Learning to Be Your Own Boss: An Interview with Margaret Nicklas

By: Kristen Hicks Posted in Faces of Freelance Austin

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 Freelance Austin committee member Margaret Nicklas.

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Name: Margaret NicklasFoFA_Margaret
Email: Margaret.Nicklas@gmail.com
No. of years freelancing: About one
Located: Austin, TX
Accepting new work? Yes

What’s your superhero power?

I would say curiosity is my superhero power. It has propelled me through various jobs, several big career changes, and many years of advanced education. Whether working as a teacher, performance auditor, journalist, legislative analyst or even a temp, I have always been motivated by learning how processes worked, how people perceived and felt about their experiences, and how all these pieces of reality fit together into some meaningful picture.

I love research and analysis, not as an end in itself, but rather as it helps inform a larger question or solve a complex puzzle. And I love hearing people tell their stories and explain why they do the things they do. I think people are fascinating when they share their feelings and thoughts, and especially when they are willing to answer the question “Why?”

How do you describe the work you do?

I have done many kinds of analysis and writing and am skilled at communicating with a variety of audiences and for a variety of purposes. Currently, I am most interested in doing journalistic writing and editing, but will also take on other writing projects, such as producing web content, grant proposals or performance reports.

I am especially partial to writing about health, science, child development, child welfare, and environmental stewardship but I am also quite versatile, especially when it comes to work related to the public or non-profit sectors.

Describe your path to becoming a freelancer/small business owner/solopreneur.

I am really just beginning on this path. I spent many years working in government agencies, at the local, state and federal levels. After gaining a certain amount of mastery of the profession I was in, I became driven by the desire to have more freedom and autonomy and to have a better work/life balance.

I was also somewhat burned out on the type of work I was doing and wanted something different. I dreamed of doing work that would be more self-expressive and relevant to world events. I also wanted to be able to work from home at least some of the time after having my son. Five years ago, I went back to school to get a degree in journalism. I am now trying to leverage my diverse set of talents, skills and experiences into freelance work of various kinds, generally hoping to maintain writing and communications as a primary component.

Was there an “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to strike out on your own?

For a long time, I saw freelancing as something that would be too hard for me to attempt. I saw it as something that others seemingly did effortlessly and naturally, but that I did not feel talented enough to do. I found it difficult to imagine what services I could provide that customers would want. I also came to perceive freelancing as synonymous with running one’s own business, and so had further difficulty imagining myself in this role. But the more I met people—especially women—who were doing various types of freelance work and running their own businesses, the more I thought— perhaps I can do this. And I began to put pieces in place to try. I am still in the very earliest stages of this endeavor and I am still working on my level of commitment to it. Maybe there is an “aha” moment yet to come.

How has career independence changed your professional and personal world?

As I have said, I am still in the early stages of this transformation. Aside from a drop in income, the biggest difference is being alone versus part of a larger organization. There are pros and cons to that. I sometimes miss the collaboration and camaraderie and sense of pulling toward common goals. But I relish the sense of being my own boss and making my own decisions about how to handle whatever comes up.

Don’t forget to nominate someone for a future Faces of Freelance Austin interview! Who should we feature next?


Kristen Hicks

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