A woman that needs no introduction. She is an artist, a model, an activist, an inspirer, and so much more. She embodies the fullness of what a woman can be when unrestrained by societal concepts of femininity. She is a business woman and a student. She is soft and cutting edge. She is herself, and it's captivatingly beautiful. Enjoy her wisdom, embrace her truth, and find little gems of perfection for yourself. Thank you, Maya June, for sharing yourself with us.
Website. Booking. Instagram.
I work hard, I'm getting paid
My schedule was full today, I'm 'bout to go all the way
I set off and hit the stage, ready to go do my thing
Well baby, my day was good
I worked hard and knocked on wood
I skipped meals and got no sleep
But this was the life for me
You working, Ms. Destiny
You working, Ms. Destiny
Ambitions and accolades, what did you go do today?
How did you go spend your day?
-Princess Nokia (aka Destiny Frasqueri), “Excellent”
Freelance work is an art in itself, and requires a mentality that isn’t exactly second nature. Marketing yourself has become a modern-day craft that, as millennials entering an evolving job market, we can’t afford to be bad at. A lot of my information on how to be an effective freelancer not only comes from my own experience as a 6 year model, but also my experience being related to many successful entrepreneurs. I grew up watching my parents build an accounting firm that specializes in small businesses, so I’ve had the privilege of not only learning from their business ventures, but also learning from all of their clients, who are mostly small business owners. On top of that, my hometown of Nashville is experiencing a rapid growth that has sped up the life span of many restaurants and shops, highlighting how crucial each decision that business owners make is at every step of the way. Most people can’t afford to not take advantage of every chance they have to facilitate the flourishing of their brand. That being said, there are lots of tools and tricks that we can use as individuals building our own brand that make maneuvering whatever industry you’re in a little easier.
So, lets say you have a “thing.” Whatever your chosen thing is, it better set your soul ablaze. Whatever you’re pursuing should be the quintessence of passion. Your thing should be what keeps you up at night, and you should be thinking not only how you can advance your own skill in this arena, but also how you can give back to this world through your passion, because man is organic with their environment and this life is a balancing act of reciprocity. Remember...
1. “DON’T BE AFRAID TO BE A FANGIRL”
Reach out to the people who are already in the field you are hoping to advance in will directly influence your growth. Putting yourself out there doesn’t just have to be sharing your art with the world. Asking for guidance and advice is not only a sign of strength and intelligence, but also humility. Humility is a wildly underrated thing that is key to success in fields that are perceived to be competitive, such as the arts. You may feel like you’re too cool to gush over someone else’s work, but you’re not. You lose nothing by genuinely letting someone know that you’re picking up what they’re putting down. Don’t be afraid to fangirl, and don’t you dare let it get to your head when people gas you up. Go to seminars and workshops, watch videos, and read as many articles as you can, even if at first they feel 101, or too basic. You can never afford to stop building on the knowledge you have about your craft. Reaching out to people who are more experienced is key because you’re not only gathering useful information from personal experience, you’re also networking. When I get the chance to do a shoot with other models, it’s important to me that I build and maintain relationships where I can. These people are my peers, people that I can learn from, not my competition. Through watching the way other people move in front of a camera or walk down a runway, I have been able to better pick out ways I can improve as a model, instead of just guessing at what I’m doing right or wrong.
As a model, I regularly contact photographers to shoot with. I may reach out to 50 photographers and out of them, hear back from 15, and only end up shooting with 5. Objectively, only shooting with 10% of the people that I reach out to may look bad, and one might suggest that I come up with a more effective way to find people who are willing to shoot with me. However, I would push back and say that if I can make one friend, and we have a great photoshoot where I get quality pictures that I am proud to send back to my agents, sending all 50 emails was worth it. I don’t see the 35 non-responsive emails as rejection, because through finding those photographers and contacting them in the first place, I’m honing my communication skills, which leads me into my next point…
2. EMAILING: THAT’S MY BEST FRIEND
I can’t remember when down the line this became the case, but email has become my best friend. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t realized the power of email. Some of my best jobs have been the result of me being on top of reading my email. I can’t stress enough how important communication is for the freelance creative, and also as a human being that has to function in Western society in general. It’s 2017, and more things are communicated digitally than not. I know so many people who have missed out on jobs simply because they don’t check their email. It is so important to take account of the channels of communication that you have available, and regularly check them.
If your Instagram DMs are open, people are probably messaging you there. If your email address is public, people are emailing you. If you have a website with a contact form, people are filling that out. Not responding to those looks very unprofessional, and sends the message that you don’t take your work seriously. Even worse is when you and a potential client begin a thread of messages and then out of nowhere, one of you stops responding. This inaction is something that will ruin your reputation, inevitably make you lose job opportunities, and quickly make you irrelevant in your field. Just like if you’ve agreed to work with someone and then flaked, if you’ve made yourself available through emailing or direct messaging but not followed through with actually responding, people will get frustrated and tell their friends.
3. HE WON’T TEXT YOU BACK? PUT IT IN THE NOTEBOOK (ACROSS FROM YOUR TO-DO LIST, OF COURSE)
When I was in middle school, my parents sent me to a tutor. This humiliated me. I thought, “I’m a good student, I make good enough grades, why do I need someone to help me study?” My 12 year old intelligence was insulted. However, looking back, I’m so grateful my parents saw the discrepancy between my “good enough” and “great” grades. I wasn’t organized. Now, almost 10 years later, I’m still using the tools I learned from the tutor. As a freelancer, organization is key. From my email account, my computer desktop, and my Dropbox to my pile of sketchbooks and the backseat of my car, having systems of organization helps me function. Creating folders in my email was a simple step that made it so much easier to manage my emails. I am no longer forced to sift through emails from my professors and my favorite online shops when I’m frantically looking for an email from my agent with the address of my casting, because my modeling emails are in a separate folder from my school emails.
Investing in post-it notes, different colored pens, and a planner (if that’s your thing) doesn’t have to cost a lot, and is well worth it. I have tried a daily planner, and can’t bring myself to write down everything want to, so instead I usually buy a small notebook without lines so that I can use it when I need to, and not feel guilty about looking back at a week of blank pages. Notebooks really help me stay organized, because I can feed into my obsession with making lists and crossing things off of them, but also I can use it as a diary, and a sketchbook. I prefer to make my to-do lists in different colors across the page from doodles or angsty venting sessions were I can complain about whatever boy is ghosting me at the moment. It’s not only cathartic, but fun to look back at and literally see my growth in terms of the things I have called myself to do and actually done.
If I’m working on a particularly labor-intensive, time consuming project, I’ll buy a notebook specifically for that undertaking. Usually, I don’t buy notebooks with more than 60 pages total, and typically they are no larger than 8x11 (however I do enjoy experimenting with different sizes of paper). I normally prefer smaller books because they fill up quicker, which makes me feel like I’m getting more done than if I have a larger notebook for a longer period of time. I like using notebooks without lines (re: the sketchbook self in the art supply section) because it makes it easier to draw, paint, or write in .12 font or 120 font depending on how I’m feeling. The lack of lines allows for my fluid creativity to show through in my lists and notes a lot easier than a composition book does, and that is therapeutic for me. Recently, I’ve begun stapling in the notes that don’t make it into my notebook initially, because while I like the idea of everything going into one place, sometimes that just doesn’t happen and I end up writing down something really important on a borrowed piece of paper, or a napkin.
4. KNOWING WHEN TO STOP
It’s easy to fall into the cycle Ms. Destiny points out in the quote at the beginning of this piece. I can’t lie and say that it doesn’t make me feel (hella) accomplished when I make it through a day that includes a shift at my day job, a 3 hour class, a casting, and writing a 5 page paper, all while emailing people about setting up shoots or furthering existing projects. However, this does usually include swapping at least one meal with a cup of coffee, and getting a fraction of the amount of sleep that I actually need. It can be really hard to juggle following my passion and all of the other responsibilities that fall onto my shoulders. It’s important that your accomplishments don’t come at the cost of your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. While it’s exciting to further my modeling career, it’s a lot less exciting when I’m hallucinating due to sleep deprivation that the flowers on my curtains are actually floral people fornicating.
While that may be the case when it comes to producing work and making budget proposals, know that you are allowed to lean on your support system. It is necessary to stay involved with people who aren’t in your industry, or else your industry will consume you.The biggest trap a freelancer can fall into is that you’re alone in your endeavors. If you’re tired- sleep, if you’re drained- don't work. Eat some ice cream and watch Netflix, and if you’re craving chicken kabob- go to your auntie’s house and ask her to make some for you, I’m sure she’d love to see you. Learning how to listen to your body is another unspoken pillar of freelancing. Designers will keep sewing until their fingers become raw, musicians will keep writing until their eyes cross and their pens run out of ink, and videographers will keep editing until the job is complete, even if it means staring at a screen for 10 hours straight. Often when I’m reluctant to stop, it helps to remind myself that all of the great work that I’ve already accomplished isn’t going anywhere. It will do more help than hurt if I give myself the time to take a bath with the bath salts I got for my birthday 6 months ago, read the article I’ve had open for longer than I can remember, meditate, or call a friend that I haven’t spoken with in too long. Creating a schedule to stick to is a pain, but it will help. Try only letting yourself work during the daylight, which encourages you to wake up and go to sleep with the sun. If you’re more of a night owl, just make sure you’re getting enough sleep during the day. If your work takes you on planes a lot, try one of those neck pillows so you can sleep a little more comfortably during flights. It’s hard to know when to take a break, because there is often no distinct “stopping point” when you’re working for yourself.
To get in touch with Maya....
Website. Booking. Instagram.