In this week’s freelancer success story, we interviewed Kat Dingcong of Kat’s Keys. Kat has been freelancing for over 16 years and leads an exciting career filled with art and inspiration. Read on to hear how Kat takes on the world of freelancing.
1. Can you provide more about yourself? What type of freelancing do you do? How did you get here?
I have been a full-time freelance entertainer for the past 16 years (dancer/aerialist/actor) and have always jumped from one job to the next, never knowing when the next audition would come and when I’d book the next gig.
I got here because I’ve just never been the 9-5 kind of person. I love being on the go; I love performing, and traveling; I love being in control of my schedule, and I love having the flexibility of saying no to certain jobs (auditions) where I feel the role isn’t the right fit for me.
Although I love what I do and have been successful at it, I knew that I also needed to have something more stable and reliable.
In this current climate where all entertainment, from live shows to filming, has been put on hold, I have found that the years I took to build my real estate investing business and piano teaching business now proving its reliability.
Since the shelter-in-place mandate has been ordered, I have worked full-time as an online piano teacher and real estate investor.
2. How long have you been freelancing?
16 years and loving it!
3. How did you land your first client?
As a performer, I usually book jobs through auditions or referrals. As a real estate investor, it’s all about networking and meeting the right people that you can run with. As a piano teacher, all of my advertising is by word of mouth.
I reached out to friends and family, and because of their amazing experience with me and the results they achieve with their piano playing, I constantly have students wanting to enroll in lessons.
4. What would you tell yourself starting out as a freelancer if you knew what you knew today?
Focus on one thing first if you really want to grow and scale. I have always struggled with having too many things going on at once.
It is still a struggle to this day, and I am very aware that if I can just focus on one thing at a time and give it my all, it would grow so much more than trying to grow 10 things all at once. That has proven true during this time of quarantine.
Because I have no other performing jobs (fewer distractions going from one audition to the next and constantly being in aerial training/acting classes, etc), I have literally grown my piano teaching business exponentially.
I focused on one thing, and the growth has been beyond what I thought was possible.
5. What is your biggest struggle with freelancing?
Advertising and consistent branding. As mentioned before, I haven’t done any advertising, and because I rely only on word of mouth, it is important that I brand myself as the piano gal. I need all my friends and family to immediately think about me when they ask themselves, “who teaches piano?”
My face needs to be the first one that pops into their heads then they think of the word piano.
Consistent branding is important, and I struggle with it because I also do other things that people know me for, and piano may not always be the first thing they associate me with.
6. What do you enjoy the most about freelance work?
The excitement of how every day is different. Some days I have a set schedule, and some days I can choose to work on anything that I feel needs my focus.
I love waking up every day, and the first thought that comes to my mind is, “what’s new and exciting today?”
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7. What’s the best way for other freelancers to grow their businesses?
Simply be the best at what you do and genuinely care about your clients. Invest in yourself so you can grow your skills and knowledge. When you constantly challenge yourself to keep growing, you also tend to provide the best service to your clients.
When you show genuine care, your clients will tend to stick with you longer.
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8. How do you deal with tough clients?
Clarity. I love being clear about everything from the beginning. With my piano teaching business, I am clear on my teaching method, how I teach it and what expectations I have from my students.
I constantly tell my families and students that communication is very important and that we have to keep the lines of communication open.
Because everyone is clear, it usually lessens the possibility of having tough clients.
They know what to expect, and there are fewer chances for disappointment.
As a performer, I am clear about my skills and what I can’t do.
I don’t advertise a skill I cannot do and then show up to the job unable to perform accordingly.
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9. Do you use any freelance platforms (i.e., Upwork, Freelancer, etc.) to land clients?
I haven’t. I know there are other platforms specifically for music lessons, but I haven’t used them yet.
See Related: How to Get Freelance Clients
10. How do you land new business?
Everything is word of mouth and consistently posted on my social media platforms. And that’s how I get new students week after week.
For piano: katzkeys.com
For my work as an artist: iamkatmarie.com
For my work on using real estate as a means to financial freedom: wildlywealthylife.com
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