As part of our Meet The Freelancer series of blogs we interview many freelance professionals from a range of industries.
This month we meet Carol Mann, a London based entrepreneur and web designer. Carol has ran her own sales, marketing and website design businesses for the past twenty years.
Featured in the Top 40 UK Experts in Web Design Trends 2018, Carol now runs her own digital agency, We Get Digital, which was founded 10 years ago.
As well as building a digital marketing agency, Carol has over the last two years embarked on a new challenge. Collaborating with other professionals in the industry, Carol has built the organisation WOW (Women on the Web) which provides digital literacy to women in business.
At just 19, Carol had her first taste of managing a business when she transformed a Spanish property owned by her father into a restaurant. On her return to the UK, in 1985, Carol found her feet working in the international property industry. Having spent years living and working in Spain, Carol was familiar with the Costa Del Sol which made her perfect for the role of selling property in Spain. During her time with the company, Carol helped to computerise the business.
By 1998, as well as balancing work with looking after four young children, Carol began a degree in Visual Communications which in part included web design, something that would later influence a new career.
By 2002, after 17 years of working in the property industry, Carol launched her own international property company, PropertiesAbroad.com and later opened another business, Prime Overseas.
It was during the time of launching her own businesses that Carol took an interest in the planning and design of the websites as well as the overall implementation of setting up a business for the internet.
During the 2008 recession, the property industry took a hit. It was this that prompted Carol to consider exploring a new industry.
She explains: “People were saying at the time ‘I’ve got a website, but it doesn’t work and I don’t know why’. I’d say ‘Did you plan it? Did you tell the builder what you wanted?’ Often the answer would be no and it’s the same today. Because of that, I wrote a book called Smart Website Planning. After writing that I started to help people plan and build their websites. I began helping with social media too and that all led to starting the agency I have now, We Get Digital.”
Along with providing website design, website maintenance and social media marketing services, We Get Digital also offers expertise in SEO. To accompany the SEO service they provide, Carol has also written a book named Think Like a Search Engine, to help more small and independent businesses understand the complexities of SEO.
Explaining what she likes most about her job, Carol says:
“I love helping small businesses, start-ups and any businesses who are looking to grow. They might be one-man bands who are looking to take their businesses to the next level. I’m really enjoying working with people who have had their business for a while and chucked up a website when they were first starting out. Nowadays, they’re running their business and it’s going ok but it could be better with a more proficient website. We help them to turn that around.”
“A lot of work we do locally because we network locally. We also work with people in other parts of the country and around the world who we’ve never even met. With Zoom and other remote conferencing services these days you can easily share your screens and location is not an issue.”
Explaining the advantages and setbacks of being self-employed, Carol says:
“As tough and as difficult as it is to run your own business and bring in new business, the trade-off is that you’re free. You have your freedom and time. When it’s going well it’s brilliant. When it’s going badly it’s awful but by the same token there’s no price on freedom. It is tough and it is hard, and I think a lot of people who are running their own businesses fail to admit that.”
“The sacrifices are big when you’re running your own business, but the gains are just as big. When you’re running your own business it’s feast or famine. Sometimes it’s hell and you’ve got no money and other times it brilliant because you’ve just nailed a really good deal.”
“Bringing in business is the biggest challenge. If you want to work for yourself, you have to be a good sales person. You have to know how to sell yourself and your products. Being online is tough and you have to remember that your competition is one click away which is why you need to get your business right, online.”
Carol puts maintaining and finding new clients down to networking events and building relationships. Networking has provided Carol with the chance to connect with people face to face, build trust in prospective clients and to demonstrate her capabilities.
Carol says: “The time you need to be marketing most is when you’re busy, so you keep that pipeline going. You need to have a prospects board. If my prospects board is not at least 10 – 15 prospects, I start panicking. That’s why a lot of businesses fail – because they don’t understand the business cycle. Make sure you familiarise yourself with this.”
“The competition out there is fierce because it’s a level playing field with the internet which is why we are constantly looking to improve people’s websites – to make sure they stand out above the crowd.”
Explaining more about the club, Carol says: “The High Profile Club hold networking events and also help you get into media. It’s networking with a big difference and people mustn’t forget PR and media these days. It’s good for SEO as well because if for example you’re featured in an online article, they’ll include a backlink to your website. That’ll get indexed and Google will see that there’s a good link back to my website. It’s great all round.”
Through her work online and networking with business women, Carol was inspired to launch Women on the Web (WOW). Helping women in business to overcome digital literacy and get better at running their businesses online, the platform also provides mentoring opportunities.
Carol tells us: “I’d be sitting with women who I’d networked with and ask them what it was they wanted and explained we could build them a great website. When I asked what they were going to do once the website was underway – for example using a CRM system, I’d often get a blank look or people saying ‘I don’t know what that is’. No one can know everything, so you really need good women in business who you trust to help you through it.”
“That’s what Women on the Web is all about – helping women to do things correctly and learn from the mistakes of other expert women across various fields. Whether it’s building a website, using a CRM system, communications, email marketing, QuickBooks, Microsoft Office or project management tools – we help women to understand all bases. Women can then make an educated decision on what is right for their business. They can also find a supportive hub of mentors – female business owners – who’ve been there, done that and can help them.”
We hope that reading the stories of other freelance and industry professionals can inspire your approach to business and provide you with some useful tips.
For agency owners like Carol who have a team of one or more employers, Employers Liability Insurance is a legal requirement.
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