She Creates Communities and Repeat Buyers

Freelance, Family and Followers: Beatrice Lugano on Creating a Successful Balance

Takes 10 minutes to read. Too busy right now? Save it and read it later!

Beatrice Lugano has built a successful freelance career based on her unique skills, which has helped her achieve a rare degree of work-life balance.

A year and a half ago, Beatrice and her family decided to change country. A move that was made possible thanks to her freelance career and the work-life balance it provides. I sat down with Beatrice to learn how she built her career and combined online community of 2,377 followers and finds new clients.

The digital nomad is by no means a new concept to us who are independent. I would even assume that the nomad life is one of the reasons you are or are working to become, a freelancer. But while many yearn to lead this lifestyle, few do it successfully. Beatrice has found a way to provide exceptional value for her clients while leading a life that lets her prioritize her family and achieve great work-life balance.

In 2018, Beatrice and her husband decided to move from Milan, Italy to Stockholm, Sweden. Throughout the journey of building a new home in their new country, Beatrice has kept working as a freelancing branding expert. Even after relocating to a new country, she’s stayed in touch with her Italian clients. This while building a new network in Sweden and the wider world as well as seeing her business grow.

A Personal Branding and Marketing Consultant for Those Who Help Others

Beatrice helps freelancers and small businesses grow and develop. She specializes in working with therapists, coaches, and mentors to help them improve their branding and marketing. These people are often driven by a desire to help others but find it hard to market, sell and price their services.

Much of Beatrice’s work happens through video conversations. She often acts as a sounding board, offering advice and support over many recurring sessions. Most of her client engagements take place over a period of 3 months or more with a 90-minute consultation every week.

A Pan-European Freelancer

I asked Beatrice how her freelancing career affected their move from one end of Europe to another. She says that her being freelancer, with the freedom and influence over work-life balance it brought, made the decision to move so much easier: “Since I already had a freelance business I could do consultations with Skype or Zoom, wherever I was in the world” Beatrice explained. Moving out of Italy also meant that she now had a reason to go international.

Beatrice was a freelancer long before she and her husband decided to move north. Her career is the result of inheriting her father’s photo studio and a lifetime behind the lens. An interest in photography led her to graphic design which in turn taught her what she relies on every day to market her services and support her own clients.

Since moving to Sweden, Beatrice has started providing her services in English, in addition to her native Italian. Her offering has widened from photography and brand development to include helping her clients do business planning and entrepreneurship within the therapy industry.

Getting Clients Through References and Social Media Groups

Seeing as finding clients is a challenge for many freelancers, I asked Beatrice what her client-finding secrets are.

She gets most of her leads through her existing clients who refer people they know to her. But that isn’t the only source of leads. Beatrice is also active in several social media groups focused on her niche.

Her group-based marketing began some years ago with a simple Google search: “I researched the groups that were oriented to the niche that I am serving. So in this case, entrepreneurs that are into the therapeutic need, like coaching groups or entrepreneurial groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.”

She then started taking an active part in these groups by commenting and posting. Beatrice explained: “I am active there so that people can see that I position myself as an expert and I can support them.”

Only 30 Hours Per Month

What surprised me is how the little time all this takes. Beatrice estimated she spends only about half an hour to an hour per day staying active in these groups. The groups often have thematic days which makes planning easier. What this means is that each day of the week has its own theme or function. In some groups, Monday is the “shameless plug” day. Tuesday could be the “ask a question” day and Friday the day to share something funny. This makes it easy to plan and prepare content and activities in advance.

She emphasized that even though her group posts and comment don’t take a lot of time, they’re all genuine. She warned against being spammy or automating this work to the point that you stop responding to people, and just push a message. The purpose, she said, is to build real relationships with other people.

Joining Other People’s Groups Also Works, But Only If You Have a Plan

If creating your own group isn’t something you’re interested in, there are plenty of groups you can join. Beatrice told me of one such group with over 30,000 followers. This group has themed days of the week and plenty of activities to keep members engaged.

The important thing is to choose a group where your audience hangs out. You won’t see traction if you just keep socializing with fellow freelancers. Instead, you need a plan and tactics for engaging with the group. You also need to be genuinely interested in building authentic interactions.

Beatrice said that the key to gaining visibility traction in these groups is consistency: “If you comment every day and if you post something every day, people see you. You position yourself as an authority by commenting and helping other people.” By showing what you’re good at and making Facebook “live” events, people will start to take notice and pay attention to you.

But It All Began With Offline, Real-Life Networking

Beatrice tells me that her freelancing career got its big boost back in Italy. For a while, she was the graphic designer for the most popular coaching magazine in Italy. Being able to refer to that role and connection was a huge help when she positioned and pitched herself to coaches as a brand advisor.

What is Positioning?

In the context of marketing, your position is “the place that you occupy in the minds of the customers and how it is distinguished from the products of the competitors” (Wikipedia). Essentially, positioning refers to how buyers understand your role in relation to other companies that do the same thing as you. A well-chosen position makes you appear unique and particularly suited given the buyer’s needs. Positioning is powerful, and important for your marketing to work well. To learn more about positioning, check out our post on positioning and positioning statements.

Why You Need to Find Your Blue Ocean

Another benefit of working for the magazine was that Beatrice could attend the fairs and conferences they organized. She had exclusive access to her market as the only graphic designer and market communication specialist in the room. That’s not metaphorically speaking.

“That was amazing,” she said. “I gave out cards like crazy, and I converted so much that way. So I think that the point is really finding your blue ocean. Finding your expertise and what really differentiates you from everyone else and going into the places where your specific niche is, which are not full of other people that are like you.”

What are Blue and Red Ocean Strategies?

The terms “blue ocean” and “red ocean” were coined by Kim and Mauborgne in 2004 and refer to the competitive climate in various industries. A “red ocean” industry is one where competition is fierce and margins are slim which leads to commoditization. A “blue ocean,” on the other hand, is one where competition is weak or low and where there is untapped potential. In a blue ocean, new opportunities can be created. Blue oceans are created through something the authors refer to as “value innovation.” You can learn more about these ideas on Wikipedia.

About the Importance of Real Life Meetings

Concept art for "The Citadel" in Game of Thrones (https://www.artstation.com/artwork/PE88r)
Concept art for “The Citadel” in Game of Thrones (https://www.artstation.com/artwork/PE88r)

While much of Beatrice’s marketing work takes place online today, it has some rather analog roots. She told me she started her career as a graphic designer for an alternative bookstore in Milan. In the beginning, it was just to help out her friends from her martial arts class. “They had books from all kinds of alternative medicine but also all sorts of really ancient books about alchemy,” she said.

In addition to a selection of titles that would make Samwell Tarly envious, this book store organized a myriad of popular events. From the weekly book clubs with speakers on specific themes to large conferences. Big-name authors came from all over the world to do book readings and signings. Beatrice was part of the team doing the marketing for all these events.

This business eventually grew to include marketing services. Therapists could turn to Beatrice and her colleagues to get help with things like banner design or buying ready-made marketing packages. Beatrice said that this is where she learned about packaging services and events. These are skills she has brought with her until today and now apply in a different, more digital, context. Skills she uses to build audiences and selling to them.

Beatrice’s Tips on Starting a Social Media Group to Build Audiences

Beatrice started out as a graphic designer and photographer in her native Milan, Italy. She has over the course of her career picked up skills in branding, positioning, and marketing which she now uses to help others succeed.
Beatrice started out as a graphic designer and photographer in her native Milan, Italy. She has over the course of her career picked up skills in branding, positioning, and marketing which she now uses to help others succeed.

I asked Beatrice for advice to freelancers who wish to use social media groups to win new clients. According to Beatrice, educational content is the foundation of a successful group.

She creates such content for her groups on a weekly basis. Then she promotes it on her personal profile and her business’s page. Worth noting is that unlike most people, Beatrice has repurposed her Facebook profile to be completely business-oriented. She doesn’t share anything personal there and uses it only to communicate with her followers.

She decided to do this since her audience is on Facebook and she wanted to maximize impact: “Facebook is pushing groups and you don’t see much organic conversion from business pages anymore, but you see it from your personal profile.“

Beatrice makes extensive use of the Facebook Live feature. A “live” is a live video stream in which you can interact with others to answer questions or comments.

During the past summer, she went online every day to give a 20-minute Facebook “live” Q&A on a specific topic. Her members could then ask questions which she’d answer. It worked like when a radio show hosts a guest and listeners can call in and ask questions.

These strategies have helped Beatrice build a 1,450 people strong followership on Facebook. Her followers on LinkedIn number almost one thousand.

How Beatrice Uses Facebook Live to Market Her Services

Facebook Live is one of Beatrice's favorite tools for creating engagement with her audience by hosting Q&A sessions.
Facebook Live is one of Beatrice’s favorite tools for creating engagement with her audience by hosting Q&A sessions.

Beatrice has successfully used Live to offer training in business fundamentals for therapists, coaches, and healers and packaged it to fit her audience. For her program during the past summer, she broke down down her training into 12 modules.

She then packaged these in a way that resonated with her audience: “Each module had a color associated. So basically what I did was like the red that is and I put it onto the Hindu chakra system. The red was the foundation. So all the money stuff. The fact that you need to have a good structure, the funding and so on.”

Every day, she went “live” in her group for 20 minutes and presented each module. The whole course was designed to help her audience with their main problem which Beatrice described as: “I have beautiful gifts but I do not know how to explain it in a way that normal people get.”

Work-Life Balance as a Freelancer

I initially wanted to talk to Beatrice about the challenges of achieving work-life balance as a parent and a freelancer. It turns out that the desire to show her kids that you can have a healthy relationship with work was what inspired her to become a freelancer in the first place.

“It is possible to have a sustainable work-life balance, that you can work, you can earn, you can do something for what you are passionate about and you can stay also with them. You can see them grow and you can see them bloom,” Beatrice said.

When she began, being a freelancer is what allowed her to stay home with her young son. Her freelance career gave her a work-life balance not easy to come by with a regular job. She could then combine her knowledge of therapy and events marketing with her skills as a graphic designer and photographer. This made it possible for her to create a unique targeted offer, delivered in a way few others could.

“I like to integrate all the things I can do. I think that’s the thing that differentiates me,” Beatrice concluded.

Beatrice’s Advice to Freelancers Seeking Balance

To those wishing to achieve a sustainable freelance career and balance, Beatrice recommends:

  • Be very, very clear about your target market and offering.
  • Talk to people in your target market to understand what keeps them up at night.
  • Interact with your target market to support them. Beatrice says that the 12-module “color program” was an idea she got after being a recurring contributor to a Facebook group about color therapy.
  • Approach social media the same way you would a real-life networking event: bring the same kind of professionality. Don’t hide behind the screen.
  • Be attentive to what people want to learn more about and explore those topics.
  • Go out and meet people. Find places where your audience hangs out and learning from them there about their problems and challenges that you can help solve.
  • If you’re a woman, consider joining women’s networks. Beatrice has had both fantastic and so-so experiences from these and said your mileage may vary, but she said it’s always worth a shot.

Conclusion: Great Relationship Marketing Is Based on Knowing Your Niche Better Than They Know Themselves

  • After hearing about how Beatrice achieves balance and finds clients, it’s clear to me that there are as many ways to succeed as a freelancer as there are freelancers.
  • The key to balance and success is to find what works for you and combining your experience and what you like doing into a formula that creates value for other people.
  • By finding your unique angle and way to create value for others, you can price your services in such a way that your freelancer work won’t overtake your life. This helps you achieve sustainable work-life balance.
  • A borderline fanatic interest in your target market is necessary today as we buy with our hearts from people we trust. Because of that, it helps if you are part of your niche. Few things build trust as well as knowing someone belongs to the same “tribe” as you.
  • As humans, we love consistency, why a consistent sender will be remembered. For that, you need a plan. You need to stick to that plan, even when you feel you aren’t seeing much traction. But you also need to know when it’s time to give up. The challenge we all face is combining that emotional passion that drives you to engage with others with a rational approach to determine which strategy is yielding the results you need.

How to Get in Touch With Beatrice

If you want to learn more about Beatrice Lugano, the services she offers or just drop her a line, you can find her here:

Beatrice Will Answer Your Questions About Relationship Marketing and Work-Life Balance

Beatrice has generously offered to answer your questions. So go ahead and post your questions in the comment section below.

Related


Author: Jakob Persson

Jakob is the founder and CEO of Zingsight, the company behind Bondsai. He's been involved with the web for over twenty years and has previously co-founded and grown a web agency from 4 to 70 people. Jakob holds degrees in media technology and cognitive science. He consults in product design and management, and business development. Jakob is an experienced skier and a learning scuba diver.