Member Spotlight: freelance advice from a serial entrepreneur

Apr 10, 2015

Member Spotlight: Michele Spiezia

Member Spotlight is our way of introducing you to a freelancer who can offer real insight and inspiration for the community. This week we’re featuring Michele Spiezia, organizer of Spark Jersey City, and a self-described doer, productivity addict, mom, poet and serial entrepreneur.

Thanks for joining us Michele! Let’s kick it off with your “origin story.” Can you describe the moment you realized you were a freelancer?

Two instances come to mind. First, when I was working in restaurants and waiting tables, I realized one day that I was doing all these other jobs, like creating training manuals, opening new stores, consistent “odd jobs.”

There was definitely a point in time when I realized it was my job to put together little jobs to make up who I was as a working person.

The other moment is when I quit my day job at an upscale hotel in Palm Beach to help my husband with his film company.

The next morning I woke up without a regular paycheck, without health insurance, and without a boss telling me what I should be doing next. It was all on me!

What’s the best advice you’d give to a freelancer just getting started?

Treat your freelancing as a business. If you do this from the start, it will protect and empower you! When my husband and I started our film company, we took any client so long as the job could pay the rent and seemed like it would be fun.

I never considered profit margins, costs, or my hourly rate… If you think this is what you want to do, you have to think about growth early on.

What’s a project that has stayed close to your heart, and why?

One client who truly helped shape my freelance life was a prominent NYC businessman for whom we were creating a documentary film. We had shot his wedding, and he approached us a few months later about creating a biography of his life and a retrospective on his business.

After an initial call, I created a proposal and sent it along. He promptly called me back and said, “You’re not charging me enough.” Can you believe that?!

He taught me to value my work and my time, and also not to underestimate what it’s going to take to get a project done. “Don’t charge a client what you could afford to pay for your own service,” he said, and he was right.

Keeping this advice in mind has allowed me to take on some amazing work and stop the cycle of feeling resentful about projects that take a lot more time, energy, and creativity than I expected.

Name one thing freelancers should all do today to improve their freelance lives?

Keep two lists: “Small Wins” and “Big Dreams.” When something good happens, no matter how trivial, add it to the Small Wins list.

That way, when you’re having a crappy day or feeling doubtful, you can take a quick scan of the list to remind yourself how much progress you’ve made.

Put your Big Dreams list somewhere you can see it. Keeping your long-term goal in mind (no matter how far away it may seem in the moment) can help you take the small steps to get there.

Want to learn more about Michele Spiezia?

Check out Bespoke, where creativity begins. Bespoke is a holistic platform that brings together the tools creatives need to discover, save, share and collaborate during the idea-making phase. From freelancers to agencies, Bespoke will be a leader in the new way to work!

Sharon Bruce

At Freelancers Union, Sharon creates opportunities for freelancers to meet, greet, and learn. Find her @sharonlikestone or at the nearest bakery.