Sylvia Massara is an Author, Freelance Content Writer and HR Consultant based in Sydney, Australia.
In a past life, she also dabbled in acting, playing and singing in bands, and practising martial arts.
You can find her here:
Blog—Sylvia Says: http://www.sylviamassara.com/sylvia-says—the-blog
Amazon Page: https://www.amazon.com/Sylvia-Massara/e/B003ZWR5Y4
1. Hi Sylvia, how long have you been working as a freelancer now?
Going into freelancing (and contracting) is something I never planned. It just crept up on me over the years when fulltime work started to be harder to come by due to a softer economy. I found that contracting had started to trend over permanent fulltime roles, and through contacts in my network and the marketplace, I was able to go for these opportunities. In return, the roles I worked in gave me flexibility and more work/life balance. This way, I was able to keep up with two of my passions: acting and writing fiction.
But to answer your question, I started freelancing/contracting since approximately 1996.
2. How did you find your first clients?
In the early days, most of my contracting work involved HR Consulting. I have a comprehensive background in all things HR, especially start-up roles, and it wasn’t difficult to find contract work, being a generalist rather than specialising in one area of HR. In my free time, I was also doing some TV work as an actor. I acted in small roles in soapies and appeared in TV commercials and training videos. But acting is a tough field to break into, especially as one gets older, and so I turned to my other passion—which was writing screenplays and novels. During this time, I also kept up with my HR consulting, which was my bread and butter you might say.
3. Who has been your greatest inspiration?
The greatest inspiration of my life (and my forever muse) was, and still is, David Bowie. When I first saw Bowie performing in a music clip on TV in his Ziggy Stardust persona, I was a teenager—I must have been 14 or 15 years old—and since then, I was hooked. I mean to say that as a creative myself Bowie’s unique style and individuality really rang true with me. He was a man of many talents, and an incredible artist. He could always make something of anything he turned his hand to, and this really inspired me to do the same. Suddenly, back in those days, I found myself learning guitar and forming a band (actually two bands); I was writing and singing my own songs, too. But my love of acting and writing were stronger and I followed these forms of expression instead.
Unfortunately, I listened to my parents when they said I should equip myself with a secure career, so while I was busy writing and acting (as a hobby in those days), I put myself through night college to study human resources while during the day I worked fulltime in a bank. At the same time, I also managed to follow my other passion, which was inspired by Bruce Lee, and I practised martial arts. So you might say I was a busy bee back then.
4. John Wanamaker said: Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I do not know which half. Do you gain your clients by advertising or in another way?
I believe that word of mouth is the strongest medium of advertising. For instance, most of my HR gigs came through word of mouth from people who knew me and recommended me to others or from ex-bosses who wanted to work with me again or who talked about me to people they knew (and who were looking for a HR professional).
When it comes to the artistic side of things, it’s also word of mouth. Sure, public relations and advertising has a place in exposing an artist’s work to the public, but at the end of the day it really comes down to what people think. I used to do a lot of social media for my novels, but the majority of sales for my books came mainly through word of mouth. Someone may read one of my novels and they will then tell a friend, who will tell someone else, and so on.
In both my fields, HR and my creative pursuits, it is mostly word of mouth. I don’t advertise and I don’t do a great deal of social media these days—it just takes up too much time and it renders small results—so I figure that engaging with my audience is the best way to find a medium for my novels; and networking with past work colleagues is what gets me HR gigs and content writing gigs. Mind you, if I see a role advertised that appeals to me, I would obviously still apply for it.
5. How does your typical working day look like? What do you do when you are not working? How many hours/days per week are you working? What do you do in your free time?
I don’t have what you may call a typical working day. Currently, I have a very flexible HR gig, which I do from home. I usually do a couple of days per week, but there are times when things get busy and I work extra hours, and there are times when things are slow and this is when I utilise my time to do something creative.
The HR side of things is still my bread and butter, but I do engage in content writing gigs from time to time, however, I’m choosy as to what I’ll write about. Aside from this, I do the ad-hoc proofreading/editing work for companies and non-fiction publishers; I work on my own blog, too, and do a little bit of social media regarding my novels; I interview fellow authors about their work, and this features in my blog, Sylvia Says, and during all this time my mind is crammed with characters that want me to portray them in a novel, so I’m constantly planning a wacky love affair, the end of our planet as we know it, or a grisly murder over coffee 🙂
What do I do in my free time? What free time? I’m always thinking up storylines for a novel.
6. What would you do differently if you would start again?
If I could go back in time to younger years, I would pursue an acting and writing career on a fulltime basis. This has always been my dream as a little girl, but due to certain circumstances in my life it wasn’t meant to be.
7. Entrepreneurs have many things in common. They read a lot. What about you? What are your favorite books?I don’t have a particular favourite book. I read a huge amount of books, both fiction and non-fiction, plus I watch many films and then deconstruct the plot to see if I can make an improvement on it. Some films, however, don’t need improvement. But back to books, I really can’t give you a preferred title per se. I have many favourites.
8. What was the best business advice you received? Do you have any advice for other freelancers?
Best advice I read about was this: If nothing changes; nothing changes. Meaning, if we keep doing something in the same way over and over again without changing how we do it we’re bound to get the same results. So this is my advice to other freelancers in addition to be very disciplined in their work—when you don’t have fixed hours and you don’t have to go into an office it can be difficult for some people to keep to their goals. So I say, don’t allow yourself to become distracted by the little things; just do what you have to do, and do it to the best of your ability. Your work and professionalism is your calling card!
9. Top 3 mobile apps on your smartphone?
- Weatherzone (I have a weather fetish I’m afraid!)
- Twitter (this is how I mostly keep in touch with colleague authors and readers of my books)
10. Top 3 websites?
- Realestate.com (yes, another fetish—this one is for property). I love to look at property
- LinkedIn, to keep in touch with colleagues
- Google Earth—more of an interactive tool than a website, but I love to spy on buildings and surroundings; it goes with my love of property.
11. Your last vacation?
During my earlier years I travelled extensively, and even lived in other countries for a short while. I haven’t had a vacation in years now, but if I had the opportunity to travel again I’d go back to Europe and check out all the Renaissance art and architecture. Last time I was in Europe I didn’t have enough time to do this. I also have a bit of an explorer’s spirit in me, and I love to visit remote parts of the world. I loved visiting Central Australia, and the outback; and I would love to visit Antarctica one day.