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Maayan Alper-Swan

Maayan Alper-Swan is an artist, illustrator and textile designer living and working in Brooklyn, NY. Her clients and collaborators include Macy’s, Fashion Snoops, Urban Outfitters, Incoco, Calvin Klein, Kellwood, Victoria’s Secret and Temple Flower. She is also a member of our Creative Lady Directory.

Read on to find out how she gets it all done and still makes time to travel often for work and inspiration.

Maayan Alper-Swan | Freelance Wisdom

Tell me about your path to becoming a freelance artist, illustrator, and textile designer.

I’ve always made art as far as I can remember. I come from a family of architects and grew up in a creative and aesthetically conscious environment. Art was always a part of my life and I was that kid always drawing on any surface I could find and putting together colorful outfits.
I decided to study fashion design thinking it would be a practical career in the arts as I have always loved fashion and style as a medium of self expression.
I started freelancing right out of school. I fell hard for textile design when I began creating artwork and patterns at the request of several clients. This led me to create a portfolio focused on illustration and surface design and things took off from there. My work in textile design and illustration allows me to be a multi-disciplinary artist that creates in a variety of media and techniques and I love the process in which the artwork transitions from something I’ve dreamed up to becoming a finished product, often on apparel or home decor.

Do you have any tips for being your most productive?

This is a bit counterintuitive but before I stop work for the day, I like to start on new work or my next project and just leave it. That way the next morning I can jump right into my work and pick up where I left off rather than confronting a blank slate.
Also, I make lots of lists and my calendar is color-coded by client/projects so I can stay on top of my work and deadlines.
Maayan Alper-Swan | Freelance Wisdom
Maayan Alper-Swan | Freelance Wisdom
Maayan Alper-Swan | Freelance Wisdom

What has been your greatest struggle as a freelance creative so far?

Balancing the day to day of client work in tandem with personal work and longer term projects remains a struggle for me. It does, however, become easier with time and experience as you learn to set a clear agenda.

What is your favorite thing about freelance?

The freedom to work from anywhere and the ability to choose the people I will collaborate with. Freelance affords me the opportunity to pursue a great variety of projects, all of which challenge me and never leave me feeling bored.
I’m a night owl as well and thus I appreciate not having to try and perform feats of creativity within the prescribed hours of 9 to 5.
Maayan Alper-Swan | Freelance Wisdom

How do you continue to attract your ideal clients?

Instagram has turned out to be a great tool for attracting clients and collaborators.
I think putting out work that you are proud of and what represents your aesthetic is a great way to find those ideal clients that want to work with you for what is unique about your work and style. If you chase what you perceive as commercial, you would potentially alienate the most fruitful and rewarding client relationships.
I have gotten clients through word of mouth as well. It’s very gratifying when a client enjoys your work and the experience of collaborating and feels inspired to pass your name along to others.

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

Try to stay organized with tracking invoices and expenses throughout the year so that tax time isn’t quite as painful. Hire an accountant that specializes in working with freelancers or artists to do your taxes - they will be helpful in figuring out all your deductions.
Maayan Alper-Swan | Freelance Wisdom

What do you do to stay creatively inspired?

I travel often, always with sketchbook in tow. Being immersed in a different culture and a new landscape is constantly inspiring. It has become an integral part of my creative process.
I like to get involved in projects with artists working in media outside my own, such as film and photography. I find it creatively invigorating and I can then bring that energy back to my own work.
Maayan Alper-Swan | Freelance Wisdom

"I like to get involved in projects with artists working in media outside my own, such as film and photography. I find it creatively invigorating and I can then bring that energy back to my own work."


Maayan Alper-Swan | Freelance Wisdom

Since you are your own boss, do you have any advice for maintaining a work-life balance?

My advice is to take a longer view on work-life balance and not think of it as a daily goal. Not every day, or even week, will be balanced but if working extra hours for a few weeks allows me to take a month off to travel, that’s my idea of balance.
I love what I do and it is so much a part of who I am. I subscribe to the notion that if you do what you love, you will never work a day in your life.

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

Self motivation, curiosity, adaptability.
Maayan Alper-Swan
Maayan Alper-Swan | Freelance Wisdom

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Jessica Bruggink

Jess Bruggink is an artist and designer residing in Minneapolis. She is currently self-employed as a freelance designer with a focus on surface and pattern design. She has 6 years experience as a stationery and product designer at Mara-Mi. Her designs can be found in Mara-Mi, Russell + Hazel, Target, TJ Maxx, Papersource, Indigo, Patina, and boutique stores across the country. AND she is a member of our Creative Lady Directory

Thank you Jess for sharing your wisdom!

Jess Bruggink | Freelance Wisdom

Tell me about your path to becoming a freelance designer.

I've always known that I wanted to pursue freelancing at some point. I dreamed of having a flexible schedule, setting my own hours, and working with clients directly. I also loved the thought of having more time at home while still pursuing a career that I'm passionate about.
After my daughter was born, it felt natural to pause and have some time at home with her. I left my full time job and used any free time I had to work on putting my website together and building a catalog of new pattern work. I also took this time to get organized (at least more so than I had been!).
Then after a few months, I started pursuing design and illustration opportunities and working at my studio a couple days a week.
Jessica Bruggink | Freelance Wisdom

You worked at Mara Mi for 6 years. How did your time at Mara Mi prepare you to take on freelance work?

I started working at Mara Mi when I was pretty young and still learning a lot about myself as a designer. Working there, I learned how much I loved to paint and hand letter. It's hard to believe, but I used to be scared to pick up a paint brush. Now that's usually my first step!
I worked with many talented women, all with different styles and perspectives. It was an excellent place to develop a range of skills because I touched so many different types of products and projects.

How do you continue to attract your ideal clients?

Work has come from a relatively equal balance of social media and word-of-mouth referrals. Instagram and Dribbble have proven to be great ways to attract clients that are looking for my skill set and my style. I use these platforms to reintroduce past client work and present new personal work. I'm nearing the end of a 100 Day series of patterns. That series has been a really fun challenge that will not only broaden my catalog of work but also draw in new clients.
However, as beneficial as social media has been, I've probably had more success making real life connections. It's been extremely helpful to meet with people in the industry and pass my work along. These meeting don’t always lead to an immediate project but keep me top-of-mind when something does come up.
Jessica Bruggink | Freelance Wisdom
Jessica Bruggink | Freelance Wisdom
Jessica Bruggink | Freelance Wisdom

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

My biggest struggle has been the social side of freelance: both networking and communicating with clients. Naturally a shy person, the thought of directly reaching out to potential clients and clearly articulating my work made me a bit nervous.
However, it's definitely been a good challenge for me. I learned that I actually enjoy presenting my work to clients, especially on a one-to-one level. Networking in the industry has also been more enjoyable and less awkward than I initially thought. It's been incredibly helpful and inspiring to meet so many talented people with similar career goals. The Creative Lady Directory has been amazing for this!

What is your favorite thing about freelance?

What I love most about freelancing is that every day can look so different but I can set the tone. I can work from different locations, meet someone for coffee or spend the whole day painting. There is plenty of variety but I get to set my schedule and manage my own work load. I can work late on a project one day and the next day I can take a few hours off to get inspired or run errands. I like being in control of my day and I that I can switch it up so things feel fresh.
Jessica Bruggink | Freelance Wisdom

How do you stay creatively inspired?

If I'm in a creative rut, it's usually helpful to go somewhere that may not seem directly related to art and design. Then I view my surroundings through a creative lens. For example, I love visiting our nearby botanical conservatory. I'll take photos of leaf shapes and flower colors and leave incredibly inspired to make new patterns with new palettes.
My husband, Ross, is also a designer. I love that we can bounce ideas off of each other and share what's inspiring to us at the time. Our aesthetics are pretty different so it's enlightening to see how we both interpret shared inspiration in different ways.

Since you are your own boss and a mom, do you have any advice for maintaining a work-life balance?

I'd love to say that I have this figured out but I certainly don't! I've never liked categorizing my life into "work" and “home”. There is a great deal of overlap between the two. It's helpful for me, however, to have a couple days of the week to fully dedicate to work. When I'm home, I always make an effort to be fully present with my daughter and use her nap times to check and write emails, make mood boards or scan new art. I'll usually make a to do list each day, but acknowledge that very little of it may get done when I'm home with her. I'm really thankful that she'll grow up seeing me working in a career that I enjoy so much.
Jessica Bruggink | Freelance Wisdom

"I'm really thankful that she'll grow up seeing me working in a career that I enjoy so much."


Jessica Bruggink | Freelance Wisdom

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

passion, discipline, and patience
Jessica Bruggink | Freelance Wisdom
Jessica Bruggink | Freelance Wisdom

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Reema Desai

Reema Desai is a lifestyle, travel, and food photographer based in Washington D. C. Her photographs are filled with light, wonderfully colorful, and incredibly refreshing. We're drooling over each one and wishing we could transport ourselves to the location of them all.

Thank you Reema for sharing your wisdom with us!

Reema Desai | Freelance Wisdom

Tell me about your path to becoming a freelance photographer.

Well I’ve loved photography since I was young, and have spent most of my life taking pictures. I actually went to school for International Relations and Diplomacy, but I paid my way through school working as a second shooter and office manager for an absolutely incredible wedding photographer as well as working as a staff photographer for my university’s paper. It was something I absolutely loved, but not something I thought I could make a career out of.

After college, I traveled for a few months before moving to Washington, D.C. to pursue a career in my field. I got an office job here, and though I learned a lot of valuable things there, I realized that it wasn’t something that I wanted long term. I really missed the photography field, and as result, started getting more serious about taking photos and sharing them. The sharing step was by far the hardest part as I was incredibly shy and nervous about my work (luckily, I got over that)! I had very few clients at the time so I’d set up shoots in my apartment to build my portfolio, and tried to reach out to as many other local creatives that I could. That combined with sharing my work on Instagram really got things going for me. For about a year, I worked pretty tirelessly on saving money to start my business, finding new clients, and shooting while continuing my full time office job. I finally got to the point where I was able to take the jump, and I couldn’t be happier about it!

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

A lot of my clients came via word of mouth or through Instagram, and I still find that to be the case. It can be a challenge to find clients who value an artist’s worth but I was lucky to find a few right off the bat. Share work that you love(d) creating, and it will happen organically!

Reema Desai | Freelance Wisdom

What advice would you give to somebody starting out in photography?

It’s basic but be out shooting constantly. Keep your camera (or your phone even!) on you at all times, and be ready to shoot at a moment’s notice. Practice using different angles, compositions, lighting, subjects, etc., and shoot as often as you can. This will really help someone starting out hone in on their style, and figure out what does and doesn’t work for them.

Do you have any tips for being your most productive?

I work from home a lot but if I really, really need to get things done, working in a coffee shop or co-working space really helps me focus. Something about being around other people being productive really motivates me to do the same.

What has been the biggest “Aha!” moment that you’ve had while making photographs?

I’m not sure if I have one in particular, but I think a big thing for me was gaining the confidence over the years to share my work and pursue photography as a full-time career. Realizing your value is really important.

Reema Desai | Freelance Wisdom

"Realizing your value is really important."


Reema Desai | Freelance Wisdom

What has been your greatest struggle as a freelance photographer so far?

As a freleancer in general, it’s definitely scary to not know where your next check is coming from. Specific to photography, there are so many great photographers out there, and it’s pretty easy to fall into that comparison trap.

What is your favorite thing about freelance?

I love the freedom of creating my own schedule so much! I’m happy to work until later at night if it means I can go have lunch with my sister on a moment’s notice or catch up with a friend. I have a really hard time with the office mentality of “stay here for eight hours even if you don’t need eight hours to complete your work” so freelance makes a lot of sense to me. I don’t have to tell someone if I want to run an errand or go to the gym in the middle of the day, and as long as my clients are happy, my schedule can be whatever I want it to be.  And working from home with my dog is pretty great :).

Reema Desai | Freelance Wisdom

How do you continue to attract your ideal clients?

I really try to create a great client experience so that they’re first and foremost, happy with their photos but secondly, happy enough with them to recommend my work to others. A lot of my clients come from recommendations which I absolutely love. Also, I have no problem contacting clients or brands I want to work with. I know this probably makes some people a little nervous, but the worst they can say is no!

Reema Desai | Freelance Wisdom
Reema Desai | Freelance Wisdom
Reema Desai | Freelance Wisdom

What do you do to stay creatively inspired?

Travel is the #1 thing that keeps me inspired creatively. I also really like switching up mediums (e.g. - painting or drawing when I’m feeling like I’m in a rut).

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

Always keep your personal life and expenses separate from your business expenses. I try to have a monthly “accounting day” where I pay bills, pay myself, go through receipts, etc. which helps me immensely.

Reema Desai | Freelance Wisdom

Since you are your own boss, do you have any advice for maintaining a work-life balance?

To be honest, my work filters into my personal life a lot, but luckily my friends and family understand. I tend to work on weekends, but I do try to set expectations for my clients. I don’t respond to non-urgent emails over the weekend, and I won’t respond to texts from clients outside of a certain time frame which helps a lot.

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

A thick skin (I used to absolutely hate when people said this to me before but it’s definitely true), drive, and passion for your work

Reema Desai | Freelance Wisdom

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