Faces of Freelance Austin is a monthly feature to get to know one of our many members just a little bit better. For this month’s installment, we check in with Cindy Dashnaw. Want to nominate a member to be interviewed for this feature? Let us know!
Name: Cindy Dashnaw
No. of years freelancing: 7
Located: Austin, TX
Accepting new work? Yes
What’s your superhero power?
My superhero power is turning an interview into a compelling story, especially for nonprofit fundraising. Those types of solicitations can triple the amount of funds usually raised!
How do you describe the work you do?
A skilled communicator can harness the power of storytelling and make it work for you in messaging that supports brand personas and strategic goals. I bring a depth of experience in copywriting and strategic communications planning; combined, this gives you someone who is a quick study and understands how to turn an organization’s messaging into something audiences respond to.
Describe your path to becoming a freelancer/small business owner/solopreneur.
I’ve spent most of my adult life working full time, nearly always in nonprofits, and often freelancing on the side. I decided to give up a full-time position writing stories about seriously ill and injured children to go out on my own for three years.
A client talked me into helping her start a public relations firm, so for the next several years I repeated my full-time-work-plus-freelancing way of life. All that was in Indianapolis. Two years ago, when I moved to Austin, I committed to freelancing for good. I get to learn about people in all types of situations and help the organizations trying to improve their lives. I’m proud of the work I get to do!
Was there an “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to strike out on your own?
The opportunity to move so far away from my family, friends and reputation — my comfort zone — became an “aha” moment. I realized now was the time to take chances and seek out some new experiences. Texas certainly has provided them!
How has career independence changed your professional and personal world?
I’m less stressed than when I work at a company every day, I think because I can take care of what’s on my plate and don’t try to help everyone else take care of theirs.
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?
When someone at a Freelance Austin meeting suggested a mentor, I said, “But I should have it all figured out by now!” Boy, was I wrong!
I signed up for the WCA mentor program and was paired with Jane Baxter Lynn. She has been phenomenal at helping me focus on the kind of work I want to do (and not the kind I don’t). Back in Indianapolis, a found a mentor in Bob Dittmer, a very experienced PR guy who also was an instructor in the master’s degree program at Ball State University. It’s so helpful to check in with someone objective now and then, someone who you know will give you an honest answer.
Has there been a point when you’ve taken a big risk to move forward?
Moving to Austin was a big risk, everyone tells me. I’d never lived anywhere but Indianapolis, and Austin is a thousand miles from there. I have a son attending college near there and a daughter in Chicago, so I had some real homesickness at first.
Tell us what your day is like. Do you have a routine?
I struggle to keep a routine, because I think of routines as boring. And the big benefit of freelancing is that your time is your own, right? I’d like to have a little more structure to my day, though. I really need to walk every day!
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?
Advice to my newbie freelance self: Don’t take work you’ll hate doing just because you don’t have work at the moment. You know what you’re worth, so get paid for it.
Austin has a thriving independent worker population, do you see any ways the creative and freelance community in Austin could be better?
If it’s not already being done, I’d love to see creatives come together for “24 Hours of Creativity” or some such name. Creatives would be available at no charge to nonprofits for whatever they can get done in 24 hours. Or creatives and other freelancers could do a city-wide promo campaign for one nonprofit each year… something like that. Having meals and meetings together is one thing, but this would give us a chance to work together.
What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out?
Self-doubt in the tough times can derail you. Have faith in yourself! You know what you’re capable of, and with time and effort, things will happen for you.
Don’t forget to nominate someone for a future Faces of Freelance Austin interview! Who should we feature next?
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