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.
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!
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!
Last week I had a girl’s night with one of my friends and fellow Spark co-leaders. After much-needed mani/pedis, we sat down over wine and cheese to catch up. Inevitably, the conversation shifted to our work and, eventually, to the upcoming Spark event, focusing on growing your freelance business. We commiserated about feeling underqualified to lead a discussion on the topic since it was something we each struggled with in our careers.
A week later, the moment of truth arrived: the night of the monthly Spark event. I approached it optimistically, hoping a freelance veteran would attend and spill the magic secret to get from point A to point B in your freelance career. Of course there is no magic or secret to growing your freelance business. What I took away from the discussion is that in order to take your freelance career to the next level, you have to achieve a careful balance of give and take – it’s all about knowing what’s worth investing to get a better return.
What You Put In
Bottom line: you have to put something in to get something out. Your most valuable resources are time and money, and you have to learn to invest both wisely to successfully grow your business.
One of the most common time investments for freelancers is pitching – pitching concepts to leads in hopes of gaining a new client or pitching new ideas to existing clients in hopes of expanding their scope of work. Once you begin to grow your freelance business, time becomes an increasingly precious (and sometimes scarce) resource – your cash flow may vary, but there are only 24-hours in a day! When time starts to become your limiting factor, it may mean that you need to invest some money into outsourcing a portion of your workload by either hiring an employee or automating some of your tasks.
Investment: Time Investment: Money
Example: Pitching Example: Outsourcing
What You Get Out
The amount of money you earn isn’t the only way to measure your success as a freelancer. The amount of time you get back and can re-invest in your business is another good indicator of a growing and thriving freelance career.
Passive income is one way to give yourself more time. Yes, the term “passive income” is a bit misleading – it’s not completely passive. It typically requires you to devote a certain amount of time, and possibly money, upfront. The goal of passive income is for the return to eventually exceed that initial investment. It’s crucial that you’re clear on how much time or money will need to go into a passive income project upfront and what you’ll need to achieve in order to profit.
Another way to regulate your cash flow without raising your rates is to explore retainer packages and value-based pricing. A retainer may be a good option for a long-term client who gives you consistent work. With a retainer, a standard fee is agreed upon and paid upfront in order to secure your services on an as-needed basis. Value-based pricing is perfect for the client who’s in a rush or panic – one who’s either under a tight deadline or who’s had a hiccup in-house and needs help fixing the mishap. Having a standard rush-fee for these types of projects can help you to get more value for your time.
Return: Time Return: Money
Example: Passive Income Example: Retainer or Value-Based Pricing
If your business is on the way to reaching that next level, you may be wondering, what now? The next step could be considering an LLC or incorporation. Whether you want to grow your team, better protect your personal assets, or just add some extra credibility to your business, restructuring may be the way to go. Like everything you need to grow your freelance business, taking this step requires both time and money. Not sure if you’re ready to take the leap or if this would be a smart move for your business? Check out incorporate.com for more details on the process.
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. Next month’s event is focused on financial freedom – you won’t want to miss it! If you’re in the NYC area, stop by the Manhattan Spark, and say hello! I’ll be there co-leading! For more information about Freelancers Union or Spark events, feel free to tweet me @AOCBlogGirl – I’d be happy to answer your questions.
The downside of an unusually warm winter in New York City is that for every inch of snow you would have accumulated, you instead endure an equal amount of rain. The night of Sloane Crosley’s event at NYC’s School of Visual Arts was one of those cold-but-not-quite-freezing, unbearably drizzly evenings. Admittedly, if I hadn’t been working in-office with a client in Chelsea, there’s a great likelihood I wouldn’t have dragged myself out of the comfort of the indoors.
Despite the weather, public transit was running smoothly, and I arrived to the complex early. As I was signing in my “reason for visiting,” I glanced over my shoulder to see Sloane Crosley herself right behind me. Your name has two s’s and hers has one, I reminded myself. I turned around, extended my hand to her shoulder and nervously exclaimed, “I’m here to see you! And by the way, we happen to have the same last name, just spelled differently.” She glanced at the sign in sheet, turned back to me, and said, “Why yes we do!” As she signed in, I anxiously paced around the lobby, losing all memory of how to get myself to the third floor of a building. I ended up ascending the stairs with Sloane, assuming she knew where she was heading for her own event. She was immediately whisked off into another room to prep with her counterpart Adam Harrison Levy, and I waited outside until I was ushered in with the other attendees.
What started as an interview of sorts quickly evolved into a witty banter between two people who seemed like old friends. Over the course of the evening, Sloane spoke to an array of topics that appealed to writers and aspiring authors. Below is my account of Sloane’s responses.*
*Please note that the following account is based on notes complied during the event. They are not direct quotes from Sloane Crosley.
The Writing Process: I start with lots of cups of coffee, and I dress enough to escape in the event of a fire. Typically no music, but if I do it’s either classical or something with lyrics I know very well and can easily tune out or not pay much attention to. Living in NYC, I have enough extraneous noise from my neighbors! Sometimes I start to wander. If I do, I’ll print out a copy, write the pertinent things at the top – the theme or the timeline – then go through and highlight what sticks to those things. That’s what I keep.
Writing a Novel: It took three or four years to write The Clasp – you have to live with your characters and learn to see the world from their perspectives
Humor Writing: I want to tug at the heartstrings of my readers, and for me humor is the best way to do that. I believe the different types of humor people use tell everything about their character. People tend to gravitate toward and place greater value on content that is deep, like a drama. Comedic actresses or actors never win the Oscar. People think humor looks easy. Comedic individuals don’t get credit for addressing the same issues but in a humorous or more entertaining way.
The Significance of Objects: Objects are often associated with nostalgia. That’s the way my memory works. Without an object, I wonder if I’ll remember that moment or day. They also create a way into the story, an entry point. We’re not a society of Buddhists – we put a lot of weight on objects!
Collecting Details: I write about certain things because the details are already collected. What are nine objects of meaning to you? I bet you could think of twenty.
Confidence: Writers have the advantage of working in solitude or isolation. No one is there to see when you make mistakes. No one is watching while you write a million bad drafts alone in a room – you’ll figure it out in the editing process.
Why She Writes: I have a love of language. It’s also just how I see the world, how I know how to think about things.
Once the evening came to a close, the other attendees filtered into a nearby room for refreshments. I loitered as Sloane chatted with one of the event organizers, wanting to catch her before she left. I’d optimistically brought one of her books, I Was Told There’d Be Cake, in hopes she might sign it. I tried to be inconspicuous, casually fumbling in my purse yet knowing full well I’d deeply regret not mustering the courage to bother her for an autograph. Fortunately, an overly enthusiastic teacher from New Jersey who had also attended the event had no problem interrupting Sloane’s conversation and requesting a signature in her book. I seized the opportunity and successfully got her to sign mine as well. As I began to collect my things and brace myself for a cold-but-not-quite-freezing, unbearably drizzly walk to the subway, I couldn’t resist peeking at what Sloane had written – “Caitlyn, So nice to meet you! Best Wishes! Sloane Cros(s)ley”
To see Sloane at a future event on her tour, check out her website.
My craving for more of New York Fashion Week didn’t stop at The Nolcha Shows. Shortly after announcing my Instagram and Twitter takeover for the emerging womenswear designer Minan Wong, I received an invitation from another up and coming New York City-based fashion designer, Iyala Anne of the label Ane Amour. I immediately shifted some meetings in my schedule so that I could attend the brand’s NYFW debut at AMCONYC, another show exclusively for emerging and independent designers.
The day was finally here – the last day of NYFW and the day of Ane Amour’s first show. I arrived in the media lounge at Studio 450 in Chelsea. I took a lap around the space, checking out the photo booth and coffee bar and snapping a few pictures and videos of the pre-show excitement. As I was exploring the area, I was able to sneak a peek at the crew rushing to set up the runway. The space was absolutely breathtaking – crisp, clean, and white with two walls of windows letting the natural light pour in. I could already tell the ambiance was going to be perfect for a fashion show.
I hung around the check-in so I could be one of the first to enter. When the time came, I was directed to the press desk and escorted to a seat on the front row. Here, an official Ane Amour gift bag awaited me, filled with little goodies from sponsors, like fruit snacks from Go Organically, a set of false lashes from Make-Up Pro, and a yummy ginger and green tea drink from Just Chill. I continued to take in the buzz of the room with my camera as more and more people began to take their seats and the press pit began to fill up.
The hum of the pre-show chatter began to quiet as the pre-show music began to fade. A new track started to play as the doors opened, and the first look walked onto the runway. As the show progressed, I started to soak in the designer’s signature style. Everything about the Ane Amour FW16 collection is powerfully feminine – the fabrics, the colors, the patterns, and the silhouettes.
After the final walk, I lingered around the space and watched on as Iyala engaged in her post-show interviews. As things began to die down, I found a quick moment to sneak in and congratulate her on her debut at NYFW. It was such an amazing production from beginning to end and a beautiful fall/winter collection. I left reeling with excitement from the energy of the experience, then the reality set in: my first NYFW was officially over, and I’ll have to wait until the fall to get my fix again.
Iyala Anne is a NYC native and multimedia artist. In addition to designing women’s apparel, she teaches yoga, practices ballet, and writes and records music. Stay tuned for the release of her first album this year! To learn more about her label Ane Amour, check out her website and follow along with her story on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.