Faces of Freelance Austin is a regular feature to get to know one of our many members just a little bit better. For this installment, we check in with Crystal Zuzek, VP of Freelance Programming for WCA. Want to nominate a member to be interviewed for this feature? Let us know!
Name: Crystal Zuzek
Business Name: Seven C’s Communications
Number of years freelancing: 1
Located: Austin, Texas
Accepting new work? Yes
What’s your superhero power?
I’m a highly organized project manager. I’m good at breaking down the components of a project, delegating tasks, and keeping everything on schedule.
How do you describe the work you do?
I am an award-winning health, wellness, and lifestyle freelance writer and editor for hire. I enjoy writing personal profiles, Q&A’s, professional biographies, and feature-length articles for print or digital publication.
My editorial services include blog writing, ghostwriting, copyediting, creating editorial calendars and workflows, SEO writing, and corporate editing projects. I have experience crafting speeches and annual reports. I’m a former newsletter editor adept at developing, writing, and editing timely articles for niche audiences.
Was there an “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to strike out on your own?
I spent 2007-17 working for an Austin-based association. I was a staff writer for seven years and spent the last three years of my time at the organization serving as editor-in-chief for its monthly magazine.
I had a little boy in 2014 and found it difficult to manage a 9-to-5 position while raising my child. I desired more flexibility in my schedule. I’d always thought about striking out on my own at some point.
In 2017, the opportunity presented itself, and I set up my own business, Seven C’s Communications. Now I focus on developing content that is creative, clear, complete, correct, concise, consistent, and coherent (the Seven C’s).
Describe your path to becoming a freelancer/small business owner/solopreneur.
In the fall of 2016 I was having lunch with a former coworker and close friend. I was telling her about my growing discontent with my job. She suggested I work for myself and freelance.
My immediate response was, “No way! That’s too scary. I can’t do that.” I went back to work and tried to get excited about applying for full-time jobs, but I couldn’t muster any enthusiasm.
Over the next few weeks, my friend’s suggestion kept rattling around my brain. I asked a couple other friends what they thought of the idea, and none of them discouraged me. My “aha” moment took some time for me to realize, but I got there eventually.
How has career independence changed your professional and personal world?
I’m so much more engaged in and excited about the work I’m doing now. I got so burned out on covering the same issues over and over for 10 years. I didn’t realize the toll it was taking on me mentally. I needed to jump into something different.
I also love interviewing local business owners and connecting with them professionally. I love having more flexibility in my schedule. If my son gets sick or if I want to take him out of day care early one day, I can take care of it more easily.
Our members cite connections with people from varied expertises and career stages as one of the biggest benefits of Freelance Austin. Have you had mentors along the way, from Freelance Austin or elsewhere?
Yes, one of the first things I did when I decided to freelance was join Women Communicators of Austin.
I signed up to have a WCA mentor in early 2017. It was a great decision. It was so nice to speak to another freelance writer and editor who has more experience than I do.
I learned so much from my mentor. She helped me determine my focus areas for my business, develop my elevator speech, and revised my extremely outdated resume.
I’ve also found mentorship outside Freelance Austin and WCA. I connected with one of my former editors last year, and he has given me some valuable guidance and advice.
Has there been a point when you’ve taken a big risk to move forward?
I recently made the decision to work with a career coach to get my business to the level I want. I’m in the early stages of the program, but it’s a big financial commitment that I’m hopeful will pay off.
Tell us what your day is like. Do you have a routine?
I have a toddler, so I’ve learned to expect the unexpected. On days when things run smoothly, I either take him to day care or help get him ready for my husband to take him to day care.
Once he’s at school, I can get started, typically around 9 am. I’ve found that I’m much more productive and fresh in the morning, so I prefer to conduct interviews and write in the mornings. At lunchtime I try to work out and then eat. In the afternoons, I like to finish up anything I didn’t accomplish in the morning. It’s also a good time for me to respond to emails and phone calls, review any outstanding invoices, and handle any administrative or bookkeeping tasks.
What, outside of your professional work, drives you? Any hobbies, passions or side projects?
I recently discovered stand-up paddle boarding, and I love it. When I’m on the water, I don’t stress or think about my to-do list. I can truly relax.
I also love to sew, but I don’t get to do much of it since most of my free time is spent with my husband and son. But I’m hoping to get back to it when my son is a little older. I love being crafty, and I like to take classes at Slow North, Cloth Pocket, and the Paper and Craft Pantry.
During the week, I’ve found that exercise is an important part of my stress-management routine, so I go to ToddPilates and Dancers Shape regularly.
What was the biggest surprise or shock you found in freelancing? If you could share a bit of wisdom with your newbie freelance self what would it be?
I wasn’t prepared for the amount of marketing I have to do. I’ve learned I’m not that great at it. That’s one of the big reasons I’m working with a coach.
Austin has a thriving independent worker population, do you see any ways the creative and freelance community in Austin could be better?
I think it would be beneficial for organizations to collaborate and partner more in the way of programming, sponsorships, and mentorship.
What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out?
Before you jump into freelancing, set aside a nice rainy day fund. It’s a tough market, and you’ll need a healthy savings account to ensure you can pay your bills when you first start out.
Don’t forget to nominate someone for a future Faces of Freelance Austin interview! Who should we feature next?
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