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 Jeanie Garrett, Program Chair of Freelance Austin.
Name: Jeanie Garrett
Business: Grace Communications & Consulting
No. of years freelancing: 1
Located: Austin TX
Accepting new work? Yes
Your Superpower: Multitasking while I multitask. It’s never-ending…
How do you describe the work you do?
I am a consultant for church security planning. With 10 years experience as the Communication’s Director at a large, downtown church, I know the importance of a good security plan (addressing everything from gun violence to natural disasters).
I also know most church staffs don’t have the manpower to take this on. As a consultant, I come in with safety planning experience and the project management skills to oversee this process.
Describe your path to becoming a freelancer/small business owner/solopreneur.
After several, long-term careers, I finally took a leap of faith to do projects I love through work that inspires me. My years as a TV news reporter and Communication’s Director have certainly served me well but, at the end of the day, I wasn’t fulfilled. I had no idea what it would look like to love every part of what I was doing, but I was ready to find out!
Was there an “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to strike out on your own?
When I left my job at the church, they asked me to stay on in a consulting capacity to continue the safety planning I was doing. It was the first step in realizing, “This could work out.” Shortly after that, Church Publishing approached me about writing a book on the topic. As things naturally fell into place, I knew I was following the path being laid before me.
How has career independence changed your professional and personal world?
I was good at my job, but it had become too routine. Mentally, I checked out a lot and with a decent amount of standard work dysfunction, I realized I shut down a lot too when I was at work. Who wants to shut down for 33% of their day? Now, I feel fully engaged and alive ALL day!
Our members cite connections with people from varied expertise 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, I currently have a WCA mentor and really benefit from it. Every event I attend feels like a mentoring session in one way or another. I often walk away being inspired by someone’s story or with a new contact- sometimes someone who might hire me and sometimes someone I want to hire!
Has there been a point when you’ve taken a big risk to move forward?
Leaving my job was hard from the financial security sense. I didn’t know life without a steady paycheck, and I had to overcome some real issues with allowing my husband to be the sole bread-winner. He’s amazing and fully supported my decision but having been a single mom with 2 children, this was ANOTHER big leap of faith!
Tell us what your day is like. Do you have a routine?
During the school year, we are pretty routine. Once both kids are off to school, I work out to start the day. Working out is my mental and physical escape, without it my mind would be a frazzled mess! Once that is done, I sit down in my amazingly plush office (haha, just kidding- THE KITCHEN TABLE!) and work until pick-up time. I’ve gotten better about waiting to run all my errands, walk the dog, etc. until the kids are home. The quiet time during the day is just too precious to lose.
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?
The biggest surprise has been how busy I am but still worry about every gig and every dollar. I’m a details person so I’m always rolling our monthly budget around in my head. I know I could make a lot more money re-entering the workforce, but I feel like this is where I’m meant to be. Sometimes it feels like an unending struggle.
What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out?
My best advice for all aspects of your life is, “If it’s easy, it’s meant to be.” (Thanks to my high school Science teacher Mrs. Green for this!) That doesn’t mean you won’t have to work hard, but recognize when it’s all falling into place and when it isn’t. And have the courage to say good-bye to the parts that just aren’t working.
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