Last night two events teamed up at Sektor5. The usual Freelancer Meetup, which bravely decided to break “one of the unspoken laws of Vienna meetups and [do] one in the summer”, was (quite officially) hijacked by three freelancers telling their peculiar and particular stories. The event was organised by Kathrin Folkendt and gave three remarkable women room to talk about their lives as freelancers, digital nomads and self-designed hustlers. Of course there was also room for some lightning talks, interesting discussions and mingling. The MC for the evening was Aaron Cruz who co-runs the Freelancer Meetup.
Kathrin kicked off the evening with her talk titled “Same same but different. What 9 months in Chiang Mai taught be about life, love and business.” Just last September, in order to get out of the rut and to experience new things again, Kathrin, a freelance marketing consultant, up and moved to Thailand. She initially chose Chiang Mai, because the lifestyle overhead is pretty much zero there. Costs are cheap, living is easy, so people generally need to work less for their Western clients in order to support themselves and can thus spend more time on side projects they’re passionate about. “I simply wouldn’t have had the time to do something like #7startupsin7days here in Vienna. In Thailand I had more time to work on things, just for fun,” says Kathrin.
After Kathrin described the upsides and downsides of living in Chiang Mai and her personal highlights of being a digital nomad, a lot of people in the audience seemed to have caught the digital nomad bug and looked like they were just itching to go.
Elisabeth is a tech and business journalist and had always dreamed of living in San Francisco. She was working as Deputy-Editor-in-Chief for a small publishing house in Austria when she decided she’d finally go for it. “I walked into my boss’ office and told them I quit, but that I’d gladly keep freelancing for them”, she says.
She moved to San Francisco on a journalist’s visa, and that’s where the “hustling” began. In contrast to Kathrin enjoying the low living costs in Thailand, Elisabeth now had to pay steep rent for a tiny place in San Francisco. She made do by constantly looking for new media outlets she could write for and cold-calling potential clients in Germany, when she figured out that German media pays a bit better than the abysmal rates journalists get at Austrian media. Elisabeth also noticed she had a hard time selling articles, because European clients often didn’t yet see the relevance of topics already important in the U.S., so she simply started her own online magazine Fillmore. In her talk she gave advice on how to talk to and get new clients.
Monika is an online marketer and community manager. She was in the middle of quitting her job with a struggling startup in Berlin when she read the NaNoWriMo guidebook No Plot? No Problem! about how to write a book in 30 days and decided: “I can do that too!” She ended up writing This Year Will Be Different, a guide book for going freelance, featuring female entrepreneurs who turned their hobbies into their careers, and going to New York to fund it on Kickstarter (which back then was not yet open to creators from Europe). Not only did she manage to publish her book, but by getting to know the right people at the right time she was also offered the gig to orchestrate the launch of Kickstarter in Germany. In her talk Monika explained how getting jobs relies on a mixture of putting yourself out there and talking to people as well as having the skills to back it all up.
It’s safe to say that the wildly different, and yet sometimes overlapping, stories told by these three freelancers have covered a lot of ground and included a lot of advice for existing and future freelancers. If you want to learn more about them you can find them all online, of course: Kathrin / Elisabeth / Monika.
As a bonus we would like to mention Freewheel Stories, two filmmakers from the Netherlands who did a short lightning talk presenting their project. Max and Tom are currently travelling around Europe by bike and producing videos in exchange for food and shelter. After Vienna they’re headed to Budapest, so if you’d like to get in touch with them you can do so via their website or Twitter.