a lot of the graphic projects that he needed, he needed writing support. And when I did writing, I needed graphic support. So you know, have bring those kinds of tandem industries and making friends with people in those industries is always a really good way to find those referrals as well.

Jonathon: And also the kind of isolation element that can come from freelancing, especially if you’re used to work in it at the kind of nine to five kind of corporate. Or digital agency that’s got a physical office and then you go freelance in it. It can be very isolating, can’t it?

Abby: Yeah, absolutely. That’s a huge, a huge thing. We had this conversation yesterday. I had a small workshop that we ran. Yes. And that was a huge topic of conversations was just like the, the, the mental side of it, which is, you know, comes a lot from the isolation of like, is this normal? What I’m feeling? I’m feeling a little bit lonely. Nobody understands. I joke all the time. My mom still has no idea what I do for a living. And so having those conversations with friends and family like a lot of times I just don’t understand. And so you know, having friendships.

I have a good friend named Chris who’s a copywriter as well. We talk almost every morning on audio message through Facebook. Just because it’s somebody to check in with that understands what we’re going through and the ups and downs and the frustrations with clients. And all that stuff that, you know, friends and family don’t always understand. So having a space that you can either go to and have those conversations or just people that you’ve connected with that you can relate to what you’re going through for sure.

Jonathon: That’s great. We’re going to go for our break folks. When we come back with Abby’s help, we’re going to be delving more into the whole business of freelancing where we backed in a few moments folks,

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Jonathon: I am coming back, my cohost would be asking much better questions, but I think I have done great so far. I am notorious Abby for my very long winded multipoint questions trying to keep him very focused. One question at a time. Robert had given you a free minute question with five elements to it. But I am notorious for it, so I don’t think I’ve done too bad in my books. So you’re based in New York. So I’ve got to bring this up and then collapsing. Was you that shocked, you know, you’re in that business. So were there rumors around? And I’m going to do about two point question. I’m sorry; I’m going to go for it. And the second point is how should somebody choose the right coworking facility? Have you got any tips and insights?

Abby: Sure. Yeah. So we work with really interesting because a lot of times when I explained what the co p was and our vision, because we’re in one small town right now. But our kind of, our long-term vision is to provide resources for freelancers in small towns across the U S and so eventually we’d like to do that. And so when I would talk about it, I would say, you know, kind of like we work. And obviously that’s not a great comparison anymore, but there was a couple of things with we work that I think have been actually really helpful in kind of a case study. For me as I grow the coop, one thing that we were did is they started investing in a lot of different things outside of what their core benefit was. So you know, there was the notorious story about the school that they started and they if you look at what they called it the we companies at the end there.

Abby: And if you look at all the different branches that they had, there’s a like kind of a wheel chart that you can look up if you look up we companies. Because they had started like 10 to 12 different subsets of the organization. And when you spread your resources that thin it’s really difficult to kind of focus in and have a viable organization. And I think that came from the CEO of we work, we was very much like me where he’s an ideal person, right? And you kind of chase all these ideas and I think entrepreneurs do that a lot. I’m lucky to have a business partner that it is very operations focused. So I’ll have an idea and he’ll kind of back me up and say, okay, well that’s interesting. Let’s look at it practically. And I think it’s really important if you’re an idea person to have somebody that can do that because I always say if, if he ran the business himself, we’d never grow. If I ran my business myself, like we’d run out of money really, really quickly. Because I like our first office I wanted to buy a building before we even had proof of concept and he said that’s probably not a good idea to buy a building yet. So I understand kind of how that would happen and we work. So it’s been really, really educational for us to kind of watch that.

Jonathon: What do you think the whole health fiasco, it wasn’t a fiasco for the founder, because he walked away. It looks really, it has been punished at all, but that’s a totally separate question. But in general, do you think what happened to we work has kind of really damage the reputation of coworking in general? Or do you think it was a big story and it seemed forgotten?

Abby: Well, I think definitely yeah. So as far as when it comes to getting capital and getting funding for businesses, which we have just actually started exploring this year. When there’s a big story like that in an industry, it really does kind of damage the industry in the eyes of investor’s ad in the eyes of banks. Because they’re like a little wary to see it until the industry kind of flattens out. So I think for sure, but I think coworking in general is going to, especially as freelancing grows coworking is going to grow as well.

And the other part of your question about choosing a coworking space, you know, I think coworking is so, so important for freelancers. I love working from home. I work from home a lot, but you need to get out there and you need to be in a space that allows you to number one, be away from home and all the things like laundry and dishes and grocery shopping that pull you away from work.

Abby: And also like you said working alongside other people in similar adjacent industries. And so I think thinking about the coworking space, I think number one, I’m somebody that, that wants to be in a beautiful space. When we designed the coop, which was number one was I want it to be a place that I enjoy working. I don’t like working in kind of that windowless hotel, conference room type places. You know, like, I just, beauty is really important to me. Maybe it’s important to the viewers and maybe it’s not, but thinking about what are those, what does your work environment need to look like is really important. What other types of people are at the coworking space? So there’s a coworking space about an hour from me that focuses big time on startups and tech startups. That’s really great for those people. That’s not really where I want to be working because those aren’t the type of people that.

Jonathon: I think you’ve just made an excellent point there. Is that they are sub sectors in the coworking sector isn’t there?

Abby: For sure. Yeah. And so, you know, if you’re a tech startup, you want to be in that place with other tech startups. If you’re a creative freelancer, you want to be around other creative freelancers. And so thinking about, okay, like what type of people, and you can have those conversations when we, before we open up our space, we toured, Oh, probably a dozen different coworking spaces just to kind of see their experience and they were happy to just give us a tour and tell us all about this place. So you can tour the place and say, Hey, I want to set up a tour or I want to talk to somebody and they’ll tell you what type of people are there, what the vibe is. If it’s really busy or if it’s really quiet it depends on what you do.

Jonathon: I’m offered to a few coworking and they all have a very different field. So I think the advisor and the want to see if you would agree is not just choose the nearest one. You know, if you do have a choice of coworking, you, it really is beneficial if you spend a little bit of time and go to those that are a reasonable distance and not just choose to the closest one. Would you agree?

Abby: Oh, absolutely. Yeah. The environment is so important and especially in creative fields or fields where you’re like, you want to be in a place where you feel comfortable. And you where you feel good to work at. So, yeah, I would, you know, advise anybody who said to work a couple different ones and see what they feel like and what the, what the kind of vibe is. I’m not a woo person, but you know, places have energy and so what the energy is when you walk in and when you sit to work.

Jonathon: So he’d been running the coworking facility for a year. What have been the biggest surprises in this journey of a physical? I work in establishment.

Abby: It was a big shock when we started. Not, I wouldn’t say shock, but it was something that we had to get used to because I had been freelancing online from home. You basically have no overhead in a business and a, so having the coworking and just little things like, Oh, we have to buy toilet paper and soap, which is now like impossible to find and crazy expensive. And so you know, thinking about those little things. But you know, for pleasant surprises, it’s just been amazing. Being part of the business community in a way that I haven’t locally. Just by having a space, you know, we’re getting much support now from the community.

That’s why I’m really hopeful that this is a model that other towns can do as well. You know, our office supply store, our local coffee shop, our local restaurants, like they all want to support what we’re doing. And I’ve just, you know, I’ve lived in the community where our coworking spaces my whole life. I’m a part of it in a different way now and it’s been really kind of a beautiful thing to see.

Jonathon: Oh, well that’s good. So when it comes to actually women working at coworking childcare, especially preschool it’s extremely expensive in this country. And it’s very expensive in Britain as well. Do you think there’s any possibility that some coworking facilities might be able to with that in some way, will offer some discounts or what’s your views about that in general?

Abby: Yeah, absolutely. So the reason that I started freelancing was I had two kids and I wanted it to be home with them. And so freelancing has allowed me to do before my kids were in school. They’re 12 and 10 now. But before the kids were in school, it allowed me to be home with them and that was a huge part of it. But getting out was really difficult. And I know that there are a lot of coworking spaces, especially in the bigger ones that actually offer childcare as part of it. And so yeah, if that’s a factor, absolutely. I’ve been there with that struggle for sure. And kind of weighing, you know, what those costs are and is it worth having child care for a day so you can get out and work once a week. Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t depending on the economics of your specific area. But yeah, coworking I think some spaces are really looking into that because it’s really important. To be around other adults to be around other professionals. When you’re when you’re a parent of young children it’s kind of exhausting to have the only person to person contact that you have in a day be with a two year old.

Jonathon: So have you also some of the more progressive and more established coworking facilities I worked at Abby. I’ve also tried to build relationships with colleges and schools as well. Is that something you’re looking to do and how important do you think that is?

Abby: Yeah, so to kind of broaden out the topic a little bit. So the reason that we started the coop in the town that we did, like I said, I grew up in that town is small towns across the U S and especially in the Northeast, which is called the rust belt, which is where I live. A lot of these small towns had manufacturing and they were built around manufacturing and overnight it was built around silverware. When manufacturing left, the town kind of suffered and a lot of the smartest people had left to go to bigger cities. And we saw an opportunity. I’ve lived and worked in my community my whole life. The last decade I made a really, really good living as a freelancer and started to realize this is a huge opportunity for small towns if they provide resources for freelancers because freelancers can work from anywhere and the cost of living is low.

Abby: It’s a great place to raise a family, all these things. And so now thinking about it in the colleges and high schools even. I went to career day when I was in high school and they talked about what it was like to be a lawyer and what it was like to be a doctor and what it was like to be work in banking and all these kind of corporate jobs. I never heard about freelancing when I was in high school. And now we are starting to form these partnerships with the local schools so that on career day we say, Hey, here’s another option. You can stay here in town, you can work online, you can do creative services. You can be a freelance there.

There are all these other options. And so as the freelance economy grows, I think you’re going to see more and more of that. And high schools and colleges that the coworking spaces obviously have an investment of forming these relationships because these become clients later on. But bigger than that, I think supporting the freelance thing community and making creative freelancing as sustainable career path for somebody in high school or college is a huge passion of mine.

Jonathon: We’re going to wrap up the podcast part of the show. Abby has agreed to stay on for another 10 minutes, which you’d be able to watch on the WP Tonic website. With a full transcription and links to some of the things we’ve discussed during the show. So Abby, if people want to find out more about you and what you’re up to and you’re coworking facility, what’s the best way to find out more?

Abby: Sure. The best way to find us is at freelancecoop.org. So there are no dashes in that. So it’s spelled kind of like freelance coop. So freelancecoop.org they can find out about our physical location in upstate New York. And also our online membership, which provides resources like legal templates, tax training. We do monthly live stream trainings on topics related to freelancing and business. So all of that is at freelancecoop.org

Jonathon: And if you want to support the show folks, the best thing is go to the WP Tonic website and join our monthly newsletter, we’ve totally revamped it for 2020. There is a combination of some of the e-learning stories with a lot of WordPress latest news stories and plug-in recommendations that come from the panel from the WP tonic round table show that we do live every Friday at 8:30 AM Pacific standard time. You can watch that on the WP tonic Facebook page or download it from the YouTube channel.

But that would be the best way. And also if you do that, you’re automatically entered into our monthly prize draw. That means that end of each calendar month, we take one new subscriber and they win a prize up to the value of $100 that’s not bad. Is it going to be even more if one of my sponsors gives us a license to one of their plugins, it can be a lot more? So that’s not a bad thing to do. Next week we will be back with another great guest. Hopefully we will have our intelligent cohost as well next week. We will see you soon folks, bye.

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