Tips for Freelancers in NYC
I became a freelancer in New York after working a soul-sucking desk job in an upscale hair salon. When I moved to NYC, I was running around the city for months trying to find a job to supplement my part-time writing gigs, only to realize I fell into that dreaded “in between” gap where I was overqualified for a retail job at Bloomingdale’s, yet not experienced enough for a six-figure corporate position.
Since I moved to the city to work on my music career, I realized that I couldn’t commit to any 9-to-5 type schedule, as I need the flexibility in case I had to randomly pop into the studio for a recording session. So that’s how I ended up working for myself and taking on several clients of my own. The city is full of freelance contractors, which is the ideal setup if you’re here to pursue certain careers, especially in the arts/entertainment industry. Here are some tips for freelancers in NYC.
Search for new clients and projects daily.
I think about it this way – if I don’t have enough projects to take up at least nine hours of my day, then my job is to spend those extra hours looking for more work. Aside from Craig’s List, the typical freelancer’s go-to, check out websites like Elance and, my personal favorite, oDesk. From oDesk alone, I’ve booked jobs for voiceover acting, writing scripts for commercials, and even serving as someone’s dating coach.
Maintain an updated portfolio.
It’s crucial to be ready to send over a selection of relevant work whenever a potential client asks. Delaying a response to update content on your portfolio site, even by a couple of hours, is enough time for someone else to snag the job instead.
Keep an organized “to do” list and refer back throughout the day.
With so many clients and projects, I’d be completely lost if I didn’t write everything down and prioritize my schedule. Creating an organized list, however, isn’t enough. It’s also essential to refer back after each task is completed, to stay on track. I think there’s something very gratifying about crossing tasks off when I’m done.
Be disciplined with your time.
Working an average of 60 hours each week, it’s hard to believe that I set my own work schedule. I don’t always have deadlines or appointments to keep, but that doesn’t mean I can sleep in until noon. There’s always something I can do, like scout talent to feature in the magazine I work for, or compose a new song. As a freelancer, it’s tempting to sit back and relax. Trust me, I’ve done that more times than I’d like to admit. But time is money, and it’s important to be disciplined with how that time is spent.
Vary your work location.
I love working from home and can’t imagine sitting in a cubicle all day. There’s no commute, and I don’t have to waste an hour or more getting ready every morning (my hair and makeup routine is ridiculous). Still, it’s good to switch it up once in a while and work away from home. I recommend taking your laptop to a nearby Starbucks or Barnes & Noble, and in the summer it’s nice to sit in Central Park or on a bench by the East River and write.
Get your name out there.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it a million more times – networking and reaching out to people is a must if you’re a freelancer in NYC. If you’re not actively circulating your name and portfolio, how can you expect any potential clients to find you? Don’t depend on word-of-mouth referrals alone. Tons of freelance opportunities exist in this city, but so do tons of freelancers. Be proactive about being noticed.
During my first two months in New York, I sent out over 200 job applications, went on about a dozen job interviews, and still ended up with nothing. But I kept applying for more freelance work until a month later when I was offered a part-time position as a website editor. Later that year, I was hired as the national marketing director at a luxury magazine, and I still work both jobs today. Surviving as a freelancer does take a lot of self-assurance and tenacity.
Don’t take “no” personally.
While I’ve had no shortage of clients for the past several years, I’ve probably heard the word “no” a hundred times more often than the word “yes. I’m so used to hearing the word that it doesn’t even faze me anymore. Rather than wasting time pouting when I don’t book a writing job or my song doesn’t get picked up by a publishing company, I like to focus on the fact that every “no” moves me one step closer to that next “yes.” Remember that all freelancers have been turned down numerous times, and the ones who eventually rise to the top are the ones who refuse to quit.