Friday, October 29, 2010

Book Review: My So-Called-Freelance Life

I recently finished the book My So-Called Freelance Life: How to Survive and Thrive as a Creative Professional for Hire written by Michelle Goodman. With witty comedic styling, Goodman pushes for a sense of informed preparedness when deciding to take the plunge into a freelance career.

My favorite sections teach the reader how to maintain a budget and schedule their work week (and how the two are connected). Negotiations and dealing with clients are also tough topics; especially for those creatives out there that don't have the business persona of Jack Donaghys.

As a struggling freelance writer, she admits to encountering some business sink-holes. Thankfully, she lives to tell the tale as a thriving professional. I recommend this as a great book for freelance therapy; with its underlying success story, it will give you a zap of motivation. I have ear-marked at least a dozen sections that I want to come back to and research further--from communicating with customers to establishing long-term goals and even the F-word (finance), Goodman starts you out on the right foot.

I see this book as a great starting point if you're in search for career advice. Short, sweet, and full of chuckles, this book will reside in my collection for a long time.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Setting a Deadline Date: Freelance Finish Line

Last night I decided to set a deadline date for my transition into a freelance lifestyle. Without this date, my need to continue improving and perfecting would take over and I've read this is often a killer for start-up businesses. I've found that nothing helps you grow more then the challenges and small failures that only happen when you're immersed in a client-based project.
Here are some factors I considered when setting the date:

1. Money. One of the most important considerations (unfortunately) is money. Ideally, I would like to have a 9-12 month buffer of savings that keeps me from sweating the small stuff. Add up your monthly bills, food, and extra expenses and then add another chunk for unforeseen money-sucking events (like your car window being broken for a penny in the passenger seat). Then, calculate the maximum amount you can put away each pay period to cover these expenses. After you have this, ask yourself how many months it will take to save-up the correct amount for a stable freelance lifestyle--and there you have it!

I love using my online banking system because I can schedule my reoccurring deposits along with all my bills. It will even let me know if a future transaction is not kosher so I can drag and shift things around to protect myself from any overdraft fees.

2. Development. Since my specific area of interest will take some time to develop I want to give myself enough time (but not too much) to really narrow my scope and write a business plan packed with information regarding my mission, methods, and resources. This way I have a document I can refer back to when considering the direction of my business and maybe show some interested investors.

3. Life milestones. I am recently engaged, so this means including the wedding and travel expenses in my calculations. I took my total that I would save and subtracted a good chunk of it for this event. Saving for a start-up also means that buying a house will have to wait since a lot of my funds will need to go towards my financial security.

In the end, my calculations are totally based in my ability to predict the future. This means I keep my job, continue with a similar living situation, and consistently cut-down on spending from shoes to french fries.

In light of that, I have also structured two contingency plans:

1. Moving towards part-time employment. As I get closer to my active date since the work load will be getting heavier. This move will effect my pattern of saving but allow me much more time to complete necessary work for the launch.

2. It's quitting time. Let's say I get a promotion and I am able to squirrel away 50% more then I thought, that means I may be able to move on earlier and may be able to dedicated my full attention to my business before needing to get a supplemental job.

Now that I have set a date, it all seems more real; I am now actively working towards a tangible goal. It seems that the success of an independent venture really depends on how much you kick your own butt.

Friday, October 15, 2010

What To Be or What Not To Be: What I Learned from My Freelancing Father

Everyone has a couple traits they see in their parents that they knowingly avoid or attempt to counteract-- I will never be a gossip like my mother or I promise to be a much better driver then my father. There are also many characteristics that we may aspire to and consciously pass on to our own seedlings.

That said, if you have the fortune/misfortune of being a spawn of a business owner, freelancer, or independent contractor you may have some "tips-of-the-trade" to emulate or all out avoid like the nightly door-to-door cake sales man (yes, I have one of these).

My father is an independent contractor that specializes in telecommunications construction. He runs the show from home and sends out his workers to repair phone lines across the city. It sounds all well and good, but I have seen home base and his business shortcomings have strung together in my mind like frantically flapping red flags over a used car dealership.

Here are some mantras I have concocted to help me avoid his business blunders:

Bills should be paid. Unless you want to spend your days screening phone calls for debt collectors or praying to the big man/woman every time your credit card is swiped, I would stick to a payment schedule while controlling your spending from day one. Bridges will burn if you don't show your subcontractor, landlord, or utility company the money.

You don't need 1,000 blue work shirts. Hint: if your closet is bursting at the seams with blue and brown button-downs, the last thing you need is a new shopping bag full of the same. Less is more.

Mail does not go on the floor. A floor-sized filing system never works the way you expect. Sure, if it's on the ground and you never clean it up, you have essentially "stored" it, but how will you relocate important invoices and other business records? File once a day to keep the clutter at bay.

Take care of your computer. It's not just there to service you, you need to service it too. That all sounds strangely sexual, but if your computer decides to check-out, due to out-dated virus software or a family reunion of dust bunnies going on in your air vent, you're up the creek without a paddle let alone your business GPS.

Your office space is not a jungle gym for cats. My dad is a fan of animals, so when he lovingly took in a family of cats he probably didn't consider their thanks would be the slow and diabolical destruction of his office space. Claim your business space and let nothing mess with it; be it man or beast.

Living paycheck-to-paycheck royally blows. Speaking from the point-of-view of someone who has experienced the effects firsthand, it is dizzying to not know whether you're coming or going. This method of financial (not)planning will always impact the people around you, no matter how much if a rock or an island you claim to be.

To his credit, he has also brought some positive strategies to the table, here are a few:
Stay calm in crisis. Fantically flapping with worry will not help you find a solution. Relax, step back, and follow your gut.

Savor the flavor. Busy working folk often take food for granted, but oh man is it good (especially Peruvian food).

Talk to the animals. That is, have a hobby that allows you an interaction with the natural world. My dad has owned a goat farm for years now--he has chickens, geese, fruit trees, ducks, a veggie garden, and, of course, a bunch of stinky goats.

Overall, we can learn a lot from studying a lifestyle other than our own. Though we may resist, we often take on several traits our parental units pass along; we mix and muddle strengths and flaws in order to create a unique cocktail that's all our own. Thanks for the tips Dad, no olives in mine, cheers.BlogBooster-The most productive way for mobile blogging. BlogBooster is a multi-service blog editor for iPhone, Android, WebOs and your desktop

Blog Action Day

In celebration of Blog Action Day, I hope that everyone will visit and learn a little more about our impact on the world's water supply.

Also, there's a neat app you can download for free that tells you how much water it takes to make some of your favorite foods and beverages.

The campaign design was created by designer Timm Kekeritz of Raureif. With the use of bold, repeating symbols and a minimalist color palette he was able to easily convey the breadth of this important message with minimal text. Posters are available for purchase HERE.BlogBooster-The most productive way for mobile blogging. BlogBooster is a multi-service blog editor for iPhone, Android, WebOs and your desktop

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Baltimore Magazine Shoot | Success!

The Baltimore Magazine cover shoot went smoothly. We had our issues with the remote flash setup communicating properly, but overall I held my soft box as high as possible for as long as possible! Today, my wrist is a little sore, but I am excited to see the result. I hope to see some samples later this week!

To give you an overview, the concept of the shoot centered around a girl walking through the high-end Baltimore neighborhood, Harbor East, looking fashionably cute and noticeably excited about her purchases. Coincidentally, the model for the shoot is also a hair-stylist at my salon, Alpha Studio.

Be sure to check out next month's Baltimore Magazine to see which Alpha Studio employee graces the cover and just how cute her outfit really is...that light coming from the right (or left); that's me!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Art Review | Ben Gest: Commissure at the Contemporary Museum

Bfreemore means getting out into the community and widening your experiences. So, instead of hitting the track on Friday, I walked with a co-worker to the Contemporary Museum to view the photography exhibition, Ben Gest: Commissure.

The Contemporary Museum introduces Gest through a short explanation of his process:

"Photographer Ben Gest creates complex and psychologically-charged portraits constructed from dozens and at times hundreds of digital photographs. His haunting images and unnerving compositions possess an exaggeration of space akin to Mannerist painting with skewed perspective and impossible renderings of space. Enacting everyday movements and interactions, Gest's subjects are captured deep in thought, and internal reflection, charging ordinary gestures with new meaning."

The goal of Gest's artful use of photo manipulation is not to enhance, but to emphasize emotion and create distortions that effect the psychology of the figure or figural interaction. As the museum mentions, this technique is reminiscent of Mannerist painting. Lady Madonna's elongated neck, lifting her face to the sky, her long spindly fingers playing against folds of drapery; a series of emotional movements, blended together to emulate the divine experience. Gest's emotional cues also exist in the spacial and anatomical inaccuracies of his images. A mother's enlarged hand rests on her child's back, a long forearm reaches up to replace an earring, a wife's sharpened fingers reach out to her elderly husband as he exits the scene. Yet in place of the divine, characters seem to quietly contemplate mortality as they chop carrots, tug on nylons, or water a roof top garden.

Before we were able to capture the human form on film, illusion of form and emotion were captured with paint. Photography, in turn, has a long bridal train of painterly history married to its contemporary interpretation.

History aside, Gest's craftsmanship is true example of what the photographic medium is capable of today. Through digital manipulation, he adds and subtracts space and detail much like a painter would with a palette knife and brush.

Gest's sense of the tenuous interaction between skin and fiber grant the viewer an pause where they may quietly break from world and simply observe.

In the end, all Gest demands from his viewer is an honest eye and a thoughtful moment.

I highly recommend this exhibition to photographers, artists, or even just observers of the human condition. The technical qualities are outstanding and the storytelling is enigmatic.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Phase 1: The Discovery Phase | Designing My Own Degree Program

In my pursuit of an independent lifestyle, I have put together a series of "development phases" as part of my Lifestyle/business plan. By securing these "stepping stones" or short-term goals, I will in turn make the river between corporate-life and freelance-life, much easier to cross.

Phase 1: The Discovery Phase | Designing My Own Degree Program

The fact is, I need to be better, faster, stronger in order to survive and create a well-informed business plan.

When I first sat down to consider my options, I really felt that I needed bulk-up my educational background and experiences. I feverishly researched options; from local degree programs, to online degree programs, to internships, to getting a computer-chip implanted in my brain. I waited impatiently as the mail carrier brought forth my admissions packets. Then frowned when they lacked information and cut straight to the part of me handing over my hard-earned money.

In the end, after crunching the numbers, hours, and unpredictable variables I decided to construct my own degree program. Why go the self-taught route? Here are my top reasons:

  1. My personal knowledge and experience with the education system. More often then not, education, when pursued through educational institutions, falls short of your grand expectations. You are essentially putting your money and time in the hands of an institution that thinks they know best (or at least they want you to think this). You will pay for a label that, depending on your end-goal, may bump-up your pay scale--but what does that teach you? The pursuit of knowledge is only worth the monetary benefits? I love to learn and I love the Motorcycle Maintenance mantra that puts you in the drivers seat

  2. Less money, more problems. Yes, I know that those aren't the lyrics, but you can't deny that it works both ways. As of now, my debts are nonexistent thanks to a well-planned college fund and a scrappy single mom. This gift give me the ability to really choose my areas of investment. Though money can't buy happiness, it sure can help you develop and establish a business. Ask yourself, am I a good investment? What about my lifestyle or my future career?

  3. Let me live my life. As a true multi-tasking-master, my time is always strategically divided. Yes, sometimes I run into the occasional metal pole while google-reading through the streets. But, I also know when to buckle-down and focus. I believe my generation likes to control their minute-to-minute (and have fun doing it). Sitting through a 3-hour lecture in a dim computer lab usually sends me to Snoozeville; and it's a known fact that I don't sleep pretty (think drooping-mouth and swift head-bobbing).

  4. A little thing called the Internet. Probably the pivotal reason for going the self-taught route is the fruitful and ever-expanding online environment. As we all know, there is a plethora of information out in cyberspace. When it comes to web design, web development, and anything business related, it is easy to discover enough information to fill a lifetime. From blogs to webinars; you are able to find and fill 60 credit hours in no time. Also, since these are fields of continuous innovation and development, it is wise to connect with this virtual world of web geeks and gurus.

Please be aware that designing a degree program isn't always the best fit for your lifestyle and career goals. Not only does it takes a specific mindset and motivation, but it also depends on your future career plans. If your goal is to be the art director of Big Ad Agency, you will probably need a masters degree to even be considered. I encourage everyone to empower themselves to design their own lifestyle; which means knowing your goals while establishing your strengths and weaknesses.

I will be covering this phase in future posts; from my syllabus to self-assessment!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Cover Photo Shoot for Baltimore Magazine

In current news, I have received an amazing opportunity to assist with a cover photo-shoot for Baltimore magazine. Big thanks to photographer Cory Donovan for making it happen! Visit his website at

Building a Nest

Being from a small town in upstate New York, talent and gumption always bred in tiny pockets of circumstance. In turn, there was always a need for these pocket populations to migrate to more creative climates. My time at the Maryland Institute College of Art was wonderful and confusing. It's taken some time to recover and readjust to my life as an artist and bread winner.

After school I moved directly into a studio in a broken down high-rise in downtown Baltimore. I would catch a ride in the morning and put in my 9-5. Winter proved to be exhausting, freezing, and uninspired. One morning, after taking my triple-layered hoodie nap on the on the matted carpet floor while waiting for the heat to kick on, I decided I needed a change.

Flash to the present, my growth has culminated into a goal-driven pursuit to establish a business from home and design my own lifestyle. I feel like a little orphan bird that is trying to teach itself to build a nest; two parts instinct, one part improvisation, and one part desire.

See how I build my nest by following my blog!

Friday, October 1, 2010

What is B-freemore?

A goal, a lifestyle challenge, a record of my journey from a 9-5 to owning a business, a promise, a social mantra, an anti-anxiety medicine, a budding freelance experiment, a shout-out to a very interesting city, and the name of my new blog.