Setting Up in a New City – A Freelancer’s Guide

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If you’re a fan of this blog, you will likely know the first hand experience of moving from city to city, and the difficulty or excitement in setting up there on a professional level. It’s important to take value in these words, because many people can be guided by a little wisdom in advance whenever embarking on a similar journey.

Starting life in a new city can be difficult, especially if you’re a freelancer. It might be that you work contract gigs in many new environments, or you work from home and have moved for the chance to sustain yourself with freelance work while hoping for jobs in the industry. No matter who you are, everyone must adapt to their careers in the correct manner if they hope to become competent within them. This is a job enough in itself, let alone the difficulties of working in a new, unfamiliar city.

The following guide will help you try to balance this line well, both from a personal and working perspective. Considerations such as your social life, your living requirements and money management will be taken into account. We hope that you find some value in these words if you’re heading on this foray into the wider world yourself, and you potentially head towards the correct orientation of your long-term dreams.

Consider the following:

Living Requirements

Everyone has different living requirements. It might be enough to find random housemates and live cheaply from a rented room, especially if your frugality is a priority. However, some people might also feel it necessary to find a studio apartment for rent and to set up their own small space where they can think while alone. When moving to a new city, it’s always best to find a humble place in a relatively average area. This can help you save money while you establish yourself and find out what your requirements are. This will also be required due to likely living from your savings as you try to find a job, or at least keeping an unpredictable income stream through your freelancing work.

Assess your living requirements correctly. How far do you desire your commute to be? Are you moving for a certain reason, such as finding work in the kitchens of an area? Would it be worth finding a cheap flat near a restaurant or a good food market in this case? If you hope to live and work as a designer, or in video production, living in proximity might also help. Commuting time is time taken away from your creative development, so it’s best to consider what is right and acceptable for you at this time.

Luckily, with living situations you often have the luxury of short-term planning. This is because much rented accommodation will only require a contract of six months to a year, helping you transition as you establish yourself and earn more over time. This freedom in living situation is only likely to come at this stage in your life, as responsibilities and dependants can often build quite quickly. As you try to  establish yourself in a professional capacity, it’s likely that you’ll either spend much time at your desk or out working, and not hosting extravagant dinner parties or anything of that nature. This can be freeing in the first instance, and give you plenty of short-term flexibility to take advantage of any opportunities that might come your way.

Associations

The moment you finish moving to a new area, it’s important to start building associations. You might find this via a meetup group online, or a Facebook page dedicated to a certain craft you are interested in. For example, finding ‘graphic designers in London’ is as simple as searching that term on your favorite social media website. Before long you can begin trading ideas, submitting your own work, and potentially forging friendships with people to help you get ahead.

This is not something to ignore. It can be an extremely helpful resource in getting you started and helping your career flourish correctly. It also serves a side benefit of helping you maintain your social life, as a lack of this can otherwise make an exciting city seem oppressive and a long way from home. It might take a while to find people you genuinely care about, and so falsifying contacts can only make you feel more alone than ever. Instead, don’t rush it, only meet with people who contribute to your happiness in the new city, and from there the relationship can bloom.

This might sound like a personal luxury, but it really isn’t. We are comprised of other people more than we know. If we’re a creative freelancer, we can often become dry with ideas if not introduced to other people frequently. It might also kill your motivation or prevent you from seizing opportunities in an area if you’re simply not happy with your stay there. Make connections and associations from the moment you land, and at least the attempt should bring you closer to people you may respect.

Reputation

It’s important to consider your clean slate reputation when moving to a new area. This might give you the chance to begin working at a professional capacity that most suits you, and others. As your reputation builds, you might have another chance at a career that you made mistakes with in another environment. Nurse this reputation, considering it to be your closest form of working currency. If you’re known for doing a good job, taking advantage of opportunity and being a better person each day, you will soon have work that speaks for you. This might be subcontracting for restaurants in an area and then being in high demand, building your own personal portfolio or simply keeping a list of solid interview records throughout the city, even if you weren’t initially considered for the job.

Familiarity

The most important thing you should do when beginning your new life in a city is to become familiar with that city. That means walking the main streets, then the safe small streets, then finding the shortcuts. It means finding the districts and how far apart they are from one another. It means seeing the city from above, below, and on the street level. It means eating at some of the recommended restaurants. It means learning some of the road names. The more you can absorb the city around you the more competent you feel within it, and the more you feel like you belong there. When you feel as if you belong in a city, you are absolutely sure you can occupy that space and make the most of it.

Then, despite your temporary accommodation, you can learn many new things. It might be how to drive and navigate the roads. It might be what areas are best for your new home whenever you decide to move. It might even be areas to avoid. Becoming familiar with a place reduces your sense of doubt, and lessens the feeling of being homesick. If you have the ability to you will be able to navigate this city to your best advantage, and be a little more street smart regarding opportunities to take advantage of.

Discipline & Self-Control

When moving into a city and absorbing the environment for the first time, it can be tempting to spend it in indulgence. Eating at great restaurants, heading to the bars with your new friends and spending a little more than you might want to is always a temptation, especially for those looking to blow off some steam after travelling to a new environment.

However, while that is acceptable, it’s important to consider your discipline and self-control. You are never guaranteed a place in the city. It’s up to you to work for it and deserve it. This is especially true if you haven’t completely secured full time employment just yet, but you’re moving for that. In order to chase your dream you will need a financial backbone, and in order to profit from that you will need keen discipline and self-control. It might be you have to work a job you dislike for a year to fund your personal development of graphic design before your portfolio is even opened. It might be you take a low level position at a company in your industry just so you can learn the very basic requirements, and you might have to work twelve hours a day six hours a week in order to benefit from that.

Discipline and self-control is essential when moving to a new city, as it dictates almost all of the long term success of you in this environment, and as we emphasized with the need to consider your reputation, word can spread fast about your achievements. The key to success in a new environment is to always remind yourself of WHY you’re there. This might be reminding yourself you’re in L.A to seek acting roles, or you’re in Paris to study art. If you stay focused, this can help you tremendously.

With these tips, you are sure to set up your personal and freelancing operation correctly, and with integrity.

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