By now you're probably well aware that by 2020, 40% of the American workforce is expected to be freelance. In theory, this seems kind of cool—less people tied down to their desks, miserable in cubicles. With mantras such as "do what you love" and "follow your bliss," who wouldn't want to be freelance? While the life of a freelancer/small business owner is idealized as liberated and exciting, in reality, it's actually pretty tough.
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In New York's first Transparency Talk by Everlane, a brand whose business model is built on direct customer transactions and radical factory transparency, writers and "slashies" Olivia Fleming and Lisa Przystup engaged in conversation about their entrepreneurial experiences. Prompted by an absence in the market, Fleming, current Senior Features Editor for Harper's Bazaar, started her fine "mood" jewelry business Olivia Kane in 2015. A writer for a variety of publications, Przystup found inspiration in a writing assignment and eventually founded her Brooklyn-based floral business James's Daughter Flowers. Like many creatives living in urban areas, the two women followed their inclinations to pursue side interests by starting small businesses while keeping full-time jobs. Thinking of becoming a freelancer? Or starting your own business? Here are their tips for mastering the side hustle.
"Jump into the deep end and figure it out."
Starting your own business isn't always impulsive and passionate. It's not always leaving Wall Street to open a yoga studio or cupcake business and choosing polar opposites or following your lifelong dream. Sometimes following your passion can only take the form of a freelance small business, and sometimes becoming a freelancer is the only employment choice you have.
Lisa Przystup never dreamed of being a florist, until she wrote a piece for New York Magazine's The Cut about chic, Brooklyn florists. Even then, she wasn't in love with the idea. Instead, she thought, This could be cool. Slowly she fell in love with the idea of being a florist, and after budget cuts and a job loss, almost a year after the initial flower story aired, she jumped into the industry.
Lisa Przystup assembling an arrangement / Photo Credit: Lisa Przystup
Opposite Przystup, Olivia Fleming's jewelry business stemmed from a childhood dream—not to be a jewelry designer, but to have a mood ring that didn't leave a green line around her finger. She only decided to start her own business when upon hearing her complaints about cheap brass and plastic jewelry, a friend asked "Why don't you just make your own?" With no good excuse, Fleming set out to start her own business. Like Przystup and Fleming, you'll eventually commit to your idea. When you do, jump into the deep end and get ready to figure it all out.
It's really all about connections
After deciding to start Olivia Kane, Fleming realized she didn't know the first thing about jewelry design. Sure, she styled jewelry on famous celebrities and wrote about jewelry for famed publications, but to design is a whole other discipline. Her first step was to find a mentor to teach her the technical and logistical aspects of metalsmithing. Is there someone in your professional life who inspires you? Someone who has experience in your freelance field, or in the area you're least confident in? Ask them to help you, find a mentor.
Olivia Fleming's Studio / Photo credit: Need Supply Co.
If you're like Przystup, you'll pull all the strings. Call your friend who has a car and ask them to pick you up from the flower market or metal scrap yard or lumber yard or wherever it is that you find your materials. No one likes to spend $30 on an Uber. People get it. Call your contacts from your past or current full time job, from anywhere really. Ask if they need whatever you're peddling for their offices, for their homes, if they know anyone who would or if they can refer you. Cling to those connections. Now that you've told people about your new endeavor, your idea is a reality. It's official. You're a freelancer/small business owner. Congrats, now get ready to feel stressed out.
The stress is normal
Unfortunately, the stress is a guarantee. As a freelancer/small business owner/party of one, you are responsible for every aspect of your business. You are the boss. You are the secretary. You are it. If you're not like Olivia Fleming and don't have a significant other who works at SquareSpace (connections, gotta have 'em) you'll probably be the one making a website for yourself. If you're not like Lisa Przystup, you don't have experience as a copywriter and will probably struggle writing things like "crafted from the finest cotton." You are your marketing team. You are also your brand's social media manager, better catch up on the new Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest algorithms.
Photo Credit: Lisa Przystup
Feeling stressed yet? It's ok. Organization will save you. Keep a calendar and follow it religiously, create lists and make sure to check off everything on them. Remember, it's okay to take a day off.
Customer service is key
So what do you actually do as a freelancer or small business owner? You provide a good or service of some sort and in doing so, customer service is 90% of your business. Like Olivia Fleming, you might get a phone call from a woman saying you've shipped the wrong item and have ruined her daughter's graduation present. Or, like Lisa Przystup, you might be servicing an important client on a special day (read: bride) and a single mistake from you could ruin the entire occasion in her eyes. These customers might be right, or they may be wrong. Regardless, now as a small business owner, it is your job to service them. Remember, not everyone is going to be happy all the time. But if you can make your clients and yourself happy, go for it.
Running your own business is hard. The reality is stressful and exhausting. But the victories can be oh so invigorating.