Posts tagged freelance life
5th ANNIVERSARY: The people who've helped me get where I am today.

Today is my fifth anniversary working as a freelancer.

When I first went freelance, it was because the company I worked for – and loved working for – imploded and because my partner at the time moved back to New York.

I was suddenly unemployed and in a long-distance relationship.

It felt unrealistic to apply for jobs where I'd have to promise to show up every day from 9 a.m to 6 p.m. And so, I decided to go freelance instead.

Before I had a client, I built a website listing the services I could offer. I then emailed 65 people, telling them I was available for freelance work.

Four of these people emailed me back and hired me for projects within the first three months. (THANK YOU, Michael Schmitz, Bruno Noble, Taylor McKnight, and Max Kickinger!)

I recently had a conversation about the people who boosted our confidence so we would actually dare to go freelance or start our own businesses. The conversation is what inspired this essay.

I'd love to tell you more about the sentences that are burned into my mind and the moments that helped me get where I am today.

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"Welcome to the game."

Max Kickinger, Raven & Finch

At 9 a.m. on November 6, I had an appointment at the business registration office.

At 11 a.m., I had my very first official client meeting with Raven & Finch, an Austrian sound branding agency.

Max was one of the people who’d emailed me back, hiring me for some content marketing. Upon my arrival at his studio, Max said: "Welcome to the game."

To this day, I remember him saying that to me. It's one of the sentences I like to remind myself of regularly.

That sentence takes the pressure off whenever things get hard.

Freelancing is a game, one in which you know that you sometimes win, but – sometimes – you lose.

When you see freelancing this way, it’s fun to look back at the accomplishments and failures as if it was just a game that you get to play every single day.

But something else happened with Max and Raven & Finch.

I'm very grateful to Max for hiring me back then. I recorded his thoughts and later wrote a few articles for his blog. He paid upfront, too.

The assignment wouldn't have been memorable if I didn't ask the one question that changed how I now approach client work.

"What is it that you really, really want? What's the ideal scenario, where if it happened, you'd feel hiring me was the right choice?"

Max replied that he wanted to see Raven & Finch featured in the Monocle magazine.

At that time, I didn't know anyone at Monocle.

But, as life is, within just a few months, I started meeting more and more reporters who worked there.

A year later, Raven & Finch was featured in the Monocle Podcast, a Vienna special, and also the main magazine.

Now I know it doesn't matter what people hire me for. What matters is that I deliver on their big goals.

So thank you again, Max, for your trust and your support five years ago.



"Thank you for your offer, Monika, I'll pay you more."

Taylor McKnight, Emamo

When you start as a freelancer, you don't know how the financial side of things works.

Working at a Berlin-based startup in 2014, I was earning less than € 28K a year before taxes. As a freelancer, that's nowhere close to enough. You have to pay for health insurance, pension, sick days, vacation time, and still put money aside for those times when no projects are coming in.

Taylor taught me about value evaluation. Since then, there have been many times I was able to follow his lead and do the same for others, mostly women.

What Taylor said to me changed the way I communicate about budgets. I don't like this game of asking someone how much they want if I already have a set budget for it. I say that upfront.

Of course, there have been times when I had to ask for a lower price. Yet, I prefer to keep that conversation clean and avoid exploiting others for my own benefit. A lesson learned from the incredible Taylor McKnight.




"You know, I've got a maximum of how much I want to earn every year."

Michele Pauty, Freelance Photographer

When Michele went freelance, she bought herself a car and a dog, consciously opting in for a lifestyle that suited her needs.

Sometimes she didn't earn any money; sometimes she made a lot in just a couple of days. She'd make time every day to take her dog for a walk and actually "feel" alive. It was Michele who said to me that she has a maximum figure she wants to earn per year. Because of the Austrian tax system, she made conscious decisions on how much money made sense to her.

Michele is someone with hobbies. (!) She's someone who's signed up for university and is studying in her "free time." She inspired me to think about my time the way I do.

Of course, having published three books on the topic of freelancing for which I've interviewed more than 35 women, every single one of them have had a significant impact on me. So thank you:

Oren Lasry

Maxie Matthiessen

Frances M. Thompson

Diana Ovezea

Lauren Randolph

Akilah Hughes

Gwen Boon

Saba Tark

Cristiana Ventura

Lea Hajner

Anne Riechert

Olga Skipper (Steidl)

Carola Pojer

Luna Vega

Christine Neder

Rafaela Lemos

Lisa Andersson

Breanna Musgrove

Vicky Heiler

Tanja Roos

Carina Rabeian (Schichl)

Aisha Franz

Victoria Jin

Tina Toplak

Elaine McMillion Sheldon

Julieta Ulanovsky

Lisa Glanz

Helen Johannessen

Joanna Penn

Jaymay // Jamie Seerman

Sarah Eichhorn

Susan Schmitz

Patty Golsteijn

Shayna Oliveira

Elise Blaha

Sara Combs

Maaike Boot

Sophie C Ryba

Dani Bradford

Vanessa Bruckner

Theresa Lachner

Lauren Hom

Becky Burton

Michele Pauty (again)

Yana Gilbuena

Kayleigh Owen

Jule Müller

Laura Karasinski

Yasmine Ackermark

Natalie Howard

... for being such a great source of inspiration.

Despite having read Tuesdays with Morrie a couple of years ago, it's surprising to me I'm only sharing these stories now.

Also, here are some highlights from the past five years:

Dec, 2014 One of the first projects I worked on was a real struggle, but it was this struggle that inspired me to publish This Year Will Be Different.

Dec, 2014 One of the first projects I worked on was a real struggle, but it was this struggle that inspired me to publish This Year Will Be Different.

Jan, 2015 I met Diana Joiner, my first editor, for the first time in New York after having worked with her what must have been around the clock all of the month of December.

Jan, 2015 I met Diana Joiner, my first editor, for the first time in New York after having worked with her what must have been around the clock all of the month of December.

Dec, 2016 I met Liz Wellington online and then later interviewed her for my third book. Writing these three books has given me access to the most incredible people and for that I’m incredibly grateful.

Dec, 2016 I met Liz Wellington online and then later interviewed her for my third book. Writing these three books has given me access to the most incredible people and for that I’m incredibly grateful.

Oct, 2016 I FREAKING MANAGED TO PAY BACK MY STUDENT LOANS! OMG! <3

Oct, 2016 I FREAKING MANAGED TO PAY BACK MY STUDENT LOANS! OMG! <3

Nov, 2016 The happiest of times, working with Diana Joiner.

Nov, 2016 The happiest of times, working with Diana Joiner.

Jun, 2017 This little munchkin, Orion, my office manager moved in.

Jun, 2017 This little munchkin, Orion, my office manager moved in.

Jul, 2017 I got to work with a team in Iceland on a project. We had to shoot a video at a horse farm which definitely was a highlight of my work as a freelancer.

Jul, 2017 I got to work with a team in Iceland on a project. We had to shoot a video at a horse farm which definitely was a highlight of my work as a freelancer.

Jul, 2018 I got to work on a great project with Hanzo and Virgin Money for which we organised workshops in Wales and the Midlands.

Jul, 2018 I got to work on a great project with Hanzo and Virgin Money for which we organised workshops in Wales and the Midlands.

Jun 2018 While I was at Veganz, I decided to move back to Berlin full time. After five months of apartment hunting, I finally managed to convince a landlord to let me move in. It also happened to be the nicest of all apartments.

Jun 2018 While I was at Veganz, I decided to move back to Berlin full time. After five months of apartment hunting, I finally managed to convince a landlord to let me move in. It also happened to be the nicest of all apartments.

Nov, 2018 As part of my research about food gatherings I flew to Paris to meet Jim Haynes, the father of the Fringe Festival.

Nov, 2018 As part of my research about food gatherings I flew to Paris to meet Jim Haynes, the father of the Fringe Festival.

Feb, 2019 I was invited to speak at TEDx at TEDxLend.

Feb, 2019 I was invited to speak at TEDx at TEDxLend.

Jan, 2015 Getting the first book published was a lot of hustle and a time filled with insecurities. I know this picture just shows a bunch of boxes but it’s one of the pictures I’m most proud of.

Jan, 2015 Getting the first book published was a lot of hustle and a time filled with insecurities. I know this picture just shows a bunch of boxes but it’s one of the pictures I’m most proud of.

Apr, 2015 Getting Kickstarter as one of my first big clients was the perfect proof of being in the right place, at the right time, (with the right references). I got to travel with (and for them) all across Europe to spread the word about their launch. Exhausting but also amazing!

Apr, 2015 Getting Kickstarter as one of my first big clients was the perfect proof of being in the right place, at the right time, (with the right references). I got to travel with (and for them) all across Europe to spread the word about their launch. Exhausting but also amazing!

Jun, 2016 After not having much to do, I decided to write another book on what to do as a freelancer when you have nothing to do (and how to build up scalable income streams for such a case)

Jun, 2016 After not having much to do, I decided to write another book on what to do as a freelancer when you have nothing to do (and how to build up scalable income streams for such a case)

Apr, 2017 After almost two years with Kickstarter, I decided it was time for something new. In my job with them I was on the road more or less constantly and my relationships with people have become extremely superficial. I felt like I needed a change and also wanted to slow down life. I went to Bali for a month and there I made quite a big decision.

Apr, 2017 After almost two years with Kickstarter, I decided it was time for something new. In my job with them I was on the road more or less constantly and my relationships with people have become extremely superficial. I felt like I needed a change and also wanted to slow down life. I went to Bali for a month and there I made quite a big decision.

Jul, 2017 I published another book. One about purpose, mindfulness, money.. the sort of thing one thinks about as a freelancer A LOT.

Jul, 2017 I published another book. One about purpose, mindfulness, money.. the sort of thing one thinks about as a freelancer A LOT.

Sept, 2017 I accidentally bumped into Helen Johannessen who I’ve interviewed for My Creative Side Business. Such a coincidence and so lovely!

Sept, 2017 I accidentally bumped into Helen Johannessen who I’ve interviewed for My Creative Side Business. Such a coincidence and so lovely!

Jan, 2018 Orion and I moved back to Berlin to work at Veganz as an interim head of marketing.

Jan, 2018 Orion and I moved back to Berlin to work at Veganz as an interim head of marketing.

May, 2018 I flew to Australia and New Zealand for a month without telling any one my clients; no one noticed for three weeks.

May, 2018 I flew to Australia and New Zealand for a month without telling any one my clients; no one noticed for three weeks.

Sept, 2018 I got to work together with this amazing lady: Cleo Anderson.

Sept, 2018 I got to work together with this amazing lady: Cleo Anderson.

May, 2019 For Swing Kitchen, I got to go to a lot of the #FridaysForFuture demonstrations.

May, 2019 For Swing Kitchen, I got to go to a lot of the #FridaysForFuture demonstrations.

Cheers and thank you to everyone who’s been a part of this journey.

I’m grateful for the projects I got involved with and the people I got to meet during the past years. What I value the most about this work status is the trust people have in me as a person and the fact that every project is something special, and there is no 9 to 5 mindset even though the work mostly happens at that time anyway.

The practical matters of personal finance for freelancers

Here are parts of my weekly newsletter I write for fellow freelancers: you can subscribe to my newsletter to get the full articles to your mailbox.

First of all, I have two separate bank accounts. I have a business account with a traditional German bank, which is where I receive all incoming payments and use for all business expenses. Then, I also have a private account. My personal account is with N26, which I absolutely love and would recommend any day! (If you consider signing up, please use my referral code – monikak3108 – which will give us both a €15 bonus.)

Recently, N26 introduced an incredible new feature and I couldn’t be happier! Customers can now create sub-accounts called spaces that enable them to assign a purpose to each. (mint.com does this in the US). One can also set a saving goal and see one’s progress. In the past couple of months, I’ve gamified how I use spaces, which is something I thought I’d share.

Next to my main account, I have the following sub-accounts:

A freelancer fund I’m aiming to save up the equivalent of how much I need for three months. My plan is to get to that goal and once I do, I’ll start paying towards my investment fund.

An investment fund where I plan to save up €2.000 and once I have that, get back to the book on investing my friend Clemens Bomsdorf wrote.

A holiday fund. I’ve set a goal of €3.000, which I know is enough money to cover flights, accommodation, and all my expenses to leave on a vacation for one month.

A relationship fund where I put money aside whenever someone pays for something I could have also paid for myself.

And a monthly savings account. I mentioned in Work Trips and Road Trips that I keep track of how much I spend every day. Whenever I spend less than €30 in a day, I move the difference into this space for me to see at the end of the month how much I put aside. On the first of each month, I move all the money from this space and also what’s left on my main account to one of the saving spaces. (Which at this point is my FreelancerFund or as my friend Theresa Lachner would call it, My Fuck You Fund). Btw. And if I haven’t mentioned it anywhere else, it’s a saving space you create to build up a safe blanket so that when you face a dry month, you don’t panic about it.

The advantage of me freelancing is that I earn money from different sources. I find this quite handy because it makes allocating money to my sub-accounts much more fun. I do that as follows:

I transfer 45% of everything I’ve earned from my business account to my private account. I’m keeping 55% on my business account to cover all my business expenses, taxes, and health insurance. On my private account, I split the money as follows:

I transfer…

40% of what I earn from my main client I keep as spending money.

5% of what I earn from my main client I immediately transfer to the FreelancerFund. In case I have another somewhat larger project going on, I move all of the 45% I earn with them to the FreelancerFund as well.

45% of all earnings I make from my books, my webinars on Skillshare, my photos I sell on EyeEm, and from small one-off projects I move to the HolidayFund.

If you feel like you too might want to consider creating multiple income streams, I’ve recently published three Skillshare classes to help with that:

Watch editing and monetizing your smartphone photos to learn more about how I monetise the pictures I take on the go.

If you’d like to set up a project but don’t know quite know how, I’ve put together a step by step class to help you come up with side projects to eventually monetize them.

And given we’re talking about monetization, you might also want to check out my class on Kickstarter and how to use the platform to finance creative projects.

If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to reach out.

GDPR: I'm starting new mailing lists

Some time ago, I sent out a questionnaire asking about what to do with my newsletter. Most of my readers said I should keep it as it is. Maybe make it a little shorter. I’ve not quite followed up on it. I’ve more or less stopped sending out newsletters and have mostly just been busy doing my work for Kickstarter, then recovering from the intense experience, and traveling around to visit friends. I also got a dog.

Needless to say that since going freelance in 2014, a lot has happened. I’ve not only worked with clients such as Hanzo, RubyCup, Veganz and many others but have also published three guides for freelance creatives and uploaded several classes useful to freelancers to Skillshare.

Now with the upcoming deadline of the GDPR, I felt like it’s time for a spring clean. I just spent five full days clearing and sorting out all my data. You won't find anyone whose Dropbox is as orderly as mine :)

I’ve also forced myself to discontinue and delete the projects I once started, but fizzled out. I’ve also decided to play it safe and restructure my mailing lists; in other words, delete all existing ones and start new ones. 

If you wish to receive emails from me in the future, please sign up to one or both of the following:

Newsletter for freelancers

Will be similar to the one I’ve been sending out until about a year and a half ago. Subscribers to this list will receive my articles about freelance life. I will also share life hacks as I go and develop my career. Over the years, I’ve received a lot of positive emails and would like to continue sending out those updates in the future. Additionally, should I launch a new project or learn about a new service I think is of value to you, I will share it with you as well.

 

Newsletter on community strategy

This is a list I will use to share case studies and updates I believe are of value to my past clients or people who would like to become my clients eventually. You’ll learn more about the day-to-day of my business and about the events I’m participating in. I might also share links to articles, projects, and work or products of others I consider noteworthy. I’m also going to share step-by-step articles on all the things I’ve done as a freelancer to get ready for GDPR.

I’d also love to take this opportunity and invite you to connect with me on LinkedIn. I hope that one day we’ll get to work on a project together. That would be wonderful! 

Would you like me to write another book for freelancers?
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(Here is the link to answer the survey.)

It’s the end of October. Which means it’s been almost three years since I found myself in a mouldy room in London. With a leaking ceiling. Without functioning heat. Wondering whether “this” was what freelancing was about: insecurity, shitty projects, lots of struggles. Just the memory of it gives me goosebumps.

Those who know me personally know how much I loved the job at Somewhere I had before. Going freelance was something that while it made sense at the time, wasn’t anything I was planning on doing. I needed to be location independent and had no other option. I had to learn to deal with the situation and do so quickly.

Over time, I have learned that sometimes, we need to fall deep to pick ourselves up in a whole new glory.

My way out of that mess and how I was feeling then was the first book. A book I conceptualized, produced, and financed within three months. I had the idea because I needed to learn how to freelance myself, and the insights of the women were so cool, I thought I should share them, so I did.

It actually still baffles me how many people wrote me after they read the book about how much it made their year different. How it encouraged them to make a leap and go freelance.

Given for the past three years around this time, I was mostly at home interviewing people, transcribing their interviews, editing, or writing, I’m now wondering if I should do it again. Or if I should do something different. I’m also thinking about ways to make it something more.

When looking at the numbers, none of the books were financially feasible. At least not directly. Each one helped me produce the next one, and with each, I still took a personal loss. It’s not even what I would have paid everyone who worked on the books what I believe they deserved for their excellent work. Most certainly, without the three Kickstarter campaigns I ran, none of the books would have been realized. To this day, the biggest benefit I got from writing these books was the feedback I received from the ones amongst you who felt encouraged to create and do so in self-initiative.

I’ve conducted a little questionnaire. It’s for me to learn about your needs and wants. Given it’s Christmas soon and you have probably already heard “Last Christmas” at least once, I’ve decided to raffle five books amongst those who fill out the questionnaire: 

Click here to view survey

Thank you for your help,
Monika

Are you still looking for the right book to take with you on your vacation? Look no further!
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B073TJL3S2/ref=sr_1_2

Just a quick heads up, Work Trips and Road Trips is now available on Amazon!

If you’re wondering what book to bring along for your vacation, this might be the perfect read. It’s, once again, 15  personal interviews and a great bunch of tips and tricks. I’ve talked to the ladies quite a bit about finances too, so if you’re wondering how others are managing their money to be able to go on vacation, Work Trips and Road Trips might have the answers for you!

You can get the book here

#WTART Update 13: Super exciting, super good news!
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I just finished reviewing the manuscript within its final layout! Once Chris implements my comments, Diana will make the final check. We’re so very close to printing the proof copies! 

Regarding the cover, we have four possible color combinations; a combination of blue and green or peachy orange. I’ve decided to make the final decision once I'm holding the manuscripts in my hands. 

Just last week, we’ve finally received the blurbs for the back of the book. I’m super proud and super excited the power women Annie Daly, Emma Gannon, Kathi Kamleitner, and Katy Cowan share what they thought about the book with us! (Don’t forget to check out their incredible work.) 

Here's what they said: 

"A must-read for all freelancers with a serious case of wanderlust who want, more than anything else, to create a life they never feel the need to escape from." 

Annie Daly

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"This book is not a fairy tale story or a book of inspirational quotes; it is full of solid advice that you will keep with you throughout the rest of your career."

Emma Gannon

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"A creative inspiration, thoughtful reminder, and encouraging guidance all in one. Monika gets you thinking about your life choices, next business steps, and as always, your priorities."

Kathi Kamleitner

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"Through her new book, Monika yet again shows us how to free ourselves from the chains of conventionalism and live a different, more adventurous life where we can thrive and be successful without following a traditional path. Worth your time!" 

Katy Cowan

I really hope I manage to get the book live on Amazon before you head out for summer vacation. It’s the perfect read for that! 

Talk at Creative Mornings Vienna

Have you ever loved something, but decided to give it up? I don’t mean giving up on people you loved. I mean giving up on an activity or a job. I came across this blog post by Derek Sivers that made me think about the things I gave up. Much more, his post made me think about the moments when I decided to give something up. Often, it’s the moments we decide to give up one thing to pursue another that we gather our courage to make something more meaningful happen. 

As coincidences usually go, the post was mentioned in the Creative Mornings newsletter. About 10 minutes after I read the post, Harald, the new host of Creative Mornings Vienna, asked me if I’d like to speak about “Moments” at the next event.

If you’re around, I’d love to see you there! Tickets will go live next Monday at 11am, and the event will be on the 3rd of February, at 8:30am at the Angewandte Lab.

On another note, the Kickstarter campaign for Work Trips and Road Trips will go live on the 2nd of February. You can sign up here: kck.st/2jh1dSP if you’d like to get notified. There will be a special reward for the people who back the project within the first 48 hours!

What personality type are you and how does it impact your day to day?
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Have you ever wondered why you repeatedly run into the same situations? Why you keep being attracted to the same type of people, yet feel resented by others that when looking at it closer, might have the same traits over and over again? Have you had the urge to finally break your patterns to get ahead in your career, and well, life? 

While working on Work Trips and Road Trips, I’ve come across the Briggs Meyer 16 personalities tests. I’ve done one of these tests before, but never paid much attention to the results. However, once I conducted all interviews for #WTART, transcribed, and edited them, I needed to specify the story-line of the new publication. 

When Diana, my editor, and I found out about Briggs Meyer and discussed our results.&nbsp;

When Diana, my editor, and I found out about Briggs Meyer and discussed our results. 

 

Usually, I work on all interviews and once put all of them in front of me so I can decide what the story-line needs to be (and specify the contents as well). 

When I first had the idea for #WTART, I thought I’d write a straightforward guide where I’d draw the content from the interviews. I thought it would be about travel, so, just like the others, not overly personal. However, when thinking deeply about the structure and what the women I talked to mentioned in our conversations, I knew #WTART would need to be about more personal subjects such as success, mindfulness and purpose. I realized that this time around, I might need to step out of my comfort zone and actually put a little more of myself into the articles than I’d usually dare to. (My personality type, ENFP, is known for being perceived as cheerful and open, but actually not very open about personal emotions whatsoever.) It felt like a huge responsibility to share my personal opinions with the readers and not just a summary of what everyone else said.

Now, and that brings me back to the Briggs Meyer tests, I realized that I should be overly aware of how other people process events compared to how I process them to be able to write something that will be of use for others. I started obsessing with the analysis of my personality type. It’s been really great because I now understand many of the things that I feel and do and find peace with my approach to them. 

One of my favorite blogs, Im Gegenteil (I interviewed one of the founders for #WTART), talks a lot about self-love and I feel like I’ve done a bunch of it these past few weeks.

If you want to give yourself some self-love, I can only recommend to take the test yourself!