Going Freelance: Building and Branding Your Own Success | Justin Gignac | Skillshare

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Going Freelance: Building and Branding Your Own Success

teacher avatar Justin Gignac, Co-founder of Working Not Working

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.

      Let's Go!


    • 2.

      Your Mission: Why You're Here


    • 3.

      The Power of Side Projects


    • 4.

      Things All Great Portfolios Do


    • 5.

      Portfolios We Love


    • 6.

      Marketing Yourself


    • 7.

      Authentic Networking


    • 8.

      Real Talk: Business Fundamentals


    • 9.



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About This Class

Now more than ever, we live in a freelance world. Eager to take the plunge or level up your own freelance game? Join Working Not Working's Justin Gignac and Claire Wasserman for a 50-minute dive into the essentials of going it on your own. 

Each video lesson shares stories, examples, and tips to spark your thinking about ways to seek out the work you want  — and draw work back to you. You'll leave inspired to:

  • Develop a strong body of work with a clear mission and side projects
  • Craft a portfolio that catches a recruiter's eye
  • Market yourself on social media
  • Pitch traditional media
  • Seize opportunities for authentic networking
  • Set yourself up for financial success

This class is meant to be an overview, laying the foundation for going freelance and all the things to consider. The goal is to empower, enlighten, educate, and arm everyone with the itch to go freelance!


Working Not Working is a highly curated network of the world’s top creative talent. Serving thousands of companies including Apple, Wieden+Kennedy, The New York Times and Kickstarter, WNW provides a visual, real-time dashboard for companies to keep track of freelancers and full-timers alike.

Meet Your Teacher

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Justin Gignac

Co-founder of Working Not Working


Justin Gignac is the co-founder of Working Not Working, an invite-only, real-time network of the most respected, most awarded and hardest working creatives in the business. Companies like Apple, Google, Airbnb, Facebook, Droga5, Wieden+Kennedy, R/GA, The New York Times, Kickstarter and Etsy use Working Not Working to manage their very nomadic workforce. Prior to starting WNW, Justin was an award-winning art director and creative director at ad agencies around the country. Perhaps best known for helping create the original ElfYourself.com and unleashing the world's elf fetish, with over 800 million elves created. He also has gained notoriety for his various art projects, including NYC Garbage, Wants for Sale and Needs for Sale.

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1. Let's Go!: Hi, I'm Claire Wasserman. I'm the Director of Marketing at Working Not Working. I'm Justin Gignac. I'm one of the co-founders of Working Not Working. This class is about going freelance. Over the last three years, we've learned a lot from being around most talented creatives in the industry. We've also learned a lot from the people who hire them. So, we wanted to take those learnings, and hopefully, put together something that can help anyone who's thinking about going freelance, or already is freelance and wants to step up their game. Working Not Working is an invite-only curated network of the best creatives in the country. We started off as a freelance-only community, about three years ago, with a few hundred creatives here in New York. Now, we have expanded to freelance and full-time roles in advertising, design, animation, photography, tech, and development. We have about 5,000 creatives all over the world now. Now, more than ever, there's more freelancers and you got to work on making yourself a brand and putting yourself out there in a way that attracts jobs to you. If you're doing great work and you're doing your job right, you should be not having to look for jobs and they should be coming to you. That's the dream. Yeah that's the dream. So, your project in this class is to share your next step in your freelance career. Some examples of what that might be is if you're not freelance yet, figuring out your personal mission and manifesto, and maybe figuring out what you can do to improve your website or to build a portfolio site. Don't stress about how much time this is going to take. It could be as long or short as you need. Don't be so precious with your projects. Just keep making stuff and keep putting it out there. Use the other students in this class for feedback, and also use your own personal network to get as much criticism and feedback as you can. Sometimes, you just need to keep learning from your experiences, and just put things out into the world and see what happens. Sometimes, you'd be surprised at what takes off. 2. Your Mission: Why You're Here: Defining your personal mission is the litmus test that'll help guide you to doing work that truly empowers you and represents your values. I think sometimes people immediately jumped to, what am I interested in? What are my passions? Here's the thing, many of us are interested in many things. So, I haven't found that's can be the most useful way and figuring out the work you want to do. I think the better question to ask yourself when defining a personal mission is simply, what moves you? What feels meaningful to you? Then combining that with what your skills are? What your passions are? What your interests are? But again, the first question is just simply, what moves you? When people see your work, how do you want them to feel? What do you want them to think? Do you want it to move them? Do you want them to take an action? I think we all have personal heroes and people who inspire us, but stopping to ask yourself why? Really getting granular with these people's work, the way that they present themselves, and maybe even emailing them and telling them that you're a fan. You'd be surprised you might build a relationship from that. Do your research and come over yourself after somebody. It's not bad, especially as you're finding your own voice. Here's the thing about personal mission, is you're constantly refining it. It's not like I'm 28, this is my mission, I'm set for life, go. Check back with me in a year. Check back with me next week. It's going to be change and that's a good thing. That's why this has to be constant work. It doesn't matter how you express it. Even if you express it, as long as you've gotten clear with yourself. If your medium is writing. Write it down, but if you feel more comfortable drawing- The cool thing about defining your mission is when you're meeting other people and you're really listening, you might hear yourself reflected in them which is an impactful thing. It also means that they could be your next business partner or collaborator. Here is a great example of somebody who is clearly defined their personal mission. He even puts his philosophy on his website. We believe in the power of thinking small. In being real rather than perfect. In taking risks and breaking rules. In viewing everything as an experiment. We believe in art for humans, not "consumers". In talking with people, not at them. In celebrating simplicity. In loving what we do. I mean, obviously that last line is "that's why we're doing this". That power of saying no, and knowing if somebody, or if the project is right for you that can be scary, especially if you need to pay the bills. So, grounding yourself and knowing why you're saying no to something and having faith and confidence in that is crucial. So, with Ivan's example, he just makes it very clear to any prospective clients what he's all about. Even though expression "personal manifesto" or a "personal mission" is very heavy, not supposed to be that. You don't need to publicly declare it. It doesn't need to be long. You don't even have to use full sentences. It could be bullet points. It could be random. It could be weird. The point is, it's guiding you for what jobs you should say no to, since the whole point in being a freelancer is a life of empowerment and choosing what kind of work you want to do. Doesn't need to be so formal, no. This is helping me get strategic about my career. It's just knowing how to express yourself. 3. The Power of Side Projects: By doing a side project you can go and put out there the type of work you'd love to be doing and attract people to you. It's not like one of those things where you're just like, "Okay, now it's time to do a side project." It's like, "All right. What am I interested in? What am I inspired by?" I did a project inspired by Chatroulette, which was really popular five years ago, and I just saw that the whole thing which Chatroulette was that people were getting naked on it, which isn't the classiest thing. But then I thought, "Oh, if people are going to get naked on Chatroulette, maybe I should use them as nude models to draw." So, then I just went and screen-grabbed a bunch of naked people on chat roulette and did drawings on them. You need to find some inspiration first in something that you're either you can look at in a different way or be inspired by, or you're like. "Oh, wouldn't it be funny if", so I think you just kinda need to see what moves you and allow yourself to be open to that. If you see something that is ridiculous or funny or current, yeah, absolutely tap into pop culture. It's what people are obsessed with. It's what people are sharing online. So, if you have a favorite TV show, you can make something about that and put it out there. People are already out there talking about these things, and if you can come up with a really fun insight about this in your own point of view on it and insert it into the conversation, then it has some maybe a little bit more likelihood to be able to be picked up and be passed around. I think the biggest thing when you're doing a side project is do something that you're passionate about, and the likelihood that other people who are passionate about it too is a lot higher. Also, that's the difference between a hobby and a side project. So, hobby, you're doing maybe for yourself, and the side project, you said, it's like a gift to the internet. So, you also want to create things that you know or you hope that has value for other people. So pop-culture is that medium ground. This guy, a member of the site illustrator Daniel Nyari. He is obsessed with soccer, and I know he's obsessed with soccer because all of his illustrations are about soccer,or I think he's from Europe, so football. Now he's getting hired by ESPN and by Nike and by all of these brands to do illustrations about soccer. So, he's soccer-obsessed. He started putting work out there that was solely focused on soccer, and he was doing it because he loved the teams and the players and all that. Now he's getting tons of work all focused on soccer. That's a perfect example of he just did something because he was really passionate about it, and now he's getting to work on it and get paid to do it. There's so many tools out there to be able to make a quick simple website whether it's Tumblr, or WordPress, or Squarespace or whatever, and you can just put it out there. Lauren Hom was a student at SVA. She started a project called Daily Dishonesty. So, she would draw and letter, beautifully letter phrases, little lies you tell yourself every day. So it's like, "I'm never drinking tequila again," "It's not you it's me." Every single line, we're like, "Oh, you too?" It's totally true. What I love about her project is everybody can feel connected to it. So, I mean, you see yourself in it, and it endears it to you. Yeah, and the great thing about her which she actually went to school for advertising, and so she was an advertising art director, got a job at a big New York ad agency, and she was doing this project on the side and she really loved lettering. About six or eight months into her full-time job, she got so much recognition for this project that she quit her full-time job and just focused on being a letterer. So, she pursued that project. She ended up getting a book deal for Daily Dishonesty as a coffee table book, and now she's a full-time professional letterer. We hear from our members themselves that they're getting so much work just from their Instagram feeds. So, David Schwen is an amazing designer and animator in Minneapolis. He does these really beautifully charming short little animations on Instagram, and he started getting project work from Target and from Twitter and is now getting hired, just because people discovered them on Instagram. People are building these huge social followings and getting work, specifically from people who discovered them on there. Lots of times, we find talent just through Instagram or Tumblr or Twitter or just people that are doing interesting things and you come across them you're like, "Oh wow, I want to collaborate with them," or "I want to hire them." I think that's happening more and more now, especially with Instagram and Pinterest. A lot of times you take the jobs because you need a job, and you're not doing the work in your day job that inspires you, you take that time on the nights and the weekends and you make that happen and start doing the work that you want to be known for and you want to be hired for, and put it out there and share it and hopefully it'll start picking up a little bit of steam and people come to know you for doing that stuff, and will ask you to do more of that. Then also looking at the progression of the portfolio, all of a sudden, there isn't a difference between the work that you're doing for yourself and the work that you do for your clients. It should look the same. I mean, that's the goal. I think that's part of the journey of building your own brand and I know we talk about this. A lot. Either before or after this segment. But the part of building your brand is just doing the work that you're really passionate about in discovering your style, and discovering your voice, and then it starts to snowball and be able to do more work like that and that becomes what you're known for. So, Tim is an amazing New York-based designer, illustrator. He's done some side projects that have gotten him some notoriety. One project was 40 Days of Dating with him and his good friend Jessica Walsh. They were trying to change their terrible dating habits. It was a social experiment. Social experiment, yeah. So, they decided the saying is it takes 40 days to break a bad habit, so they decided to date for 40 days. Many people have heard about this project fortydaysofdating.com. It's amazing blog. They documented every single date they went on and had survey questions that they answered about what did you learn from this, what you learn about yourself, where did you learn about the other one, and then they had really close friends that were designers and letterers and illustrators do illustration for each day. Getting all these other designers involved meant that they were going to share the project. So, already built into the idea and the foundation of the project was a way to get the word out. It blew up bigger than they ever expected to end up doing an amazing coffee table book 40 Days of Dating book, and they interviewed different couples but now they are taking on more social experiments. So, they're about to release in the fall a new project where they are shooting more original content and do more experiments with themselves and trying to put themselves out of their comfort zones. That's something I don't think either one of them you're expected them to do two years ago, three years ago before they started that project. I think it's good to know not all of them are going to be a success and not all of them are going to be the thing that changes your career, but you're going to learn something from all of them, whether they're huge successes or not, and then you just keep going. There's no wrong move with a side project or following your passions. Do the stuff that brings you joy and then learn from it. Everything's a learning experience and then you keep iterating on that. We're talking about mission statements, and we're talking about personal projects and side projects, and I think they're suddenly, even me talking about it like, "Oh this is pressure now. This is pressure. I've got to come up with my mission statement right now, and I've got to come up with this project." Don't sweat it so much. Put together a three-word mission statement even if it's three words that you think describe you or describe the work that you're excited about, the work that you see in others. That's actually a really helpful way to do it. Go and see what out there you're drawn to. Maybe go and look at, if you love Jeff Koons' work, or if you love Stefan Sagmeister's stuff, go and look at that and say, "If I had to describe their work in three words, what would it be, what would be their mission?" Then maybe that will help you form your own mission. Making excuses takes the same amount of time as making progress. So, even if you're like, "Oh I don't know what it is or what's perfect or not," just start doing, start sketching, start writing down a list of what are things I'm passionate about then start making it. It's also good to do something today, and they put it online and share it with others. So, even if it's not the exact thing you think you're going to do whatever, makes something right now and share it whether it's on Facebook, or Instagram, or Twitter. Put it out into the world, and just see what happens. I think that's the best thing just to get started and just start making stuff 4. Things All Great Portfolios Do: So if you want anyone to take your work seriously, you need to take yourself seriously, and that means presenting yourself in a clear way, in a way that a business would, especially if you want to go freelance, you are a business. Give context to your projects. Don't just say that you did something, say what your role was, maybe who you worked with, obviously who you worked for. From our experience with working with the managers, these are the talent directors at these major agencies and brands, they tell us that they've largely spent a few minutes even on each portfolio they see, which means that making the first impression is hugely important. Yeah and you don't have to go and reinvent the wheel, you don't have to program your site from scratch. You simply use Squarespace, they have amazing templates that you don't really need to know, even coding to learn and build and you just put your work up there, and yeah, managers don't typically when they're looking at so many portfolios all day long to hire people, they don't spend a lot of time on each one and so that's why it's really important that your main page of your site, really gets across what you do. Show stuff that people can actually see and don't have to squint and figure it out because it's just more impressive when something is big and shot nicely, that carry you put into that presentation goes a long way for the people looking at it. If you're creating any sort of visual work or any sort of products, document them. So set them up, get a good camera, and actually iPhones now and most phones now actually have pretty good cameras. So set it up with some lights on it and shoot it and then present it as large as you can on your portfolio site and showing behind the scenes photos and the process and how it was made and how it was done, all of that stuff adds context that helps tell the story of why you did it and how you did it. Yeah. Another cool thing about what a portfolio the opportunity that it gives you is, it gives you context to your work. So you're not just saying, ''Here's what I did, hope you like. '' It's, "Here's the process behind it or here was my role in it." So even if they're spending a few seconds on it, it's like you can make the impression that you want to make. Yeah. I think it's important to position your portfolio as the work you want to do. A lot of people feel the need to show everything that they've ever done, so whether it was a big project all the way down to like a flyer for their local barbecue and it's like you don't need to show any everything you've ever done, you don't need to prove all of it. One of the most important things when making your portfolio is editing. Only showing your best work, showing the work that you want to represent yourself with and the type of work you want to do. A teacher once told me, ''You're only as good as your worst piece of work in your portfolio.'' So, make sure you're only showing your best work, showing the stuff that you're proud of and you don't have to show everything you've ever done. So it's better to have 10 great pieces in your portfolio than 15 or 20 and the other ones are kind of just bringing up the rear. Perhaps if they were spending five seconds in your portfolio, what do you want them to see. Yes, because that's the thing if someone goes and clicks on one random Project, you better make sure that one represents you just as well as the first one. I think sometimes when I've gone to portfolios, I'll go and clicks on something in the middle. Just to test that theory and be like, all right, I know you're leading with this one but I want to see what you got going on down here, so yeah it's really important to edit. Make sure you have contact info on there. So many people surprisingly forget to put that, if you are out there and on the internet and you want to get hired, make sure there's a way for people to contact you. Definitely. Also typos, I don't mean to get some basic about it, but that's you know, it's surprising not surprising. A lot of people seem like they're not copy editing. Ask a friend to do it, ask somebody else. Yeah, you're too close to yourself. Yeah. It always throws people off and it makes it seem like you don't have attention to detail. My dad gave me a great piece of advice and he said, ''How you do anything is how you do everything,'' So, when I see a portfolio and someone doesn't pay attention to the typos, if they're not paying attention to those details on their own portfolio site, are they going to pay attention to other details when we hire them. Yeah. A lot of times people would put text links, and not show the actual work, and you have to go and click on every single link to be able to see it, don't do that. Show the work front and center, big thumbnails. If I go and get to a portfolio and it says loading and there's a bar, I just close it and go to the next one. So it's really important that your site opens up to your homepage right away, like don't even bother with a splash page, just have it go straight to your main page. So one of our managers is the senior recruiter at RGA, Christina Mazurowski and we did an interview with her for our blog asking her what does she look for in the portfolios that she reviews. She said, ''The amount of time I spend on a portfolio is actually dependent on my gut reaction to it. I usually have a feeling within the first five seconds of looking at a portfolio. Even if my gut reaction is bad, I will spend an additional three to five minutes with it, just to double-check. I spend more time with those I like. If I find I'm spending too much time on a portfolio because I can't figure it out, that is usually a red flag. If a creative candidate can't present in a cohesive and clear manner, it usually won't be a fit for us.''. People are expecting you to be able to communicate an idea, a thought, a brand, any of that, so to be able to clearly communicate that in your website is really important. If you can't talk about the work that you do, it's going to be hard for you to connect with other people. My friend John Graham, one of my favorite part of his website isn't even his work, it's this description of the work, because it's just like it's such, and he's copywriter so it's really clever writing, really witty and that's like I just had a great time going through and just reading that. That's another reason why people will hire you. They'll hire because of your work, but they'll also hire you because of the things that you're into and the things you have knowledge about. 5. Portfolios We Love: So, we're just going to go through some examples of portfolio sites we think do a really good job of representing who these people are and the type of work they want to do. So, the first is Jen Mussari, who is a working networking member, she's a letter and designer and she is a total badass. You get to our site here, you obviously see the type of work that she does. She has really huge screen grabs and thumbnails of the work she does. So, lettering on motorcycles, you can see that without even having to click into the project. Then, when you scroll through, you just really get a sense of who she is and the type of work she does. So, all hand-on lettering, a lot of it beautiful, others like aggressive but all of it has a real sense of a point of view and style. Now obviously, this works for her because she's an illustrator and a designer. So, knowing your medium and what platform and the way you display it, making sure that those go together. I couldn't have a portfolio like this but I'm glad that she does and she recognized that. Imagine if she had text links, that would be tragic. Well, it'd do her such a disservice because I can go in and I come to your site and I'm like, "Oh my god, I want to work with her." That's what you want. You want someone to come to your portfolio site and say, "This person is amazing, I want to hire them." So, whatever you can do to put your work out there front and center is only going to benefit you. Also we have Lotta Nieminen, and she's an amazing illustrator and designer. She does a really great job on her site. One, it's beautifully designed, and still has big images but in a different way than Jen's, hers is all images. Lotta has, the titles of her projects and a little brief description. So, she has paint box branding for a New York-based manicure studio so you get a sense of what she had to do with this project just by looking at the thumbnails, and then you can click in to see them more. She also picked, again going back to making sure that the way you display your work reflects the work that you're doing. She picked a style of presentation that looks like her work. It's clean, it's simple, refined, modern, elegant. Yeah. Really consistent color palette. Like everything when you're scrolling through here, all feels like it goes together, which is great and it's just really aesthetically pleasing. Then you're like, "All right, this is all of her design stuff, let me check out her illustration." You click on that and it's a really cool site, it shows you all of that and then you can click there. Her illustration still feels of her brand but then it's all very different from her design work, which was more branding based, and this is all really fun and cool illustrations of people in environments. I think if you do multiple things, which so many of our members do, I guess what we call it the slash, the multi-hyphenate person, which Lotta is. Figuring out a way to express that so it's not overwhelming or confusing. So, compartmentalizing each of these roles that you play. So, she's illustration, graphic design. So, it's not just like one long line. We do sometimes see people get carried away with that. Some people try to claim that they're a jack of all trades but almost in an obnoxious way. Yes, I'm a designer and illustrator, sure. But then there are people like yeah, I'm a photographer and they put up 20 iPhone photos. Well, maybe you're not actually a photographer and people aren't going to come to you for photography, so don't try to claim to be everything. Just put forward your best work and it goes back to the editing. I think sometimes people just get carried away like, "Well, yeah, I can also write and I can do this and I can do that and that." Yeah, maybe you can but maybe pick your three best things. Or just put in its place. So say, "Here's the work that I'm known for but I have a passion for photography, here's a link to my Instagram." Or your writing is on a blog, absolutely have a link to it and mention it. I mean that's crucial. It's just knowing what the focus should be of your website. That's a good point. Yeah. Well played. So, what's awesome about her website is she's a producer. So, this is a role that we represent on working out working, but obviously she is up against a different set of challenges that a visual designer doesn't necessarily have when they're putting together their site. Her personal logo or whatever that flashing gold tooth is, is amazing. The way it just smiles that it makes me smile. Yeah, and also that's a huge part of being a producer is the energy and the attitude and the personality that you bring to your job. You're going to make sure it happens. We get it from this. She also, her about me, there's something really fun in here. So, she has a really nicely written about me bio. But then at the bottom here, has this photo of this guy is kind of, looks like from the 70s or 80s and it says, "Below is a photo of my dad took at a sailboat race in the 80s. This guy has the expression that generally sums up how I feel about my job." Don't you want to hire her now? I want to hire her. So, personally speaking, I think the websites that we love, there's something unexpected to them also. Just because imagining these managers, they're going through hundreds and thousands of portfolios, like making them laugh or making them pay attention is very important. Or rewarding people for paying attention. So, if someone's digging deep on your site and you put a little surprise link or GIF or something that delights people, that goes a long way and it's thoughtful. I think that's one thing you need to put in your portfolio together is to be thoughtful about the person who's going to be looking at it. Pawel Nolbert, his site is actually done on Semplice devices platform. Again, really big images and for him, his work is really bright and bold and colorful and he shows that often, and you get that immediately. So, really clear about what he does. Then, Rodney White is an art director and designer and an artist on the side. He's a guy who worked in advertising but then he also does paintings on the side, and his paintings have shown up basically in TV shows everywhere, TV shows and movies. He's done collaborations. He's an advertising art director where he does collaborations with brands. He's done it with Converse and Bloomingdale's and he's done live painting on sneakers on Sperry Top-Siders and on Converse shoes, and Havaianas. Then he also, his stuff is shown up in these background images in all these different TV shows and movies, which is really fun. But, it's a side project that he did doing these paintings and he ended up making a big career out of it on the side during the nights and weekends. We also love on his About page, up top he says, "I'm an ACD art director, designer, artist, husband, father. The first time I was ever on a plane, I jumped out." I want to know more. I think that's also great is, yes, you work out there, expressing who you are but leaving a little bit of room for imagination because the goal of this is to have somebody call you and say, "Tell me, tell me about yourself." Tell me more about that. Yeah. All right. So, if you don't have a portfolio site yet, hop on Squarespace and start one. You can make a really simple cover page, just saying who you are and get it going. If you already do have a portfolio site, go through and make sure you're following some of these tips that we gave you on making it really simple to navigate, making sure there's no typos. If you have to send it to some of your friends and get their feedback on it, and make sure they can understand everything that's going on and make sure they don't spot any errors. Yeah, I think sharing it is the biggest thing you can do because you've worked really hard but you're also really close to yourself. Ask specific questions when you're soliciting feedback. So, not just, do you like my portfolio? But specifically, did you find typos? Was it clear? Was it simple to use? Does my about page express who I am? So, post your portfolio out there, get some feedback and give your fellow classmates some feedback, and help each other make your portfolios as great as they can be. 6. Marketing Yourself: Here's the good news; as you've done the body of work, you've made this beautiful portfolio site, but nobody sees it. So, you need to make sure that people are coming to your site and that you're getting the word out there otherwise all of that work was for nothing. So you got market yourself. You can market yourself. Yeah, I think some people get maybe don't want to seem like they're over eager or they're too self-promotional and I think people tend to want to come across humble, and so you feel a little dirty or little weird promoting yourself, but it's a central part of being a creative, and being a visual communicator and having a career in this era. So, for us, what we've realized that working out working as a lot of times people who are so good at marketing other people's products aren't very good at marketing themselves so that's where this comes in and it's really important to pay attention to. Everything you do is personal branding, and in every way you represent yourself online, from your portfolio site to your social media presence, all of that is your own brand, and some people might like to say like "Oh, no, I'm not brand," but you're putting yourself out there and you're trying to get hired, so yes you are a brand, and you're brand in how you communicate, you're brand in how you dress your style. All of that is your brand so don't be afraid of it, you definitely own it. A lot of times, it's important to have a brand consistency online. So, if you can get it get your at your first and last name, get for Instagram, and Twitter, in your URL gate, your name.com. Try to own that real estate because as the internet keeps growing and growing that real estate is going to become even more scarce, so if you can get your name across all social media outlets, try to lock that down. Well, I was going to say if your name is taken, but chances are no one has your full name, maybe they do. You can pick, it goes back to branding. Yeah. Like, let's say it's clear New York like my handle on Twitter. That could also be my personal website that can be my Instagram, and so that's where that consistency. So, when somebody discovers me in one medium, then they find me in another they're reminded of. Like Pawel, he's at @HelloColor, or Ricardo Gonzalez is @itsaliving, and that's from Instagram, and Twitter, and their own websites. So it's like taking that brand even if it's not your name and just have it be consistent so people know how to find you. If you're a freelancer, having personal branding, and paying attention, and putting the effort into your personal brands is more important because, you need to hustle and you need to hustle to get work. So, you need to be doing everything you can to be proactively going after work and then also drawing work to you. So, hopefully, the work that you're putting out there into the world whether it's whatever channels you want to put it out if it's Pinterest or Instagram is drawing clients to you but you need to be kind of working in tandem of proactive and reactive. Yeah, and also no one else is representing you and there's no team there's no other company to hide behind. So, you really have to represent yourself and it's really competitive. So, and if somebody is making a gut instinct decision based on five seconds of seeing your stuff. Or one tweak. Yeah, one tweak, it means that everything you do is a statement of your values. Again, no pressure, just I guess with our lesson is we just want to give you an awareness. Everything's an add for yourself. So, whatever you're doing online is representing yourself and there's also a potential opportunity to attract new clients, so just be smart about that. So, one of our members we interviewed for our blog. Not only did a personal brand, but he did a re-brand. So, he's taking this very seriously, and I think he did a re-brand because he was looking to do a shift in his life and the kind of work he wanted to do, needed to express himself in a little bit of a different way. So, we found out from him what were the biggest lessons that he learned from going through this process of a personal re-brand. "I believe it's about acknowledging your own interests, strengths, and ambitions, and ensuring they're reflected in your work. It's probably made me a lot more calculated and focused on the kind of work I make can share, which is effectively the work which I'd like to be commissioned to do." When you're done or even hit pause in this class right now, and going- Just stop. -just stop right here, and go and check out your Twitter and make sure your bio is up to date and your picture represents you well. Make sure your LinkedIn is up to date, make sure your Instagram is up to date, make sure all of your social presence, make sure your Facebook doesn't have really embarrassing drunk photos of you, unless you're the embarrassing drunk photo brand and then that's totally cool. But just make sure everything's consistent and represents you in a really authentic way and if you don't have your name, your name on Twitter if you can get it, it's worth going and checking in all those of areas if you can get your own name. Maybe sending it to your friend and saying, "If you didn't know me, what would you think about me?" Oh, yeah. That's a good question to ask. Just like gut instinct whatever they say back and might be harsh and pay attention to that. If you're a writer, you should be on Twitter. If you're a designer and illustrator and art director, you should be on Instagram. Those are the channels where people are discovering other people with similar skills. So, if you're not on there, you're missing out a lot of opportunities. But also, if you have consistency with the frequency in which that you post work, people look forward to looking at your stuff. You become sort of destination and also you're obviously increasing the chances that you're going to be shared with somebody else, so just make it easier for people to find you. Yeah, and I think people can get overwhelmed with like, "Oh my God, I have to tweet every day, and I have to Instagram every day, and I have to do it." You don't do it, do it at a rate that you feel comfortable and it's not completely inconveniencing your life, but it's good like occasionally stay up on it just to make sure that you still have a presence. We have a few members who have really challenge themselves to do something creative every single day and post it. So, Brock Davis is an advertising art director designer, who started make something cool every day and he did it for an entire year. Chris Piascik is an illustrator, also did that and gave himself that challenge and Claire interviewed him for our blog free range, and he told us, "Doing something every day definitely pays off! My daily drawing series literally changed my life. When I started, I was a staff designer to small studio. A year into my dailies, I started getting commissioned client work based on my drawings. A couple years later, I was a fully independent illustrator. I've been working for myself doing exclusively illustration since 2010. I never would have imagined that would be possible.". I love it because this is why we do what we do. Yeah, and that's the thing like he had a full-time job and not doing illustration and then he forced himself to do it every day and that drew people to him, and he put the work out there that he wanted to do, and then people came and said, "Hey, let me pay you money to do that," and that's really exciting. It's almost like as if it was a school project. So, it's like he's an adult working a job, but he kind of put himself back into the school mindset, and it was homework and that's good. I mean it was homework they're really paid off! Yeah. For me, I was doing a lot of personal projects, I use my own social networks as a litmus test, to see if an idea is worth pursuing more than that initial phase of trying it out. So, I would do a project and I would send it to my friends on Facebook and posted on Twitter and if they spread it around, then I was like, "Oh, that's a really good indicator that I'm onto something." But then if I put something out there and nobody really gave a shit, then I was like, "All right cool, I learned from it, this was fun to do at this time and I'm not going to pursue the project." So, if your people in your network who are supposed to be your biggest fans and supporters, don't share an idea, then it's probably not going to take off with many other folks either. So, it's a really great way to find out if an idea is worth pursuing or not. There's people out there who've built a really strong following by giving the internet gifts and what I mean by that is Jessica Hische is really good at this. She did an entire flowchart of should I work for free? She designed it and then she put it out on shouldiworkforfree.com, and then she made it letter press print. It really helped a lot of people. So, they could go through the process would be like, "All right, is this a job I should be doing for free or not," and it was something that people needed to know and something people really appreciated and latched onto. So, this is from Ricardo Gonzalez, who is a member. He's done a beautiful job with his personal brand, even has a moniker which is itsaliving, which expresses his mission, which is make what you love your job, which is what we're talking about. Yeah. So, I asked him how he grew his Instagram following which is now well over 80,000 people and he gave me a couple of do's and don'ts. Starting with the do's. DO share, DO be nice, DO be humble, DO be authentic, DO what you love, even though it's not as "cool", just keep doing it, DO keep it simple, DON'T follow the trend, DON'T do it for the money, DON'T do it for the fame, DON'T network, make friends instead, DON'T think that recognition is all, DON'T think that copying is flattery, learn how to combine styles instead, DON'T lose your cool. Well, I think there's also a friend of mine Scott Haze, said email is forever and the same holds true for Twitter and anywhere else online. So, don't get into Twitter horses if people, don't like post stuff that you think you may regret at some point. It's almost like think twice about anything you post to make sure you're putting stuff out there that represents you right and isn't going to come back to haunt you. I don't think you need to try to like get to a 100,000 followers on every single medium. Just do what makes the most sense. If you're a photographer, obviously, you're on Instagram, you don't really need to worry about Twitter in building your audience there. So, find the channels where you can express yourself most accurately. 7. Authentic Networking: Well, what does the word networking- how does it even make you feel when somebody says the word? Well, networking feels like it's full of pressure. You have to put a huge effort into networking and making connections and it feels like a job in itself and I don't think it needs to be a job. I think it's just about putting yourself out there but then also doing what you can to help connect other people. My dad gave me a really good piece of advice. He said, "Help enough other people get what they want and you'll always get what you want." That's something we've been trying to do with working networking. I think networking is more proactive. You're not hustling because I need something right now from somebody, it's just about starting to build some relationships, putting yourself out there and then hopefully when the time comes, when you may actually need some help or some advice or a hook up for a job or a introduction, those people will be there and part of your network and part of your community because you've already done the legwork weeks or months or years ago. Also, I mean, you want to demonstrate the behavior that you want to see reflected as well. So, when you meet somebody, following up, that's also really nice when you meet somebody and they follow up with you. If you connect other people and they connect you. So, you want to do things that you want to see in others. I guess it's hard, you don't want to meet someone and then instantly be asking them for something. That's where I think a lot of people feel like, "Oh, I'm networking, I'm trying to freelance, I'm trying to get jobs." So meeting someone and having them get the vibe that you're just, 'What can I get out of you," it's not a way to build a relationship with someone. But if you're approachable, and you're likable, and you're like, "Oh, how can I help you? What do you need help with?" and you can go and start building a relationship that way, it's a lot better doing that than trying to take. So, I think approaching networking with the mentality that you're, "What can I do to help others?" is going to end up working a lot better for you in the long run. Adam Grant, who's a professor at Wharton, he wrote a book that was really influential for me. It's called "Give and Take" and he calls this, "The five-minute favor." So coming into networking with the mentality of, how can I help others, but without overly extending yourself because of course you need to stay focused on your work. So, that five-minute favor is thinking, "Who can I connect this person with, that can actually jump in and help support them in a deeper level," Also, I have been talking to a lot of members and many of them are seemingly surprised when things fall in their lap. But when I asked them how they go about meeting people, they do talk about connecting others. So it's funny, I don't know if they should be so surprised that things fall in their lap because in fact, they actually set it up that way for themselves. Yeah, doing the legwork. Yeah, so if you connect enough of other people it's, I guess creating a boomerang network where things do come back to you, and quickly. Well, I think also being honest about what you need help with too really helps. I was just talking to a photographer a couple of weeks ago and I was, "Oh, seems like you're always doing portraiture work," I'm like, "Have you ever done anything with sets?" He's like, "Well, usually we don't have the budget for sets." And he's sitting right next to a guy who does 3D modeling and I'm like, "Well, have you guys ever considered working together?" And they're like, "Oh no we hadn't." He's like, "Oh, I would love to help you with that." So, even just putting out there the things that you may be looking for, people are more inclined to help you out when you put those requests out. If they're like, "Oh, yeah, I can totally help you with that," and it's just spreading the goodwill. Rethinking the way you approach networking is definitely trial and error. One major piece of learning in our own networking is just don't promise connections and interests, people get busy. You also want to ask permission when you make that intro or rather before you make that intro. You want to go to the other person and tell them why you want to make the connection. Are they okay with that. If they're okay with it. Then you can make the connection. You want to have a really clear subject line. You're going to give context to why you're introducing, don't assume that people are just going to figure it out, and respecting people's time and also respecting your own time because this could become really labor-intensive as you're doing the back and forth and finding yourself playing personal secretary to people. Yeah, I think it's really important to complement other people's work, and people love feeling appreciated or, they had an effect on you with the work that they do. So, if anybody ever tells me that they like something I did, I'm supremely flattered. So, don't assume someone hears it all the time or even if you think they do, it's always just to send them a nice note whether it's a tweet or an email just saying, "Hey, I really love what you did here or there or in general." That goes a really long way. Yeah, and so that the flattery doesn't feel forced, always bring it back to how it affected you. I mean, that just automatically makes it personal, and the impact that their work or their speech had on you. They may be not expecting it at all or it might come at a moment where they really need it. Maybe where they're having some creative self-doubt and you go and send them a note saying how much you loved their work and how much it inspired them. That might have a really profound effect on them. So, it's worth putting yourself out there and taking that chance. They're still human and when you talk about creative self-doubt, that still happens. So, I think if you're up and coming or a student, to not be intimidated and to not think that your compliments of somebody else is going to fall on deaf ears. Yeah. I've had young creatives and young students email me and say something really nice and I took notice of their work and I've wanted to help them out, or I've gone and sent the note to somebody and they've helped me out in a big way and it's changed my career just because I was willing to take the risk of, maybe they won't respond and don't expect a response if you're going to reach out to somebody. But there's also a chance that it could come back to you and really help you out. So, if you're pitching the media, you really want to save this for when you're doing a launch or an announcement or an update of some sort. Maybe pitching your personal brands, more like you made an app and you want them to cover it. Here's the thing, it should never sound like, "I want you to cover it," it should always be, how this can help them create content of value. What is it that they're looking for content, so yeah. Managers want to hire you, everybody's rooting for you. But the way that you have to present it should be much more about, "I've seen that you've covered this, here's what I'm doing. Might that be of interest to you? Here are potential angles that you could take. Would you like more information?" A big piece of that is just doing your research, coming informed and I know that that takes time and time that you feel you don't have but it'll go a long way. Even just their one article on you could change everything. Yeah and I've totally had that happen. One article in time out of New York end up getting me press that just lived on for ten years. It starts a spider web effect. So, it's worth putting the effort in. You might email or write 20 different reporters in 20 different publications and maybe one of them will pick it up but that one could actually really make a difference for you, so yeah. 8. Real Talk: Business Fundamentals: We talked a lot about branding and marketing, but there's also some business fundamentals that we should cover too. So, even if you get a job, day one of freelancing, sometimes companies can take 60 days, 90 days, 120 days to pay. So, you want to have some money in the bank if at all possible just to cover that gap. So, I always suggest people have about three months of rent and bills tucked away, if they can, and really give yourself a little bit of a cushion. Because there are going to be those times where work isn't coming in, and you're waiting for checks, and you want to make sure you're not going hungry. I was waiting on a job for three months hadn't gotten paid. I had rent coming up, and then I email them and they are like, "Oh, actually we needed a purchase order from you." I'm like, "How come nobody has brought this up for three months?" Sometimes that stuff just happens. But it's really important to just stay on top of people. Stay on top of the person who hired you, whether it's the recruiter or the creative director. Then, also find out who your point person is in the billing department. It's okay to be off their ass, because you want to get paid and you need to make sure you get paid. Sometimes when you're being a pain in the ass about the stuff, they're going to want to make sure you get paid too just to leave them alone. So, be as squeaky wheel, and do whatever you can. It's typical if somebody pays you, it's been 30 days and they haven't paid you yet that's an expected amount of time. But once it gets past 45 days, then you can start being a little bit more persistent. It's good to set goals of how much you think you need to make over the course of a year to live. Then, set another goal of how much you'd like to make. How much you like to make so you can maybe go on a vacation, or so you can get a new wardrobe, whatever that is, and figure out how many jobs you need to take in order to make that happen. There's a lot of tools out there, all focused around the freelance lifestyle to help you keep track of your hours, invoicing payments, all that stuff. So, you can do some really simple research and find some of those tools. You might find that you make a budget and it's going to have to change depending on how much you are or not working. So, there might be times where it gets a little leaner, and you have to adjust your budget accordingly, or you're just rolling into a bunch of gigs, and you can be will adapt and maybe take that as a time to start sucking away money for when those jobs aren't coming in. Plan for the rainy days, because those are going to come and I think one of the hardest times when you are freelancing is those times in between gigs and you're like man, I really need to work, and it's not coming in. So, do whatever you can to set yourself up for those moments. Yeah. There is some patterns that happen and freelance, and they might change between advertising, and photography, and illustrators, and all that. But it can become very cyclical. I know in the summer months, a lot of people are on vacation and they're just not as busy, but then as soon as August or September hit, everybody is looking to hire you because they're planning for super bowl spots, or the holidays. So there is just inherent down-times, and you have to figure out what that is within your own industry. That's why it's important to meet people, make friends that are doing something similar, and gain whatever insight you can't from them, from people who've already been doing it. I think as a freelancer, it's really important to hire people that are better at doing things that maybe you're not the best at. Like an accountant. I'm not going to pretend I am good at math or tax law. So, I hired an accountant to help me set up my own personal S-corp. Some accounts will recommend an LLC. Some will recommend a corp. It all depends on your situation, how much you're working, how many jobs are coming in, and also what you plan on doing with yourself as a business entity. So, it's important to talk to an accountant and also talk to a lawyer to help give you advice on that stuff. It does get a little bit more complicated as a freelancer, because a lot of times you're going to be invoicing people and they're not going to be taking taxes out. So, you're going to have to set aside a savings account specifically for taxes you're going to end up having to pay. Sometimes your accountant will suggest you pay them quarterly, so you won't have to pay as much at the end of the year. But it's really important to work with someone who can let you know that stuff. Also as a creative, there's a lot of stuff you can write off as a freelancer, whether it's cultural research. So it could be your books, and magazines, and Internet, and video games, and movies you go to. Or it could be your your rent, if you have a home office. So, there's a lot of particulars depending on your situation of what you can and can't write off. So, that why it's really helpful to hire an accountant. It's hard because I think some people are lured by the day rates of freelance, or the like oh, I can do whatever I want with freelance. But it's a lot of work, and you're now settling your own company. You have to keep track of some stuff that you're probably not very good at like running a business. You're basically running a business. Accounting, I'm not good at that, the legal aspects of it, I'm not good at that, and so I don't think you realize how much work goes in, or I don't think people realize how much work goes into being an independent and being independent creative. So, it's a lot more to think about than just like, I think people see all of the perks of it. But there's also a lot of hard work that comes with it too. 9. Closing: So, we want you to share everything that you've learned. Some examples of what that might be is if you're not freelance yet, figuring out your personal mission and manifesto, and maybe figuring out what you can do to improve your website or to build a portfolio site. I think it helps to have almost a freelance transitional period. So, you're doing your full time work and you're getting some side projects going on at night and on the weekends, and when those projects start to get enough momentum where you're like, "Oh, this actually could be a full time thing." Then, you can go and take that jump. I think you need to get the ball rolling a little bit because you might not have the network or the groundwork laid to be able to find those gigs right away. So, it helps to be able to start doing that when you don't have the risk of like, "Oh, I need this job to pay the bills." Yes. It removes the pressure. It removes the pressure or you've been working on your personal projects for so long and they're getting all this attention and then people are requesting that work from you, then you have to make sure you can take that jump and the work is going to be there. It takes a lot of work and it takes a lot of hustle and courage. You just don't run and assume that like, "All right, I'm going to go freelance, now it's going to be great." It's like, no, you have to set yourself up for success. Which is what this class is about. Yes. So, thank you for watching this. The setting yourself up for success from working or working class.