Building A Community - Social Media Consultant Tia Meyers
After being made redundant Tia Meyers didn't just take her experience of social media and start being freelance.
She also decided to take it and grow a community of other freelancing females.
2 years on, we chat about the many lessons learnt both in adjusting her services, getting paid and work-life balance AND from growing a Facebook Group of 8000 members with meet ups globally.
2 years with lots of questions being asked. And lots of answers found and given.
Scroll down for more from Tia and for the transcription of our chat. Enjoy!
More from Tia Meyers
Who the hell is Steve Folland?
Steve's a freelancer helping businesses use and make video & audio content in much better ways. Find out more at stevefolland.com, track him down on Twitter @sfolland or lay a trail of cake and he'll eventually catch you up.
In 2015 is decided to create the freelance podcast (well, there weren't any others doing this then) where freelancers could learn from each other via their stories.
Check out Steve's Being Freelance Vlog that documents his weekly wanderings and wonderings as a freelancer.
Transcript of freelance podcast interview with Freelancing Females founder and social media consultant Tia Meyers
Steve Folland: Tia Meyers who is a social media consultant based in New York. Hey Tia!
Tia Meyers: Hey Steve, how are you?
Steve Folland: I'm good, thanks for doing this.
Tia Meyers: Oh, my pleasure.
Steve Folland: So tell us your story, let's hear how you got started Being Freelance.
Tia Meyers: Sure. So just over two years ago I was a tech start up and we were doing very well and it was about 66 people at the time, but unfortunately Apple came out with a similar product to our own. It really hurt our business so we had a large lay off and I had no idea what to do.
Tia Meyers: So I started looking into full time jobs and I had one of my favorite clients, who I still have today, reach out to me, because we previously worked together at that startup, she was an illustrator, to ask for some help with social media.
Tia Meyers: I started working with her, still was looking into full time jobs and then I went to work for a hospitality agency because I had always wanted to work with restaurants doing their social media. I just love the restaurant and hospitality business and who doesn't love getting free food as part of their job?
Tia Meyers: So I went to go work for them and the boss was a bit younger, just about a year older than me and there was a lot of verbal abuse to me and the other employees. I stayed there for about a month and was like why the heck am I here?
Tia Meyers: So I quit and said, why am I not just doing this for myself. So after that I went to Freelance and have not turned back since.
Steve Folland: Wow. Just to put things into perspective than, when was it that you left that company and went out on your own?
Tia Meyers: I'd say, August, two years ago.
Steve Folland: Cool. So where were those first clients coming from? You obviously had the confidence to do it.
Tia Meyers: Yeah, so a lot of it was through recommendation thankfully and then once I put up my portfolio site and actually told people on LinkedIn that I started getting some great feedback, and brought on a few of my first clients. I had a protein powder based startup company, I had a restaurant and I had my illustrator, and those were my first few clients.
Steve Folland: What was your role in that, you know in the startup that got trumped by Apple, was it social media that you were doing there?
Tia Meyers: I was managing partnerships and community. So working on social media, partnerships and at a startup you're wearing many hats. So anything that involved marketing was part of the job.
Steve Folland: So, were there lots of lessons and things that you took from that experience?
Tia Meyers: Oh, so many. I use them today, just as much as when I was there, but we were a startup and we always were innovating new ideas and a lot of that was through beta testing with, we had about 30 million downloads to our app, and I learned so much just in the marketing department itself between pitching to press and talking to different partners.
Tia Meyers: We worked with GE and Red and Charity Water. I worked on sponsorships with the app. I worked on networking which is a huge part of my job today. So they really helped me get my hands dirty in all different areas. I probably wouldn't be able to be so confident that I am today without having to be in that situation.
Steve Folland: So, did it help you from a sort of business perspective?
Tia Meyers: Definitely. I was able to tell a great story with the work that I did there through their social media and I had illustrators and artists, because we were an art app, who worked with us directly through the app, and they were able to see my work and that's when I went to Freelance and different people started reaching out to me.
Tia Meyers: So with the work that I did there, I was able to showcase that in my portfolio to go into Freelance and say hey these are the projects that I worked on with them. This is what I was able to do, let me do that for you.
Steve Folland: That's awesome. So how much time, especially early on was spent networking and putting yourself out there and has that changed?
Tia Meyers: It's a daily hustle. So, networking never ends when you're Freelance, which I love and is exhausting at the same time. So, that's one of the things that brought me to creating my own community called Freelancing Females because once you start to get to know other Freelancers they all know of different projects and you can all support each other in that way.
Tia Meyers: So that's been a big part of my networking. Then, just in general, if there's somebody or a company that you're very interested in working in, and with, I reach out, it's, what's the worst that's ever going to happen besides them saying hey we're too busy or no.
Tia Meyers: So, that's one of the things that I had to get over when I just started Freelancing. It's not being able to reach out to them and just ask hey, you want to grab a coffee, I'm right down the street.
Steve Folland: Cool. So Freelancing Females is the community that you set up, and that's a Facebook group right?
Tia Meyers: Yes. So we started as a Facebook group last year. We're just under a year old and we have 8,000 women from all around the world. Our biggest community is in New York because that's where we started, but we have London, San Francisco, L.A., Austin Texas, and Paris are some of our other bigger communities.
Tia Meyers: We are working on a larger launch very soon with a website and many other surprises so I'm really excited.
Steve Folland: Cool. What does that take from a time and energy perspective? Sort of organizing a group like that and managing it, because if everybody posts something for example, it goes through you first? Is that right?
Tia Meyers: Yes. So we do have it set that everything that's posted or anyone who asks to join the group does have to go through the admin first. I just off boarded approvals through the Facebook group to my friend because we receive about 50-150 a day and we ask for email. So that's one of the larger tasks that we have and then we get about 10-20 posts a day.
Tia Meyers: Those posts will include questions from different Freelancers. Our group is very supportive and highly engaged jobs. So a lot of women share jobs that they have openings for, know friends who have openings.
Tia Meyers: Then we have a new discussion called, what to charge and that has been very helpful in this space because people don't know where to go to find out what to charge for their services. It's a scary discussion to many but if we start opening up that discussion to others, we're all helping ourselves because if somebody's charging $20 more than you but they're in the same space and they're doing really well, raise your rates.
Tia Meyers: I think people who are charging $15 an hour to raise their rates helps us also. So, it's been a really great discussion this year.
Steve Folland: That's cool. So man that is such a lot of things coming your way each day though, in terms of posts and stuff that need to be approved. How long did it take for you to realize that maybe you needed help with that?
Tia Meyers: Oh, it took me longer than I should have and I am now a big believer in asking for help but it's really hard to ask for help because the group has been volunteer based and it's pretty much been me volunteering my time and my money for the last year.
Tia Meyers: It's hard to ask someone, hey I don't have the money to pay you but I could really use help. The women have been so amazing and I'm really lucky but they usually say hey I have received a job or you know I've learned so much just being in it, I'm happy to help.
Tia Meyers: I was doing, just 10-15 hours a week managing a Facebook group before. It was a lot of work and to build a community, you have to stay engaged, you have to make sure that there's no spam going through the group. It's very important to keep it pretty organized.
Tia Meyers: Especially in a Facebook group where so many things are happening and information can get lost.
Steve Folland: Yeah, did that feel overwhelming?
Tia Meyers: A bit. It was definitely overwhelming but it was also exciting at the same time. Just seeing how many people are really interested to join. That's been the largest thing. Just seeing that excitement of hey I just joined this group, I got a job out of it, or people come up to me and they say, hey I was at a conference and somebody told me to join and now I'm at one of your events.
Tia Meyers: So it's been really exciting to see the community grow and I was able to go to London this year even though we had to cancel our event due to snow, but I've been able to travel and meet Freelance Women all around the world which has been even more exciting to me. It's so worth it.
Steve Folland: Aw. It's so unlucky. We hardly ever get snow.
Tia Meyers: I know. I was like, of course, the one day.
Steve Folland: It's so unlucky, but wow what a connection and has that helped, I mean, it sounds like you're doing it in a very sort of altruistic sort of way, but has it helped you with work as well?
Tia Meyers: Yeah. So people find me because they see me running the Facebook group which is one great way. They also see my work in building this community and social media is such a huge part of building a community around your product or business.
Tia Meyers: It's definitely helped me, but in general it helps me learn a lot around having my own personal business, finances, the laws around it. There's just so much information Freelancers need to know versus being on a 9-5. You're wearing your financial hat, you're wearing your lawyer hat, you're making your own contracts.
Tia Meyers: So each day I learn a lot from the women in the group and we all chat about, hey would you put in your contract, or what happens if a client says this to you or does this? So it's been a lot of help to me in general also.
Steve Folland: How do you manage like your week? Your time, you've got that sizeable project now, but obviously you've more and more client work coming in as well, how do you cope with managing your time?
Tia Meyers: Yeah. So, Freelancing Females is a huge passion project and we want to grow it even bigger to bring more resources to Freelancers in general. So I have scaled back some of my clients to be able to work on that this summer, but I have to pay rent in New York City, so that's one thing where I try to keep my meetings on specific days.
Tia Meyers: So I'll say Tuesday and Thursday I'll do meetings. So I'm not running around the entire city being distracted all day every day. I use Calendly now which is amazing. I use that to help me set up my calendars and my meeting times so I can send somebody my calendar and say hey please add yourself on this 30 minute calendar.
Tia Meyers: It's taken away so many emails back and forth trying to figure out a time. Then another thing is just really staying organized, I use [Dissauna 00:12:31] for that and then volunteers who help me with Freelancing Females has been huge. I am so grateful and thankful to them.
Steve Folland: Then how about fitting in life around all of that?
Tia Meyers: Well living in New York there's so much life that's possible and I try to be very good at cutting off work at a time because with Freelance you could literally be working every minute of every day to make more money and you're just going to get burnt out.
Tia Meyers: With Freelancing Females, that time has definitely dwindled a lot but I try to at least like, every morning I get myself out of the house for a few hours, I go to a coffee shop and I get work done there.
Tia Meyers: Then at night, I stop, I make dinner, we go out with friends, there's always an opportunity in New York and I'm very lucky for having the friend group that we have and they're all pretty close. So you can walk down the street or they're in my building.
Steve Folland: With your work, you know like if i look on your site, you have a lot of different services and I'm wondering how that's evolved over the past couple of years? You know you were obviously in that startup and you mentioned innovating and coming up with new ideas all the time.
Steve Folland: Are you doing things that maybe you didn't think you'd be doing or recognizing needs? How's that changed?
Tia Meyers: Oh completely. So, when I first started Freelancing I was doing all the things. I was like, I will help you build your website on Square Space because I don't know design that well. I will take your photography and I'll manage your social media channels and after a few different clients and once you go through clients you learn so much because you are adding to your contracts, you're going through these clients and learning what you like and what you don't love.
Tia Meyers: So my services have dwindled down a lot. So I mainly consult on social media. For smaller companies I will manage their social media channels. Then my favorite thing is to run strategy on their social media.
Tia Meyers: So last year I had a 92 location restaurant where I managed their strategy, created their calendars and then off boarded that for them to go off and do it on their own.
Tia Meyers: So that's my favorite part of the job, but it depends on the opportunity that comes up and it depends on the client. If there's something that I feel, wither I'm going to learn a lot from or I'm really excited about my proposal will change.
Tia Meyers: I was just speaking with a client who said, hey you know marketing and you know social media and I want to do a rebrand of my company. I'm going to be spending $200,000 but I don't know anything in that space, will you be my point person and my project manager for that project?
Tia Meyers: I was like, I would love to because going through an entire rebrand process and logo creation and branding and color options and telling that story's really exciting to me. Being able to have that budget and go through it step by step is something I'm really interested in learning and I'll never that to go through for Freelancing Females. So it's something I would love to try.
Steve Folland: When you're doing that, which is an awesome opportunity, are you going to be hiring other Freelancers through you as in it's all coming through you or are you organizing things and then it goes over to the client to deal with those people? How's that going to work?
Tia Meyers: So I try to keep pretty lean. When I did the strategy last year I hired out a photographer and a designer through the company. So I dint hire them out myself, they were being paid directly through the company. I usually try to recommend people from my network if I can.
Tia Meyers: Sometimes I will bring on, say if I have a bunch of different clients at that time, a copywriter who can help me with multiple projects. It definitely helps because outsourcing, people are very afraid to outsource and I understand why. It's just a different area that a lot of people don't understand yet, but it's so helpful and if you can bring somebody on that's going to do an even better job than you can in that category, you've, your services will become even better.
Tia Meyers: So if I know a copy writer who specializes in healthcare, they're going to do a much better job on that project than I'm going to do, or I will be happy to tell my client, hey I think this person is much better for photography than I am.
Tia Meyers: With that they're much more appreciative. They completely trust you after that and you know what you're really great at and you know when to bring somebody in.
Steve Folland: Yeah, yeah, that's cool. What would you say has been the sort of biggest challenges that you faced since becoming Freelance?
Tia Meyers: Yeah, so one of my first challenges, which is one of the reasons why I started Freelancing Females was, I was going through a non-payment issue with a client and it has come up more often than I thought it would have, especially in New York which is why they did the Freelance Isn't Free Act last year, which has helped slightly, but going through a non-payment issue was difficult.
Tia Meyers: Nobody knows what to do when there's no source to go to, so when I was going through the non-payment issue I had found out there were a couple of other Freelancers from the company dealing with the same issue, and we hadn't been paid for a couple of months and were getting the run around. Like, hey you know we'll get it over to you and I said, you're past due.
Tia Meyers: So what I did was become the biggest nuisance possible because when you're going through a non-payment issue, either the client can go bankrupt within the time you're going to go to small claims court or talk to a lawyer who's going to be even more money than you're even getting paid.
Tia Meyers: So I showed up there and I was like hey I am going to be there on Friday morning at this time waiting for my check, and of course they don't want their other employees to see that. So they handed me a check and I walked out the door with the other Freelancer and got an email message 30 minutes later that they had give me a fraudulent check and not to cash it, but thankfully we got them in the email saying that and just said like, hey this is literally illegal.
Tia Meyers: We are going to go to the police now that you're telling us that you did this. So finally we got paid but that was one of the harder things I've had to go through and I learned a lot from and I have many more clauses in my contracts about 50% up front and getting paid within 14 days not 30 days. Thankfully, knock on wood, I haven't really had to go through that as much.
Steve Folland: Flip an egg! That takes confidence to go up there in person as well though.
Tia Meyers: It does but when you're living in New York and you have rent and bills to pay, it's something that you are going to go do and it was a larger company and it was just so surprising to me that they were giving me the run around when they had 50 other employees and so it's, anyone will do it to you. I hear so many stories through Freelancing Females and it drives me crazy but thankfully now we have new Acts involved that the Freelancers Union helped with which was great.
Steve Folland: Yeah, just for people around the world who might not know about that, so Freelancers Union, it's a bit like we have this thing called [IPSY 00:20:37] in this country. So they kind of stick up for Freelancers towards government and stuff like that, right? So what was the Freelance Isn't Free Act, what did that actually mean?
Tia Meyers: So the Freelance Isn't Free Act is brand new, it just came out last year and it really protects workers from getting paid within 30 days. They will stick their head out for you within the government which is something new for Freelancers, because it was kind of you were on your own before and now you actually have somewhere to go and say hey I wasn't paid and I had a contract and this is what it said and they owe me money. It really keeps companies more accountable.
Steve Folland: So do you think it's more the bringing ti to the attention of companies that they won't get away with it, that it's maybe going to have an effect?
Tia Meyers: I'd say so. I believe that since the Act became involved it has definitely helped and it's given Freelancers more confidence in general just to know that you're not on your own.
Steve Folland: If it goes over that 30 days, who is it that you're going to, when you said you can go to them and say, hey I haven't been paid. Who is it that you're going to?
Tia Meyers: So, it's a government law now and it's by NYC.gov. So you can go to them and they can recover a civil penalty of $25,000 for you. The law requires for them to receive complaints, create a court and advocation program and gather data and report on it.
Steve Folland: Wow. But you also mentioned that you yourself, you've taken your own action. You've put in 14 day terms. Has that helped, like do people go over the 14 day term, at least maybe they pay before 30 days?
Tia Meyers: Yes. So that's definitely helped, one of the biggest things is 50% up front because then I know that you're going to pay me. If you have a problem with paying me 50% up front then I know there's going to be a problem later on. So that's one of the big things and with 14 days at least I know hey I'm not waiting an entire month to get paid. Then another whole month goes by and I'm dealing with this issue.
Tia Meyers: At least I know that I've only done 14 more days of work and I can stop my work and until you pay me that's, you're not getting anything, you're not receiving anything from me and I also have a late payment. So every seven days that you're late past the 14 days is, I believe .2%.
Steve Folland: Good for you. Okay, now what about vacations? Like taking time off?
Tia Meyers: Yeah. I haven't taken a real vacation without work in a long time and I say that is one of the hard parts of Freelance is you're always on and unless you can find somebody that you really trust to take over your work it's hard to be off during vacation.
Tia Meyers: So if I'm managing social media channels for a client, I'll usually calendar out every thing, make sure it's approved and then schedule that content. So that I know that it's going up and I just need to check on it and make sure everything is going smoothly.
Tia Meyers: I do now know a few women who offer travel packages, so they'll take over your work and they work as social media managers and they'll take over your work for that week. Which is great and that's definitely what I'm going to do next time.
Steve Folland: That's cool, yes, and they've spotted that kind of need as well, in of the Freelancers as a sort of, as a service?
Tia Meyers: Yeah well there's not, you don't give yourself vacation. So it's one of the hard parts of Freelances. What do you do when you go out to the Bahamas or somewhere else? Usually if I'm traveling I am working and it's hard for a Freelancer because it's all you.
Tia Meyers: You don't have a co-worker to give it off to, but Virtual Assistants are definitely a huge help, I just started looking into the via some recommendations. So just keeping the small task, getting finished is one of the larger parts of just being able to enjoy your vacation.
Steve Folland: Yeah. Now if you could tell your younger self one thing about being Freelance, what would that be?
Tia Meyers: I'd say, don't be afraid to ask the hard questions and that includes like asking people for help on different tasks or how they put together their packages or going to someone and asking what do you charge. Those were a lot of questions that took me a long time to get the confidence to ask and it has helped me completely in Freelance.
Tia Meyers: Another thing is to not be afraid to show yourself more because when you are Freelance, there are thousands and hundreds of thousands and millions of people doing exactly what you do and they're going to hire you for you and your personality.
Steve Folland: Yeah. That's so true. So yeah, it's okay to not know the answers and ask other Freelancers.
Tia Meyers: Exactly. It's not a scary world and a lot of people feel like it's such a secret for many things and you're just helping each other if you talk about it.
Steve Folland: Tia, thank you so much. All the best, both with the work and with Freelancing Females and yeah, all the best Being Freelance.
Tia Meyers: Thanks so much for having me Steve. I really appreciate it.