Venturing out on your own can be intimidating for many reasons. But when you’ve got purpose followed by passion and skill, anything is possible. Laura K. Wise understands what it’s like to toggle between a corporate queen and side hustler; and knows the effects of a “desk job” that limits her skills. In this interview, we talked to Laura about her journey to become a freelancer who not only thrives within her work but also intentionally creates space for other Black women to do the same.
Throughout your career you’ve worked in the nonprofit and corporate sectors. What led you to want to freelance?
I started freelancing back in 2011. At that time I was fresh out of design school and had landed my first role as a design assistant at an apparel manufacturing company based in L.A. A year later, I was laid off due to budget cuts. I was devastated, but that didn’t last long because I needed to figure out how to pay the bills. Not long after, an opportunity fell in my lap to do graphic design work for another company, but the position wasn’t permanent. So I basically started freelancing before I ever knew what the term “freelancer” meant.
I started freelancing out of necessity. However, I continued freelancing because it provided me the opportunity to work on projects and tell stories that I was unable to tell at my various 9 to 5 roles. Freelancing allowed me to build my skillset, helped me to build my confidence, and ultimately served as a training ground to launch me into full-time entrepreneurship with my consulting business.
What was the biggest challenge you faced when transitioning from your 9-to-5 to freelancing full time?
When I decided to go from 9 to 5 life to full-time freelancer life, I jumped off of the ledge. I didn’t have a well-thought-out plan, I didn’t have clients lined up, but I was all in on faith, and knew that it would work out.
My biggest perceived challenge was that I was going to struggle to get clients. That wasn’t the case for me; I actually landed two contract opportunities right away. What was challenging, however, was figuring out the logistics of working for myself. How much money should I be setting aside for taxes, how should I handle health insurance, should I set myself up as an LLC or an S-Corp, etc.
On another note, I also found it hard to explain to the people in my life my new direction. Going against the grain is not only challenging, but it can also be lonely. It took me a while to feel totally comfortable with my decision because it looked so different than what my friends and peers were doing. But I believed in my vision of what my life could look like — the freedom to work anywhere there is wifi, the opportunity to earn more and more money– so I went after it.
That feeling of loneliness led me to create The Black Female Freelance Network or The BFF Network for short.
The BFF Network is a community of Black women freelancers sharing tips, tools, resources, stories, and most importantly, creating a hiring pipeline. It’s an idea that I’ve had for years that’s gone through several iterations to land on what we are today—a network of Black women who freelance who are available for project opportunities.
What lesser known advice would you give to women who are considering making the career shift?
Looking back, I wish I had made a solid plan before jumping head first into my freelance career. I would urge women everywhere looking to make the leap from 9 to 5 into freelancing or full-time entrepreneurship to get really clear on your goals and make a plan.
How much money do you need to live your life every month? I would come up with two numbers, the absolute bare-bones number and a number that’s more comfortable. This gives you a nice range to work within. Once you have those numbers, you have a target. I would then decide on your product or service, and determine how much do you need to sell per month to hit that number.
By getting clear on your target and breaking down the path(s) to get there, you can create a road map to reach your goal and feel more confident in the steps you’re taking to get there.
Tell us about your company and the kind of work you do now.
In 2018, I started my communications company, Content Wise Communications. I work with nonprofits and social enterprises to get crystal clear on who they are and how to tell their story in the marketplace so that they can build brand equity and raise more money.
Also, as I mentioned previously, I’m the founder of The BFF Network. We are all about Black women and work, and we’re building a community of Black women who freelance around the world.
What excites you the most about The BFF Network?
I’m really excited about the growth potential for the network and the opportunity freelancing provides for Black women to make more money to spend, save, or invest.
Did you know that there is a revolution happening around freelancing right now? Since starting The BFF Network, I’ve been following news, updates, developments, and trends in the freelance space very closely. Let me tell you: this is a revolution indeed
Once upon a time, freelancing and remote work lifestyles were occupied by a very fringe group of people. This group was most often young, white, and male—many of whom were early adopters of technology, creating internet-based businesses. Today, however, much in part due to the pandemic, freelancing is not quite as obscure as it once was. Now, if you say you’re a “freelancer,” it’s a totally acceptable and understandable career classification when even five years ago, people might look at you with a judging side-eye.
Where can we find you and how can we get connected to The BFF?
- You can find and connect with me on Instagram @bffntwrk.
- You can sign up for Against the Grain, a monthly newsletter sharing stories, resources, and job opportunities to inspire and support Black female freelancers.
- You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’re looking for a freelance opportunity or you’re hiring for a freelance opportunity you’ve come to the right place and I’ll love to get connected with you!