Emma Dark: 'Google Digital Garage was the perfect event for networking and meeting other freelancers.'

Emma Dark: 'Google Digital Garage was the perfect event for networking and meeting other freelancers.'
Marc Gardner
Marc GardnerOfficial

Posted: Wed 13th Dec 2023

Enterprise Nation partnered with Google to deliver 20 Digital Garage events across the UK, providing free digital skills training and mentoring to small business owners who are looking to grow their ventures.

This series of in-person events offered free training to people who already own a small business, are interested in starting one, or are looking to develop their job prospects.

We're speaking to some of the business owners who have attended the events to learn how taking part has benefited them so far. Here, we talk to Emma Dark, a Bristol-based marketer and designer who operates as The Canny Creative.

Emma, tell us about your business and what led to you starting it.

I actually only went freelance at the end of October. My company is called The Canny Creative and I offer a wide range of marketing and design services. That could be anything from creative strategy to rebranding, copywriting, PR, social media management and everything in between.

I studied graphic design at university and after that went on to become a full-time in-house marketer. But I've always taken on the role of a designer, so I feel like I have quite a varied experience.

My main goal right now is just to navigate the next few months. Everyone always says the first year as a freelancer is such a learning curve and filled with challenges.

So for now I'll be finding a way to get through it, although I'd love to continue growing, picking up clients, getting those monthly retainers. I do eventually see myself employing some people full-time to work with me on The Canny Creative.

What struggles have you faced with your business?

Knowing where to start has been the biggest struggle for me. There's so much to consider with freelancing, like invoicing, and where to even find clients in the first place.

Because I'm my own sales team, I'm having to learn how to sell myself. Throwing myself into networking events and jumping on calls with people has been incredibly daunting.

I don't know if it's a rite of passage for a freelancer, but it's hard to know when to clock off for the day. In full-time employment, if an employer was contacting you at 10pm and you were sitting there on your laptop working, you'd be really annoyed. But I found myself doing that recently, and now it just doesn't seem that there are enough hours in the day.

I'm a perfectionist, so I want to produce the highest-quality work because it's my name out there now. But I also need to know when to switch off and have that work-life balance.



Why did you decide to attend a Google Digital Garage event?

I want to absorb and learn as much as possible. And I know my weaknesses lie in areas such as Google Analytics and Google Trends.

Over the past year, I'd heard a lot of people worry about the transition to GA4 and so I didn't want to be overwhelmed or daunted by it. The event gave me that basic knowledge and showed me how powerful the platform can be.

But I also really wanted to just network and meet other marketers, freelancers and small business owners. When I was looking at events to attend to get started, this one seemed like the perfect fit. I couldn't believe it was free!

What have you learnt from attending? And how have you started to implement it into your business strategy?

Throughout the event, I was furiously scribbling down notes. Then once I got home, I typed them all up. So I now have a handy reference document that I can constantly go back to.

Some key takeaways were definitely just exploring GA4 and learning about the tracking on my own website. I was excited to have a play around and get to grips with the platform and really get comfortable with how it works and how it can benefit me.

I think marketers can get caught up in the work for their clients and maybe neglect their own websites. So it's been good to set time aside each week to plan my content schedule and reporting and remember that it's just as important as any other work I do.

But at the Google event, it was great just to sit around for the full day, chat to other business owners and freelancers, and be among people with whom I could create a support network throughout Bristol.

Have you noticed a difference or a change?

It's only been a few weeks and that was my first event. But right now I'm just so glad to have been there, and to have had that reset almost from the full-time world of work into freelancing.

I can see the importance of analysing and reporting on my own website and understanding the trends. And the value of investing in myself as well. I've been picking up work this past month, so I feel like I'm on the right track. 

Finally, what's been your business's biggest achievement or proudest moment?

It's always been a dream of mine to own a business but I never thought I'd get there. So I'm proud that I've taken those steps to realise that dream. It's been very scary and I've been asking myself whether it's the right move, but it's been so rewarding. I just know this is what I want to do and it's been exciting talking to clients.

Read more Digital Garage success stories

Marc Gardner
Marc GardnerOfficial
I'm Enterprise Nation's senior content manager, and I spend most of my time working on all types of content for the small business programmes and campaigns we run with our corporate, government and local-authority partners.

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