“If I wish for my clients to be a certain way, then I should be that way myself.”
Creative multi talent Wook Kim, talks to us about the freedom of freelancing, working with difficult clients, and putting your foot down.
WOOK KIM – Freelance Creative – Brooklyn, NY
How would you describe your occupation?
Freelance creative. I am in a range of areas that are creative: graphic design, branding, websites, artwork, interiors, designing textiles and other miscellaneous projects. So I feel like the term “Studios” encapsulates the best what I do.
Freedom. Not just freedom with my time but also with my projects and the variety of work I can do. I’m not a proponent for definitions. I don’t understand definitions a lot of times, so freelancing allows me to not pigeonhole myself and to be more flexible. It allows me to sort of move between things without having to define myself.
How do you meet your clients?
I have been so fortunate that it’s been word of mouth for me. I do not actually advertise on the web or do any sort of advertising. I get a lot of calls from people who I’ve been recommended to. Once I start talking to clients, it’s like “Oh, you do that? And you do that, too?” and then often the work starts to pile. There are periods where it’s dark and nothing is happening, but that’s fine, too.
“Being freelance allows me to not pigeonhole myself and to be more flexible. It allows me to sort of move between things without having to define myself.”
Any advice you would give your younger self just starting out working freelance?
Just take it easy. Not just freelancing, but in life in general. Take it seriously, but take it easy. Things are going to happen in the time that they are going to happen. You figure that out with clients, too. There’s no need for, like, making myself batshit crazy just because someone else is badshit crazy. There is no need for it.
I don’t want to be subjected to somebody’s whims and wills. It’s not ok. I don’t particularly like it if people do it to me so I’m not going to do it to someone else. But in working too. Not going so overboard and crazy. Don’t go like ”The work has to be like this and this has to happen like this.” That doesn’t do anything for anyone, right? That doesn’t do anything for me.
What are the biggest challenges between freelancers and clients?
Personalities. And that goes in both directions. Whether the freelancer has a personality problem or the client. Myself, I try to check my personality at the door. I have my opinions and I’ll share my opinions but after one or two … the ideal client is the one who also talks to you versus just kinda waits for you to do stuff.
It’s a mutual relationship, again. Like for me it’s just like (being able to) having a conversation and then extrapolate from that conversation and being able to do something right for both sides. A good personality is a key thing, I think in everything, but especially in (freelancing) I think it is important.
“Myself, I try to check my personality at the door.”
So, when you are meeting a new client…
Yeah, I mean, I’m looking at their personality and see what they are like.
That’s the most important thing?
I think so. You know, I mean, just because they have a good personality I’m not going to work for a dollar… this is business! And I’d much rather work with someone who has a good personality. I think when I was younger, as a part of “take it easy”, the hustle was easier to do and I was willing to subject myself to that, but at my age at this point … It’s not even that I’m not willing to — I just know better than to always say “Oh, yeah that’s ok…”. It’s not ok.
So you put your foot down?
Yeah. I put my foot down way sooner now. But that being said, I will finish a job to the end — the first time. But I won’t go back a second time. No matter how good the money is. We’re supposed to be evolved human beings, right?! Part of that is learning and understanding. And not putting themselves through the same (bad) situation over and over and over again.
I think that’s partially key to being a good freelancer, understanding those things. And I think that has to do with personality, too. Understanding your own personality and saying I am or I am not going to deal with this. But I do think some people have a higher threshold than me, so they can deal with shitty clients.
“… the ideal client is the one who also talks to you versus just kinda waits for you to do stuff. It’s a mutual relationship… ”
If someone hooks you up with a client and gives you some insights, do you think that is helpful?
Yes and no. I mean if they tell me that the client doesn’t pay on time or is always late that would put up red flags for me immediately. They might be a really good person (…), but it’s still a thing about their personality. It’s not a good thing. It’s a lack of respect.
So what would you say are the things that would make freelancing better?
It’s understanding that there’s a job that needs to get done. You know, on both ends, getting it done. You don’t need to be best friends at the end of the day, that’s not what I’m saying. But there has to be a mutual respect and understanding of “this needs to get done”. And I need to do this and you need to do that, and I need to pay you … all that stuff.
Do you have any experience with hiring a freelancer? Sure How did that go?
Good and bad. Again, it’s personalities and how you can talk to a person and get through to them. I know what I want and how I want to be treated, so I’m going to do the same thing in return. If I wish for my clients to be a certain way, then I should be that way myself. That’s just it. Instead of being like “Well, I’m now the client so I get to…” you know?! That’s bullshit.