Carly Ayres is a member of the Core77 family and a freelancer near and dear to our hearts—a self-described "specialized generalist" who's created work for clients like Google Creative Lab and Wallpaper* as well as being a regular contributor to Core77 with the beloved In the Details column. Given the 1-Hour Design Challenge prompt to design objects for freelancers, we thought Carly would be a great judge and could bring some significant insight into products that independent workers might actually be interested in owning and using.
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We recently sat down with Carly to learn a little more about her start as a freelancer, the routines and productivity tips she swears by, and what sort of freelance power tool she might design for herself.
Core77: How long have you been freelancing? Why did you decide to take the leap?
Carly: I made the jump to full-time freelance around November of 2014, but have always been freelancing in some capacity. I think my very first freelance client might have actually been Core77, when I was covering student projects and events on campus as a student at RISD.
After college, I joined CreativeMornings, where I took founder Tina Roth Eisenberg's vision for what she wanted the lecture series to be and translated that into a voice and tone that resonated with attendees across the globe.
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After a few years there, I found myself with the familiar itch to work on something new. I realized that the work that truly scared me and was pushing me past my comfort zone were projects I was doing after hours and on weekends. If I was to continue growing, that was the work I needed to be doing.
What's your experience of working as a freelancer in the city—have you worked at home and in co-working spaces? What have been your best and worst freelance work setups and why?
My experience as a freelancer in New York City has really run the gamut. I spent some time working in-house for clients like Google's Creative Lab and Deeplocal, as well as bouncing around a few different co-working spaces like Small City Studios and Friends.
I'm a huge extrovert, so really crave the ability to talk to other folks and bounce ideas off others—occasionally to my own detriment. I've found that the perfect balance for me is working from my apartment, but making sure I carve out that time to be around other people, whether it's coffee one morning or co-working one afternoon a week. Separating that time makes a huge difference in the work I'm able to get done.
What sorts of items or tools do you need around you in order to maintain productivity and success?
At the risk of sounding mildly dorky, having a bottle of water next to me while working has made the biggest difference in productivity. If you asked me a year ago, my resounding answer would have been coffee, but a year later, I've realized that any grogginess or headaches are likely just symptoms of dehydration, alleviated by simply drinking water.
Beyond that, all I really need is a laptop and a power cord. Lately, I've also been listening to a lot of classical music, particularly nonverbal, which lets me focus when doing any type of writing.
What have you learned about freelancing and yourself over the years working independently?
Freelancing has forced me to think more critically about my time and how I spend it. Whether its the inputs I'm taking in or the work I'm pushing out, being in control of my own time has led me to be more focused in those pursuits, as well as in the people I surround myself with each day.
One of the projects Ayres' is working on: an experimental social network called "Temporary Highs"
As a freelancer, you're accountable to yourself for the work you do (or don't) and what you put out into the world. It's made me answer a lot of questions around what type of work I want to being doing and what impact I want that work to have. The end result might be a flip book of a logo's evolution, a newsletter on doing things again and again, or an amplified social network—but I'm always trying to rethink how to engage with an audience and encourage them to think about things a bit differently.
If you could design something to improve your freelancing life, what would it be?
So many things! Recently, I started a small Slack community of creative folks— many freelancers—called 100s Under 100, which I've found to be a great way to share work, elicit feedback, and post other jobs and resources. I think the only other thing that might drastically improve my freelance life would be a Chrome plugin that shuts off my internet at 10:00p every night to force me to go to bed (though as I type this it's 12:00 AM...).
What are your top 3 quick tips for other freelancers or aspiring freelancers?
1. Find a community.
2. Do the work you want to get more of.
3. Drink lots of water.
Only one hour until we announce the winner of our 1-Hour Design Challenge! Check out all the entries on our dedicated discussion board or Facebook group + stay tuned to see who wins the big enchilada...