Ask-a-Freelancer: Sarah Duran

ask-a-freelancer entrepreneur freelance Mar 24, 2021

What do you do?

I'm a freelance project strategist and operational consultant. That means I help all types of organizations (non-profits, universities, and for-profit companies) develop and refine their systems and processes. I also manage discreet projects. Right now, my main types of projects are research projects for universities, product and content development for businesses, and program management. 

I also coach solopreneurs on business development and share a ton of content for freelancers through my blog, courses, and tools. 

What does an average day look like for you?

I wake up really early, mornings are my favorite time. I work for a couple of hours before I take some time for myself before everyone else gets up. From there, my husband and I get our daughter ready and off to wherever she is going for the day. We also take care of our two dogs and four chickens each morning. I work in my home office for the most part, but I also try to mix it up and get out of the house for a change of scenery when I can. My husband also works from home, so we try to share chores and things throughout the day. I rarely work a straight eight-hour day. That's why I wake up so early, it allows me to get in some uninterrupted work time so that I can spend time later going to the gym, getting groceries, or working in my garden, before I need to pick up my daughter. I end my day usually around four when I get our daughter and then spend the rest of the evening with her and my husband. 

How did you get here?

I began my career as a third-grade teacher. After leaving the classroom, I took on operational and development roles in both the for- and non-profit sectors where I led business development efforts and managed large-scale programmatic and research projects.

I never wanted to work for myself. My parents have owned their own business my whole life and told myself growing up that I never wanted that. They have been very successful but I also saw how stressful it was weathering up and down markets, being responsible for other people’s livelihoods, and working all the time to make sure everything was running smoothly.

I started doing contract work as a stop-gap as I tried to figure out what my next thing was. After a few attempts at careers, partnerships, and other ventures I realized that, like my parents, I actually couldn’t work for someone else. Not that I couldn’t have made it work, I had plenty of opportunities to partner with great people on what would have been lucrative and interesting work. I just wasn't going to be happy working for someone else. 

So I started my company, Fruition Initiatives, in 2016. I built my client base with my existing network of people who had already worked with me and then branched out from there with referrals. I started out managing just projects that dealt with K-12 education and then branched out from there into more for-profit work, business development, and coaching. 

What mistakes did you make along the way that others should avoid? 

I stayed in my lane for too long. Your expertise is transferable. You'll start out doing a few things and get really good at them. Make sure you're always pushing yourself to learn new things and make new connections. This is what keeps life interesting. 

If you could go back, what advice would you give yourself when you first started out?

Beware of shiny objects. When you're first starting out you're going to want a fancy website, a huge social media following, and a mailing list of customers. Stick to what is actually going to make you money in the beginning. You probably don't need all of those things to get started. What you DO need is solid awareness of what you do and the problems you have for clients and solid systems for managing your work. 

What are your favorite platforms/tools?

Shift for managing my 7 email accounts and calendars. Sunsama for managing my tasks day-to-day. Smartsheet for complex project management. 

How can people find out more about you? 

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