Five for freelance life: Some tips from the front lines

Once again, freelance art producer and blogger, Sheri Radel Rosenbergshines with her funny and realistic portrayal of creative freelance life.  If you are not familiar yet with Sheri, be sure to check out her own blog, Maven, where she curates all that is cool in fashion, food, travel, culture, past and present.  Here is what she had to say:

“Have you ever wondered what it’s like to go freelance? For all of you art buyers who feel trapped by jam packed offices and jam packed politics, the world of freelance may be right up your alley. I was fortunate enough to work for incredible agencies, but I always had a nagging feeling that I wanted to go freelance- I pictured sitting on my sofa in some chic pajamas, cooking healthy meals for lunch, going to the gym, having coffee with friends, and generally regaining control of my life. Oh, wait. Did you hear that? That was the cold, hard slap of reality hitting me in my naive face.

Yes, there are many times when you are freelancing that you will get to take your dog for a longer walk than usual, and yes, you can probably find time to get your hair highlighted or get to that overly rescheduled dermatologist appointment. But wow. I had no idea that freelance life would be every bit as challenging as office life, and in many ways more so- long hours, sleepless nights wondering what’s next, and having to self motivate more than you ever have. It’s a real education in learning how to be alone and not go crazy, carving out your day in a smart way so you are not still sitting in your pajamas at 5 pm, and generally adjusting to being an army of one.  Regardless of the challenges and panic over whether you will ever take a vacation again, I am indeed, free at last. Or should I say, free at lance. There is nothing better than that feeling- of waking up in the am and knowing that it’s wholly up to you to make it a great and productive day.

I’m no expert but here’s my take as I sit on my sofa watching my dog eat dinner and wondering where on Earth the day went. (What day is it again?) Hope you find them helpful if you choose to fly solo:


Do your job. I know you do your job. But I mean something else here- when you go into a freelance situation and sit in someone else’s offices, do not get involved in politics. You are, for all intents and purposes, Switzerland.  You are there for one thing- to get the job done. And that’s all you need to do, really. Yea, you want to socialize and meet people and look nice and grab coffee with your temporary colleagues. But you also need to know your place, and your place, unless you are looking for full time work, is to come in, do a job, and leave. They may call you again of course, but you are a mercenary for hire, and nothing more. Go in, kill it, and smile. If you start engaging in inner office drama, you will fail and get pissed off. Steer clear.

Shower. You’d think this one is easy enough- you’ve been getting up for work for however many years and sleepily getting clean for years now. But now that you may be working from the comfort of your couch, don’t discount the need to wash. I admit there are days when I go to spin or yoga class at 8 am, and find myself still sitting in my gym clothes at 3 pm- don’ t do this. It really is important to approach freelance as a real job- and you gotta shower, put on a bra, and brush your teeth and hair. Yea, they’ll be some days when that’s not happening, but you have to make an effort. The other day, I was in the cavernous basement of my local Starbucks (free wifi yo) to get out of the confines of my apartment and was amazed what a sorry lot was down there, myself included. Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you need to look homeless, or go braless.  Get yourself together and you will have a much better day.

Get a land-line. Especially if you live in Brooklyn and have AT&T. You’re welcome.

Provide a service. Knock knock. It’s your career calling. One of the most important light bulbs to go off in my cobweb-addled head was the fact that now, as a freelancer, I’m very much a service provider.  As my own entity, when I recommend a photographer, a stylist, or a producer, my reputation is even more on the line, because I now have clients of my own, and it’s my job to bring the right people to the table, and if I don’t, that phone is gonna stop ringing and I’m going to have to stop going to Starbucks (which I should do anyway). I always took great pride in my work, but now that people are hiring me as a vendor, I’ve increased that pride and attention to detail by 700%. You are no longer hanging out at the office, waiting for an account person or creative to plop down on your Ikea sofa and tell you about a new concept. You’re drumming up work for yourself and your ace in the hole is your ability to give great service, so you need to start thinking about yourself in this way.

Become a generalist. Many of you don’t know me personally, but I’ve been getting my writing ya yas out on my very own blog and guest blogging on various sites. I have reignited my passion for writing, and it’s only because I’ve opened my mind to doing so. Agencies like to make you think that they are after polyglots, but I have never found that to be true in full time life. That’s the joy of being free at lance- you can’t imagine how many possibilities open up to collaborate on things you may have never thought of. I’m happily pursuing more writing gigs, thinking of taking some classes in fashion design, and often fantasize about getting my masters in Anthropology. I am not sure I would have thought of all of this while I worked somewhere full time, and guess what? I have less time now than ever to figure out how to do it all, but I know as I settle in to this evening with my dog nuzzled up against me, that there is indeed a whole world out there, and for people like me (and maybe even you), you simply don’t need to limit yourself to one thing. Why not try everything you want to? After all, you’re free now.

But I’ll tell you straight- freelancing is not easy. You have to network, recalibrate your scales, and get in the game, but stay out of the politics. It’s a liberating experience, and I am up for the challenge, and hope you are too. I’m thrilled that there are people that believe in what I can do as a producer, writer, or otherwise. I’m totally open to becoming the generalist I have always wanted to be, and I’m so bloody grateful to all the good peeps I’m working with right now producing great work, and hope it continues for a very long time. And if you ever want to have coffee or lunch or anything else if you are ever in the city, look me up. I’m one of the lucky ones that actually can take lunch during the day. (Just not today)… Maybe I’ll even shower for you. XO”

5 thoughts on “Five for freelance life: Some tips from the front lines

  1. Pingback: Weekly Wrap-up, April 16th-20th | Chris Crisman Photography

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