What It Takes to Be Your Own Boss
A FRANK Interview With Kim Beylin
Do you have the discipline, the contacts, the know-how, the guts to leave a steady paycheck for the prospect of the same or more money (or possibly less), and significantly more flexibility? Here’s a candid interview with Kim Beylin about the process of transition from corporate to freelance, and some insights and tips if you are considering doing the same — or if life just happened to given you a push in that direction recently.
Kim and I met many years ago while she was running the Los Angeles chapter of SheSays, a global creative network for women. Today, she runs her own studio (Studio Beylin) and manages her own time. She is also responsible for the FRANK Newsletter awesome and punchy logo and is the newsletter’s design director. A boss lady all around and someone you want to take advice from — I do.
You've managed to successfully transition from full-time to freelance. How did you do it?
Making the move from working at a big company to starting my own creative consultancy surprised me in many ways. If you’d asked me a few years ago if I wanted to crossover to freelance, I would have likely said “no.”
At the time, I enjoyed having a stable job that kept me pretty busy, and switching over to freelance would have been a radical shift with an uncertain flow of work. After I left my job a couple of years ago, I took some time to fully consider what my next career move would be. I had spent over a decade on the agency side and prior to that had worked everywhere from publishing to healthcare to design firms. For me, it turned out freelance was the answer (for me) that ultimately opened a world of possibility.
I discovered that the years I spent working in agencies really helped me. I had learned a lot about client service, which is essential in design. I had also met and partnered with many talented and experienced independent art directors and copywriters through the years. I had built a wonderful network of people who offered to help me, and who I could call upon to ask questions about the ins and outs of setting up my own business.
Word of mouth spread quickly and led me to landing my first clients, which gave me an initial boost. I really enjoyed all the different aspects of managing a creative business. While the flow of work could be a little unpredictable, I grew to love the flexibility and all the different opportunities that came my way now that I was on my own.
Why did you decide to start your own studio? Is it something you would recommend other people to do?
Setting up as my own shop, Studio Beylin, allowed me to grow the business beyond myself. While it took a little more time upfront to set up, once I worked out all the options and processes, I found it was easy to maintain and I could move on to focus on the day-to-day work.
For anyone considering it, there are several ways to structure your business; it just depends on what your goals are. I’d say find a good CPA you like and trust, and they can help you decide on the best solution that works for your kind and size of business.
What have been some of the challenges of leaving the corporate world and being your own boss?
When I first started Studio Beylin, I was completely hands-on with all the logistics, like taxes, scheduling, and billing. That wasn’t so bad, but what was tough was having to constantly switch gears. One moment I’m deep into developing creative concepts for a campaign for one client, and the next I’m drafting an invoice for another.
Although I do have to wear many hats, one of the pros of being the head of Studio Beylin is the freedom to choose and assemble the team I want for any given project. For example, for one client we developed and produced an animated video series and I brought on some former creatives who I had worked with in the past. It was satisfying to reconnect with old colleagues to make something together again. In the end, we delivered something that the client loved and that I was very proud of.
Any tricks or tips of the trade when it comes to business development?
Building relationships is like planting seeds. Relationships, like plants, take time to mature; some more than others. So, it’s essential to practice a level of patience and give regular care. And if you’re not getting the results you want, the conditions may not be right, so try another approach to try to affect the outcome.
As someone who works in a creative field, how do you manage to stay fresh and current? What are some of your sources of inspiration?
Instagram is one of my favorite places for creative inspiration. I’m a fan of artists like Christoph Niemann (@abstractsundays), Chloe Fleury (@chloefleury) and Sabine Timm (@virgin_honey). I also follow quite a few museums and galleries on social media. If I can’t be there in person, it’s the next best thing. The Getty has been doing some really good live videos of highlights from their collection; I definitely recommend checking them out.
Of course, it’s also important for me to look for inspiration in the real world, too. Travel has always been, and still is, my most favorite thing. It recharges me fully and I come home with a fresh perspective and a renewed energy that I apply to my life and work.