Michelle Haimoff: Write the Rules

Sometimes the life of a freelancer actually more closely resembles that of a person with multiple full-time jobs.  This is certainly true for writer/blogger/journalist Michelle Haimoff – president and founder of ThePanelist.com, an online magazine about socially conscious investing, as well as author of guidebook Secret New York, and regular contributor to numerous publications.

Michelle operates tirelessly under the philosophy that a work of a freelance writer is never finished; that there’s always a new story to tell.  99U sat down to talk with Michelle about fake deadlines, breaking down myths, and the business of creativity.

With many different “bosses” to juggle, a freelancer with a wide range of projects and clients has to become his or her own toughest taskmaster to succeed.  Haimoff stays on track of all she needs to accomplish by setting imaginary deadlines that she treats as real.  “We all remember how in school homework was due on certain days. The freelance lifestyle is more like school than anything else (particularly college, where one isn’t penalized for skipping class). I pretend that things are due on certain days and then, whatever it takes to meet the deadline, I do, even if it means canceling plans or turning off my phone. Editors like working with me because my deadlines are always ahead of theirs and I know that my procrastination will only go so far.”Leaving behind the traditional corporate world also means letting go of many of the longstanding assumptions by which we have been trained to function.  Haimoff outlines three myths that she abandoned along her journey:

  1. ‘Live each day as if it were your last’ – The inability to do monotonous office work is a large part of the reason people pursue creative goals, but, as in any field, creatives must think long-term.  The future becomes the present very quickly and a project won’t get done unless you’re working on it now. Sometimes you have to force yourself to get things done, even, for example, when it’s nice out.
  2. ‘If it’s not hard, it’s not worth doing’ – Throughout college I was convinced that I wanted to be an investment banker.  I took econ classes and sent my resume to every banking and finance-related institution I could find. Even though I was struggling to understand the material, it took me years to realize that I should do something that came easier. Every field is competitive, but at least now I stand a chance of succeeding.
  3. ‘The art world and the business world are two different worlds’ – Unless you’re extremely well connected (i.e. -a parent is an established artist, on the business side of the arts or you’re simply loaded), you’re going to have to network, sell and promote the hell out of yourself. Some people are better at it than others, but the business side of the art world is a necessary evil. You’re also going to have to deal with rejection, negotiate for yourself and follow up on invoices, none of which is as fun as simply working on your art.”

Of course, at the end of the day making ideas happen always comes back to reminding yourself why you are doing so in the first place.  As Michelle explains, “What motivates me is that moment you see or read something and say, ‘I know exactly what you’re talking about.’ It’s a way of connecting with people whom you’ll never know.”

More insights on: Career Development, Perseverance
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