Here’s how to succeed as a yuccie without really trying.
Yuccies — the young urban creative professionals who are replacing hipsters — are foregoing full time salaries in favor of freelancing to do the creative work that they love, including photography, web designing, painting, and writing.
That means yuccies are hard workers. They are not tied to a cubicle, or a salary, or a clock.
“The money ranges from ‘very bad’ to ‘sometimes OK,’” Writer David Infante wrote in the Mashable piece that coined the term, “but the sense of personal validation is fucking great.”
This new demographic, if it is to survive, has to eat. Let our yuccie career guide help.
1. Yuccies know their price
The judgment call yuccies will have to make as they forge their career is this: do I take this job for the love or the money?
When the price is good but the gig strays from their artistic visions, yuccies choose the love.
Branden Harvey, a photographer based in Nashville and Seattle, says he turns down 99% of the photography opportunities that come his way.
“At the end of the day, my art is the most important thing to me,” Harvey said. “The more you say no to good things, the more you can say yes to excellent things.”
Harvey admits that there is a balance, especially for young yuccies who are just starting out and may be strapped for cash. But he said that when he’s taken jobs purely for cash, he’s felt like a sell out.
“If I have zero money, I can stand on the street and ask people if I can take their photos for $10. There’s always a plan B,” he said. “It’s all about a judgment call.”
2. Yuccies build their brands
Every creative freelancer has some kind of product or talent that they’re pushing to turn into pay. But in order to distinguish yourself from the pack, you have to build a brand.
Andrea Wenglowskyj, a photographer and one of the cofounders of Kind Aesthetic — a Brooklyn-based creative agency that consults creative freelancers to build their brands and expand their networks, says it’s essential to distinguish yourself from competitors and “really hone what your unique story is as a creative freelancer.”
“A lot of times people are kind of stumped on how to make their stories be known in a very compelling way,” Wenglowskyj said. “Marketing yourself is one of the hardest things.”
Build an online portfolio of your work and launch a website with your contact info — and make sure it all looks pretty and professional, since Wenglowskyj says that clients are more likely to bite when it looks like you know what you’re doing.
And it’s crucial to build a social media presence — share photos of your work on Pinterest and Instagram and interact with potential clients and fellow freelancers on Twitter and Facebook.
Brendan Harvey says that a lot of his success has come through engaging with users on Instagram and Snapchat.
“I’ve kind of gotten to build a really special community around the content that I would like to share,” Harvey said. “My goal isn’t to be an art purist. My goal is to have things that I make impact people in a positive way.”
Harvey says his social media audience motivates him to create new content — and can provide helpful feedback on his work. And he also has a crucial audience that wants to buy into his brand on social media, which he built by responding to comments and checking out the users who followed him.
“People crave these authentic relationships online,” Harvey said. “A million people are posting pictures of mountains, waterfalls, and coffees. You might get a lot of likes, but you aren’t building an audience of people who like what you do.”
3. Yuccies get themselves — and their work — out there
Many agree that in creative freelancing, like many other careers, it’s all about who you know. And meeting new people can lead to advice and feedback on your work, client referrals, and potential collaboration.
“Create and invigorate the community around you,” Wenglowskyj said. “Creative freelancers and artists will work in isolation—it’s hard to find people to commiserate and collaborate with it.”
Kind Aesthetic hosts networking events for yuccies to meet and greet, hear from speakers, and find potential clients. The Delve Event series brings in speakers to wax on specific topics, ranging from fabric to food, and their relation to art.
And there are other ways to meet up with creative freelancers in your area. Search through Freelance.com to find meet-ups and freelancer communities in your area. You might get new ideas, be able to find co-working space, or find potential clients.
And even if you’re not ready to get off the ground, Wenglowskyj says creative entrepreneurs and freelancers still need to get out there and tell people about their ideas. Those connections might turn into customers down the line.
“They might not have a website or their marketing materials yet, but we always tell them to take the plunge,” Wenglowskyj said.
Joel Hughes, a former freelancer based in Wales who now runs digital design company Glass Mountains and has penned a number of blog posts on how to get paid for freelancing, agrees it’s key for freelances to be proactive.
“Don’t just sit there waiting for the phone to ring or the email to drop. Tell people about what you do on social media,” Hughes said. “Reach out to possible clients and offer them a free review. Meet up with possible referral partners just for coffee to explain.”
“In short, stop feeling sorry for yourself and get off your backside,” he says.
4. Yuccies aren’t afraid to talk about money
Hughes said that though it’s uncomfortable, creative freelancers have to speak up when it comes to money — even if they’re just getting started.
“I hated talking about money,” Hughes said about his mentality he was just starting out. “However, to be successful in your own business you need to feel comfortable talking about money very early on with potential clients — for one thing this helps you avoid the time wasters — clearing the way for people who value what you do and can afford your prices.”
To get the pricing right, Hughes suggests that creative entrepreneurs figure out their budget and the standard of living they want. It’s important to be realistic, but not too pessimistic, he adds. After all, you are supposed to make a living off this career.
And it’s a difficult balance — many creative freelancers fear that overpricing their services will turn away potential clients.
“Don’t price too low — there’s an old saying that if not enough people are wincing when you mention your price,” Hughes said, “you are pricing too low.”
And there are a number of resources out there to help you figure out how much your freelance work is worth. The Freelance Union, which provides resources ranging tax tips and benefits to freelancers, occasionally hosts event on negotiating and pricing, and also has a number of blog posts to help you figure out how much to charge.