The pathway to such a cool life - Data Visualisation Expert Stephanie Evergreen

Stephanie Evergreen Data Podcast.png

When Stephanie's employers were refusing projects she'd have loved to take on, she set up her own business on the side and began teaching people about the importance of the work she was doing.

Seeing how popular the idea was, Stephanie's employers soon asked her to shut down her business and bring the work in-house.

Stephanie said no.

She's since had a book published on the subject, ran workshops for the United Nations, given international keynote speeches, built a virtual team of 6, and launched her own online academy that serves hundreds of students each year.

Imagine if she hadn’t said no all those years ago… If she hadn’t believed in herself and recognised the benefits of being freelance…


Steve Folland: ... How about we get started hearing how you got started being freelance?

Stephanie: Yeah. Well, I don't know how common my story is but I sort of got forced into being freelance. I was working at a salary job for someone else and I kept getting cool clients I wanted to work with, but my boss was saying, "No," that the project was too small or that the project wasn't in their wheelhouse, so I started my own company, with their permission, and started to take on these projects on the side.

Stephanie: It's kind of funny because as I started teaching people about the importance of data visualization and all of that, the company I was working for decided that it was, in fact, going to be in their wheelhouse. Once they realized how popular the idea was, they decided they were going to make this one of their things, so we were suddenly in competition. They asked me to shut my business down and I said, "No," so I was sort of like forced at that point to go completely independent.

Steve Folland: Wow. Let me just make sure I've understood that. They weren't in competition, so you started doing it on the side and then they realized, "Oh, actually that seems like a good idea, you have to bring it in-house," and you were like, "No way."

Stephanie: Right.

Steve Folland: That's when you went freelance.

Stephanie: Exactly, yeah.

Steve Folland: Brilliant.

Stephanie: It was scary. It was a scary time because I think a lot of people who go into freelance have a good plan, and they've saved up six months salary. They've gone about it in a very rational way, and that seems a lot smarter than just saying, "No," and walking out.

Steve Folland: To put that in perspective, what year was that, when was that?

Stephanie: That was about 10 years ago.

Steve Folland: Oh, Wow. Okay. Was it literally like that afternoon, "I'm going"? Or like what ...

Stephanie: I did put in a nice two weeks notice, but even in that time there was still like meetings with HR where they were pressuring me to take my website down and things along those lines, so it was unpleasant.

Steve Folland: Ah, that's a shame, but you held strong, so you went out. How were you getting those first clients, when suddenly it wasn't just a thing on the side but it had to sustain you?

Stephanie: Well, so it was also my dissertation topic. The nice thing about, my employer was at a university, so I had free tuition, so I figured, "I might as well pick up a PhD if it's going to be free." My dissertation was on how people communicate their data, which was great. It was the smartest dissertation I could have ever picked because it was easy. The answer was, "Poorly."

Stephanie: I just started, so I started blogging about what I was finding, just sort of in my literature review. I went to a couple of conferences in my field and started talking about, literally, just what I was finding in my Lit Review section. It was so popular so fast. I just had people scrambling for me to come do work with them.

Steve Folland: People were scrambling for you to work with them.

Stephanie: Yep. Just, I think I started blogging when it was a good time to start blogging and there wasn't a whole lot happening in the field. I think people ask me now if they should start a blog and I'm like, "Ah, I don't know." Things are, the field is kind of full. We can always use more, but it's not going to get quite the same attention as I got when I first started mine, just because it was such a new thing back then.

Steve Folland: Yeah. How did it evolve from there? If this is you, you would work with what? Would you work with multiple clients at a time? How did it look for you?

Stephanie: Yes, it was. It was multiple clients at a time. It's always been, for me, a mix of doing design work for people, like helping them actually create data visualizations and teaching them, doing workshops. Almost immediately, I was on the road traveling around doing capacity building workshops for organizations. It's always been just a mix of life on the road and life at the computer.

Steve Folland: When we say, "Life on the road," is that like locally or like all over?

Stephanie: Oh, it's all over, yeah. These days it's worldwide.

Steve Folland: At the time, was it worldwide?

Stephanie: No. It started out pretty small. It started out in doing domestic work throughout the U.S. It wasn't very long after that when I started to get international attention. I think one of the first keynotes I did was in New Zealand.

Steve Folland: Wow. When you were being booked on those workshops, did you come across anything like pricing-wise? Like how did you know how to go about that?

Stephanie: It was really difficult. The main conference in my field, my main association has an annual conference and they always have some workshops ahead of time. I had been asked to give one of those, which was great. I was taking their pricing structure as my cue for what I should be charging and then ... I did that without really even looking around or thinking about it, just because I had no baseline or benchmark otherwise to work from.

Stephanie: Then after a couple of years, I figured out that they were really not paying people what they're worth at all and that I had been undercharging myself for a good long while. After I started asking around and thinking about it ... I've also had really good mentors who I've been able to call up over the years when I'm feeling stressed out because of the workload.

Stephanie: The answer is always, "Raise your prices," and it's always the right answer. "You're too busy, raise your prices. Not getting the right clients, raise your prices." I's always been the right answer. Once I listened to that and I started doing that and I realized, "I can make a lot more than the few hundred bucks they were going to pay me at that conference," then things started to turn around.

Steve Folland: Yeah, because there must be a lot to factor in whenever you travel, other than the actual cost of traveling, is like the time out, the time planning. It's not just being in a room.

Stephanie: Yes, exactly. There's all that prep work. I have lots of friends who are artists and they always say like, "You can't price art by the number of hours that you actually spend at the canvas painting."

Stephanie: You have to price it based on its value, on the education that you got, like the degree you got that informs all of that stuff, and you can't ... I mean, if you're really going to price hourly, you got to factor in all that stuff. I don't really do hourly pricing anymore for that very reason.

Steve Folland: Yeah. You have a blog. As in I'm winding back in time now. You've got the blog, you're starting to do workshops and conference, and this is all happening within the first few years?

Stephanie: Oh, yeah. This was like right away. As soon as I finished my dissertation, a publisher approached and asked if we could publish that into a book. Within a year of leaving my company, within a year of leaving my salary job, I had a book out. Yeah, it all happened really fast.

Steve Folland: That's so good, isn't it? What happened next? Did you suddenly find that you had too much work? Or ...

Stephanie: Yeah, I did. I remember I was in New York City getting ready to do two days of workshops at the United Nations. It was February and it was miserable outside. I had spent all day slogging through airport delays to get there. I had also spent that previous weekend preparing for my first subcontractor.

Stephanie: I had found somebody, then we had negotiated everything and I was pulling together her first project when she emailed me to say, out of the blue, she could not take the job. I just sat there like devastated because I had a mountain of work ready to give her and I could not focus on it for the next two days because I was going to be at the United Nations doing a workshop.

Stephanie: I was just like, "Oh my lord. I don't know how I'm going to manage all of this." That's when I called my mentor and he said, "Raise your prices."

Steve Folland: Which is great in the long-term but, actually, you still had to do that work.

Stephanie: Yeah.

Steve Folland: That was the first person that you were going to bring on to work with you like as a freelance.

Stephanie: Yes.

Steve Folland: When you were doing that or as you do it now, do your clients know that it's not just through you? If you see what I mean.

Stephanie: Yeah. Well, they do, and I do, I have a team now. It took me a while. I was kind of burned by that experience, so it took me a while to try again. Now I have a team of about six people who help me on projects, so I'm never just handing over an entire project to someone.

Stephanie: I'm always doing the conceptual work and then giving them the structure and the picture that I want, and just asking them to make it. My clients know that I'm always going to be heavily involved.

Steve Folland: Actually, that links into something I was wondering. Because if I go to your website, you're called Evergreen Data or Data or Data or however it might be pronounced in different parts of the world. Have you always been?

Stephanie: Yeah, I have. I have gone through some rebranding over the years, but that's always been it. It's kind of funny because it's just my last name, but then I realized how much Evergreen means something to people like as a word.

Stephanie: Because of it, people will tell me that they've been reading my blog for years, and they'll have conversations with their colleagues where they'll say things like, "That graph needs to be Evergreened," so it's become like a verb and I love that, so yeah, we're going to keep that company name.

Steve Folland: Did that start as the name of your blog before you were a company?

Stephanie: Yes. It's always been like that.

Steve Folland: Yeah, I guess that makes it easier when you start to bring on other people as in it already seems like it's bigger than just Stephanie Evergreen.

Stephanie: Yeah, yeah. I think every freelancer probably ends up collaborating with folks here and there over the years, so we're never in isolation.

Steve Folland: How have you found managing those people? Obviously, it didn't go well that first time, but ...

Stephanie: Yeah. It's a struggle. I'll be honest with you, I just finished reading a book that I cannot recommend. It's called, it's called ...

Steve Folland: You "cannot recommend." I didn't know whether it cut out on "enough."

Stephanie: It's called something like The E Myth Revisited.

Steve Folland: Oh my God. Yes, go on.

Stephanie: You know this book. Yeah, so I just finished reading through it and it's got some ... The initial idea is a good one, which is that most of the time, people go into business for themselves because they're really good technicians. They're really good at doing design and data visualization.

Stephanie: They don't want to be doing it for the man, they don't want to be doing it for some boss. They want to be doing it for themselves. That's where I was, for sure, when I quit. I was like, "Well, why would I bring this project into the company and give my boss half the profit when I could just keep it all?"

Stephanie: Good technicians do not necessarily make good managers or good entrepreneurs and to run your own business, you have to be all of those things. A lot of businesses fail because we're technicians and we have to become things that we previously hated. That's an interesting concept. Now the book, I don't like at all because it's old, it's misogynistic.

Stephanie: All throughout I was like, "Oh my God. This man is so patronizing." There's zero discussion of like ... The whole marketing section does not once mention social media or anything online. I'm like, "Okay." The first chapter is probably good and worth reading and then I think you just skip the rest.

Steve Folland: Yeah, it's funny. That book keeps cropping up in my life at the moment. Marianna, a guest recently, mentioned it, and I have so many problems with it. The whole storytelling bit with the girl with the pies. Just the way it's written.

Stephanie: Yes, I know.

Steve Folland: I mean, you mentioned social media, but it must have been written pre-social media because there is reference to fax machines at the start. Some elements, the one you just mentioned rings true, and the one about creating an org chart for your organization.

Stephanie: Yes.

Steve Folland: Even if it's just you writing down every task that you do, so that in the future, if you do replace yourself, you know what it is. I quite like that one.

Stephanie: I did too. Yeah, those are the two big pieces I got out of it. Writing up job descriptions for each role in your company and assigning those yourself until you pass it off. I really like that idea as well. The thing that really, in addition to the other thing, as we said that I didn't like, he says in there that the goal of starting a business is to sell it.

Steve Folland: Yes.

Stephanie: I was like, "That's not why I'm in business. I'm not here to sell my company one day." Like that's not why I got started and that's not what my goal is now, even though I've been doing this for a while. I've been thinking a lot lately about what growth looks like and what success looks like and how you know when you want to stop. Like where's the sweet spot?

Steve Folland: Yes. What have you come to?

Stephanie: I don't know, I'm still struggling with that. I picked up this new book and I've only just barely cracked the cover of it, but it's called A Company of One.

Steve Folland: By Paul Jarvis. He was on the show just a couple of weeks ago, yeah.

Stephanie: Oh, lovely, great. Yeah, well, I think his book just came out because I just got it in my Kindle. It's this really ... It's like the exact opposite concept, where the idea is, "How much do you really want to work?" Like, "How much ..." Maybe, I think he told the story about some accountant who has a number he needs to hit every year, and once he hits the number he's done working for the year. That's such an interesting concept. It's exactly the opposite of, "Grow, grow, grow, and then sell."

Steve Folland: A Company of One speaks to you much more?

Stephanie: Yeah, it does. This also goes back to the original question you asked me, which was, "How does it feel to manage people?" In the past several years. I've only had like one major subcontractor and then a sprinkling of others, but now I've really grown the business this year out of necessity. We're getting so much cool work to do.

Stephanie: I've taken on more and my role is shifting, certainly into one that's more of management and I'm setting vision and things like that. I'm having to be more of like an entrepreneur and a manager and not a technician. This will be the year where I determine whether I like that.

Steve Folland: Interesting. How did you know when you need to bring on certain people?

Stephanie: Yeah. Well, so when I first got started I was writing a dissertation in grad school, working a full-time job, running this business on the side and I had a fresh baby. I know- [crosstalk 00:14:19]

Steve Folland: We're adding the baby into the mix. Brilliant.

Stephanie: Yes. It was really dumb. I mean, life just gives you what you need, you just deal with it. I had many years where I slept like three hours a night and I just got used to that. Then I got smarter and realized I love sleeping.

Stephanie: I started to like really put some firmer boundaries around my work, and I decided, "I'm no longer getting up before my kid wakes up to cram hours of work in, and I'm not going to stay up 'til midnight cramming more work in. I'm just going to either take on less projects or get help." Whenever I start to feel like I'm running out of hours in the day, I know I need to reach out and hire someone else.

Steve Folland: Nice, yeah. Have you figured out how best to price that as well? As in having more people. The fact that there is a cost involved in you managing people and making a profit, and so on.

Stephanie: Yeah. I don't have a ... I don't know yet. I hope I get it right. I feel like budgeting is really difficult. There's always the dance, where you want to know what their budget is and they want to know how much you're going to charge and you're like trying to dance around each other to figure out what it's going to be. It's always a bit of a risk.

Stephanie: Like I always propose a flat fee for projects and if it goes well and everything is really smooth, then we're probably gonna make a little more if we broke it down hourly, but sometimes it's a gamble and we end up taking a lot longer than we thought, so I don't know. I'm not sure I've got it right yet but it's something I'm always thinking about and reflecting on.

Steve Folland: You had one book, you were doing workshops but has your business changed beyond that in those intervening 10 years or whatever it is?

Stephanie: Yes, it has. I have another book that came out in the meantime. and I keep writing books thinking, "Okay, I'll give people the content I would deliver in a workshop because I can't keep doing workshops. I've only got so many days in the year." I keep trying to find ways to give my content to people without having to like stand in front of them all day.

Stephanie: I love doing workshops, it's just that I can only travel so much. Every time I do something like that, it just gets me more workshops so this idea has totally backfired.

Stephanie: I wrote a second book and then I launched an Academy, which is all of my workshop content plus in a virtual classroom setting. That has become very popular and it's one of my favourite things that I do. We have about 500 students who are enrolled right now, so that's super fun.

Stephanie: The whole like online learning scenario, I love it, it's great. It helps us reach people who we would never be able to travel to otherwise. Like we have a really big international presence inside the Academy among the students who are enrolled, but I had to learn so much about technology. This is like not my area at all but I had to learn, oh my gosh, just so much about websites and content management systems and just, oh my lord, all of it, so it's been a really big learning curve.

Steve Folland: When did you start that, the Academy?

Stephanie: I want to say three years ago.

Steve Folland: What did you find? Because like you say, steep learning curve, ironically for an Academy. How did you get on?

Stephanie: Well, I have an IT person who initially was on my team just to sort of help me with my website, but he's to take on more and more responsibilities just in helping me figure things out about how the backend of all the technologies we have are going to work together and talk to each other.

Stephanie: The nice part is I tell people who are considering this that you almost need a full-time person just to manage the backend. Just to communicate with all of the people who are like, "I'm going to be leaving my job in two weeks. Can we transition my subscription to this other person instead?" There's always stuff like that going on and you need a lot of attention given to that. That can be a difficult thing to manage if you're really supposed to be doing data visualization all day.

Stephanie: What I have learned though is how much technology these days can help, how much we can automate stuff, and that's been awesome. You can almost, almost replace a person with just automation, but what people really want is the human touch. They want to know that you're a real human who's listening to them and talking with them, and that cannot be easily automated.

Steve Folland: Yeah, so you've created your own platform for that or have you used an existing one?

Stephanie: No. We've pulled together probably six or seven different technologies to create a platform. If I didn't have a guy like my guy who could get back into the code and make it all happen, it wouldn't be as cool as it is.

Steve Folland: I notice when I looked at your Academy, like it's not like a permanently, open rolling thing, is it?

Stephanie: No, it's not. We only open enrolment twice a year.

Steve Folland: Is that what you've done from the very beginning? Or ...

Stephanie: Yup, yup. We open it for a month or until we fill 100 seats and then we close it again.

Steve Folland: What was the thinking behind that?

Stephanie: Well, we do want a lot of personal contact with folks. We want them to feel like they're not just watching a screen, but that they're part of a community. It can be hard to do that when you have a bunch of new people coming in all the time or when there's more people than the staff here can reasonably reach out to.

Stephanie: We have to keep it small just to help those ... To hold their hand and coach them in and get them up and running, and then we'll be ready to let in a new cohort.

Steve Folland: Nice. You just said "Here, the staff here," is that as in a metaphorical "here" or do you now have a base with a team or is it all remote?

Stephanie: Yeah, no, it's a metaphorical "here," for sure. It's literally just me, here in my office. Everyone else is remote. I kind of feel like, isn't that the case these days in the freelance economy? You could be on the beach in Puerto Rico and be here.

Steve Folland: Yes. Very true. Sadly, I'm not. I mean, I'm in a sterile meeting room overlooking a car park, but yeah, I'm on a beach. I'm shutting my eyes. That office is at home, is it?

Stephanie: It is, yes. I had my attic renovated last year so that it's this gorgeous office. I had always read ... I don't know if you have paid attention to, what's that guy's name? Alan Weiss.

Steve Folland: No.

Stephanie: He's like the consultant to consultants. He's got a book called like The Million Dollar Consultant or something. He's got a lot of books out. I recently quit following him too because he was masochistic, but a piece of advice that I kept from his books when I first started reading them ... There's a lot of good advice in there.

Stephanie: He said that you don't need to have an office outside of your home until you hit seven figures. I thought that was a really interesting notion. I think a lot of freelancers take on overhead that they might not necessarily need to take on because they seek an office outside of their house. That's a very big expense to have to cover every month. I try to keep over overhead as low as possible.

Steve Folland: Yeah. What's work-life balance like for you now that ... There was one baby 10 years ago.

Stephanie: Yes.

Steve Folland: Were there any more in the intervening years?

Stephanie: No, just the one, but it is difficult. Yeah, it is. It's hard to raise a kid and run a full-time business that is, essentially, another baby. I'm always in the middle of writing a book of some kind or revising a book or something like that.

Stephanie: It does feel like there's a lot that has to get packed into every day, but at the same time, I know, I think it's really important to have an active social life and to stay really healthy. I'll jet out in the middle of the day and go to the gym almost every single day, and I really believe in vacation.

Steve Folland: Nice. How often do you take a break?

Stephanie: I think, last year I took five vacations.

Steve Folland: That's good. Yeah, because in the States you don't ... Like if you're in a job, you don't get that many vacations, do you?

Stephanie: Right. No, you certainly don't. I mean, I'll be on vacation and I'll check email for an hour or something, so it's not like I'm leaving work totally behind but I'm not tied to it like I would be if I was in the office.

Steve Folland: Have you had to put stuff in place though in order to take that time off? Did you build up to having five off a year, rather than maybe the first year with none? I don't know.

Stephanie: No. I've always just felt like, "We can make it work." The technology is amazing. Like I can handle so many work emails from my phone while I'm on the bus going from one place to another. I feel like we should be able to make it all happen.

Steve Folland: Nice. Well, good for you. You mentioned getting on the phone to your mentors when you were stressed out in that room in New York City. How did you find your mentor or mentors? I'm pretty sure you said plural.

Stephanie: Yeah, I have had great mentors over the years. Some of them have approached me because they're other women in business who are in the same area as me. I think women keep an eye out for other women who are upcoming when they see them hitting the same sort of obstacles that they hit like 20 years ago.

Stephanie: I've had the great fortune to have women who guide me, and I have a man too, who is my mentor. I think that it's someone that I've always really respected and I just never felt like even brave enough to talk to this person. Then he started talking to me and he's been such an invaluable resource and a friend throughout my life.

Stephanie: I started a mentoring group last year thinking, "I should be passing this on to other people, especially other women," so now I am a mentee and a mentor.

Steve Folland: Ah ha! Is it like a virtual mentoring group? Is that one-on-one or are you all getting together? A group makes it sound like it's together.

Stephanie: Yeah. I have five mentees right now. I did a little contest too. It's been almost year now. It wasn't ... Well, "contest" is a bad word for it, but I did a call for mentees. I asked people to apply and just tell me where they're at with their business and what they want out of an experience like this and I told them ...

Stephanie: I picked five and said, "We'll be together for a year." Every week, I give them a new assignment, a new little business-related task to help shape what they need to be thinking about behind the scenes. The end of our year is going to be next month. We're all kind of sad about it right now, but I'll get another cohort in after that.

Steve Folland: Wow. Is that just for the love of it thing or is that part of your business?

Stephanie: No. It's just purely because there's a need out there.

Steve Folland: That's nice. Do you get something out of that?

Stephanie: Well, whenever I'm asking them to do something, I always have to say, "Here's how it looks in my business," as an example, so I end up having to do the assignments too. There is something really fulfilling about it. I mean, when you are a freelancer and your team, if you have one, is all remote, it can get to feel kind of lonely. I'm always like dying to talk to other people who run their own business.

Stephanie: Like "Let's just sit down and talk about like, I want to know what accounting service you're using." It's boring stuff, so I can't really get a lot of takers who will want to sit down and talk about those things with me. This group is a good place because everybody's there just for that.

Steve Folland: Sure. Tell me what accounting service do you use, Stephanie?

Stephanie: I'm using FreshBooks, myself. What do you use?

Steve Folland: I use FreeAgent, but actually-

Stephanie: Okay.

Steve Folland: Did you start off doing it yourself or have you always used online software?

Stephanie: I have gone online as early as possible. One of my favourite conferences that my association belongs to, there is a sub-group inside of there who's focused on independent consulting. Every year, they have a session that's sort of like this round robin where you hear from experts. You just go from table to table, and each expert will have a topic they're going to talk about for like five minutes and then you switch.

Stephanie: One year, one of the experts was talking about the technology, the tools that she uses to help manage and automate this stuff behind the scenes. I swear, I think I implemented every single thing that she said.

Steve Folland: Wow. Ooh, so what did you implement? One of them was online accounting.

Stephanie: Yes. She told me, I think it was a while ago now, but I think she told me to be using Boomerang in my Gmail inbox to help stuff float to the surface or to send it certain times. Which is really helpful because then you train your clients that even though you might be working 24 hours a day, you're not.

Stephanie: You send emails between 9:00 and 5:00, so that people don't, yeah, don't think anything else. They also were talking about social media back then, that we needed to be on at least one platform.

Steve Folland: What do you find works best for you?

Stephanie: Well, I think you kind of go where your people are. In my field, they're all over Twitter, that's where the data vis nerds tend to hang out. That's where I think I do the most work.

Steve Folland: It's funny. I saw on your website that you do a personal annual report or in fact, I even read the fact that the one you've just done is going to be your last one, but you've done it for years.

Stephanie: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Steve Folland: What's the concept of that and what have you got out of doing it?

Stephanie: Originally, the concept was the Quantified Self. I don't know if you're familiar with that term, but there's this movement in the data vis community to count stuff and make visuals out of it. Quantified Self is like counting your own stuff. A lot of companies actually do this for us now.

Stephanie: Like your Fitbit is sort of helping you with Quantified Self because it's giving you metrics your own activities. I started making this up and at first it was just sort of like this fun thing, but it got so much attention.

Stephanie: I had people even come up and tell me that they, basically, stole my design and put their own content in it and gave it to their boss and got a raise. Like I knew it was valuable for people, so actually, I started giving people the template. Just, "Instead of trying to copy my images from a picture file online, let me just give you the template. You can put your own data in it."

Stephanie: It's kind of been a way for me to just lightly brag about the cool stuff that we've been doing here. Then yeah, like I said in this last, in my blog post, I said this is my last one because I just, I started to think about the numbers and I'm like, "Oh, so I flew fewer miles this year. Wow. This is the first time this metric has gone down." I'm like, "Wait a minute. Isn't that a good thing? Do I really want to be on the road that much? Is this going to ever end if we always think that up is going to be success?"

Stephanie: Like, I don't want to be that guy. You see those people at the airport, don't you? Where it's like they call first class and it's just like, or the Diamond Medallions, and it's like 50 old white dudes who look really worn out and they've all got the same suit on. I just feel like I don't want to be that. I don't want to be that. I started to think a lot about what success actually looks like. Where's that sweet spot?

Steve Folland: It's really interesting though because you're sort of seeing that by doing that self-analysis as in it's quite easy just to skip on by and keep doing the work, but doing that report has made you think that way.

Stephanie: Exactly, yeah. I mean, but this was the first year that I've even thought that way. I think I started doing this in 2011, and the metrics have always gone up. I never even stopped to question it. It was only when the metrics went down that I was like, "Whoa, wait a minute. What am I even really doing?"

Steve Folland: Yeah. That's interesting. I like that. Now, if you could tell your younger self one thing about being freelance, Stephanie, what would that be?

Stephanie: I don't want to give the basic advice that probably everybody gives. It has been the pathway to such a cool life. I was taking my kid to school this morning and he was like, "Your life is so interesting," and I was like, "I know. It really is."

Stephanie: Because I get paid to work with like really amazing people on such awesome projects and it usually includes travel to like really cool locations, like a South African safari, and I get to make a good chunk of money doing it, and I have a lot of fun.

Stephanie: I didn't ever think that it was going to be as fun and thrilling as it has turned out to be. I mean, I think back to when I was forced into this position and I was in these scary meetings with HR about having this business that was suddenly in competition with them. It was a dark and scary time, and I was young and I didn't know how to navigate that kind of situation. It was really frightening.

Stephanie: Then here we are on the other side where there's so much light and joy. I think I would tell my younger self to, "Just do it." I think that's probably the advice that a lot of people give themselves if they were looking back and what they would say to other folks who are contemplating going freelance, that it's a decision I could have made sooner, and to go for it.

Steve Folland: It's been brilliant chatting to you. Thank you so much Stephanie and, yeah, all the best being freelance.

Stephanie: Thank you. Thanks for having me.