For a long time I’ve had the wish to keep a professional journal – be it for my degree, exchange, internship, or new job. I imagine it as a time capsule, which would preserve the current reflections on my practice, and, hopefully, one day I could go back to them and gush and my naïvety.
Alas, I have never had the consistency to document anything that diligently.
So here I would like to make another attempt to track my steps into the whimsical lands of freelance. Several weeks ago I took a step into full-time freelancing and even though it’s too early to assess whether it was a wise move, I would like to share thoughts from this first month of freelancing.
I’m aware: none of this is inventing the wheel, and much of what I write might make you scream at the screen. Yet, it aims not to be an
expert opinion, but a learning experience.
Spotlight: Starting out
The difficult thing this month was actually not jumping into anything head-first. As I am in the process of doing my MA thesis, these first several months are a good opportunity to take a few steps back and think about the big picture – what work I would like to do and how I want to do it. Doodling, personal work, passion projects, etc. could be materials for social media, but they could also serve as a great tools for exploring my own voice and interests. Do I feel like creating atmospheric picturesque images, or am I more drawn to small symbolic scenes? Do I need to create sth quiet, or is a quick image with a pun the way to make November a bit brighter? And at what points do I feel like doing what? That personal voice can be a good guide to direct freelance journey towards more enjoyable paths.
It has been only recently that I started to listen to my own voice – or at least to try so. At one point I realised that my illustration work would continue to feel stale and the results would bore me, if I just react to whatever I encounter on Instagram. Understanding my own voice, motivations, preferences and tastes is something I haven‘t explored well in an organic and intimate way.
Of course, doing commercial work is inevitable, necessary and itself can bring me genuine pleasure. But setting time aside for reflection and to create personal work is a vital ingredient for sustainable freelancing.
And no, I have not spent the whole month staring at the ceiling and pondering on my own wellbeing. I finished one lovely project and there are several more in the works.
More happened on the admin side:
Business registration. After quite a bit of reading about how the tax system works, I went through the process of registering as a private trader with the Finnish Patent and Registration Office. The process was quite straightforward, done all digitally and it cost €60, which was quite affordable. However, I still need to read more about taxation, this matter is complex.
VAT registration at Vero (the Finnish tax office), which required a bit more studying. As someone who comes from the creative industry, single-entry and double-entry bookkeeping are enough to get my mind twisted and confused.
Attended several virtual seminars about starting a business and making a business plan, which were organised by NewCo Helsinki. For a freelance illustrator a lot of the business plan talk seemed overwhelming at first, but it all went smoother when I realised mine doesn’t need to respond to everything mentioned. It should just be relevant to my business. It would still be useful to lear some basic calculations and also to structure my thinking around commission fees, work focus, and marketing. As a side-note: NewCo Helsinki is a really cool business advisory service organised by City of Helsinki aimed at supporting new entrepreneurs. Especially commendable is the fact they offer services not only in the official Finnish and Swedish, but also in English, Russian, Estonian and Arabic.
Spreadsheets! I have found this new unfamiliar to me appreciation of spreadsheets as a way to organise my work and track my finances. In combination with my calendar, I think that could possibly be the best way for me to manage my work-load and time. I’ve tried a few of the task management apps out there, but was never able to stick to them.
A painting masterclass by Charlotte Mei, who reminded me that painting can be truly enjoyable, even though I know it’s not my strong suit.