Freelancers Union Spark Happy Hour Recap

A majority of the monthly Freelancers Union Spark events are educational and focused around a specific topic or speaker. However, once or twice a year, Spark hosts an open networking happy hour. In addition to offering drink specials, snacks, and opportunities to win free drinks and Freelancers Union swag, these particular events tend to draw a strong crowd because of the promise to connect.

As freelancers, we don’t have traditional co-workers, clients, or employees. Most of the time, our work is done remotely, our meetings are conducted over phone or video, and our day-to-day operations take place in our home offices. There are things that seem commonplace to those in more conventional jobs, like getting up and getting out of the house each day, bouncing ideas off your office-mate, or taking a lunch break with your boss. However, these things are luxuries to freelancers. So, when a chance to connect with our peers presents itself, it’s no surprise that we’ll flock there.

DBSNX2SAJX

This month at the Manhattan Spark happy hour, we convened in Tribeca over cocktails, craft beer, pub fare, and prizes. Freelancers gathered around high-top tables, and the other co-leaders and I circulated the space. As we moved from table to table, we asked the attendees who they’d like to meet at the event and worked to connect them.

While the topics discussed in the more educational workshops are always incredibly relevant and useful, this ability to connect is what makes the monthly Freelancers Union Spark events invaluable. Before I became a co-leader, I connected with two girls through Spark events, one who has become a dear friend and another who has become an incredible accountability partner and friend. Now, as a co-leader, I’m honored and thrilled to be able to facilitate connections among other freelancers.

Freelancing can be a lonely and isolating line of work, but it doesn’t have to be. If you’re looking to make more connections with fellow freelancers and grow your work community, I highly recommend checking out a Freelancers Union Spark event. There will likely be another happy hour event later this year. However, at the end of every Spark, there’s about half an hour of open networking following the workshop. To find an event near you, check out the Freelancers Union website. If you’re in the NYC area, stop by the Manhattan event and say hi – I’ll be there co-leading, and I’d love to connect!

 

Advertisements

YCDA Pop-Goddess Workshop w/ Jess Grippo Recap  

You may remember last fall when I started dancing again after a four-year hiatus thanks to Jess Grippo and her You Can Dance Again (YCDA) program. Since then, Jess has started to expand the concept, offering alternatives to her core workshop. YCDA began as a six to nine week experience, available both online and in-person for those living in the NYC area. This spring, Jess offered the first pop-up version of YCDA – a four-week mini workshop with a focus on pop-goddesses.

You might be wondering, what is a pop-goddess? Jess may very well have coined this term herself! She took three major goddess archetypes – Artemis, Kali, and Aphrodite – and paired them with a modern pop star whose personality, style, and dance reflect the core characteristics of the goddess archetypes – Pink, Beyoncé, and Lady Gaga respectively.

Over the course of the four-week Pop-Goddess workshop, the weekly virtual sessions focused on the core characteristics of the goddess archetypes and their pop-star counterparts. After exploring each theme, Jess shared guiding prompts and action steps to help us integrate the concepts into our dance practice and beyond. For those in the NYC area who were able to participate in the in-person program, each weekly class allowed us to put the prompts and integration steps into action with a community of fellow dancers.

The studio sessions allowed us to work collaboratively with the other dancers to create movements that embodied the goddess archetypes and pop-star qualities. Jess also incorporated choreography from the pop-icons and created a curated set of playlists with music from the core pop artists as well as other female artists whose music channeled the goddess spirit. The culmination of the virtual sessions and in-person classes allowed us fully embrace and embody the energy of the goddess archetypes and direct this energy through our bodies and into our dance.

The very specific and guided focus of the Pop-Goddess workshop provided a perfect space for introspection and internal work as well as a supportive community to outwardly express our inner-goddesses through dance. As Jess’s YCDA programs evolve and progress, I believe this balance of internal and external exploration, both individually and communally, is the core. Creative self-expression starts from within – dance is merely a medium to convey that expression.

The four-week Pop-Goddess workshop flew by, only brushing the surface of the themes, internal exploration, and expression through dance. I, along with many of the other dancers in the program, was left craving more. Jess listened and was inspired to create the next version of the YCDA program – a four-month experience with monthly themes, a two-day dance retreat, and a culminating showcase. This YCDA workshop is available online and in-person for those in the NYC area, and it kicks off in less than two weeks.

If something is holding you back from dancing again or you’ve been hoping for an opportunity to dance again free from comparison or competition, I highly recommend speaking with Jess and exploring the YCDA program. Maybe you’re already dancing, and you’re looking for a strong community to support you in working through internal ideas or barriers and expressing yourself fully through dance. This upcoming workshop might be just what you need – check out the full details here. If you’d like to chat further about my personal experience with YCDA, feel free to connect with me!

Creative Habit: Spring Cleaning

In most cases, when you want to make room for something new, you have to let go of something old. If you want to update your wardrobe, you might consign or donate items in your closet that no longer fit or are out of style. If you’re moving into a new home, you may have a garage sale to get rid of furniture that you no longer need. There are even small, everyday instances in which you simply remove the old to make space for the new without even thinking. Before taking a trip to the grocery store, you might clean out your fridge and discard leftovers or items that have spoiled. Purging something old to make room for something new comes naturally to us in so many facets of our lives, yet we don’t instinctively turn to this practice when it comes to creativity.

Creativity is intangible – it doesn’t literally take up space like a new pair of shoes or a couch or a carton of milk. Even though you don’t physically have to make room for a great big piece of creativity, you have to make space for it mentally. Just like your dresser or fridge can become unbearably full, so much so that you can never find the right pair of jeans or marinade when you need them, your mind can become cluttered and creativity can get lost. It’s easier when you can physically see that you have so many throw pillows you can no longer comfortably sit on your couch. You know it’s time to sell or give away a few. However, when you’re dealing with something more abstract like creativity and making space in your mind, it can be more challenging to know when and how to clear things out.

Like New Year’s Resolutions or bikini season diets, spring cleaning is a bit arbitrary. There’s never a wrong or right time to define goals, commit to a healthier lifestyle, or clear out clutter in your life. While these annual milestones are somewhat trivial, they serve as good reminders that it’s important to regularly set intentions, practice healthy habits, and let go of something old to make room for something new.

kaboompics.com_Coffee in vintage cup.

For this month’s AOC Blog Creative Habit Challenge, do a little metaphorical spring cleaning. Actively find ways to clear your mind and make space for creativity. This could be as simple as shutting off your computer, powering down your phone, and allowing yourself to detach and decompress for a few hours. Maybe you just need a breath of fresh air – go outside and get lost in the beautiful spring weather. Perhaps you’ve always been curious about meditation, and now could finally be the time to give it a try. If your mind is feeling particularly cluttered and the thought of freeing your mind sounds paralyzing or impossible, you might want to dig deeper into your spring cleaning.

Over time, the buildup of stress or the pressure of the never-ending to-do list can really start to saturate your mind. In these instances, a simple walk around the neighborhood park won’t suffice – you don’t just need spring cleaning, you need deep cleaning. Carve out some time and space to ritualize the process. Grab a pen and paper, and physically free write or sketch whatever you need to release. Try to be as raw and honest as possible. Then, tear it up, burn it, or throw it into a nearby body of water – really let it go and allow your mind to empty.

Whatever mode or method you choose, don’t just clean out your house this spring. Clean out your mind and make space for creativity. Let’s continue the conversation – tweet me @AOCBlogGirl using the hashtag #AOCBlogCreativeHabit!

Why You Can Benefit from Reflecting on Your Former Self

I admit, I have a hard time being present in the present – I’m constantly thinking ten steps ahead, and I’m often reflecting on the past. This quality can be a blessing and a curse, but I used to believe it was only the latter. It’s not particularly healthy or practical to go through life always thinking about the future or living in the past. For a long time, I fought against my impulse to plan ahead and my tendency to reminisce.

Recently, I started to explore the benefits of looking forward to the future and back to the past. It’s easier to see the potential payoff of the former. Most things in life can benefit from some sort of “future planning,” from making dinner to building a business. On the other hand, seeing the advantages of reflecting on the past is a little more challenging. Sure, we don’t want history to repeat itself, and we could all do to learn from our past mistakes. However, constantly thinking about the past can spark regret, remorse, or a longing for a life that no longer exists.

SplitShire-8596

In all my days spent reminiscing, I’ve been guilty of pining for the “good old days” of my youth. The last time I started to spiral down the road of yesteryear, I didn’t stop myself or beat myself up for getting nostalgic. Instead, I decided to dig deeper. I stopped focusing previous cities, past friends, and old haunts and started focusing on who I was during that time. I began tapping into my former self – looking through old photos, reading entries in old notebooks, and listening to old music. After about a week of devoting some time each day to this internal exploration, I found myself reconnecting with my former self and bringing her into the present.

As I’ve continued to approach the practice of reminiscing differently, I’ve noticed the presence of several selves living within me simultaneously, reuniting like old friends who had dearly missed each other after being apart for years. I’ve felt more energized, full, and content. I feel like I’ve found parts of myself that were lost.

My experience aside, here’s why I believe you can benefit from reflecting on your former self: when we’re in our youth, we’re typically more creative, imaginative, adventurous, spontaneous, and open-minded. The moment we’re thrust into adulthood, those youthful qualities tend to dissipate, and we become more practical, logical, and judgmental. Taking time to reflect on, tap into, and reconnect with my former self has helped to reignite some of those wild, hopeful, and youthful ideals within me. So, next time you find your mind wandering to the past, don’t shy away – dig deeper.


After writing this post, I discovered this interesting article on a similar subject that was published on the Freelancers Union blog back in 2015. Take a look if you’d like some additional reading on the topic of nostalgia and creativity from a more scientific perspective!

Freelancers Union Spark Recap: Pathways to Financial Freedom

Talking about money is uncomfortable. This has never been more apparent than at the most recent Freelancers Union Spark event. In Manhattan, we typically draw a crowd of forty to fifty freelancers, and we have to actively stop discussions short – our freelancers normally have so much to say, it’s near impossible for everyone to have a chance to share their thoughts. This month, the turnout and engagement at the workshop were noticeably lower than usual. Even in the freelance world where, like it or not, we have to have conversations about money with each and every client, it still feels like a taboo topic.

Fortunately, we enlisted some help to facilitate the discussion on this sticky subject. One of the experts from our partner Moven kicked things off by setting the foundation for the way in which we should approach our finances. The pathway to financial freedom starts with a basic understanding of your spending habits on a macro level, not a micro level. Approach this practice with mindfulness. Don’t psych yourself out by getting caught up in every single expense, and never make judgement on yourself in the process. Remember that step one is simply the gathering of information – what do your spending habits look like over the course of ninety days?

Once you’ve gathered this data, start working on a deeper level. Divide your expenses into categories and classify the elements within the categories as “wants” or “needs.” For example, within the category of Food/Drink, a Starbucks coffee might be classified as a “want” and a trip to Trader Joe’s might be classified as a “need.” It’s important to organize items within a category as opposed to identifying an entire category as a “want” or “need” to get the best assessment of your spending habits. Another component you might want to consider here is the “happiness factor.” Identify which expenses are making you feel fulfilled, well-rounded, and balanced. Although an expense may be a “want” and not a “need,” this step will help you recognize which nonessential expenses are still beneficial to your well-being.

piggy-bank-621068_960_720_edited

After you’ve taken a look at your expenses, shift the focus to your income. One of the key differences and challenges between freelancing and having a traditional job is consistent income. Without a fixed salary, your income is likely going to fluctuate from month-to-month depending on the number and scope of projects you’re working on. The key to creating stability with your earnings is to diversify. There are numerous ways to create multiple income streams – passive income projects, physical products, courses, teaching, and even working a part-time gig in addition to freelancing. Remember to think about diversifying from multiple angles – this could be breaking down your projects into daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly work or finding alternative ways to generate income like consigning or selling on eBay. Just start brainstorming, and you may be surprised by the ideas you come up with.

The final element of creating pathways to financial freedom is to assess your rates. In order to determine the rates you need to charge, you must know your spending habits – what does it cost you to live, work, and play? Compare this against industry standards, and you’ll find the sweet spot. Don’t forget the importance of varying your income streams. By taking on multiple types of projects and work, you’re not only diversifying your income but also allowing yourself to diversify your rates. When you’ve got an array of offerings at a range of prices, you’re able to attract a wider scope of clients and, ideally, more work.

Talking about money may be uncomfortable, but it’s time to break out of your comfort zone. Let’s continue the conversation – tweet me at @AOCBlogGirl using the hashtag #FreelanceSpark with questions or tips on how you’re creating pathways to financial freedom in your freelance business.


Freelancers Union Spark events take place monthly in over twenty cities around the country. Visit the Freelancers Union site to find out about a Spark event near you. If you’re in the NYC area, stop by the Manhattan Spark, and say hello! I’ll be there co-leading!