Puno tells us how to go freelance
Puno tells us how to live that super happy freelance life
In our Good Living interview series, we ask our most interesting friends revealing questions about how they design their lives, navigate today’s complicated world and, well, live the good life – whatever that means for them.
“We all got laid off.” UX designer, digital entrepreneur, and all-around creative Puno was working her day job at an ad agency when things went south and she had to start freelancing right away. She soon met other creative freelancers who were working on interesting projects and noticed that everybody was talking having a hard time finding collaborators. This lead her to founding one of her many projects. “Instead of trying to [connect people] on my own with like a text message or an email my friend and I were like why don’t we just make a newsletter?” And just like that ilovecreatives was born – a place for creatives to connect. “It was trying to figure how how to get all these things that everybody is doing and wanting to do in one place,” she says. From here she started posting creative resources like her Do the Math freelance budget spreadsheet and Instagram courses and what do you know – people responded. “It kind of organically grew based on what the community kept asking for.”
Would she ever return to the 9 to 5 life? “It’s not really about [the hours]. I work more hours now. It’s more who do you get to be working around. That’s what I want to be control of. Some people are really lucky and they get to work for a company where the person at the top spreads that culture all the way down and the product is really good or whatever you’re working on you care about and you’re fulfilled by. But I just haven’t found that yet. So far I just have my ideas of what I want to do and I’m just executing them and the way that I can bootstrap it is by freelancing so that’s kind of my motivation. I used to knock so hard on corporate 9-to-5s but it was just one asshole and one company who made it really bad for me. Everything else was fine. [laughs]”
How challenging is it to start freelancing?
I was in advertising for a while and we all got laid off and I had to freelance right away. I got kind of burnt out and so I went back to work for a company, which was cool but then decided to go back to freelance. My second time around I was like I really want to not treat this like it’s a job. It needs to have structure and I need to not get burnt out again. That was my biggest thing. I had to figure out my time and how much I usually spend. A realistic view of how I should approach freelance instead of Googling it and getting arbitrary information that’s telling me what I should charge and how many hours I should put in without knowing anything about me.
How do you figure out what to charge at first?
What I realized was that people usually think I should be making x amount but if you really do the math and see how many hours you’re putting in on your day job and see what you’re making salary-wise then you realize, oh ok this is actually how much I’m charging an hour and and this is what my time is worth now.
What kind of questions did you ask yourself to figure that out?
Where do I want to live? What do I buy? Do I have to buy equipment? How many hours do I want to work? Break down your downtime, working sleep, friends, eating. Now how many hours do you have? If you’re passionate about a project you need to figure what horus you have left to devote to it.
This is hard work! What’s your advice on getting there?
A friend of mine - maybe he made this up - I don’t know, but it was in his book called You Are A Circle and essentially he is all about promoting the side hustle. He thinks you should do three things. The first is a work a job that makes money but doesn’t necessarily make you super fulfilled and happy but you know it’s there and it will do the job. The second one was find something that could bring in money and makes you a little bit more happy and the third one is just completely a passion thing and you don’t give a shit if you ever make money from it. The idea is that if you dedicate time to each of these things every week and actually put some hours into it you’ll be able to graduate Job 3 to Job 1.
If you’re passionate about doing something creative – understanding the whole thing – what’s the product? What’s the service? How you’re going to make money? How you’re going to market? All of that takes time so you have to put hours into it every week or you’ll just lose momentum. That’s something I struggle with all the time, just losing steam like not putting the hours into it.
What does it take to make it as a freelancer?
Hustle. It was really interesting last year – I took all my invoices and was like where did this work come from? Did it come from my website, did it come from ilovecreatives and 50% of it just came from meeting new people and just telling them what I do. So it’s a lot of hustle and getting the word out. If not that conversation just doesn’t happen. It’s a lot of word of mouth. But not somebody else mouth – my mouth. That’s why when you’re just like I don’t really wanna go out or whatever you’re kind of like missing out – you never know.
What surprised you the most when you started your own business?
How much I would get in my own way. Just doubting everything you do. WHen you make one mistake it just snowballs and you keep getting in your own head. I didn’t think I would be my biggest battle. [laughs]
What’s your typical work uniform? How does it change when you’re meeting with clients or people or just being at home?
It’s kind of what I’m wearing now – slacks and a t-shirt or a sweater but it’s just very simple. Oh! And a baseball cap. I have what looks like a laundry basket but it’s just full of hats – because I don’t like my hair. If I need to dress up I’ll usually put a heel on or a nicer pair of shoes – probably no hat. And then red lips. That’s usually the diff. That’s my Sailor Moon transformation.
This interview was originally published in October 2016.