My office comprises of a round kitchen table with crumbs lingering around from my breakfast. My office attire comprises of my grey sweatpants & whatever hoodie is lying around. It's not glamorous at all, but it is comfy AF.
When I came back from my travels, stressed about how I was going to make money and write a novel at the same time. I reached out to all my contacts & also, self-reflected at my own skillsets. I put my corporate-moneymaking pride aside & made the agreement with myself that'd I'd go make pastries at my local coffee shop or sign up to be a dog-walker before I put my ass in a desk ever again. But, I didn't end up making pastries or walking any dogs...yet. My free time made it easy to organically re-connect with old friends and finally meet up for that beer or coffee with people I genuinely wanted to see but have been blowing off the past year because of my desk job & sad attempt to manage health, love life, and passion projects.
Things took off. New clients, new projects, new sorts of work-travel opportunities. I was shocked and ended up over-booking myself for the next 2-4 months but, I'm not complaining, I rather have more work than not enough!
A FEW TIPS FOR THOSE READY TO MAKE THE FREELANCE JUMP:
What are your assets, what skills do you have, what can you offer to the world, how can you help people? Really look back and look into what you're good at. Spruce up your social media, LinkedIn page, website - not just to impress other people but to really look at what you've accomplished & what you're most proud of. It really helps to organize & step back to get a birds-eye-view of what you look like in black and white or on the ol' Internet.
2: GO HANG OUT WITH YOUR FRIENDS
don't know what the studies say, but there's something to be said about the people you hang out with and your community. They are an extension of you and you're an extension of them. I would like to hope you like your friends & your community & that everyone's doing kickass things. When I step back and look at my friends, family, community, I'm so god damn proud of everyone. I want to stand up on a rafter and shout it out to the world. They inspire me, push me, and are always giving me new ideas that feed into my work and sometimes lead to work or vice versa.
Ok, let's have the money talk. Starting your freelance career is like investing in a start-up business. You should expect the beginning to be slow, but as you put more time & energy into yourself and your craft - expect things to grow. Check your bank account, can you honestly afford to have some slow times? to take people out to coffee? If not, then re-asses & re-strategize.
Get your money organized, roll those 401k's into a Traditional IRA, pay all of those late fees, bills, and taxes. Talk to a CPA or your accountant friends about how you should manage your expenses because did you know you can fly down to Los Angeles for a meeting with your potential employer and write the whole thing off? Meaning, the IRS deducts the amount you spent from what you owe in taxes at the end of the year. Save your receipts. Talk to an accountant about what's legitimate, you don't want to get audited. If you anticipate making more than about $50k/year, consider registering yourself as a business (LLC & apply as an S-Corporation), that way you can put yourself on your own payroll! You will have to pay corporate taxes at the end of the year, but it will exempt you from paying into Social Security.
Track your income. Start your own little spreadsheet with your monthly income & deduct your monthly bills from it aka the things you know you'll have to pay out every month (car insurance, phone bill, rent, average grocery expense). This is going to be so important for when you do file your taxes & so you're not surprised when you look at your bank account and you realize you're spending way more than you're making...
4: JEN YIH PROJECT MANAGER
I've worked as a project manager for big companies. Balancing multiple calendars, projects, people, campaigns, budgets - project management is a lucrative career path if you're someone that over excels in organizational skills. But, as a freelancer - you've got to get used to project managing your clients, multiple calendars, travel, while fitting in your personal life. The divide between personal and professional life becomes an extremely gray area. Do what works for you but color coding my calendar, emailing myself reminders, setting reminders, keeping to-do lists in one notebook, filing tax and receipt information, saving passwords in one place for multiple accounts... the little bits of organization go a hell of a long way.
5: JEN YIH THERAPIST
My personal life, almost forgot about that while I was being my own accountant, project manager, writer, producer, model... There's been days already when I feel like I'm losing my mind, which way is up or down, 20 articles to write, 3 people to call, 4 people to text back, run this or that errand. I'm psychotic/neurotic & sometimes have to drop everything and go sprint a mile... What I'm saying is, it's amazing how easy it becomes to work 24/7 & forget about your personal life when you go freelance. You get all excited about this project, that project, that client etc. and want to give it your all and make sure you don't F it up! But, remember that you got yourself into this freelance circus so you could work the morning and surf the afternoon or ski a powder day mid-week and work on Sunday when the mountains swamped. While you're color coding your calendar, don't forget to pencil in some fun & sit down time to connect and call Mom.
6: MARKET YOURSELF
This one kills me, really kills me. But, especially if you're in the creative world, you've got to educate people about what it is you do... There's a fine line between self-promotion & sharing your work, and trust me, that's a balance I'm constantly trying to find. I look at my Instagram some days and ask, is this my personal life or my professional life? Answer is, it's both. This is a digital era, unfortunately, and it helps to have a portfolio landing page to send a future client to vs. having to sit down for an hour and a half and talk about yourself.
Images and text by Jennifer Yih