Freelance Business Advice

Managing the Time

 

Last fall, I wrote a blog post about Handling It All and some tips that help me keep everything together. After that post, many of you have asked more in depth about how I structure my work days. I kind of struggled on how to approach this, because as many of you freelancers know, absolutely every day is different. Self-discipline and flexibility are the two biggest pillars in how I manage my time, while also learning to protect that precious time. And lets be real - managing our time better is something we can all be better at.

I try to balance as much personal time as I can with the full work days. I am slowly becoming a morning person and I try to clock out around 6 pm and leave work alone for the night (when I work, I am focused and when I'm done for the day it's all about my personal life). If I have weekends off - well those are entirely sacred. I also give myself a break. I am lucky enough to do what I love every single day, but that also means I could always be working. Sometimes I feel like I should be working all the time, which is something I am learning to let go of more and more. 

The most valuable thing we have is time. So no matter how you work your schedule, make sure the following things fit in:

Time with those you love.

Time spent doing what you love.

Time for yourself.

And time to enjoy it all. Otherwise, what is this hustle for? 

Below is an example of what a busy day looks like for me. On this particular day, we didn't have a photo shoot, but it was filled with many of the other things that go into our business. Hopefully it is a helpful example of how we structure our time. 

No matter how crazy or quiet your schedule may seem, keep focus and remind yourself why you do what you do. Try not to be consumed by the busy work - It is the quality, not the quantity of time that matters. 


9:00 a.m. - The meetings begin for the day. Meet Lucy. She's going to be one of our new assistants for 2017! Together with our Studio Manager, we met to go over the details and what to expect in joining our crew. 

11:00 a.m. - Melissa is an amazing part of our team and helps manage all of our Rivets and Roses photographers + clients, along with the studio. We just received some new look books for the Photogen Inc. weddings, so she's working on marketing those!

2:00 p.m. - Meeting at Spoon & Stable with Chef Gavin Kaysen for his upcoming cook book. I'm super excited to be a part of this project and it's great to be involved with such a collaborative team. The book is due out in 2018, and our meetings are filled with creative visions and planning out our shoots. 

4:00 p.m. - Had to swing by Young Joni, because I am a total professional and left my camera battery charging - derp. 

6:30 p.m. - One last meeting for the day, which is a consultation with a couple who is getting married in 2017! Lots of people just got engaged over the holidays, so these later meetings will be more common. 

5:30 a.m. - My days start early. This is a new thing for me - maybe a few months old. Nick and I realized that really the only time for us to workout is right away in the morning. So far, so great. We're not perfect at it, but it definitely feels amazing to get up and move early in the day. I do find I am more focused and productive with work right away in the morning, too!

10:00 a.m. - Precious studio time. It's amazing what we can get done in just a few hours. I usually sit down to go over payroll, e-mails, concepting, and backingup files from the previous day's shoots. 

1:45 p.m. - We love visitors to the studio, especially dogs! Today's visits are from Tulsi and Frankie. Jess, one of our Rivets photographers, dropped by to go over some edits and back up files! 

3:15 p.m. - Off to HAUS Salon to meet the crew for a shoot this weekend. We needed to scout the space, since we're bringing in a full studio set up. This should be an especially fun one! 

4:15 p.m. - Back to the studio to put in some editing hours. I'm super excited about our recent shoot with Young Joni and I love seeing the entire edit come to life. 

7:45 p.m. - Clocking out for the day! Today was jam-packed, but with all really good things. I also spent time on each of our brands, which is always a victory! Now it's time to go home and spend time with my favorite people. I'll also be asleep by 10 pm, guaranteed. 

Handling it All

 
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I get asked all of the time, "How do you keep up with it all? Especially in the busy season of summer." While I often feel like my head is spinning with the endless to-do list, I do feel like we have set up a great structure for all four of our businesses to run. 

Whether you are a freelancer with one brand or a few under your belt, here are some tips on how to keep it all together:

1// Self Discipline - Absolutely none of the other words in this blog matter without self discipline. When you run your own business, you simply have to be self-motivated. I laugh when people say "it must be nice to write my own schedule." It is nice and sometimes has its perks, but it also means that I have to be real with myself when it is time to rest and when it is time to continue the hustle. 

2// Work Smart - Creating an efficient structure around the studio has greatly helped with our workflow and the production time that it takes after a shoot is complete. Time management is essential (along with self discipline as noted above) and structure (yes, and all those google docs) really help our studio go-round. We try and stay focused, yet flexible with our work days. Lets break this down a bit:

  • Focus - Our production deadlines and turnarounds are quick. When I am working on a job, I definitely focus on the edit immediately afterwards. I like to turn around complete editorial projects in 1-2 weeks and wedding edits in 4-6 weeks. A strict timeline like this helps us to stay on top of the work and our clients' deadlines, but it also allows us to not get buried in production. I like to work in the present and not feel like I'm behind. This is challenging sometimes, because the various distractions in our lives (the internet, social media and phones) are just waiting to pull us away from the hustle. We're not perfect, but we do try and stay focused. 

  • Flexibility - Every day around here is truly different. We stay very flexible within our structure, so should a meeting, new job, or urgent deadline happen, we can accommodate accordingly with our clients. It is a WIN when we leave the studio feeling entirely accomplished. But we also know how those days go when you come into the studio, your internet is down and you need to re-think ALL the things you were going to get done that day. 

3// Build Your Team - Whether it's bringing help into your business through an intern, hiring your first employee, or simply outsourcing certain areas, building your team is essential to your sanity and your growth. Here is some of the roles we have to make our business happily function: 

  • Editor: Outsource editing, both weddings, editorial and commercial work 

  • Studio Manager: Social media support, behind the scene work and special projects. 

  • Bookkeeper: We meet once a month to reconcile our books and pay taxes.

  • Photographers: All independent contractors full of talent to help assist and to lead our Rivets team. 

  • Producer + Agent : Our agent is pounding the pavement every day to show our latest work, while our producer helps write estimates and produce commercial shoots.

  • CPA: For help with all those taxes and corporate filings every year, while also assisting with financial planning. 

  • Lawyer: I am going to say this once, if you have a business, please, please, please invest in a good business lawyer. It matters to protect yourself and your business. Creating strong contracts and having someone to bounce legal advice off of when needed, is essential. 

4// Communication - Our team is in constant communication with each other. During our busy season, we are all very clear in communicating about how everything is going. Whether it is one of my own shoots that I need assistance for, or a Rivets shoot where I need to give support to our team, it is incredibly important for me that all of our team feels supported. If our team is happy, our clients are definitely happy, so that is a major priority for me. We have a monthly email that goes out to our crew as well, keeping everyone up to date! 

5// Know When To Take A Break - Work hard, play hard. Some work days for us are 15 hours. others are 2 hours. We know when we need to push it and we also know when we need a break. As the owner of this operation, I need to often remind myself that a break is necessary. When we rest, we refuel, and are ready to go for all of our clients! 

6// Give Yourself A Boost - Seriously, everyone deserves more high fives in life. Yoga is a luxury for me, so I make the effort to get there when I can. Earlier this year, I also set aside two whole weeks for myself in Tulum, Mexico -- just to relax. This was the first time in 10 years that I had done such a thing and now I am a believer. 

7// Look Ahead - I keep a quote on my phone as a reminder that says, "Be Proactive, not Reactive." I love this quote; it reminds me to always look ahead and think about what is next. A lot of our job is reacting to others' requests. We could spend ALL day taking care of others, and though that is an important part of our job, we also have to look at the big picture of the work we are doing and make sure we are happy. We need to make sure we are pushing into areas that are inspiring to us and helping us grow. 

8// Have Fun -  My work is my life, but I also have a life outside of work. I feel so very grateful to wake up every morning and be SO excited about going to work. I am surrounded by THE most amazing artists, clients, and freelancers who I am lucky enough to collaborate with on a daily basis. The longer I do this, I am slowly but surely finding a balance between my work life and personal life - both of which are amazing. It's so important to let loose and have some fun. For me, there is nothing better than booking a plane ticket and seeing the world! 

 

I know a lot of these tips might be common sense; however, as I kept getting asked this question about "how I manage it all?", I realized this: 

The secret to 'doing it all' is that there is no secret. You just actually have. to. do. it. You have to wake up every morning with that self discipline, determination, and desire to pursue the dream. 

It also takes way more than just yourself. It take the support from those around you to help realize the dream every single day. 

So, find your people. They will be your greatest asset. 

And then figure it out.

Little by little.

And then one day you wake up and realize you are 'doing it all' and absolutely living the dream.

LOVEe 

 

Thoughts on Creative Process //

 
Ramen Kazama

Ramen Kazama

I came across the image above on my desktop and it got me thinking about my creative process - and the weird, but helpful 'systems' I've created over the years to make our work. When I'm editing a shoot for a client, I have to see the overall scope of the shoot and how the images flow together. Have I told a story? Have I done it well? Is there an energy to the work that fits the client? Is there moment and beauty and expression? Are all of the colors on? 

Putting together a little random screen shot is super helpful to me, because I'm a visual person. Part of what I love about consulting is tapping into what makes each person successful and what their creative process is! I think it is both fascinating and brilliant how we each develop such a personal approach for making the things we do. Most of all, that process shifts, changes and grows over the years so our work gets stronger.  

I found this quote below that I love and speaks to the creative process:

"The creative process is not like a situation where you get struck by a single lightning bolt. You have ongoing discoveries, and there's ongoing creative revelations. Yes, it's really helpful to be marching toward a specific destination, but, along the way, you must allow yourself room for your ideas to blossom, take root and grow."

- Carlton Cuse, screenwriter

What is they key to your creative process?

Real Talk // with Ashley Mary Art + Design

 

YEARS AS A BUSINESS OWNER: 3

Ashley is an artist that I have always admired. I have had the pleasure of working with her and her collaborative and positive spirit is contagious. Last fall Ashley launched her first line with Target, introducing her designs to a line of cosmetic bags. 

COMPANY

Ashley Mary Art + Design

 

 

 

 

 

You have been inspiring those around you with your paintings, collage, and mixed media art. Last fall you launched a line of cosmetic bags with Target! How long did you work to actually become a freelance artist?

Once I switched careers in 2012, I would say the process to doing freelance overall wasn't super long. I eased into it within one year. I am a freelancer at KNOCK inc where I spend on average about 25 - 30 hours of my week. The means all of my other freelance work happens outside of this. I designate time in the mornings, nights, and weekends to my art. Many-a-hats I do wear. 

 

You have had a formal design education. Do you think that prepared you for being a full time artist?

I don't know if I ever feel super prepared! I was a religion major coming out of my undergrad where I studied a variety of theologies, so going into making / selling art was a slow and snow-balled process. Later in life I did go back to MCAD for a post-bachelor certificate in graphic design. 

School expanded my understanding and access to the world of design and gave me language and tools around the things I already enjoyed doing. It opened a lot of doors and the freelance work has been a learn-as-you-go experience. 

I ask a lot of questions and try to connect with folks who can answer them. I am still learning and enjoying the process. 

I wish I knew this advice when I first started:

There are so many things! I have learned a lot through trying and screwing up. Here are a few chicken nuggets I have learned:

1// How to say no. To the things I don't like doing, but also the things I am not good at doing. It won't be the best work for either the client or myself. I understand that sometimes you need to pay the bills and suck it up. However, I have found that the older I get, the more I sign up for things that will allow creativity to come from a good place inside of me. The outcome is better overall. 

How to say no (kindly) to someone's creative direction, when you know it's going to turn out less-than-ideal, is also a valuable skill. When you are confident enough, then sell what WILL work and show how it can be done right. 

2// Don't show work that you don't want to be considered as an option. (This kind of goes back to my first answer). If you don't like the work and aren't proud of it, make sure no one else sees it - hide that shit! You can control what the client sees.

I've made so many logos that I didn't actually like in the beginning and I was eager to show the client a lot of options - too many options. I ultimately made something in the end that I was not personally happy with. Sometimes too many options can tell the client that you don't know what looks good. You know what looks good. 

3// Track those miles. 

 

How do you actively seek inspiration?

This is a hard question for me, because I'm not the best at thinking proactively about seeking inspiration. I can't say I'm delegating specific space to it, but rather it works itself into my daily habits naturally. There are the usual digital suspects like Instagram, blogs and Pinterest. I tent to focus on looking at other painters, illustrators, stylists and interior designers, because that is where my work revolves around and where I tend to drool the most. 

It is important to drool when being inspired. 

I started listening to more podcasts this year. I wanted to have space to actively learn while I am sitting in front of a computer screen for most of the day. I can usually find some juicy take-aways. I also shop a lot at vintage and resale shops where I always find lots of goodies that I draw inspiration from. 

Visual inspiration is at my fingertips with the internet, so I try and pay attention. 

 

Lets talk about social media. Do you love it or hate it? What value do you think it brings to our world-of-art these days?

Love + hate! I love the inspiration it connects with others. I know SO many more artists and designers because of social media that I would never have discovered otherwise. I have also been able to raise awareness of my own brand to people who would never have seen it or gotten to know me. The flip side is that sharing your work requires vulnerability and that can feel scary or have negative side effects, such as your work being copied or whatnot. 

Anytime you are showing your work a lot, there is a higher risk of insecurity to rear its ugly head and to juxtapose that with the fact that it is a necessary business tool. I have stopped trying to figure out why people don't like one thing and like another, so I am just going to keep trying to make work that I am proud of. Ultimately social media makes art, design and creatives more accessible to the world. I think that is a win!

 

What makes you happy with your work? 

Trying new things and learning new techniques. I will often paint over my paintings as my style changes. Some of my favorite pieces are the third draft of an original painting. 

I love being open to change and saying yes to the new. 

My favorite days of work are when I am super busy, running around and using my best set of skills. It all feels exhausting in an energized way. 

What has been a game changer for you? 

I've been a painter since 2008 but it wasn't until 2014 that I started to imagine my work outside of a flat surface. Once I started to play with my artwork as a surface pattern, it brought so many more opportunities to share my art with a larger audience. It was an ah-ha moment that turned into fun projects, like my cosmetic bag line for Target. But that world is fucking hard, too. It's very saturated. 

I've also had a few folks reach out to work with me on jobs that I may be newer at or have less experience with. These always end up being marking moments for me. I work hard to show what I can bring to the table and I think that contributes to someone trusting my eye. When anyone is willing to see your potential, without you necessarily having 10 years of experience or a giant portfolio, that can become a turning point in your career. I feel like I've had a few of those opportunities in my life. 

Probably most creatives have, right? Where you say "yes" and then work your ass off and make it happen! 

 

The best part about being a freelancer is:

Doing a lot of different jobs and owning my own time + schedule. No one job could satisfy me as much as the variety I get to do being a freelancer. The mix of people, places and projects is really fulfilling and keeps me on my toes. 

 

The most annoying part about being a freelancer is: 

Keeping track of expenses :\

Not having clear boundaries with work. You can technically work every waking minute if you want Even if you don't have client work, you are asking yourself, "What could I do to expand my work? Start a new project? Update my portfolio?" The list literally. never. ends. 

 

What does success mean to you? 

It depends on a few factors. today, in this moment, success is when I have a full day of doing what I am best at and what fills me up. (Preferably laughing while tackling the above). I think a lot about feeling "whole" in what I do and I think that is success for me.  

 

Check out more work at ashleymary.com and follow Ashley @ashleymaryart