Sam Wong

Samantha Wong is a content creator based in Hong Kong. She began as a prop stylist working on ad campaigns and print editorial. With the rise of Instagram and mobile technology, she now focuses most of her time flatlaying for brands who need a constant flow of digital content for their social media channels. Her clients include Cathay Pacific, W Hotels, Cartier, Calvin Klein, and BMW, to name a few. She is also the editor of the blog, Sam is Home, which launched in 2010 embracing fashion, food and lifestyle.

Sam Wong | Content Creator | Freelance Wisdom

Tell us about your path to becoming a freelance content creator.

I was just starting an online boutique selling sustainable fashion but most of the money we were making was going right back into the business and I needed an income! I was blogging on the side (as a hobby) when my friend, who is a photographer, suggested I consolidate all my flatlay photos together into a portfolio and she'd pitch me as a stylist to clients. I had no idea arranging objects could be a job, but gradually I started taking on more prop styling work for advertising campaigns. Eventually as social media became a necessity, clients asked me to create monthly digital content specifically for Instagram and Facebook. That's when I saw a shift in the demand from seasonal campaign work to weekly digital content needs from brands and began focusing the majority of my portfolio on social.

In the beginning, how did you attract your first good clients?

Strangely my first clients were the good clients. It wasn't so much about how much I was making (which was very little), but they really respected and loved the work I was already doing. Nowadays, at times it feels like clients hire you based on the number of likes and followers you get which kinda makes me feel uncomfortable. I was trained to think like an artist and a creator, not like someone in PR or marketing, and having to explain my work away based on stats alone makes my work feel worthless because I know there will always be someone with a bigger following and I have no control over that.

Sam Wong | Hawa Mahal | Freelance Wisdom

Can you tell us a bit about your content creation process? What does a day in your life look like?

Ha, my day to day life is really random. Sometimes I'm on back to back shoots, on the plane editing photos and other days I'm just home following up on emails or exploring Hong Kong and shooting content for fun. Some days I don't wake up till 10am and I'm learning to accept that it's ok- it doesn't mean I'm lazy, my schedule doesn't reflect the norm. I've learned not to beat myself up over it and not feel guilty that my schedule isn't 9-5 — I'm productive, responsible and self-driven and that's good enough.

Do you have any tips for being your most productive?

As a freelancer you will experience lulls in your schedule. But during those times when I'm in between jobs, I try to use that time to experiment and refine my craft. Since there's no pressure from clients I can be very free to have fun and take more risks than the paid work I get. Recently I dipped my toes into night photography and it became the most rewarding period ever! Personally I learned how to photograph and edit in urban artificial lighting and I received a strong response from my followers. As a bonus, I had some clients who also requested the same aesthetic for their own digital channels.

Sam Wong | Content Creation | Sam is Home Cafes | Freelance Wisdom
Sam Wong | Content Creator | Good Enough | Freelance Wisdom

You've successfully stepped into the influencer space. Do you have any advice for readers who would like to do the same?

  1. Copying and imitating your favourite influencers is a good starting point to learn basic skills but eventually you will have to evolve the work and make it your own.

  2. You have the most influence and power in the place you are based. I understand there are perks of being a travel influencer but luxury hotels will only get you so far with content and it isn't sustainable in the long run. Despite being a crowded, expensive and polluted city, I've come to be at peace with living in Hong Kong and the majority of my followers love seeing the city through my eyes.

How about advice for readers who would like to work with influencers?

If you are a brand, understand influencers spend time, effort and creative energy making content. I can't speak for everyone, but as a 30-something year old, I don't need another free watch or bag. I prefer to be paid for my services so I can save that money and invest back into my business. It's frustrating when I'm still asked to do things for free — I've learned to say no. Nowadays when I'm deciding whether or not I want to take on a project for no pay I ask myself, "if I wasn't working on this free project, I'd be (insert activity)". My answer is usually investing back into my own personal work and I think that's far more rewarding than being stressed out with non-paid work.

Sam Wong | Content Creator | Waldorf Astoria | Freelance Wisdom

What has been your greatest struggle as a freelancer / creative business owner so far?

Beside convincing clients that my work is worth being paid for, chasing clients to pay me on time. Last year I worked with an influencer agency that suddenly went bankrupt and I had been chasing them for payment of USD 1000 for half a year. Since they're not locally based, I had no power to take them to small claims court and just accepted the fact that I probably wouldn't get the money I was owed. Thankfully the brand who hired this agency found out and contacted me just last week wanting to make amends. But it's been a year since I executed this job and after this experience, I realized how little protection we have as freelancers.

Do you have any tips for dealing with the nitty-gritty business details?

I hired a friend to help me set up a Google spreadsheet with all my finances on there — it's helped me a lot to keep track of who hasn't paid me to how much I'm making in a year. I'm a creative and not a numbers person so this helped me visualize my income and helped me make projections for the following year.

Sam Wong | Kintetsu Sightseeing Limited Express | Freelance Wisdom

We love you before/after stories on Instagram. Can you tell us about your motivation to create that series?

Thank you!! I just wanted to show people that even the ugliest photo has potential if you have an overarching vision for your work. I also find it very therapeutic to edit photos and seeing something change instantly before your eyes.

Are there any projects on which you're ruminating that you'd like to make time for someday?

More night photos! I'm waiting till the Christmas lights go up so I can run around Hong Kong capturing it all. Also I'm waiting to visit certain cafes and hotels within the city but it's always so busy in Hong Kong that we spend a lot of time trying to get an empty shot.

What is one thing you wish you knew when you were starting out?

Always state your terms of payment, services and deliverables in your quotation and invoice. You are responsible for protecting yourself and having a strong stance on that from the get-go helps you to avoid issues after contracts have been signed.

Sam Wong | Bouncing Back | Freelance Wisdom

How do you stay creatively inspired?

I'm a huge advocate for personal work because it allows you to play and have fun without having to worry about pleasing clients. My work is 50/50 between personal and paid work.

Any music, podcast, or book recommendations that you'd like to share?

  1. Raw Milk podcast by Beth Kirby

  2. Reset by Ellen Pao

The 3 greatest attributes you need to be a freelance creative are:

  1. Self driven

  2. Childlike imagination

  3. Flexibility

Sam Wong | The Peninsula Hong Kong | Freelance Wisdom

Get Social with Sam

website | Instagram | Pinterest

Creative Lady Collective Print Shop

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We are so excited to share our newest venture, the Creative Lady Collective Print Shop, an online store that will feature a curated collection of affordable printable artwork by our community of creative women.

We are big believers that everyone, no matter their budget, deserves to have inspiring artwork in their home. Each printable piece in our collection will be designed by a female creative, fulfilling our mission to give women an opportunity to showcase their work, earn passive income, and support their creative peers. 

We’d be honored to feature your work (design/art/illustrations/photography!) in our founding collection of art prints! Read on for more details and to see inspiration examples.

Submissions close November 11, 2018!


The deets

- The founding collection of prints on the website will be around 50 pieces, we plan to update the collection with each season.

- Some artists may have multiple items for sale, some may have one depends on how we wish to curate the collection.

- Each digital download print will be between $15-40 depending on factors like the size of the print, artist recognition, and limited editions.

- Each artist will receive 30% commission of every sale, which is far higher than the industry standard of 5% from many companies like Minted etc.

- All artwork will be digital downloads (we are hoping to add options for printing & framing soon as well).

- Artwork sold will be exclusive to the site while it is in the collection. Artist has the right to let us know that they no longer want to be included at any time.

ARTWORK GUIDELINES

We are in search of a range of artwork - from landscape photography to abstract painting. Here are a few ideas:

  • Botanical illustrations

  • Illustrations of women

  • Motivational quotes (that are not copyrighted!)

  • Typographic art

  • Graphic cut paper style art

  • Beautiful abstract painting/art

  • Interesting landscape photography

  • Mix of colorful and minimal pieces

  • Nursery/kids room art

  • Designs that resonate with a community of creative women

Think about what you would like to have hung in your own home!

Artwork should be high resolution enough for large-format printing, prints should be in the 2:3, 3:4, and 1:1 ratios


We hope that you will consider submitting! Below are some examples of the type of work we think will be a great fit for the CLC shop.

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The submission process is super simple, just fill in your personal info and then link a dropbox/drive folder with your submitted designs, all right here! Submissions close Sunday November 11.

Show us your work!

Submissions close Sunday November, 11

Mattie Tiegreen

Mattie Tiegreen is the creative behind Green Tie Studio, a small design house with an affinity for minimal design and genuine connection. She has been a full-time designer since 2012 and has experienced meaningful shifts along the way including motherhood and maternity leave this past summer. We loved reading about her journey and don’t want to give too much away, so without further ado, enjoy!!

Mattie Tiegreen | Freelance Wisdom

Tell me about your path to becoming a freelance designer.

I have always been extremely creative but actually studied education in school. I graduated with a degree in Special Education and went on to teach middle school students with autism for several years before starting a “business” making paper goods to flex the creative muscles. I opened a small etsy shop with a handful of greeting cards and eventually added a wedding stationery collection. Within 1 year it had taken off and I had more orders than I could handle in my few hours after work each day. In January 2013, I turned in my resignation, and on a Friday in May I put my students on the bus on the last day of school and drove to New York City for The National Stationery Show. The rest, as they say, is history. My business has taken many different turns since then but I’ve never looked back and still can’t believe this is my job.

Mattie Tiegreen | Aboki | Freelance Wisdom

In the beginning, how did you attract your first good clients?

This is such a great question. I think it’s often overlooked that even talented designers start out designing for clients that aren’t necessarily ideal but that trust us to create. I have done my fair share of projects that didn’t align with my style but I’m thankful to those early clients for allowing me to hone my skills (and pay the bills!) while I developed my personal style. I started attracting my ideal client when I prioritized making work that I wanted to make, even if it wasn’t a paid project. The more personal work I created and shared, the more clients hired me to design work I was excited about.

You've been full-time since 2012, how do you continue to attract your ideal clients?

Connection, connection, connection. I share my mission, which is that good design is about way more than design. It’s about understanding your audience, building a strategy, and communicating and continually connecting with the people who need what you do. The only way for me to do this successfully with my clients is through genuine connection. I don’t just want to design a logo. I want to work with people who are passionate about their field, excited about growth, and want me to walk alongside them to strengthen their brand. Being clear about this mission has really helped me attract the right clients.

Mattie Tiegreen | Everett | Freelance Wisdom
Mattie Tiegreen | Green Tie Studio | Freelance Wisdom

Have you made any meaningful shifts in your business structure in the past 6 years that you feel were the result of "aha" moments?

Yes! From 2013 until 2015, I was designing paper goods - primarily wedding stationery. I loved working with brides and grooms to create paper to reflect their day but was tiring out quickly. The pace was too fast for me and no matter how many efficiency systems I implemented, I always felt frantic. I was losing sight of what I loved so much about design because I was working with so many different people on so many different projects. It occured to me one day that the business I had built on relationships had turned into transactions. Once I shipped wedding invitations and thank you cards, I never heard from clients again, but I wanted something deeper.

I had already been subconsciously “branding” weddings and realized branding businesses might be a better fit because I could work with clients to create strategy, meaningful design, and a lasting partnership. In 2015, I rebranded as a graphic design studio focusing on small business strategy and design solutions and it is the perfect fit for me.

Do you have any tips for being your most productive?

Put on a bra. Hot coffee. No TV. Sit at a desk.

As I type this, I’m sitting on the sofa drinking my twice-reheated-but-now-cold coffee so, you know, balance.

Mattie Tiegreen | TaylorDawn | Freelance Wisdom

You are a new mom, congrats! When you work for yourself it can be hard to imagine fully disconnecting from your own work. Can you tell us a little bit about your process planning for maternity leave?

Thank you! I worried so much about maternity leave.

  • What if I went into labor before a project launched?

  • What if people forget I’m a designer?

  • When do I go back to work?

  • What if no one hires me again?

I was due mid-June so I booked projects up until May with plans to launch and close out work by June 1. I obviously have no context for other strategies but this worked beautifully for me! I had from June 1 until June 18 to focus on nesting, time with friends and family, and preparing my mind and body for this big shift and it was so nice to “shut down” my work brain before becoming a mother. Then, I planned to begin easing back into work mid-August and see how it felt to use my creative brain again. Looking back, I actually wish I had given myself more time off. The newborn phase is both a haze and a dream and two months was really not enough time for me to get my bearings. Now, three months in, I’m feeling the fog lift and I’m excited about fleshing out new ideas!

Mattie Tiegreen | KnownProject | Freelance Wisdom

Are there any shifts in your work day/workflow that you're looking forward to post maternity leave?

I honestly had no idea how work as a mother would look. I have never envisioned myself as a stay-at-home-mom (BIG kudos to the ladies who rock it!) because I really need to flex my creative muscles. But when Zuri arrived, I suddenly couldn’t imagine being anything but her mother. I had been told that my creativity and itch to work would come back - and it did - but this gave me a new perspective on the balance of motherhood and entrepreneurship. We have decided to do a nanny share with another family for 2.5 days each week and I’m so excited about the set up. My goal is to be fully present with work for those hours each week and then fully present with Zuri the other days. No emails, no calls during nap time, no stress about deadlines. I know it will be a challenge, but it’s important to me that I don’t fill my plate with anything that doesn’t fit into those designated work days.

What has been your greatest struggle as a freelancer so far?

Trusting that the right clients will always come. If I think too much about the future, I get wrapped up in the unknown of next year - even next month. I book projects out several months in advance but not more than 4 or 5 so I really can’t say with certainty that I’ll have income for the whole year. That’s a scary thing. Of course, there has never been a month I didn’t have the work I needed. I am constantly reminding myself that.

Mattie Tiegreen | Ashley Lauren | Freelance Wisdom

Do you have any tips for dealing with the nitty-gritty business details?

I thrive on organization! I started using Dubsado last year and am completely hooked. It manages clients, projects, leads, email templates, invoices, automatic reminders, payment schedules, calendars, tasks, workflow, time tracking, and more. It has been such a lifesaver for me to keep everything in one place. I do have an accountant and leave all the “scary” things like taxes, legal structure, payroll, and returns to him.

You recently created Forth, a comprehensive resource guide for small business owners. Can you tell us a bit about your motivation for creating it, the process of creating it, and what the response to it has been like?

Forth has been such a fun passion project. I receive lots of emails asking for business advice and tips on successful freelancing and the more I responded, I realized I was sharing the same information and resources. Over the years, I have tried dozens of different business solutions and resources so I felt like I had a lot of knowledge to offer other entrepreneurs. There wasn’t really anything on the market that was a “one stop shop” for small business solutions - everything I found was a resource for one specific realm of business ownership. When I was starting out, I resorted to Google and a few trusted friends to answer my questions and I wish there had been something more comprehensive to invest in. So, I decided to make it.

I reached out to a handful of industry friends and asked them to share their top 5 business resources. Anything from accounting to inspiration. I then spent almost a year researching, compiling, organizing, and designing a guide with the most loved solutions in every single area of business. I launched Forth in January and the response was overwhelming! It was really important to me to offer something affordable and accessible to every type of business owner - even those just starting out with little to invest in education. I still can’t believe the support I received. Over 400 people have used the guide and I’m still receiving emails about how helpful it is. I’m really humbled and honored to have made something so needed.

Mattie Tiegreen | Apoyo | Freelance Wisdom

Are there any other projects on which you're ruminating that you'd like to make time for someday?

Yes! Hopefully putting the idea out into the world will hold me accountable ;) I have been thinking about making a branding guide for several years and ended up pouring into Forth before I got started on it. I would love to create something for business owners that outlines the strategy behind branding and how important the “under work” is before design begins. Not all business owners have the budget to invest in the branding process with a designer but that shouldn’t be a reason not to have a strong foundation.

What is one thing you wish you knew when you were starting out?

That bigger is not better. When I started my business I was hustling to grow my client base - more projects, more money, more notoriety. I ultimately achieved all three of those but was also more exhausted than I’d ever been. I learned that I function best with margin. I’m not afraid of hard work but I also need space to rest and play. This means scaling back which projects I say “yes” to which sometimes means less money but to me, the breathing room is worth it.

Mattie Tiegreen | Quoin | Freelance Wisdom
Mattie Tiegreen | Bigger is not better | Freelance Wisdom

Any music, podcast, or book recommendations that you'd like to share?

Oh so many. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert is my creative lifesong. Her podcast Magic Lessons is also super inspiring. I love anything by Seth Godin to give me kick-in-the-pants motivation to think outside the box. I’m also a huge fan of a good Spotify playlist when cranking out design - Shakey Graves and Tom Petty are my go-to’s.

The 3 greatest attributes you need to be a freelance creative are:

  1. Innovation

  2. Thick Skin

  3. Flexibility

Get Social with Mattie

Website | Instagram | Facebook