Freelancer Lifeline is a resource destination where FX members can find grant opportunities, loan information, digital events, creative tools, and more. We hope it serves as a source of comfort, inspiration, and support as we navigate the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic together.

FX is Proud to Support the Freelancers Union

It was a pivotal moment in early January: literally freelancers supporting freelancers. The Freelance Exchange (FX) of Kansas City presented a significant donation to the Freelancers Union in New York City. With a large Publisher’s Clearinghouse-type check, our member-at-large, Jeremy Lips, hand-delivered this surprise in person. You may have seen the picture or video on social media.

What is the Freelancers Union?

Freelancers Union is the largest organization representing the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. workforce: independent workers. It offers a powerful support system and voice through policy advocacy, benefits, resources, and community. Its goal is to secure a better future for freelancers as a whole.

Since it was founded in 1995, the organization has:

  • provided high-quality, affordable, and portable health insurance
  • advocated for new healthcare models for the self-employed
  • fought for and won protections for freelance workers
  • enacted the Freelance Isn’t Free legislation, giving freelancers protections from nonpayment. 

How is FX Working with Freelancers Union?

In the spring of 2022, our founder and president, Julie Cortés, was invited to speak at and sit on a panel at a regional conference in western New York. Sitting alongside her on the panel was Freelancers Union’s president and executive director Rafael Espinal. Since meeting, the two have been Zooming regularly to discuss the different ways FX and the Union can work together. 

As it’s always been a dream to take FX national, this seemed like a good place to start. If you look around, you’ll see that other industry-related organizations such as Ad Club, AIGA, PRSA, BMA, Social Media Club, etc., all have a national presence … chapters in other cities as well as a national umbrella for club management and national benefits. There are no national professional organizations just for freelancers. Now celebrating our 20-year anniversary, and knowing we’ve got a successful business model, what better time than the present to see this dream come true? 

The second part of this partnership is to introduce and help pass the Freelance Isn’t Free (FIF) Law here in Kansas City, if not statewide in Missouri and Kansas as well. This groundbreaking law is designed to protect freelancers from nonpayment. How many of you have received late payments from clients … or no payments at all? Unfortunately, it happens all too often. This is exactly what the legislation aims to combat. 

This law would apply to both sole proprietors and those incorporated as either an independent LLC, S-Corp, or C-Corp. Since its inception in 2017, FIF has passed already in New York City, Minneapolis, and Seattle. Los Angeles is currently under review. While a national law would be ideal, these baby steps will help move us toward that pie in the sky. Our goal is to bring it to the Midwest to help protect freelancers here, as well as to set an example and encourage those in other smaller to midsize cities to do the same. To learn more, visit the law’s plain language guide here.

Couldn’t We Do This on Our Own?

We could, but why reinvent the wheel? 

Freelancers Union has the national connections to help us reach our goal of taking FX national. While the concept ought to be easily replicated in other cities, the problem lies in finding the movers and shakers (the volunteers) in those other cities to run the organization. Between its national (free) membership and community events, Freelancers Union has those connections

Additionally, Freelancers Union has literally written the playbook and put together the toolkit to help introduce, advocate, and pass the Freelance Isn’t Free law. They’ve already been helping us in identifying and contacting the appropriate local representatives and have provided guidance with the language of the proposed Law for the Missouri state legislature. 

This donation was approved unanimously amongst The Freelance Exchange Board, as we feel it will help strengthen our bond with the Freelancers Union, show a vested interest, and help us continue to give back to the freelance community. 

We are excited for what the future holds and cannot wait to see our dreams come to fruition!

If you have any questions or want to get involved with any of these efforts, please contact us. If you’d like to make a donation as well to the Freelancers Union, you can do that here

Freelance Web Designers and Developers Enter Field from Other Professions

Isn’t it interesting how skills developed in one field ultimately redirect you into a vastly different career? Some of The Freelance Exchange’s web designers and developers are prime examples of this phenomenon.

For instance, Brian White started building up expertise to support his skate company. After teaching himself logo design, White screen printed shirts, hats, and other clothes in his garage to sell around town. He got into web design and development so he could sell his wares online.

“I learned the basics and built a new site for my company every six months,” he wrote in response to a questionnaire we sent to all of FX’s web design and development members. “This taught me the skills to … do outside business, and I started making websites for other companies.”

The road to becoming a freelance web designer and developer began for Sarah Humphrey when she worked as an urban planning consultant.

Her company needed someone to create websites that supported its projects. She embraced the opportunity because it played to her strengths of writing and organizing information, and because it combined creativity with technical skills.

It was certainly not lost on her that she was also mastering high-demand skills.

But LuLu Cao might win the prize for the most unconventional path into freelance web design and development. With a master’s degree in philosophy from Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Cao has taught college-level courses in her field.

The pivot to a full-stack developer seems like less of a leap when Cao explains her interest in philosophy, a passion she would pursue full time were it not for the real-world concerns of finance and employment. Philosophy, Cao wrote, cultivates critical thinking and challenges beliefs.

“It’s the most useful discipline in developing one’s knowledge and wisdom,” she wrote.

That sure sounds like a good underpinning for work as a freelance web designer and developer.

The field of web design and development has certainly changed through the years.

Our respondents noted a lot more drag-and-drop functions, the proliferation of do-it-yourself options, the emergence of mobile apps, and the explosion of e-commerce.

But don’t be fooled, they said.

The work is not easy and freelance web designers and developers are not interchangeable.

Doing the work right takes skill and patience, Humphrey wrote. She advised web freelancers to use all the free and low-cost tools available online to learn new skills.

One of the most common misperceptions of the field, White wrote, is that the work is easy and anyone can do it. “There are things in this field that literally take five-plus years to learn.”

As Humphrey and Cao demonstrate, web work is not just a guy thing. That is a misguided belief that Cao would like to put to rest.

“I know many excellent female programmers who have expressed tremendous enthusiasm and shown great talents in coding, learning to code, and solving coding challenges,” she wrote.

Yet as technical as the skills are, succeeding as a freelance web designer and developer still requires old-school concepts of customer service and perseverance.

Think small steps and be consistent, White advised, and don’t think success will come overnight. Earning five-star reviews and referrals are the way to go.

“When people are ‘behind’ you, they will drop your name to others and the work will roll in,” he wrote. “This is the best way to build a business and takes time.”

Humphrey also noted that, while it’s important to stay up on the technological changes in the field, it’s just as important to keep the client’s needs in mind.

Remember, she wrote, “clients usually need one good solution for their digital marketing needs — they are more interested in making sure it achieves their marketing objectives than knowing it is the absolute newest way of doing something.”

The FX of KC is for Freelancers, Contractors, Consultants and whatever else you call yourself. There’s a place for you here! Want to learn more about FX of KC

Volunteer to Level Up Your Business and Find Freelance Success

Would you believe? One of the secrets to finding freelance success is to get involved.

Get involved with organizations (like The Freelance Exchange!) … but don’t just join. Get the most out of your membership by becoming an active member. Go to events, participate in conversations in person and online, and yes, volunteer on committees and serve on boards.

That’s the pro tip. That’s the secret sauce.

That’s how so many of our FX members have found freelance success. By volunteering.

Why?

Because people like to work with (and refer!) those whom they know, like and trust.

So, you need to become that person!

People will send you work and referrals when they know:

  • WHO you are
  • that you’ll do good work
  • you’re reliable

And a great way to do that is by giving back to the community.

In doing so, you can create a name for yourself and your business. You can establish and improve your professional reputation. And you can be rewarded greatly with new business and find freelance success.

Not only will you get warm fuzzies when you volunteer, you’ll also get to have your voice heard AND be able to make a difference for our organization and members.

Think of it as Part of Your Marketing Strategy

You probably post on social media. Maybe you have a website. You might send emails. What else can you do to improve your company’s reputation?

Obviously, there are tons of opportunities for self-promotion. And, if you’re self-employed, you may very well be seeking out free or inexpensive options to do so.

Newsflash! Volunteering fits that bill.

Just think … you could join a committee and help out with simple tasks. You could serve on the board as a Chair or Director, helping lead special projects or events. OR, you could even share your leadership skills on the Exec Board, helping guide the ship.

Each and every time you volunteer—in whatever capacity—you get the chance to:

  • rub elbows with movers and shakers
  • take ownership of the organization
  • and be rewarded for your hard work

This is one very easy way to put your company on the map. And find freelance success with free PR!

Just by donating a bit of time here and there, you get plenty of opportunities to share about it!

You’ll now have an added reason to share something on social media. You can add that impressive bullet point on your bio or résumé. You could add it to your website and/or FX portfolio page. You might be listed on a leadership page. You might win a Volunteer of the Month award and get added recognition. You could even get a special name tag. Plus, as a bonus, you’ll make new friends!

There are endless benefits to volunteering. You just have to put yourself out there. Level up your business by volunteering, and reap the rewards with more referrals and more business.

Interested in serving on a committee or on the board for FX? Check out our current needs and openings, and throw your name in the hat today!

How to Prepare for the FX Portfolio Showcase

The Freelance Exchange’s annual Portfolio Showcase is coming up on November 9th. Are you ready??

FX puts on this signature B2B trade show to give you, the freelancers, a prime opportunity to get yourself and your work in front of the very people who are looking for you, including ad agencies, design shops, large corporations, small businesses, non-profits, and more.

For those looking for freelance talent, it’s a one-stop shop. They can find the one freelancer they need or put together an entire virtual agency. The possibilities are endless!

When / Where / What

First, the logistics:

Wednesday, November 9th

  • 3 – 5 p.m. Exhibitor Setup
  • 5 – 8 p.m. Portfolio Show/Open House, appetizers & drinks 
  • 8 – 8:30 p.m. Teardown
  • The Guild (in the Crossroads), 1621 Locust St., Kansas City, MO

Portfolio displays and tables are to be set up prior to the doors opening at 5 p.m. We recommend allowing ample time to set up … and go around and meet your fellow FX members and view their portfolios!

A bar will be on hand for purchasing beverages throughout the event, and appetizers will be available (for free).

Best Practices for the Best Exhibits

You’ll choose either 3 or 6 feet of a 6-foot table (or sponsor for a 9-foot table) covered with a black tablecloth. You can customize your display as much or as little as you want. For examples of table displays from past Showcases, look at pictures (see albums) on our Facebook page.

Things to keep in mind:

  • Think visually. The more visually appealing the display, the better chances of results.
  • Don’t just think flat table display. Utilize vertical and get crafty! That said, don’t get too ambitious and have a huge display that blocks your – or your neighbor’s! – view. Also, no floor displays are allowed.
  • Showcase your brand. Have your logo prominently on display, use signage, and bring plenty of business cards. Consider brochures, sample books, giveaways, raffle prizes, promotional items, etc.
  • Have an array of work available to view: Different mediums, industries, one-off projects, complete campaigns, etc.
    Not a creative type and no portfolio to show? No problem! Consider having testimonials, case studies, and more available. Use this opportunity as a meet-and-greet to share your services.
  • Be organized. Use a flipbook, brochure stand, or any other piece that will help accomplish this goal. Laptops and monitors are commonplace as well.
  • Need electricity?

If you didn’t note that when you signed up, your table may not be near an outlet. Let us know ASAP: [email protected]. Otherwise, plan to bring an extension cord; we’ll see what we can do.

Be Prepared

Aside from getting your portfolio and table display ready, there are a few things you can do to prepare, such as:

  • Determine your Unique Selling Point (USP). Figure out what makes you unique/different/better, and highlight that.
  • Write up your elevator speech. And practice it so it comes across naturally.
  • Bring a note pad and pen. Use this to take notes of what you spoke about and with whom so you can remember when you follow up.
  • See the big picture. Figure out how you can best communicate value to your prospects. Remember, you are not just a writer, designer, etc. You are part of this amazing collective in which you can partner with others on projects, form a virtual agency, and refer other members who may be perfect for a job.
  • Don’t just hand out your card. Have a conversation. Engage with your visitors! And get any prospect’s card as well.
  • Prepare for all types of questions. You may be asked about your capabilities, availability, and rates. While you get to determine how you want to answer these questions, FX suggests – in particular – you deflect any questions about your rate. Communicate your value, and ask for the opportunity to put together a formal project estimate instead.
  • Don’t be surprised. While we target heavily those looking to hire freelancers in our promotional efforts, we can’t prevent others (i.e., vendors, other freelancers, students) from coming to the trade show. We recommend greeting every visitor and engaging them in conversation up front to determine how much time you’d like to spend with them.
  • And, after the event? Follow up. Follow up. Follow up! Don’t miss out on a great opportunity. Make yourself memorable and begin a great relationship with your best prospects. Connect on LinkedIn, follow on other social media channels, send articles, emails, invitations for a coffee meeting, etc. (But not too much or too often. You don’t want to be a pest!)

Keep in mind, results may vary. Some years may generate some amazing hot leads. Others not so much. But it’s all about brand awareness and recognition. Meeting your peers. Getting referred and offering referrals. And who knows? You may end up with an amazing project years down the road from someone you met at this year’s show! So do your best to have a successful show, and keep the hope alive!

What You Can Do to Help

We promote this event far and wide through the use of email, web, social media, PR, outreach, and more. See more about our efforts in the FAQs section on the event page on our website.

Please help us spread the word and invite your contacts as well! Forward emails, share on social media, and help us get the word out.

Questions about the event? Contact Special Events Director Kate Bradshaw at [email protected].

‘Seize the Day’ is the Mantra of Freelance Graphic Design Members

Freelance graphic designers are a fearless bunch!

That theme came through loud and clear from the graphic design members of The Freelance Exchange of Kansas City who responded to our email questionnaire.

They overcame the doubt, ditched the hesitancy, and jumped headlong into the world of freelancing.

For instance, Linda Waterborg wrote that she had wanted to go out on her own for years, “but I was scared and always found a reason to stay in a 9-to-5 job.” She added, “I kept trying, and learning, and failing, and trying again, and growing.” Then, one day, she realized she had all the right skills and building blocks in place to make the move.

The biggest lesson for Waterborg as a freelance graphic designer was to keep pushing outside her comfort zone, something Holly Hempfling embraced as well in describing the best piece of career advice she has received: “Lean into fear! If it feels terrifying, you should probably go for it.”

It’s cool how these sentiments transcend our specialties. Many of us can identify with that feeling of being on the edge of the high dive with our careers — wondering if we should leap into the unknown waters of freelancing. According to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, of the approximately 265,000 graphic designers employed in the U.S in 2021, about one in five was self-employed.

Who among us, for instance, has not had some version of the experience related by Annie Monfort, a freelance graphic designer? She wrote that her tipping point came when “the certainty of staying in a job where I was bored, became scarier than the uncertainty of figuring out everything you need to know to support yourself.”

Tolerating the unknowns and discomforts of freelancing, she wrote, “is honestly one of the most valuable lessons for all aspects of life.”

Freelancing also provides a greater promise that we will love what we do for work, a sentiment underscored by Jake Edmisten and Jen Rarey. Their comments apply well beyond those who work as freelance graphic designers.

For Edmisten, that realization came in the form of advice from someone he used to work with, who stressed the importance of pursuing passion projects. That former co-worker, Edmisten wrote, “told me that I needed to make time for myself, because I wouldn’t find the jobs that I want by doing the work I didn’t want.”

Rarey has learned that investing your time and talents into work that has meaning allows you to “always be passionate about what you’re creating.” Be bold, she urged, and “see challenges as the opportunities that they are, and learn from every experience so you can keep evolving and fine-tuning your skills.”

One other lesson that came from our freelance graphic designers is that there is no one tried and true path into the career you love.

Will Mackey, for instance, discovered his interest in art as a 5-year-old. “Then I just kept working at it for years,” he wrote.

But Erin Albright did not really think of herself as an artist, even when she loved designing pages for her high school yearbook. So in the end, she wrote, “I took a windy path and am self-taught/taught by many amazing designers that I’ve worked with along the way.”

The FX of KC is for Freelancers, Contractors, Consultants and whatever else you call yourself. There’s a place for you here! Want to learn more about FX of KC