The Freelance Life spotlights members who are pursuing their passions through independent work. Meet Sarah Von Bargen: Copywriter, consultant, and keeper of the popular lifestyle blog Yes and Yes.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. What is your background, how long have you been working independently, and how did you get your start?
Why hello, fellow freelancers! I'm a voracious reader/traveler/cheese eater. In terms of my professional background, I have a B.A. in English Lit and an M.A. in Applied Linguistics (the only use I get from said M.A. is referencing it in interviews like this). In my twenties, I worked at newspapers, advertising agencies, and PR firms, before I burned out, became an ESL teacher, and spent five years traveling and working my way around the world.
When I moved back to America, I started a blog that became quite popular. Entrepreneurs and companies started to notice what I was doing and asked me to help them make a name for themselves on the internet. Eventually I made enough money copywriting/consulting/blogging to quit teaching and now I spend my days drinking tea in front of my computer and helping cool companies and people become more awesome on the internet.
Yes and Yes is your amazing blog, which you update without fail every day. Can you describe its focus, some of the regular features, and how you got the idea for it? Considering your other responsibilities, how do you make the time to keep up with the blog?
Thanks so much! When I started reading blogs, I wanted to read a blog that was smart, funny, and really multifaceted - advice AND travel AND politics AND cute shoes. I couldn't find anything like that so I just started it myself! I regularly feature travel guides to interesting places (written by me or expats/locals), I interview people every Monday for my True Story series (an alcoholic! a Broadway star!), and feature Real Life Style Icons of every flavor. I also give advice, write lots of how-tos, and make lists of ridiculous things.
How do I make time? Well, I have a suuuuuper helpful intern who helps with formatting, scheduling, and social media. It also helps that at least two of my weekly posts are interviews or guest posts, so I just have to format and schedule them. But honestly? I just work a lot and I work quickly (you can read my productivity tricks here.) Also: I'm a Virgo, eldest child of Germanic/Scandinavian heritage, so I'm sort of a perfect storm of try-hard overachievement-ism.
**Why did you decide to start your own copywriting/branding business? What kind of businesses and people do you work with? How do you find clients? **
I already had the skill set in place from my time in marketing and advertising, so when companies began to approach me I thought “You’re right! I DO know how to do that!” These days, I mostly work with small, creative lifestyle companies who have built social responsibility into their business model. They’re a pretty great group!
I’m extreeeeemely fortunate that I’ve never really had to pitch clients - they’ve mostly found me or been referred to me by past clients. Of course, I put tons of work into Yes and Yes and my small business blog, so I guess I used the energy usually reserved for pitching to build my online presence instead.
Has running a business come with any obstacles or challenges? How have you overcome them?
Of course! I still struggle with work/life balance and finding a good intern has been an uphill battle. I found these productivity tips super helpful and I also changed the way I screen/interview/hire interns. Turns out you should really have a Skype conversation with them before they start! Who knew!
What has been your most interesting project?
My most interesting project has been the longest running one. I manage the blog for a small Brooklyn-based fashion label and when we started they didn’t have a Facebook page, didn’t use Twitter, and weren’t working with fashion bloggers. 1.5 years later, they have 10,000+ Facebook fans, they’re all over the fashion blogs, and they’ve received major national press. It’s so great to see them grow and know I’ve had a huge part in it!
What tips would you give to a new freelancer or aspiring entrepreneur?
GET A BLOG. You don’t have to write every day - just once a week is fine! But you need to develop an internet presence and show potential clients that you know what you’re talking about.
Traveling seems to be one of your priorities. How has being a freelancer helped/hindered your nomadic lifestyle? Do you have any working-while-traveling advice?
I’ve been traveling since I was 18 but prior to freelancing, I had to quit my job to travel or find a local job teaching English. Now I can just find an internet connection! It.is.amazing.
Of course, it can be hard to really commit to your trip when you’re traveling. I spent three months on the road last year and developed a system that works for me. While I’m traveling, I only work with my on-retainer clients, I don’t take on anyone new and I try to have my blog posts and all the associated social media scheduled for the entire time I’m gone. When I’m on the road, I usually eat breakfast, work for 2-3 hours, spend my afternoon and evening doing ‘travely’ stuff, and then check email one last time before I go to bed.
Can you recommend a few of your favorite freelancer resources?
Just like everyone ever, I swear by Google docs. Also: I love scheduling emails to be sent later (you can use rightinbox for this). I use it to schedule monthly emails to clients or when I want to respond to a client’s email at 9 pm I like to schedule my response to be sent the next day. I don’t want them to get in the habit of expecting late night replies from me ;)
What is your inspiration/What drives you to keep going?
As cheesy as it sounds, I find everything and everyone interesting. As long as that’s true, I’ll keep writing and working!