Interview: Freelancer turned full-timer

Intern schmintern. Working for free is great and all, but what about freelancing?

I interviewed Josh Horn, a long timer freelance art director/designer/fake mustache wearer. Read his story, get some tips and get to work. 

Q: How long have you been freelancing: 
Josh: I've freelanced on and off for the past 3 years or so. I actually "permalanced" at Ogilvy for about 2 years straight before taking a full time offer this past February (sell out).  I still freelance on the side tho. I'm always on my hustle. I'm trying get paid. Bitch. (I'm not referring to you as a bitch. I don't want to get slapped.)

Q: Why did you choose to freelance vs working full time?
Josh: The money is usually better. And it's easier to walk away if another opportunity arises. Plus, I don't feel as bad dipping my pen in the company ink. Not that I ever feel THAT bad. 

Q: How did you get your start freelancing?
Josh: Well I moved to NYC with two paisley patterned suitcases and six grand. As you know, six grand aint a lot of money in this city. But between drink specials, Trader Joe's, no health insurance, free concerts and 45 year old sugar mamas - you make it work. It's funny cause when you're in school I think a lot of people assume you graduate and there's this abundance of full-time jobs with benefits waiting to be plucked. But when it came to looking for gigs, I realized that freelance opportunities greatly outweigh full time opportunities. So I took what I could get. Did I mention it was 2008 and we were on the cusp of a recession? So yeah, there was that.  Broke during a recession, in arguably the most expensive city in the US. Good times.

Q: What are some of the perks? 
Josh: Usually the money is better and you get paid for overtime.

Q: What are some of the downfalls? 
Josh: No subsidized health insurance. And you feel more like an estranged cousin than part of the family. At one point, the Ogilvy gym was reserved for full-time employees only. So us freelancers would get dressed in 80's work out gear and go do jumping jacks and squat thrusts outside the gym windows. Oh and jazz hands. Lots of jazz hands. The gym opened up to everyone soon after. 

Q: How do you decide your rate? 
Josh: I have a rule that I always counter offer at least once. You'd actually be surprised what you get out of life if you just ask. I recently got a freelance offer, and honestly I wasn't really up for the amount of work it was going to take. So I said eff it. I took my hourly rate, which was already a little high, then added $50 bucks to it. I wasn't hurting for money so I felt I had nothing to lose. And lo and behold, they went for it. 

Q: Do you prefer hourly or daily or overall per project? what's better? how are they different? 
Josh: ALWAYS CHARGE BY THE HOUR OR DAY. NEVER BY PROJECT. A wise man told me this a long time ago and it has saved me many times. When you have an hourly or day rate, you're establishing the value of your time right off the bat. People will respect it, and they will work more efficiently because of this. This is probably going to be the best lesson I can give the young guns who might be reading this. 

Q: How do you get new clients?
Josh: I'm at the point now where people come to me. That's what's cool about this business, there's a snowball effect that occurs from doing good work. 

Q: How do you deal with non ad agency clients? 
Josh: You have to hold their hand a little more. And often they're really not sure what they want. That can get annoying. I find it's best to ask them to show you examples of work that is similar to what they're aiming for. Saves a lot of headaches. 

Q: Do you look at yourself like a business? 
Josh: I'm not a businessman. I'm a business, man. You have to or you're gonna get the shaft. That's why it can be tricky doing work for friends. I don't find that works out too well most of the time. 

Q: How do you sell yourself? 
Josh: Show a lot of leg. That, and exude confidence. Oh, and this might be a little superficial, but dress the part. I can't take design advice from someone whose wearing cargo shorts and a graphic tee. 

Q: Any advice to someone starting out wanting to freelance?
Josh: Don't work for free. Treat everything like a business transaction. Utilize social media to get your name out there. If you do good work, people will start coming to you. And don't take shitty projects unless you're broke. 

Q: Any tips to be a successful/ long term freelancer? 
Josh: Geezus. The questions just keep coming. What is this, some kind of interview or something? Umm... don't try to do it all yourself. I'm running at a faster pace these days because I loop in my friends to help carry the load. 

Q:What are your favourite types of freelance projects? 
Josh: Websites and any kind of film. Although I designed some watches once. That was dope. Stuff like that is cool. Keeps it interesting. 

Q: Anything else you want to add? 
Josh: If you don't have an online portfolio stop reading this now and make one. And don't try to do some fancy flash website or something. Keep it simple, keep it clean.

Now, I'ma ask you some questions. What made you want to start this blog?  
Me: I used to impale beetles on common pins when I was a child. This is my penance. Also, I had a lot of people help me when I was a clueless/hopeless student and a junior, I'm try to pay it forward.  

Do you want to lecture one day? 
Me: Definitely. I've taught at Miami Ad and given workshops and talks at other schools.  

Do you ever cut your hair? Or does it just reach the perfect-fro-circumference and stop growing? 
Me: Always about the hair, huh? I do cut it all the time actually. When it gets too long and touches my neck it freaks me out. Also I need to show it who's boss. 

Last question: Do your readers know that I was your unofficial office crush? Sorry fellas.  
Me: Nice weather we're having. Hope the rain stays away this weekend.

See more of Josh's work: