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GUEST POST | 12 Ways to Become a Successful Freelancer

Career, Guest PostsMari NievesComment
mari nieves pink studios

Oh, hello! My name is Marii Nieves and I am the Founder of Pink Studios - a full-service boutique digital marketing provider; specializing in digital media presence for small & medium-sized businesses; and you probably heard about me and my story, here.

A little over a year ago, Pink Studios stopped being a part-time gig to become a full-time-with-overtime monster - and I could not be happier about it. Regardless, I feel the obligation to admit that making the decision to quit my full-time job as a Digital Marketing Director at a multimillion dollar company was not easy. Not at all. You can read about it here.

The financial stability, the routine, the classic “what would people say?” and “what if I fail?”, were constant thoughts running through my brain.
Why are we wired this way though? Instead, why don’t we think “I am confident in myself”, “I can do this!”, “I will kick-ass!”, “I will prove them wrong.”

When you are making a decision like this, you are allowed 5 minutes to be sissy and curl up in a corner.
— Mari Nieves from Pink Studios
beyonce slaying

When you are making a decision like this, you are allowed 5 minutes to be sissy and curl up in a corner; after that you gotta pull up your big girl pants, be gangsta and say: “I’ll get this shit done!”

Being organized and establishing processes and routines made this journey a whole lot easier. Today, I am sharing with you my favorite tips to becoming a successful freelancer and get things done:

1. Establish some sort of online presence to present your services.

People spend the vast majority of their time online. Whatever your industry is, you need to make sure that if people are searching for people like you - they can find you. Whether it’s a website, Facebook Business Page, Twitter, Instagram, you name it. Be there.

2. Update your personal social networks, specially Linkedin.

Everyone you are connected with should be aware that you are now flying-solo and that they can reach you for special projects. ambinity has a GREAT article about it: 10 Ways to Maximize your LinkedIn Profile

3. Create a routine.

When you become a freelancer, you are most likely to work from home; distractions and convenience might come in your way. Just because you are working from home doesn’t mean you get to wake up at 10:30am, take 3 hour lunch breaks and squeeze in a Netflix marathon. Get up early, fix yourself a cup of coffee or tea, eat breakfast, dress up and get to work. At the beginning, you might find it annoying but trust me, it gets you in the right mindset.

4. Organization + a project/task management app are key!

In order to be successful at #4, you NEED to have a proper way to manage tasks. Something I have learned over this past year is that whether I successfully execute my morning routine or not; if I don’t have a set list of what I need to work on the next day - my morning is wasted! Ain’t nobody got time for that! So, before your day ends make a list of all the things you have pending;  that way the next day you’ll be ready to get stuff done instead of wasting time running in circles figuring out where things were left off the day prior.

But how do I make my to-do lists? Paper? App? Both? This is something I get asked constantly. Paper lists are great until you go to a meeting or to work somewhere else and you left your list at home.That sucks! You can use post-its if necessary for quick reminders; but… hey, we are not The Flintstones - use the technology resources available. There are great tools such as: Asana, Trello (my favorite) and Basecamp that can work wonders. Are you using any of these?

marii nieves pink studios

5. Setup a dedicated workspace.

I need to brag for a second - I LOVE, LOVE <3 my workspace! Now that I got that off my system I have to tell you something. Working remotely and having your office be a home-office is hard! To be able to focus all of my energy on work, I needed to set up a dedicated space where I could forget about all the distractions around, be inspired and really get to work.

A few essentials for me: Macbook Pro, external monitor, bluetooth keyboard and mouse, lamp, lavender candles, comfortable chair, speaker, couch - mostly for visits and when I want to change scenarios a little bit.  Make it work for you!

Shop Mari's Office Must Haves!

6. Get your numbers in place.

Hopefully you’ll start making money soon and once you have to fill your taxes, etc; you’d need to have everything in place. At the moment, I swear by Wave App. It allows me to send estimates, convert them to invoices, send payment reminders, track outstanding balances and expenses. It has worked wonders for me and those I have recommended it to. Try it out and let me know.

7. Use a contract or agreement for every project.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a small project or a large one - you want everything discussed and covered. This will save you a lot of time and headaches. There are different website that provide pre-made proposals, contracts and agreement that you can sign up for such as Proposify. Alternatively, you can also sit down with an attorney to make sure everything is covered.

8. Rate cards.

Depending on your industry, this may be viable or not. Set some time to define your pricing structure. Are you gonna charge per hour? Per project? Per service? Establish those from the beginning, that way, making proposals will be a breeze instead of a nightmare.

9. Limit distractions.

Distraction could be your worst enemy; from watching TV to laying down for a second (that turn out to be 2 hours) and our fatal attraction: social media. I am a firm believer that you need to work hard but breaks are 100% necessary. There are several apps that can help you with this. From Focus (download for iOS | download for Android) which focuses on the Pomodoro technique to Freedom, ColdTurkey (download for Mac | download for Android) and InMoment (download for iPhone) which allow you to track and/or block time spent on social networks or a list of websites you determine for a certain period to allow you to better focus on getting things done.

10. Ask for testimonials.

From past clients, to ex-bosses, supervisors, colleagues, etc… they probably have great things to say about you. The easiest way to compile all of these is to ask for Recommendations on LinkedIn. From there you can extract their testimonials and use on your website and promotional material. It is always encouraged that you let them know that you will be using their testimonials - I highly doubt they will say no, but it is a courtesy.

11. Don’t be afraid to say “no”.

Choose your clients carefully. You are allowed to say “no”. Is this new client from an industry you don’t feel 100% comfortable with? Does it not align with your business values and standards? Do you feel like the chemistry is not there? Are you fully booked but don’t want to say “no” because “it’s a new gig”? Don’t feel bad. That is absolutely okay.  This will happen and you need to be ready to tackle these type of situations. My recommendations, draft a nice email and propose a plan: either let them know that at the moment you are not able to work with them and, if possible, provide an alternative vendor to fulfill their needs.

12. Never stop learning.

Easy as that. Information is at our fingertips these days. Never stop learning. Find ways where you can increase your knowledge on certain topics and trends and even find time to learn new things. Doing so will allow you to stay up to date and be able to react within your industry when something is relevant.


BONUS: The occasional day off is totally fine!

People ask me: “how do you stay motivated every single day of the week” and my answer is: “sometimes I don’t”. Their reaction is priceless. The reality is, this is one of the perks of being your own boss. You set your time and if you don’t feel productive for a moment, it is okay to take the day off if necessary.

ambinity

On days like that I like to catch up on my Netflix queue, watch crappy reality shows (this right here is my guilty pleasure) from Real Housewives of Orange County, Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, RHOA and RHONJ, Keeping up with the Kardashians, Botched, Naked and Afraid, Shark Tank and I also love to read a good book, listen to podcasts and try and just pay with Pakko Petardo and Lola Inés del Pilar.


 

Last but not least, make sure you make the most out of your time as a freelancer or entrepreneur. Get stuff done. This is your time. Don’t ever let your creativity die. Do you have additional tips or questions? Leave them in the comments section below.

If you want to reach out to me, I am always available via inbox or you can also follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. See you there.

mari nieves pink studios

Meet our Guest Blogger

I’m Marii, your Facebook-loving, goal-crushing, digital marketing-obsessed professional. I’m a Computer Engineering turned digital marketing-entrepreneur who believes in the power of helping others succeed in life or their businesses with the right tools by their side. Founder of Pink Studios and The Digital Strategy Lounge and mom of #PakkoyLola.
Wanna know me? Shoot me a message here or here.

Career Profile | Patricia de la Torre, Former Editor-In-Chief of Caras Puerto Rico

Career, PopularMaría Elena1 Comment

Patricia de la Torre is the former Editor-In-Chief for Caras Puerto Rico, a magazine that closed its doors after 25 years full of great articles targeted to intelligent and curious women. But her high profile career never went to her head. "I am the person who in the middle of meetings stand ups and looks for coffee for the person I'm meeting with", she expressed with pride. It may be that one of her mentors was the graceful (no pun intended) Grace Mirabella... but we'll get into details about that soon.

Even though you can still tell Patricia misses Caras Magazine since it closed this past winter, she is finding inspiration in her new job at Puerto Rico's Bank of Economic Development, where she feels constantly inspired by upcoming entrepreneurs. "It's kind of weird because in my generation they taught us to think about who would we work for, rather what we were going to do. Since millennials are growing up in such hard times, you've developed business skills and see opportunities in places that maybe our generation doesn't see", she expressed. 

"This job has sparked an illusion in me to search for what I can do and has awaken an entrepreneurial spirit in me", expressed the also owner of Patsee, a handbag brand she hand-makes.  (You can order custom handbags by emailing her at delatorre.patricia@gmail.com)

Interviewing Patricia in the beautiful rooftop at Olive Boutique Hotel, has been one of the highlights of my career since she is not only recognized for her amazing career journey, but for being a strong feminist without losing her charming personality. When I told her about my little dream of being an intern for her during college but I never had the guts to tell her, she immediately started laughing and told me that I should've emailed her. Which made me regret being so shy. So college students, take notes! This is how you make it in the magazine publishing industry:

ME: You have a BA and Masters Degree in fashion?

PT: I did my undergrad in Fashion Merchandising from Marymount College and then I did a Masters Degree in Fashion Retailing at NYU.

ME: Did you always know you wanted to work in the Fashion Industry?

PT: Definitely! When I took off for college, studying fashion was not as popular as it is today. To tell you the truth, it was difficult to find schools with fashion majors. The cool thing about Marmount is that since it was a Liberal Arts School, I had the opportunity of graduating with a minor in Creative Writing.

Then, when I graduated with my bachelors degree I was like "do I really have to go and work now?! How terrible, this can't be happening!". So it was way easier to go ahead and study a Masters Degree instead of just accepting that I had to be an adult. So I enrolled in NYU, which was an spectacular experience... It was right in the city where I always wanted to be. But of course, my parents wouldn't let me go for undergrad... which I think was a good idea because I would've been a major disaster!

ME: Tell me about your internship experiences?

PT: Since during that time, pattern divisions were huge, I worked with Vogue Patterns for a semester in college, which was amazing... it was at Vogue's same building! It was super interesting because in Fashion Merchandising we had to work a lot with seams, pattern making, sizing and so much more. They trained us to be able to choose the best garments by turning clothes inside out in order to actually see what material they were using so you would be prepared to work as a buyer for a store someday. I even took chemistry classes while I did an exchange program in London School of Fashion! It was a required two semester course that taught me to be able to understand textiles.

After that I did an Internship at Mirabella Magazine, which was wonderful! The magazine was directed by Grace Mirabella, former Editor in Chief at Vogue, before Anna Wintour took charge. To this day I still remember how hands on and what a special woman she was. It was a really small staff and she was very involved with everything.

I worked in their closet as the assistant of the assistant of the assistant of the assistant and sometimes I had to wake up at 3am to get to photoshoot after looking for everything that was needed in the office and take it to the van, go to the location and pick up the editors and models. But I still had the opportunity of being with Grace during meetings, while being an intern! She even invited me to some of her events at her beautiful brownstone home in Manhattan with all of her staff. I remember one day I found myself at Grace Mirabella's house with all of these designers and I was like "Oh my God what am I doing here?!". The thing is, this fashion world is a little intense and complicated, and she was a great person.

ME: How did you get these amazing internships?

PT: I feel like these days, finding internships is so much more difficult. In those days it wasn't very common to study fashion, so that's why I think that there were more opportunities. I really don't remember exactly how it happened, but I do remember it was pretty easy. 

ME: Who did you most admire when you were growing up?

PT: My mom. I literally ended up studying fashion because of her... She sacrificed so many things so my sisters and I could have the best dresses and shoes, which I believe is to truly be admired. We were these little schmucks and she would take us to Oui Boutique and Nativa Boutique, because she loved spoiling us. She has impeccable taste and she has a lot of common sense, which are things that have really influenced my sisters and I. 

ME: You mentioned on an interview that you entered the magazine world by accident. Tell me a little bit more about this.

PT: It really was by accident. I studied Fashion Merchandising and Fashion Retailing so I was supposed to be a buyer for some store, but it never happened. But I've always loved writing.

When we were kids we used to visit my dad's family in Spain and he always made us write a paper about our experiences. But not only that! When we came back to Puerto Rico, he would make us write an essay about our trip. He even copied our essays and sent them to our professors and it was horrible! But that made us develop a writing discipline that helped us express our experiences in paper later on. 

That's how I started having an itch to start developing the art of writing and journalism. Then while I was doing my undergrad, I decided to minor in creative writing. And once I entered (the magazine world), I was hooked. 

ME: How was your experience at Imagen?

PT: When I came back to Puerto Rico, I started working as an Assistant Fashion Editor at Imagen, and when the Fashion Editor left, they gave me the position. It was a very interesting experience! I was there for four years and I remember that during that time we didn't use Photoshop. We did everything by hand. One of my mentors was the magazine's photographer at the time, Raul Torres, because he was an artist of airbrushing with just brushes, pencils, erasers and sprays. He did everything by hand! No Photoshop.

ME: You worked for a while at GFR Media's deModa. How was that experience?

When this project started, GFR Media called me to join their team. I started as the Fashion Editor and when the magazine started taking more form and direction, they gave me the opportunity to direct it. I had the experience of seeing how a publication went from a newspaper to a newsstand and this is how my job changed from doing only fashion, to actually creating a magazine from scratch. This was also my first experience directing a magazine, which entails so many other things. You have to be in charge of graphic design, photography, client relationships, editing and everything. Even developing a brand! I stayed there for 8 years. 

ME: How did you take the big leap to Caras?

PT: Marisol Malaret was the Editor in Chief of Caras for many, many years... and when a position opened I got it and stayed there for 13 years. The best thing about Caras was our staff. We had the best journalists, photographers and graphic designers. Everyone went to work with a good mood and giving it their all, because Televisa (the magazine's publishing house) gave us a lot of editorial opportunities. Caras had an international look and feel because it was made for educated women who traveled and wanted to know about everything, but it was still a local magazine. Interviews were local and fashion was local.

It was also very important for us to have a balance between articles of interest and social pages. We wanted to have a complete magazine so that any type of person could find something of interest.  If you wanted to know what was the hottest restaurant not only in Puerto Rico, but in New York or Paris, we had an article about it. If you wanted a travel article we also had it... if you wanted something about art and culture, we also had it. We even had a Hollywood correspondent! 

We had brainstorming meetings where everyone had to bring out a topic no matter if it was from their department or not. It was like gathering with friends... we all had different interests, expertises and points of view. That's how we payed such close attention to editorial content. 

If it's not relevant for readers, it's not relevant for advertisers. A magazine is a business and the only way to make money out of it, is by having a quality product. You can't sell your soul to the devil. The moment to turn your magazine into a commercial product, you're doomed. Your readers and advertisers will leave. In order to make your articles relevant, you need to not make your articles look like a non paid political advertisement. The moment you start selling editorials, you're dead.

ME: What was the hardest part of working for a lifestyle magazine during your 13 years in Caras?

PT: I believe that in general, the media still hasn't found the perfect way to adapt to all the changes happening with the Internet and social media. They are still finding the "perfect" formula of how to work the constant changes in media.

The most important thing to think about is to look at it as a brand. Not a magazine, not a blog, not a newspaper, not a radio program or tv program. For example, Caras Magazine was part of the Caras brand. So Caras was a social event, a trip, a clothing line. Everything has to integrate with the brand and the magazine has to be part of it. There has to be a bigger picture; you need to give the customer a 360 experience... An all inclusive: web, social, events, licenses, franchises. 

ME: I loved that Caras had professional profiles! You once said that "women love knowing about other women's stories" and I totally agree.

PT: Women still have a long way to go in equality when it comes to jobs. I love listening about women who are successful and specially when they form part of board of directors. Important decisions are still, in great majority, in hands of men. In Caras, we did a really great effort to find women who gave us a good story and trust me, there're a lot of them! 

I highly recommend the documentary Miss Representation, which is about women leaders and the importance media has in highlighting women as professionals and as cultural and political leaders. I even had my two boys watch it! 

ME: What is the best memory you have in the industry?

PT: Wow... There's a lot of them. But not too long ago, they called me to talk about fashion history in Puerto Rico for the local documentary film Anatomía de un Vestido and that felt really good! It is a very well made local film by Flora Pérez Garay.

ME: Who's the person you most enjoyed interviewing?

PT: Arnaldo Roche. Even though he's really reserved, he let me come inside his workshop. I felt like he was letting me inside his world, and once that happened, we have developed a really beautiful friendship. It felt like a privilege. 

ME: What advise would you give someone trying to enter the magazine world in 2015?

PT: Learn about everything... you need to know how to do everything. Read, read, read and learn new languages and history. Travel. Be curious, have initiative... All that knowledge you thought you were never going to need will become useful when it comes to have an open mind. Even to engage in conversations with whomever! You always need a good conversation piece.

Random facts about Patricia:

  • Favorite Scent: Musk oil by Kiehls
  • Favorite Music: 80's rock
  • Favorite Book: Everything written by David Sedaris. He's so funny!
  • Favorite way to unwind: With my family and boyfriend (actor Braulio Castillo who she describes as a blessing in her life)
  • Favorite Restaurant: My brother in law's restaurant Bricolage in Brooklyn New York. It's an amazing Vietnamese gastropub. 
  • Favorite Social Media Platform: Instagram
  • Favorite Coffee Shop: Café Cuatro Sombras
  • Favorite Drink: Johnny Walker on the rocks.
  • Most have Home decor piece: Pictures! Of everyone. A home without pictures is not a home.
  • Most have fashion accessories: A good pair of jeans. I can pay anything for a good pair.
  • Most proud of: My two sons.
  • Necessary luxury: A nice trip once a year.
  • What's on the top of your bucket list: A nice getaway! I am dying to visit Turkey.
  • Best place you ever visited: There are so many! But no matter where I am, if I am with my family, it's the best place ever.

As I said before, I feel really honored to have had the opportunity of sharing this interview with you. Patricia is someone that I've admired for so long for her career journey and grace. She never lets the industry get to her. I really wish you find the same lesson I got from this interview: Follow your dreams and surround yourself with loving and talented people. Somehow, the world will conspire in your favor.

Thank you so much to Olive Boutique Hotel in San Juan for giving me the opportunity of interviewing Patricia at their amazing rooftop. Did you know The Real Housewives of Atlanta stayed here during their visit to Puerto Rico?! For more information about bookings visit www.oliveboutiquehotel.com or call 787.705.9994. You won't regret it!