• Community

For Emmanuel Oni, Waking up Early is the Key to Getting Good Work Done

Meet Oni. He is a freelance community-based designer. Originally from Houston, Texas, he currently resides in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. You can check out his work here and here.

Tell us about your work.

I work as a community designer and artist, mostly with people, organizations and neighborhoods that don't really have the opportunity or access to advocate for themselves visually. My job is really to help visualize what the community would look like if the decision-making processes were in the hands of the residents and the locals.

I also teach at Made in Brownsville, a creative agency that provides STEAM workshops and classes for youth in and around Brooklyn. A lot of the kids that grew up there don't normally have access to these types of fields and also exposure to other people of color who are doing design work. I truly believe, despite who you are, where you come from, if you have a passion, you'll definitely make it.

What are the biggest struggles you’ve faced as a freelancer? How did you overcome them?

One of the main challenges that I felt was just how to organize my time and then also figuring out self-care. I remember I used to laugh a lot when I heard that term, but it's so true. I realize now why there's a weekend. I had to kind of figure out how to balance my time with my friends or my family because everyone works on a typical 9-to-5 schedule.

So I'm trying to figure out, how do I coordinate, not only my time, but also how to spend time with others. And I think over time, and working here at the Freelancers Hub has helped me figure out how to arrange my activities so that I can align my time with people I care about.

How has the Freelancers Union community been helpful to you?

They provide a lot of workshops that allow you to become more familiar with running a business, and also how to improve your business with, let's say, marketing or branding. Every now and again, they bring in a tax person who talks about how to itemize or what to itemize for — suggestions about how to operate and whom to reach out to. I think, as a freelancer, you really like that gross income and don’t always think about the net and figuring out how to organize all that.

Do you have any tips or tricks you can share that might be useful to other freelancers?

I do a lot of strategic planning. I've worked a lot with nonprofits and I realized that I could apply the same consulting advice that I give to nonprofits to myself as my own entity. I have quarterly meetings with myself now, just to address any issues or challenges.

Also, find out when you’re able to work best. I realized that I’m definitely a morning person when it comes to getting work done. I like to wake up early — there’s something about being in New York in the morning that’s just very peaceful and quiet. When no one’s around, that’s when I can get my work done.

More than one-third of New York City's workforce is freelancing, reflecting the wide-ranging diversity of the city. The purpose of Faces of Freelance is to shine a light on each unique, individual story in freelancing, and offer a platform on which it can further the conversation. Join the Freelancers Hub today and offer your own story into the conversation.

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