Episode 11 with Justin Gignac
How to Budget Your Time and Attention

Justin Gignac is the creative mind, artist, and Co-Founder of Working Not Working, an invite-only network of the busiest, most talented, and most sought after talent in the creative freelance industry. The community has now evolved into a large initiative that companies like Apple, Google, Airbnb, Kickstarter and more have discovered as a place to source creative talent from. Prior to starting Working Not Working, Justin was an award-winning Art Director and Creative Director at ad agencies around the country.

How to Budget Your Time and Attention

Justin Gignac is the creative mind, artist, and Co-Founder of Working Not Working, an invite-only network of the busiest, most talented, and most sought after talent in the creative freelance industry. The community has now evolved into a large initiative that companies like Apple, Google, Airbnb, Kickstarter and more have discovered as a place to source creative talent from. Prior to starting Working Not Working, Justin was an award-winning Art Director and Creative Director at ad agencies around the country.

In this episode, he talks about:

  • How to get started as a freelancer:

    How getting a 9-5 job first can help you build your portfolio and experience.

  • How to schedule your time based on the outcomes you want to achieve:

    Reverse engineering your to-do list based on your goals.

  • Having a clear understanding of your why:

    How you can more effectively figure out your daily step-by-step actions by knowing why you want to achieve your goals.

  • Why relationships are even more important when you’re a freelancer:

    And how you can earn more by helping people.

  • Why you shouldn’t say no to projects:

    Everything can be an opportunity, if you view it that way.

Full transcript

Juan

You're listening to the Six-Figure Freelancer audio course, brought to you by And Co from Fiverr. We interviewed top professionals who share their exact formulas for success in starting, growing, and maintaining a six-figure freelance career. And I'm your host, Juan Felipe Campos. Okay, freelance masterminds, remember: on every episode of the Audio Course, there's a giveaway of digital goods or resources from our partners that other people don't have access to. To get your audio course resources, subscribe to the audio course on iTunes and then visit and.co/resources. Again, that's a n, d dot c o slash resources to access your digital goods.

Juan

Justin Gignac is the creative mind, artist, and founder of Working Not Working, an invite-only network of the busiest, most talented, and most sought after talent in the creative freelance industry. The community has now evolved into a large initiative that companies like Apple, Google, Airbnb, Kickstarter and more have discovered as a place to source creative talent from. Prior to starting Working Not Working, Justin was an award-winning Art Director and Creative Director at ad agencies around the country. Let's hear more from him on this episode of the Six Figure Freelancer Audio Course.

Juan

Justin, thank you so much for coming on the show.

Justin

Absolutely. Thanks for having me.

Juan

Justin, so you certainly know something about starting and growing and maintaining a six figure freelance career that most of us don't. Can you walk us a little bit through how you think about this industry?

Justin

Yeah, sure. So my background is as an art director and creative director in advertising. I worked full time for five years, a different ad agencies around New York and then I freelanced at ad agencies all around the country. And now in my role as a cofounder of Working Not Working, I spend a lot of time talking to freelancers and I do a lot of talks at schools and I think especially in the past five years or so, the appeal of freelance and the allure of freelance has been out there more and more and I think people are more attracted to it. But one of the things I see and I advise young talent, is that if they can coming out of school, it's really a great idea to get a job to get a full time job or at least a, a long-term contract somewhere where you can learn how to make stuff. Because I think we, you come out of school, you have an idea of what to do, but you don't really know how to put it into practice in the real world.

Justin

And I think it's really valuable to go somewhere where you learn how to get past those good ideas to the great ideas where you actually learn how to make stuff and put things out into the world and the process of production, and really seeing how things work. And where you can meet a network of people that can help you in the future. I think it's really difficult to start and build a freelance career as a young person who doesn't really have much real work experience. Because then you're a lot of times being brought in to do stuff that's kind of a low level, maybe meeting fodder or stuff that isn't really gonna make an impact and a lot of times isn't going to be good enough to put in your portfolio to increase your day rate in the future.

Justin

So going and working for a year or two is going to allow you to really produce a lot of work, put things in your portfolio and get rid of that student portfolio and then be able to charge a significant amount more for your day rate than you would have coming right out of school with no experience. And I've seen people try to freelance for a long time and they just can only incrementally increase their rate as opposed to you take a job for a couple years and you can come out and charge double, you know, or a few hundred dollars a day more than what you were prior to that job.

Juan

Oh my gosh, I can definitely echo that as I meet freelancers and they're asking like, how can I get, how can I make more money? How can I make more money? Like what's the secret formula for increasing my rates and the answer that you just gave... It's like, it's something we don't really want to hear it because it's like, yeah, you basically have to get a job first and do that for about one, two, three, four, five years and then have something that is valuable enough that you can increase the prices and then as an added benefit, you get to work with bigger brands. So you get that under your belt and you can say I've done work with X, Y, Z, which is great, and one and then two, you actually get to see how other firms or agencies are able to execute this. So you learn a lot about operations as well. You might be the best photographer, the best coder, but if you don't know what the business side of things looks like whenever it's up and running, then that's going to be a huge learning curve for you to take on it at the same time.

Justin

Yeah. It's already hard enough to be a creative person and to try to put creative ideas out into the world, and then also to try to be a business person at the same time, it can be really overwhelming. And you know, I've experienced that myself as a freelancer and then also is starting my own business. It is a lot to try to wrap your head around and I think there's a lot to be learned just about being in the trenches and obviously different creative paths don't necessarily lend themselves to full time. Like a lot of illustrators I know, don't, you know, it's not really a full time job, but a lot of illustrators I know started as working as designers or working at a company and just being prolific and making a lot of work. But then also incorporating the illustration work into that. And then once they started building up enough of a portfolio on their own, then they were able to make that leap to go be a full time freelancer doing illustration. And I think that's a big thing too, is like it's okay to have it be your night, night and weekend focus. And then once that becomes so much work that it gets in the way the day job, then you know, it's time to quit the day job.

Juan

Oh my gosh, Justin, this is like really hard for a lot of people to hear. I'm sure because I get the ends and like in the community we also see a lot of people that are like, Hey, I bought my ticket to Bali. I'm going there in two weeks. Wanna be sipping margaritas on the beach while I do work remotely. How do I increase my prices and how do I make sure it's sustainable? And like knowing what you know now your advice, it sounds like would be like, no, you actually have to get the job. You have to wean out one job to the next. That's kind of the more practical approach, right, than just jumping ship?

Justin

Yeah. It's working your ass off and learning how to be great at what you do and having the discipline to be prolific because I think it's really easy as a freelancer you have a lot of distractions. You're working from home or working from a coworking space and you don't have necessarily, the demand to be churning out work the same as if you were somewhere full time. Now, if you have a ton of clients and you have a ton of work coming in, then that's a great problem to have and you're going to be churning out a lot of work. But I, I think it's just a different thing if you're trying to start from zero and start to build a freelance career, you need to have enough great work in your portfolio that's going to attract people to you and want to hire you for that. And so if you're doing things correctly, you're not going to have to hustle quite as much because you're going to have the work there, that's getting attention, that's getting press, that is getting people to take notice and want to hire you to do that.

Juan

Justin, if you... Okay, let me put it this way. Most of our audience are, they're either designers, or they're marketers, or they're developers. These are kind of like three main categories that we see people gravitate towards. If you had any bit of advice on how to actually operate this from a business standpoint, and what it looks like in like really nitty gritty, like what a week would look like if you had advice for like how, how to divide your time, what would that advice be?

Justin

Uh, that's a great question because it is very difficult to prioritize and divide your time when you're trying to build a freelance business. Right? So I have, you know, and I spend a lot of my time, I have a podcast as well where I interview creatives about the struggles of being a creative professional. And that's one of the biggest things because we get into this industry because we just want to make stuff. And a lot of times, the business part of it feels like it's getting in the way. So that's the stuff you end up procrastinating on. You don't send the invoice because it's a pain in the ass or you're maybe a little insecure about asking for the money or you're not negotiating how you should be negotiating because, you know, you don't want to like ruin your relationship with their client.

Justin

And so a lot of this is just getting accustomed to doing things that maybe you're not necessarily as inclined to do, but you have to have the focus and the discipline to do that. So I think a lot of it is like segmenting your time and prioritizing your time. It's really easy to think everything's a priority. It's not. And it's one of my own personal struggles is like, yeah, everything's important, but it's not. It's not actually possible to tackle everything at the same time. So it's almost coming up with a plan of where you want to be. Just even whether it's a goal financially or the type of clients you want. And then building out a strategy back from that. And so you're like, well, I want to be doing more work for this type of client, or I want to be able to take a vacation or whatever it is.

Justin

Right? And then trying to come up with a game plan towards that and then saying, all right, well what are the steps I need? Because everything is steps, right? It's like one step at a time, one day at a time, one minute at a time. And you can only focus on one thing at a time. So I think it's a matter of like, all right, well this week I really need to focus on setting up my llc or inc are my s corp or whatever it is. Or I need to go and touch base with all of my old friends and let them know that I'm doing freelance now. And if they have any needs to let me know and I'm going to spend a couple of days just reaching out to people and putting it on social media that I'm available for freelance now.

Justin

Or it's going and saying, hey, I probably should talk to an accountant or a financial planner, or I should go and spend a couple of days talking to my friends who've been freelancing for years and getting their insights and pitfalls and things that they've done wrong. And I think it's really just being thoughtful and deliberate on what you're doing day to day and creating a focus for yourself. And then maybe one thing you want to focus on are three things you want to focus on, but really taking it in steps because otherwise it gets severely overwhelming when you think about everything you need to do when you're trying to run your own business.

Juan

That's so true. So basically, I mean this is very evergreen advice. I love the fact that it's not just like, here's my template for how you should spend your time. It's basically like: be smart about it. I mean, iT's like you basically have to know exactly what you're reverse engineering and then if you want to have x amount of clients for x amount of revenue in one year, six months, three years, whatever it is, then what? Then you break it up into chunks. What are your next six months look like, your next month, next week, your next few days, and then you end up with like, what are you supposed to be doing today?

Justin

And it's also setting goals for yourself and setting actionable goals. So you could go and say, I want to be successful, but like, what does that really mean and why is that important to you? And I think really diving down into the why you're doing things, why you're freelancing, why you're passionate about your illustration career, development, your design career, and then thinking about what kind of impact that you want to have. Then you can start to make more thoughtful decisions on that. Um, and then, and then say, all right, well what do I need to do to get to that point? Oh, I need to go and update my website. I need to register a URL, I need to try to find a client that will let me do this type of work and then maybe seeking that one type of client or a couple different types of client and having them on your radar and then proactively reaching out to them.

Justin

So it's really breaking things down into actionable steps, um, and how you can, how you can get there and you know, kind of one thing at a time that's realistic and because otherwise you can constantly, it's so easy as a freelancer, just feel like you're failing all the time or to feel overwhelmed all the time or feel like you don't know what the hell you're doing. So If you can break it down and like, hey, what's one thing I can do today right now? And then just go, Alright, cool. I'm going to go do that. I'm going to register that instagram for that side project I've been wanting to do for a while. Okay, cool. And then what's the next step after that and the next step after that because it takes, you know, it takes as much time making excuses as it does making progress. And I think if you can go and figure out how to make some progress, you'll feel better. Feel like you get a little wind, you know, each time you do one of those things.

Juan

Just so we can anchor it to something specific Justin, what would be a good expectation for how much time we should be spending on these kinds of business activities? Is it, you know, 85 slash 15, 80, 20 like business activities versus fulfillment?

Justin

I think, I guess it all depends on what you're trying to do, but a lot of times it could be a third of your time or if you're trying to get going, maybe half of your time just to like try to get things off the ground. Because it will, until you have the work coming in, you need to be doing the work to try to get the work coming in. So, I think you're laying the groundwork and all of it's leading towards getting work in that you want, but I think when you're first starting off, you're going to be doing a lot more of that business stuff. Then you're going to have work coming in, you're going to be so overwhelmed, you're going to be making work all the time and then you're going to go, oh shit, I got to go and do those other things like invoice, like update my portfolio, and it kind of ebbs and flows depending on what point you're at in your career.

Juan

How much would you say you should budget for just the sales part of it and actually getting new clients and I understand that it's dynamic and it would change, but is it like five percent of our time, 15 percent of our time? What would be a good expectation for like the sales part of it? Because I guess we have three buckets, right? There's sales and there's the businessy, like kind of boring things that most people don't want to do. And then there's actually fulfilling work. Do you have a good pulse on that?

Justin

Well, I guess it depends on what your definition of sales is, right? Some people do self promotional mailers and send those out. I think other people will just try to take people to coffee or to lunch and just talk to your friends and, and, and people that, you know, no other people. I think one of the things I've found, my dad gave me a great piece of advice when I was younger and he plagiarized it from this guy Zig Ziglar, it was enough other people get what you want and you'll always get, sorry, help enough other people get what they want and you'll always get what you want. And that's, that's something that I've tried to live by and that's something, you know, as a company, it's one of our ethos at Working Not Working. It's like if we go and, and try to be a facilitator for other people's wants and their dreams and the things they want to make happen, then we have nothing to worry about.

Justin

And I think as a creative person, especially as a freelancer, the most important thing you can do is nurture and value your relationships and not do anything in a self serving way and more of just putting yourself out there, being part of the community and letting people know that you're there for them and then you can, you could be a help for them, whether it's, you know, actually doing the work that you do or if it's just a shoulder to lean on, all of that stuff really helps. And I think that's more important than any flyer you can send out or any self promotional thing you can do is really immersing yourself in the community. And that's not easy for a lot of people. And a lot of people are introverts, you know, especially a lot of creative people I know are introverts.

Justin

But it's maybe just connecting with your friends that maybe are also introverts and uh, and starting those conversations because I think it's really easy to get kind of stuck in the hole and just think I need to be doing, you know, my drawings all the time. And I think a big part of getting out there, is just really connecting with people and networking sounds like a dirty word, but I think it's just really about relationships and being a part of your community no matter how big or small you want that community to be.

Juan

Yeah. It's basically building depth of relationships based on helping others and doing great work like that's as good of a sales strategy as any. You won't end up doing Facebook ads or cold outreach to someone because you have a burned bridge. You never burned any bridges.

Justin

No. And it's just word of mouth and I think you know, the most important thing is don't be an asshole, which you shouldn't have to remind people of, but it's really, it's been crucial in my career and all of the successful creatives and freelancers I've talked to have been really great to work with because what happens when you go freelance, it's almost like career purgatory. A lot of times people were forced to work with you because you were a full time job together and they didn't have a choice, but now that you're freelance, they have a choice of whether or not they want to work with you. So if you're a good person to work with, they're going to want to help you out. And if you were kind of an egomaniac or an asshole, they're going to go and say, all right, I'd rather work with someone else.

Justin

So if you are falling into that camp of being an egomaniac or an asshole, it might be time to recalibrate because it's really going to affect your career in really negative way. Um, and I think, uh, and I've had friends who've been like, ah, shit, I, I have to be nice now. And it's like, yes, you have to be nice now and you have to be good to work with and you can't have your ego take over. Like don't ever be too good for a project. And some of my best, biggest things in my portfolio that helped my career the most. We're a really shitty, like a business to business, assignment for a magazine print ad, and we ended up coming back to the creative directors with an idea for a TV commercial that ended up being a Super Bowl spot, but like the the assignment that we got to start with a terrible assignment, but we were like, well that's, yeah, I guess that's not that interesting, but what else?

Justin

What if we also did this? And we came with those, those ideas that made us excited and looked at everything as an opportunity and I think if you look at everything as an opportunity, even if it's maybe that project itself isn't the opportunity. Maybe it's bailing someone out of a situation or just coming with enthusiasm and passion and they can say, wow, they, they, they were really psyched about that terrible direct mail brief, but what, what would they do with something that was actually, you know, juicy and fun to work on? And let's, let's give them an opportunity there.

Juan

Very cool. There you have it, Justin. Justin's advice for early freelancers, people that are leaving colleges to make sure that you don't just jump into the career, but you actually get a job or a long-term contract where you can put knowledge into practice and take your good ideas, make them great and become valuable enough that you can actually start commanding those bigger prices and working with the bigger clients as a cool side effect. You also get to work with bigger brands. If you get a job and you get those big brands under your belt and you understand how businesses work, which is a big struggle for freelancers, is just understanding the business side of things. On the topic of time, Justin says that you have to be reverse engineering an outcome, whether it's the type of clients you want to work with or revenue. You just have to know that you're working towards something specific and then work your way backwards to create a game plan with specific steps that are very actionable to drive your day forward.

Juan

On sales, he talked about building relationships based on helping others and doing great work so that you can become well known in your community and essentially the punchline is just be good people and do good work and that's as good as sales strategy as any.

Juan

Okay, freelance masterminds. Do not forget to pick up your digital resources from this episode. It's very simple. You just subscribe to the show on iTunes and then once you've done that, visit and.co/resources. Subscribe on iTunes and then visit and.co/resouces to get your digital goods. See you on the next one.

Juan

Justin, as you continue to grow and take your career forward, where's the best place for people to stay in touch with you and learn more about what you're doing?

Justin

People can find me on Working Not Working, it's just workingnotworking.com/justin or on Instagram, Twitter, everything else. It's just @justingignac. And feel free to hit me up and I'm happy to help anybody, and you know, I love having conversations like this. It is daunting to be a freelancer, but there's a lot of, a lot of help out there and a lot of community and if you just embrace it, you can have a really successful career.

Juan

Perfect. Justin, thank you so much for coming on the show and sharing all this with us.

Justin

Thanks so much, Juan. Appreciate it.

Juan Felipe Campos
About your host

Juan Felipe Campos

Juan Felipe Campos serves as VP of Technology at Manos Accelerator in partnership with Google Launchpad. As a freelancer, Juan has worked on growth and customer acquisition for VC-funded startups including Ease, Admix, Timeular, and AND CO from Fiverr. He hosts the Six Figure Freelancer audio course/YouTube channel, leads the Freelance Masterminds Facebook Group, and is passionate about helping remote workers make more money and live life on their own terms. His companies have been featured in major publications including Entrepreneur, Huffington Post, Inc. Magazine, and Forbes.

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