Here’s yet another photo of my laptop, gazing at the viewer from a terrace on a sunny day, cappuccino on the side. The caption reads: “all the perks of freelancing summed up in one photo”. I posted this and proceeded to make calculations on how to pay next month’s rent, followed by sending e-mails asking when am I supposed to get honorariums from jobs I have long ago delivered.
I realize the irony of the situation and decide to make up for the delusory image. Next story I post, same picture, different caption: “Hey, don’t be fooled. There are plenty of downs, too. Should I write about this?”.
The article you’re reading right now got prompted by this question I posted on my Instagram. Your response was a massive yes. Perhaps you think that I have all the answers on the how-tos of freelance life. I wonder if I should have just written: “But hey, on the other hand, I don’t know how the hell am I paying rent next month!’. But that’s not the end of the story, just as that one Instagram image doesn’t show the whole picture. Again, social media can be misleading. I don’t have it all figured out. But maybe it is useful for you to know what I did figure out in the meanwhile. I am not following a pre-designed path here but creating my own, and that’s extra tiring and extra challenging, – and it does trigger people’s curiosity. This path involves a lot of trying and failing, experimenting with things, seeing what works. I am learning as I go. And this is my story, as of Saturday, the 28th, July 2018.
People who follow me on Instagram know, by now, that I always work from cafes because of all the stories I publish on coffees, cake, cappuccino, my co-working dates, and the views from my laptop. I’ve been on the working-in-cafes bandwagon for two years now – yes, I’m that unnerving person who has her head buried on her computer while you and your colleague are trying to find a seat in an attempt to make the most of your coffee break.
How it all started
It all started with this blog. Yes, really! I started putting a committed effort on ‘Amsterdive’ in May 2016. I had a stable part-time job (roughly 25 to 30 hours a week) and I was blogging at the same time. I remember the joy I felt right from the start when I finally realized that I didn’t need to wait for anything or anyone to just… do it. Do my thing. It was one of those A-HA moments. I was there. I was where I had always wanted to be and I didn’t need anyone’s permission for it nor did I need to take five very complex and specific degrees, nor did I have to submit myself to a three-step interview Walhalla, chasing a position in a company along 3000 more other candidates ready to kill each other for it, and prove them how I was so much better than the competition, nor come up with the ultimate CV, the ultimate LinkedIn network, the ultimate proof of ALL my capabilities resumed in an A4 piece of paper, the thing that would finally land me a job I loved, the fulfillment I so craved. I didn’t even need to earn money from it in order to be happy. Money was not a condition here. So simple, so genius.
Slowly, slowly, a few gigs started popping up. In November that year, I did a paid photoshoot as a model, a gig that came in via a blogger-friend. In that same month, I got contacted by someone who had found me online and who invited me to create cultural agendas for the Amsterdam newspaper of which he was the editor-in-chief. This was my second paid job that came in via the blog and the first time I saw my work in print! In the meanwhile, I have written for the A-Mag (current Iamsterdam Magazine) and I also write for the blog of Iamsterdam, plus I have a regular collaboration with easyJet Traveller Magazine, an invitation that – again – came in because of this platform you’re at right now. I might not have it all figured out but this much I know: wherever one is, whatever one does, one needs to start, one needs to do it, and by ‘doing it’ I mean: every single day.
>> Same thing, different setting. The picture on the left – my old Mac at Two for Joy (RIP) in 2016. Middle – working remotely – Nørrested, Copenhagen. Right – working remotely – Kennington, London, 2017. BTW, I always work while traveling. Again, this is a condition, not a virtue.
Blog as a portfolio
I don’t earn any money directly from the blog – there is no advertisement in it, I don’t write on demand, nor do I accept branded posts. It has been a conscious choice. All the money I made until now came indirectly, having this platform as a portfolio. The blog is the place where I train my creativity, where I showcase my content creation skills, where I exercise my writing, where I present myself in a genuine way, where I talk about everything that interests me. ‘Amsterdive’ is my public face and a creative outlet that aims at being of service. I hope to spark a conversation on different subjects, to infuse ideas in my readers, to entertain them in a meaningful way. Ultimately, I wish to inspire and to uplift those around me, online or offline.
I have wished to make my profession out of the blog right from the start. However, I have refrained from rushing through the process. This is more a condition than it is a virtue: I panic when I’m doing stuff in a way that isn’t aligned with my beliefs. Moral of the story: the only way for me is to go slow. Anyway, I see no other alternative. Which shortcuts could I use to accelerate the process? Sell fast-fashion clothing on the blog? Advertise all the new cafes and restaurants that open in Amsterdam and become a listings site? Publish the press releases I get on my e-mail to save on writing time? Consistently post photos of me in a bikini? Create some sort of crash course that is supposed to empower women around me?
Here’s the thing. I can’t support brands that don’t genuinely take sustainability into account; therefore I can’t promote them. Publishing press releases doesn’t add anything valuable to this world. I doubt any crash course that aims at empowering women would, either. Plus, will listings enrich the lives of my readers? Some of them can be useful but I’d like to dedicate my time to something more exciting and engaging. ‘Amsterdive’ has always been about ‘doing me’ and trying to put myself out there so that the audience that is interested in what I do can find me. Likeminded folks. People who need my skills. Business owners who are doing work in the fields that most interest me: art, culture, sustainability, self-development and who believe I can help them out.
>> A highlight of these two years has definitely been seeing my work published on the A-Mag (current Iamsterdam magazine).
Different skills, different money streams
In the meantime, I started to do translations from Dutch to English for an old employer of mine. I also do social media/content creation for the yoga school I attend. This was something I started to do for free – now I get paid for it. Then, I got to help other small-scale businesses (yoga and mindfulness related) with their social media communication, which wasn’t something planned. It happened along the way, as I saw how “zen” people and creative types around me felt uneasy dealing with social media. I usually come in with the creative part (ideas of posts, articles, videos) and teach them practical strategies to communicate more honestly and effectively with their audience. I also do occasional work as an actress/model, and, last but not the least; I’m starting to teach yoga in September. My streams of income are varied, as my skills translate into different activities.
Projects in the near future include making sponsored content on my blog, in collaboration with brands I love and support, on my creative terms, and preserving transparency. Think of yoga schools, theatres, and cinemas, fair-trade businesses, eco-conscious clothing, vegetarian/vegan restaurants, my favorite cafes in the city, my favorite venues for dancing, eating, relaxing. I also want to write an e-book soon. Outside of the blog realm, I am creating social media workshops for creatives and yoga people, and I’d love to set off a co-working project. OH, did I tell you I’m kick-starting a YouTube channel?
>> Different setting, same thing. The pic on the left: at the Coffee Company Westerdok @jan.arsenovic. The pic on the right: at Coffee Bru, by Andra Stefan. This one day is documented if you want to take a peek.
Takeaways for beginners
- Start doing your thing RIGHT NOW. Start by doing it for free – for the pure joy of it. Whether find an internship or build it all from scratch. When you take what you do seriously, people will take you seriously too. You don’t need anyone’s permission or validation to start doing anything you wish to be doing. Commit to work that you believe in, put yourself out there, and you’ll progressively see the results of that effort. Whatever you love doing, start doing it NOW, and tell everyone around you that you’re on it.
- Share your enthusiasm with people. No, you’re not bothering. People appreciate authenticity and passion. Also, people can tell the difference between who’s “empowering women” just because, and someone who is genuine in their thing. In any case, it doesn’t matter. Again, you don’t need the validation.
- Find a crowd that resonates with you. You can’t make anything work on your own. Find your colleagues, people who are doing the same as you, with whom you can collaborate and share ideas, but above all, people you like.
- For the ones starting it from scratch: don’t expect to make money right away. You’ll have to invest a lot, first. Time, energy, resources. You have to put your heart in it. Focus on your “whys” and “hows”: they are the fuel that keeps you going. This being said, if you are in the position to charge, by all means, do it.
The second part of this story will include answers to specific questions of my readers, including how much money do I spend on coffee a month (yes, I got asked that question and I’m answering it!), my main struggles, a couple tips on how to get freelance jobs, and how do I get to pay my rent on time, among others. Feel free to pose your questions in the comments down below, or share any thoughts that popped in!
In the meanwhile, you can watch this one video. It pretty much sums it all up.