Diamonds in the rough: How three Freelancing Gems members turned a sh*t 2020 shiny.

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We’ve very nearly made it to the end of what’s surely the longest year in history. 2020 has been a wild ride for all of us, filled with more pivots, closures, stand-downs and redundancies than we care to count. For many of us, we’ve been unceremoniously thrust out of the corporate workforce and into the new role of founder; taking this push as the opportunity we didn’t know we’d been waiting for to build something for ourselves. So many of the women we’ve met this year share this same story and in a year mostly filled with endings and losses, let’s take a moment to celebrate the small wins, new beginnings, and opportunities we’ve been able to squeeze out of this year. 

We spoke with three Freelancing Gems members Isabel, Tara and Ashleigh about what this year has been like for them, and their plans for a fresh 2021. 

For Isabel, Fashion Stylist at Bella Styling Co, COVID forced her to take a break and evaluate where she wanted to be, both with her business offering and target market. Tara, Graphic Designer and Business Owner at Star Creative, took the time to reflect on her achievements to date and to spend time on her business rather than in her business for a change. 

“I looked back over the last decade of freelance work, updated my folio and looked at the lockdown period as a ‘long service leave’ of sorts, which I probably wouldn’t have granted myself otherwise.” – Tara

For Ashleigh, Copywriter and Digital Content Creator at Elki Media based in Melbourne, COVID dealt a devastating blow, causing her to lose 100% of her clients and income. 

“I was ready to throw in the towel. After deciding to take a step away from making emotional decisions, I went back to the reasons why I started my business and made the conscious decision to give it everything before giving up.” – Ashleigh

Ashleigh says that COVID gave her the push to finally enrol in a Communications Degree in Public Relations, “plus actively network and collaborate while trusting that I could weather this storm to emerge bigger and better than before.”

The virtual nature of 2020 created new networking opportunities for Isabel and Ashleigh. Ashleigh was able to connect with other talented creatives and digital marketing professionals who were experiencing the same rollercoaster of highs and lows as her.

“I now have a solid network of talented women who I love working with – a complete contrast to where I was at the start of the year!” – Ashleigh

Isabel made valuable connections through online conversations which have now developed into opportunities. “Communication became much more strategic than just elevator pitches and conversations with the weather,” said Isabel.

Ashleigh also found that being in lockdown for so long meant she could truly focus on her business alongside parenting her two young daughters and studying part-time. 

“After having the time to fine-tune my processes and pricing, I found it much easier to connect with clients and deliver high-quality outcomes.”

Tara discovered a talent for sewing and combined with her love of craft and creative design and sport of Olympic weightlifting has recently launched her accidental side-hustle @bystarcreative

“I make wrist wraps for weightlifting, CrossFit and strength training out of fun fabrics… which 100% help with motivation to go to the gym ;).” – Tara 

While COVID has undoubtedly been rough for most, there have been small wins for some and as Freelancing Gems was created to champion women, it’s just the place to shout these wins from the rooftop – maybe a little louder than you usually would, cause, you know, #COVID. We deserve to celebrate. 

For Isabel, so was surprised to have had several wins this year. From getting a clearer vision of her business model and discovering her strengths as an entrepreneur, to being nominated for “Most Talented Stylist 2020” at the recent Women in Fashion Awards presented by Wintergarden. 

“In the four years that I have been a stylist, this is the first major recognition that I have received.” – Isabel

Tara has found a new lease on life through her side-hustle, jumping out of bed each day to check the latest orders. “Last week I opened my online store and it feels a little bit surreal every time a new order comes through!”

While COVID originally devastated Ashleigh’s business, she is wrapping up the year feeling incredibly grateful with not just one, but a few wins to celebrate.  

“But my biggest win was finding absolute clarity in my direction and trusting that I am capable and good at what I do – because when I squashed my ‘limiting beliefs’, it was like the flood gates opened and the most amazing clients came into my life!” – Ashleigh

As we finally wind down (does any business owner truly wind down?) and start to think about goal setting for the New Year ahead, Isabel is already working on two business re-launches, Tara is keen to build on her dressmaking skills and expand her product offering, and Ashleigh is planning for a complete restructure to support the growth her business has experienced this year. 

“I am nervous but I figure if others can do it, then I certainly can too.” – Ashleigh