Lydia Sharpin OAM

Lydia is a Salesforce Freelancer specialising in post-implementation support, data migration and analytics for sales/service organisations and not-for-profits. She was the first person to ever to set up Salesforce in Papua New Guinea. Lydia also worked as an SME for Focus on Force.

What sort of Salesforce freelancing work do you do? 

I think there are three types. There’s the full-time freelancer, who’s like a contractor, basically goes to the same place every day but gets a contract rate. Then there are the people that freelance full-time with different clients. Then there’s the person who’s moonlighting. They have a full-time job and do it on the side. I’m kind of sitting more towards that; I work four days a week so that I can enjoy the variety of freelancing. I’m really lucky, my employer knows it full well, they have a policy on it to say it is totally okay to do second jobs, as long as it’s not a direct conflict of interest, which there isn’t in this case. So they’re fine with it, and I’ve always been very open and honest about it, and no one’s had a problem with it.

What do you like about Salesforce freelancing? 

I’d say one of the nice things about being a freelancer is that I have the right to say the word no. I don’t have to put up with difficult clients and difficult people. I can work on projects that I love. As a consultant, I lose the right to choose. And even if the person is hard to work with, I may still have to put up with them, smile, grin and bear it because we’ve signed this contract and I’m on the job. For me, there’s a great sense of freedom in being a freelancer. I want to choose who I work with, and to me, that’s a priority. It gives you that freedom, and it gives you the ability to choose who you work with.

What advice would you give people who haven’t done freelancing before?

Don’t go into freelancing cold. It helps if you’ve already got some solid experience in the industry. Consulting is the ideal starting ground because you learn to compress your time, you learn to organize and dump your brain and your tasks and what you were doing, because you’re not going to remember who you were working for four weeks earlier. You are not going to remember which bits you deployed and fixed. Your ability to document and record stuff in a way that will jog your brain and get you back into that mode is really important.

Ideally, you’d start as an end user, so you’re not time stressed. You can get to work on one system and you can see it not just from the project stage but all the way through to BAU and user adoption and see people grow with the system. Ideally, you’d start as a Salesforce admin at an end user before you go into consultancy and then before you go into freelancing.

That would be the ideal path because now you’ve learned how to manage the system, you’ve been exposed to more than one system, and you’ve learned how to compress your thinking and compartmentalize it per client. Then you’re ideally set for freelancing. But sometimes it just happens by accident. So some of my freelancing jobs have come from previous employers who keep calling me back. I don’t even have a website for what I do. I don’t need to because I have such a word-of-mouth network.

The other way it’s happened for me is I found I worked with some recruiters who had someone who thought they wanted a Salesforce admin, but they didn’t know what they wanted. So I said to the recruiter, turn it into a consultancy gig, a freelancing gig, and just freelance me out and you be my agent. I can’t tell you how much work I’ve got through just getting a recruiter to do it. It’s a bit of a mindset change for the recruiter, but for a lot of the smaller non-profits in particular who come into Salesforce, they can’t afford a full-time admin, nor do they know if they have enough work to justify it. So that was a way that it sort of happened. It just kept happening. So I could call them my recruiter or my agent. They get me work, they invoice the client, I just do timesheets for them.

I also have an independent business. If you are going to run an independent business, think about your professional indemnity and set up your tax structure, do it properly. For many of my clients, the fact that I have professional indemnity insurance is a big plus.

How do you bill your clients?

These days, when I negotiate a contract with a client, I’ll make sure there’s an end date. So let’s say it’s for three months, because if it’s not working for me and it’s not working for them, there needs to be a gracious exit point for all of us. It might be project-specific, but usually, I like to put a date on it and then let’s review. In that contract, I’ll say you have zero to eight hours per week. If you don’t use the time, I won’t bill you for it. If you only use an hour of my time, that’s fine. When it gets over 3-5 hours of billable time, I will send you an invoice. So that’s typically how I do it.

Also, you need to clearly differentiate between billable time if I knew what I was doing versus learning. Learning about Salesforce is never billed to your client. Learning about the client’s business, that is on their time because you can’t be expected to know that. So there’s a kind of differentiation going on. So I think it’s just about really being clear that you never bill a client for your learning time. You’re doing Trailhead or you’re reading tech manuals. That’s on your clock, not on the client’s.

How do you get work? 

All my gigs are coming through word of mouth. They all know I’m passionate about non-profits, I’m passionate about Salesforce. I don’t always do non-profit work but I think many of them check me out on LinkedIn and think she actually knows what she’s talking about. She’s got a lot of experience. So LinkedIn just helps me sell. I can get my agent to help sell me on jobs, but I’m actually at a point where I don’t need any more clients for the next six months. I’m actually fully booked out as it is!