Interview | 07 Mar 2023

Freelance Spotlight with Sophia Ahrel, Marketing Freelancer of the Year

Posted in Freelancer, Top tips, Tools & Advice, Motivation & inspiration, Freelancer's stories, Interview,

For our next freelance spotlight series, we're showcasing our award-winning freelancers to celebrate their achievements and the outstanding work they do in supporting businesses globally!

Sophia Ahrel is a fractional CMO and growth strategist, and category winner of the TWC Freelancer of the Year Award in Marketing. Sophia has been freelancing for more than 20 years, working alongside tech investors, boards and entrepreneurial leadership teams on their exciting growth journeys. She shares with us her secrets to success, and her top tips for winning new business and a successful freelancing career. 

Can you provide us with a brief insight into what you do?

I am a fractional CMO and growth strategist working in partnership with early stage and scaleups to raise capital, build brand strategy to reach new audiences and markets globally. For the past 10 years I have advised founders, leadership teams and boards of fast growth ventures and businesses that with a purpose or impact agenda. 

What are your top tips for winning new business? 

  • Build trust quickly by sharing your stories – case studies and real examples of your work.
  • Research the prospective business thoroughly and make sure you understand/identify the real problem they need you to help solve – and that you are confident that you can solve it.
  • Check the culture + people + values – make sure the chemistry works and that you share the same value base. Remember business success is down to the people - no matter your subject matter expertise.

How do you effectively manage your client relationships? 

  • Clear, regular and well structured communications
  • Set milestones in your 100 day plan – stick to it –even if you work on a longer term retainer
  • Check in with your client contact to get regular feedback – be prepared for “radical” or constructive feedback and make sure you listen and adjust your work accordingly
  • Have integrity, if you think you are asked to do something that is totally outside of your scope or have an impact on your delivery deadlines/timeframe – speak up!

Are there any tools you wouldn’t do without? 

Strategy collaboration tools that are fundamental to my work:

  • strategyzer
  • Miro + Mural

Visualisation tools to make sure reports, strategy docs + data hit the spot:

  • Databox
  • ai
  • Venngage

Planning tools:

  • Asana & Monday
  • Xtensio

What are your top tips for success? 

Establish yourself and your sweet spot – be an expert don’t try do everything.

Be honest – with yourself and your clients.

Keep your capacity at 70-80% of your time – allow for slack and admin time

Build your eco system of agency partners that you can draw upon when you need to.

Make sure you have fun – freelancing can be tough and lonely at times!

How do you manage your work-life balance as a freelancer?

Freelancing /interim work is usually intense and you are expected to deliver value from day one.

For the past 4 years, I started my 3 day weekend – which means most Fridays I don’t have client meetings, instead I spend time doing what I love. Even if it is sometimes attend a webinar or a conference or write about things I’m passionate about, like women in tech. I try have lunch with friends/colleagues on Fridays to mark the end of the week.

What advice would you give your less knowledgeable self?

Learn to say NO more often.