Name: Gail Gonzales
Business/organization name: Evolve Your Brand
No. of years freelancing: 5.5 full-time
Located: Austin, Texas
Accepting new work? Yes
Superhero power: Intuition (and Helpfulness) – hearing what my clients DON’T say and need.
How do you describe the work you do?
I help purpose-driven entrepreneurs align their brand with their passion to attract ideal clients and help them do what they love.
Describe your path to becoming a freelancer/small business owner/solopreneur.
I’ve always freelanced on the side. I went from a design firm that did branding and packaging (I designed the Crystal Geyser bottle they still use today), to an advertising agency, then became an advertising art director for a lifestyle magazine. Next I got a corporate marketing job at a hearing health company, and I loved the work for 8 of 10 years before I burned out. I left California, moved to Austin, and took another insanely demanding full-time corporate marketing job. This time, I didn’t care about their mission and was miserable. I stayed too long, and I actually stopped freelancing because I had nothing left to give.
Was there an “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to strike out on your own?
The answer above was my aha moment! Every job offer was corporate, and agencies didn’t want me because they saw me as a “corporate” person. I started hustling for freelance and making connections in Freelance Austin and WCA. I noticed that every time I got turned down for the job I REALLY wanted, I would get a cool new client. I was loving the one-on-one work with people who wanted to make a real DIFFERENCE in the world – and Greater Good Graphic Design was born. Now, almost six years later, I have evolved 😉 – to Evolve Your Brand.
How has career independence changed your professional and personal world?
I don’t make as much as I used to, but I am SO much happier and healthier – and I find that I attract clients who share my values.
Tell us what your day is like. Do you have a routine?
Typically, I get up at 7 and bump into walls for the first hour ;-). I meditate, answer emails, make some calls, figure out what I’m going to do that day if it isn’t already determined (which it usually is). Then I go to the gym or go for a walk. I settle into work usually from 11-7, sometimes later.
What, outside of your professional work, drives you? Any hobbies, passions or side projects?
My professional work IS what drives me because I only work on projects that are evolving people or the planet. I also love singing and, for about 10 years, I was in bands and was a music director for two new thought churches. I help promote funk music in Austin and miss dancing and connecting with all our music friends SO MUCH right now.
What was the biggest surprise or shock you found in freelancing?
I think it was the $10,000 tax payment I had to make when I first got married and, at the same time, my property taxes doubled. It forced me to get a handle on my finances and start acting like a real business. My advice is to track everything from the get-go even if it’s just in a spreadsheet with formulas set up.
Has there been a point when you’ve taken a big risk to move forward?
Yes, I am doing that now! I’ve turned down potential clients during COVID that are not a good fit for me. I raised my prices and committed to not wavering when I really want to help someone (I will take 3-4 payments but not lower my price).
Our members cite connections with people in different career stages and who have various areas of expertise as one of the biggest benefits of Freelance Austin. Have you had mentors along the way, from Freelance Austin or elsewhere?
Emily Leach (formerly of TX Freelance Association) has been a huge mentor for me. I went through her Freelance Jumpstart program, and it was invaluable. Most of my mentors now are online: Preston Lee, Bianca Board, Lisa Mullis, Stephen Houraghan. I’ve learned a lot from the speakers we have had at Freelance Austin, I’ve stepped up as a volunteer, and people are offering to help me, too.
Austin has a thriving independent worker population. Do you see any ways the creative and freelance community in Austin could be better?
When we can all get together again, I would value half- or full-day workshops where you get some help in tackling something that is not getting done.
What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out?
Get a handle on your own business assets, direction, branding, and website BEFORE you dive in to taking on clients. It’s been my biggest stumbling block because I always do for my clients before I do for myself. My other advice is be honest about what you are not cut out for and hire help. Treat it like a real business, not a side hustle, or that’s all it will ever be.