Freelancing Guide Helps Newcomers Navigate the Universe of Opportunities

The creative people at FreshBooks’ cloud accounting service for freelancers and small businesses have developed “The Freelancer’s Guide to the Galaxy.”   Because I have been freelancing for a long time and use FreshBooks’ services, I accepted their invitation to comment on the guide.

FreshBooks_GuideGalaxyHeadlineThe infographic (published below) points out that the freelance universe can be complex place to navigate on your own. The guide highlights 9 places new voyagers can expect to encounter. Here is a quick recap of the 9 zones and what I have learned traveling through them.

CLIENT STAR FIELD: Potential clients abound but they can be elusive if you take the wrong approach.

My experience: This is true. The right approach matters because competition also abounds. You will also discover that not all clients and opportunities are right for you. At some point, seeking new clients becomes like perpetual online dating or job hunting. Eventually you may prefer to settle down with a few clients who value your work and treat you like part of the team.

LAND OF PEAKS AND PITS: Some months you’ll have to trek through mountains of work from multiple clients. Other months you’ll have to slog through a desert of dry spells.

My experience: Mountains of work are fraught with peril (e.g., missed deadlines, neglected marketing projects, overlooked accounting tasks).  The deserts can be unnerving because you never know when the dry spell will end. But slowdowns in paying assignments are great opportunities to pursue personal projects that refresh your skills and enthusiasm. Dry spells can also give you time to streamline your workflows, update your skills, or connect with clients who can give you a predictable flow of steady work.

ISOLATION ZONE: Sometimes the life of a work-at-home freelancer gets a bit lonely. Stay connected to professional peers at networking events or informal get-togethers.

My experience: I am more productive and creative working in isolation than in an open-space office environment. But staying connected to the outside world is essential. Traveling to trade shows and educational conferences can expand your universe of contacts, opportunities, and ideas for new projects.

TIME WASTER’S BLACK HOLE: Online (and offline) distractions can be a powerful force.

My experience: You can’t afford to fall into the black hole of wasted time. As a freelancer, your time is your most valuable asset. Ultimately, your earning potential depends on how many hours you spend on income-generating projects.

GRAY AREA: The boundaries between work and home become especially blurry when working from home.

My experience: This was particularly true when my children were little. But children grow up and move out faster than you imagine.  So, I have never regretted the times I let my own work slow down to spend more time with them. Still, I have always appreciated my separate home office space. I close the door and leave work behind at the end of a busy day.

PLANET YOU: You are responsible for your own success.

My experience: Like other freelancers, I was shocked by how little time is spent doing work I truly love. Instead of “being your own boss,” you must adapt to the diverse work styles and expectations of multiple bosses. Plus, in addition to marketing yourself, there will be times when you must be your own IT person, accountant, and training expert.

Continuous training is especially important because it can help you differentiate yourself from competitors and become indispensable to your clients. Freelancers with leading-edge skills or unique expertise or can command higher rates.

ACCOUNTING ALLEY: The land of taxes, deductions, and accounts payable can seem like entering a whole new universe.

My experience: In addition to exploring the brave new world of accounting, you may encounter clients who require specific types of business insurance and licenses. If you approach freelancing as a business instead of a sideline, you will be better prepared to handle the realities of taxes, local home-business regulations, and insurance.

CORPORATE TEMPTRESSES: Guaranteed health coverage and 401k contributions could lure you back into the life of a salaried employee.

My experience: Weaving between the worlds of freelancing and full-time work can be a good thing. I worked at home when my children were toddlers, and happily accepted a part-time job when the kids went off to school. When the part-time job morphed into full-time work, I forged valuable connections that guaranteed steady work when I opted to return to freelancing. In today’s world of “contingent workforces,” a full-time job isn’t necessarily more secure than freelancing.

RETIREMENT NEVERLAND: Don’t neglect the need to plan for your financial future.

My experience: Yes, it’s critical to plan for secure financial future. But if you reach the point  in your business where you can do more of the work you love, you may not want to retire. At some point during your freelance career, consider diversifying your work so that not all of your income comes from paying clients. Creative professionals today are discovering dozens of new ways to create and sell their own products.

FreshBooks_GuideToTheGalaxy600pix-

Final Words of Advice

With the rise of the gig economy and contingency work teams, dozens of new services have been developed to make life easier for independent workers.

I started using FreshBooks several years ago, when I learned about it during a virtual conference on International Freelancer’s Day. The founder of FreshBooks was a freelance designer who learned the hard way that general-office tools for creating documents and spreadsheets aren’t sufficient for the needs of independent business owners.

At first, I used FreshBooks primarily for time tracking, invoicing, and preparing 1099 forms for independent contractors I managed for a major project. Today, I also use FreshBooks to track and categorize tax-deductible expenses. I can access FreshBooks on my iPhone, iPad and PC.

FreshBooks-ProductFamily

Today, companies that hire freelancers may ask you to provide specialized services that you don’t yet offer. FreshBooks’ partnership with Elance makes it easy to connect with a vast pool of other freelancers who could help deliver additional services a client might want.

The FreshBooks partnership with PayPal makes it easy for to give clients several options for how they want to pay (including credit cards).

Many other apps and services exist make it easier for freelancers today to find new clients, submit proposals, and provide a wider range of services.  I will share some of the services that have worked well for me in future posts.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

FreshBooks

Surface Imaging Blends Art, Technology, Entrepreneurship

The rapid adoption of digital printing technologies and the rise of Internet of Things are creating exciting opportunities for entrepreneurial designers.

The increased use of all forms of digital printing is creating a demand for short runs of custom-designed wallcoverings, textiles, ceramics, and glassware. Plus, the ability to “print” electronics and sensors on thin, flexible films has made it possible to design interactive fashion, sportswear, wallpaper, and window films.

Once you learn more about the technologies and huge range of materials used in “surface imaging,” you will quickly see that the possibilities for creative new products and designs are limited only by your imagination.

Investors in digital printing equipment are looking for well-trained and creative designers to help them get the most from their equipment.

To get involved in this burgeoning field, check out the graduate-level Surface Imaging program at Philadelphia University. The University is currently accepting new degree candidates for a one-year program that begins in May, 2016.

The Surface Imaging program at Philadelphia University is a unique graduate program for designers and artists who want to bring their creativity to life through state-of-art digital printing technologies.

Surface Imaging at PhilaU from Philadelphia University on Vimeo.

Working in the Center for Excellence in Surface Imaging, you will learn how to apply your painting, drawing, photography and printmaking skills to fabrication projects that involve state-of-the-art digital printing and additive material deposition and subtraction-printing technologies.

The curriculum includes courses in surface imaging design, printing technology,  and material and polymer science. To find the best opportunities within the fast-growing digital-printing industry, you will also study entrepreneurship and develop a business plan that integrates design, applied engineering, and innovative business models.

The Center for Excellence of Surface Imaging has been supported by international imaging industries, including printer manufacturers, ink formulators, and software developers.

Upon graduation, you will be prepared for a leadership role in developing new products for the architecture, interior design, textile manufacturing, fashion apparel, and home industries.

To apply, act quickly. According to Hitoshi Ujiie of the Center for Excellence in Surface Imaging, “While we have a rolling enrollment system, our preferred deadline for applications is February 1, 2016.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION

MS Surface Imaging, Philadelphia University

Application Requirements

Fashion Technology Exhibitions Highlight New Approaches to Haute Couture

Two upcoming exhibitions, Coded_Couture and Manus x Machina, will highlight artists and designers who are exploring what’s possible with fashion technology in haute couture.

Coded_Couture
Pratt Manhattan, New York
February 12-April 30, 2016

Opening during New York Fashion Week, the Coded_Couture exhibition asks visitors to consider: “Is coding the ultimate design tool for creating customized garments and accessories?”

Curated by Ginger Gregg Duggan and Judith Hoos Fox of curatorsquared, the show features the work of 10 artist-designers. Their approach to personalization is in the spirit of haute couture, but their methodology is rooted in coding. The designers are pioneering ways to use bio-sensors and other technology to gather real-time information about the wearer or viewers that substantially  transforms the aesthetics of the work.

The Coded_Couture exhibit opens at the Pratt Manhattan Gallery February 12 and will run through April 30 before traveling to other sites. For details see: www.curatorsquared.com

The Coded_Couture exhibit opens at the Pratt Manhattan Gallery February 12 and will run through April 30 before traveling to other sites. For details see: www.curatorsquared.com

For example, Francesca Rosella and Ryan Genz of Cute Circuit have designed garments with built-in electronics and sensors. Some garments change color based on social-media feedback.

Cute Circuit's Light Up Twitter Dress

Fashion tech firm Cute Circuit created this “Light Up Twitter” dress. Shown here worn by singer Nicole Scherzinger, the dress is made up of more than 2,000 LED lights and illustrated tweets received in real time with the hashtag #tweetthredress. Photo: CuteCircuit, www.cutecircuit.com

In a speculative design called “The Holy Dress,” Melissa Coleman has incorporated bio-sensors that can detect when the wearer of the dress isn’t telling the truth.

In a post on Fast Company Design, co-curator Ginger Gregg Duggan points out that “Like couture is meant to be shaped to your physical measurements, this takes it to the next level in how fashion can reflect your psyche and your interaction with others and the world at large.”

For a project entitled

For a project entitled “[No]Where, [Now]Here,” Ying Gao created two dresses that combine super organza, photoluminescent thread and embedded eye-tracking technology. The thread’s luminosity is activated by the spectator’s gaze. (www.yinggao.com)

Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology
Metropolitan Museum of Art: Costume Institute
May 5-August 14, 2016

The Manus x Machina exhibition will explore how designers are reconciling the handmade and the machine-made in the creation of haute couture and avant-garde ready-to-wear.

“Fashion and technology are inextricably connected, more so now than ever before,” said Thomas P. Campbell, director and CEO of the Met. “It is timely to examine the roles that the handmade and the machine-made have played in the creative process.” While the hand-made is often presented as the opposite of machine-made, “This exhibition proposes a new view in which the hand and the machine are mutual and equal protagonists.”

The exhibition is made possible by Apple, with additional support provided by Conde Nast.

“Both the automated and handcrafted processes require similar amounts of thoughtfulness and expertise,” said Jonathan Ive, Apple’s Chief Design Officer. “There are instances where technology is optimized, but ultimately it’s the amount of care put into the craftsmanship (whether it’s machine-made or handmade) that transforms ordinary materials into something extraordinary.”

The Manus x Machina exhibition will feature more than 100 examples of haute couture and avant-garde ready-to-wear, dating from an 1880s Worth gown to a 2015 Chanel suit. The exhibition will reflect on the founding of haute couture in the 19th century when the sewing machine was invented, and the emergence of the distinction between the hand (manus) and the machine (machina) at the onset of industrialization and mass production.

The galleries will present a series of displays on  embroidery, feathers, pleating, knitting, lacework, leatherwork, braiding, and fringework and contrast them with ensembles that incorporate new fashion technology such as 3D printing, laser cutting, thermo shaping, computer modeling, circular knitting, ultrasonic welding, and bonding and laminating.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Coded Couture

Manus x Machina

Freelancer’s Guide to Business and Taxes Helps Gig Economy Workers

To help new freelancers understand some of the paperwork associated with freelance business operations, FormSwift has published “The Freelancer’s Essential Guide to Business and Taxes.” Written by Justin Gomer and Jackson Hille, the guide urges new solopreneurs to take a business-like approach to their freelance business.

Learn to Prosper in the Gig Economy

While many photographers, designers, and writers are accustomed to deriving some or all of their income from freelancing, many other professionals aren’t. But millions of new college graduates, part-time employees, under-employed professionals, and displaced workers are actively pursuing freelance gigs.

In fact, a whole new “Gig Economy” has taken shape in the aftermath  of the Great Recession of 2008-2009. As Gerald Friedman pointed out on his Dollars and Sense blog, “Growing numbers of Americans no longer hold a regular ‘job’ with long-term connection to a particular business. Instead, they work “gigs,” where they are employed on a particular task or for a defined time…Borrowed from the music industry the word ‘gig’ is now applied to all sorts of flexible employment.”

Freelancers and independent contractors today include adjunct and part-time professors, Uber and Lyft drivers, translators, virtual assistants, doctors, lawyers, and accountants.

Formswift Freelance Business Guide

“The Freelancer’s Essential Guide Business and Taxes” discusses the types of forms new freelancers need to file estimated taxes or report payments to independent contractors you might hire to help you complete an assignment.

The guide reassures Gig Economy newcomers that they aren’t alone. Resources such as the Freelancers Union  can show  you how to  forge a successful career as an independent worker.

Is Freelancing the New Normal?

According to the study “Freelancing in America: A National Survey of the New Workforce,” 53 million Americans are now engaged in some form of supplemental, temporary, or project- or contract-based work. Technology has made it much easier for individuals to find freelance work and contribute work from wherever they choose to live.

The study lists five types of freelancers:

Independent contractor: Provides freelance, temporary, or supplemental work on a project-to-project basis.

Moonlighter: Uses freelance work to supplement income from a full-time job.

Diversified worker: Combines part-time jobs with freelance gigs.

Temporary worker: Works for a months-long project for single client.

Freelance business owner: Employs one to five people but regards himself or herself as both a freelancer and a business owner.

About FormSwift

FormSwift is an online platform that makes it easy to locate, edit, and electronically sign more than 500 commonly used business and legal forms.

In addition to tax forms for estimated taxes, you can find templates for small business documents, real-estate transactions, affidavits, and personal contracts (such as prenups and cohabitation agreements).

In the small-business category, you can download and edit templates for:

  • non-disclosure agreements
  • invoices
  • consulting agreements
  • employee handbooks
  • independent contractor service agreements
  • cease-and-desist letters for copyright infringement

FormSwift members can choose from 500+ document templates or upload their own documents and use FormSwift’s tools to edit them.

LINKS

The Freelancer’s Essential Guide to Business and Taxes

FormSwift

Freelancing in America: A National Survey of the New American Workforce

The Rise of the Gig Economy

Freelancers Union

The Creative Group Reports Hiring Trends for First Half of 2016

According to new research on 2016 hiring trends by The Creative Group, 11 percent of advertising and marketing executives surveyed planned to expand their teams in the first half of 2016. The majority of respondents (76 percent) said they expect to maintain staff levels and hire primarily to fill vacated roles in the next six months.

hiring trends 2016Fifty-eight percent of executives said it is challenging to find creative professionals today. “Companies have specific staffing needs, particularly in digital marketing, and seek professionals with precise skills and experience to support these initiatives. Low unemployment coupled with high demand is creating a competitive hiring environment,” said Diane Domemeyer, executive director of The Creative Group.

“Employers are also placing greater emphasis on finding job candidates who will fit well with their workplace culture, which is making the recruiting process even more challenging.”

Hiring Trends for Marketing and Advertising Specialties

Executives reported a range of specialties when asked in which areas they planned to add staff in the first half of 2016. Content marketing and creative/art direction topped the list (27 percent each), followed by brand/product management and print design/production (26 percent each).

Advertising and marketing executives were asked: “In which of the following areas do you expect to hire in the first half of 2016?” Their responses

27% – Content marketing
27% – Creative/art direction
26% – Brand/product management
26% – Print design/production
25% – Interactive media
23% – Account services
22% – Media services
20% – Web design/production
17% – Market research
16% – Digital marketing
15% – Public relations
15% – Customer experience
15% – Copywriting
15% – Social media
10% – Mobile design/development

Challenges Recruiting Creative Professionals

Hiring is getting harder for companies: Fifty-eight percent of advertising and marketing executives said it is challenging to find skilled creative professionals today. This figure is up 16 percent from six months ago, and the highest it has been since The Creative Group started tracking the figure in 2010.

Hiring managers at small marketing departments (100-249 employees) expect the greatest difficulty, with 62 percent of respondents reporting it is somewhat or very challenging to find the talent they seek.

When asked which areas are most difficult to fill, the top responses were brand/product management and customer experience.

The Creative Group Hiring Trends Report

About the Research

The national study on hiring trends was developed by The Creative Group and conducted by an independent research firm. It is based on more than 400 telephone interviews with approximately 200 marketing executives randomly selected from companies with 100 or more employees and 200 advertising executives randomly selected from agencies with 20 or more employees.

The Creative Group (TCG) specializes in placing a range of highly skilled interactive, design, marketing, advertising, and public relations professionals with a variety of firms on a project, contract-to-hire, and full-time basis.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

The Creative Group

The Creative Group Blog

Studio F Provides New Art Marketing and Display Opportunities

Studio F is a new art marketing platform through which artists can sell their work as high-quality vinyl decals and wrapped canvases on fathead.com. Part of the Fathead family of companies, Studio F uses the marketing prowess and reach of the Fathead brand along with Fathead’s digital graphic technology to reproduce curated artists’ work as decals that buyers can display as frameless wall art, furniture enhancements, or window art.

Colorful Launch over Thanksgiving Weekend

To demonstrate the full potential and scale of Studio F’s creative capabilities, Detroit artists Ellen Rutt and Patrick Ethen were commissioned to create RADIANT CITY, a large-scale public art installation that in downtown Detroit. The artists were commissioned to help create an exciting experience to unveil Studio F and the transformative nature of the product.

Fathead launches Studio F, a new artist portal, with stunning exhibit RADIANT CITY in downtown Detroit (PRNewsFoto/Fathead LLC)

Fathead launches Studio F, a new artist portal, with stunning exhibit RADIANT CITY in downtown Detroit (PRNewsFoto/Fathead LLC)

The installation was open November 25-27 during the festivities surrounding America’s Thanksgiving Parade presented by Art Van.

Rutt and Ethen designed over 300 one-of-a-kind patterns that were sampled from Detroit architecture, printed on Fathead vinyl, and applied to the tops of tables by IKEA, the world’s largest furniture retailer. Using downtown Detroit’s beautiful, historic Grand Circus Park as their canvas, Rutt and Ethen arranged the tables to form an enormous mosaic and immersive color field around the Russell Alger Memorial Fountain.

“The patchwork quilt is a powerful metaphor for Detroit,” says Ethen, “there are so many people, ideas and cultures at play. This city is best understood as a plurality—nothing less than the sum of its parts.”

The duo explored Detroit to archive a collection of patterns from all over the city. “It’s important for us to make work that’s imbued with a sense of place,” adds Rutt, “There’s such a rich creative history in Detroit, so much inspiration surrounding us already, that sourcing patterns from local architecture was an obvious choice. RADIANT CITY symbolically references the present cultural climate, the energy and passion that is so tangible here.”

After the exhibit closed, some of the art-topped tables in RADIANT CITY for Studio F were donated to Humble Design, a non-profit group that provides furnishings and design services to families transitioning out of homeless shelters. The remaining tables will be sold on  December 1 in celebration of #GivingTuesday, a global day dedicated to giving back. All proceeds will go to Humble Design.

RADIANT CITY for Studio F was a colorful launch celebration for Studio F. Fathead worked with Minneapolis based advertising agency Fallon Worldwide to develop the launch idea and choose Ellen Rutt and Patrick Ethen as the first artists to be featured on the Studio F website.

“Studio F is the next evolution of Fathead,” said Joanna Cline, chief marketing officer, Fathead. “We can now offer our quality products, stellar marketing support and customer service to the artistic community.” Established artists and “artists to watch” will be able to expand their art collections to this dynamic new online gallery.

Information about how to apply for inclusion in the Studio F gallery and earn commissions for the sale of your work can be found on the Studio F website.

LINKS

Studio F

Starting Salaries Will Be Up Significantly for Eight Technology and Creative Jobs

As companies increase their focus on digital strategy, starting salaries are rising for professionals with expertise in this area. The 2016 Salary Guides from staffing specialists Robert Half Technology and The Creative Group show that base salaries in the technology and creative fields are expected to increase 5.3 percent and 3.8 percent, respectively, in the coming year. But some roles are projected to see even bigger pay bumps.

“Companies continue to struggle to find professionals who can help create seamless digital experiences – from collecting and analyzing customer data to building secure e-commerce environments to providing intuitive, easy-to-navigate websites,” said John Reed, senior executive director of Robert Half Technology and The Creative Group. “Strong demand and a limited supply of professionals with digital competencies have put job seekers in the driver’s seat. Businesses risk losing good people to prospective employers who promise more money or new challenges.”

The following eight high-paying jobs are expected to see substantial increases in average starting salary in 2016, according to the Robert Half Salary Guides*: Compared to 2015 starting salaries, the eight positions below will see starting salaries from 5.9% to 9.7% higher than in 2015.

  • Wireless Network Engineer: Up 9.7% over 2015
  • Big Data Engineer: Up 8.9% over 2015
  • Data Scientist: Up 8.9% over 2015
  • Mobile Applications Developer: Up 8.2% over 2015
  • Content Strategist: Up 8.1% over 2015
  • Multimedia Designer: Up 6.3% over 2015
  • User Experience (UX) Specialist: Up 5.9% over 2015
  • User Interface (UI) Developer: Up 5.9% over 2015

RHT-TCG-Top+8+Roles_11_4_2015

More information about these and other potentially high-paying career opportunities, including job descriptions, can be found in the Robert Half Technology 2016 Salary Guide, which includes a wide range of information technology positions, and The Creative Group 2016 Salary Guide, which focuses on interactive, design and marketing jobs.

Both Robert Half Technology (rht.com) and The Creative Group (creativegroup.com) are divisions of Robert Half, the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm.