Faces of Freelance Austin is a monthly feature to get to know one of our many members just a little bit better. For this month’s installment, we check in with Haley Schultheis.
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Name: Haley Schultheis
Business name: The Studio Digital
No. of years freelancing: 6
Located: Austin, TX
Accepting new work? Yes
What’s your superhero power?
I’m known to be highly perceptive. I seem to be able to get a good feel for an individual or project at first glance, which is great when something or someone may be missing a little bit of this or in need of a little bit of that!
How do you describe the work you do?
I help style brands’ online presence through content creation, ad campaign management, imagery, captions, etc. Each digital strategy is customized to reach both the immediate and long-term goals of an individual client. My current clients include shopping centers, shopping districts, designers, retailers, restaurants, beauty brands and more.
Describe your path to becoming a freelancer/small business owner/solopreneur.
I always thought I was going to write for a magazine in New York City growing up. I even wrote to Vogue magazine when I was 11 and asked them what advice they’d give me in order to serve on their staff someday. They wrote back and told me that many of their writers majored in English and Art History. I graduated with a degree in English Writing and minor in Art History.
However, when I graduated from college, it wasn’t the best time to work for a print publication so I immediately began funneling content to online businesses in need. I enjoyed seeing the analytics behind the content — how many views a piece received, how much interaction one piece would get out of another — and I realized there was a way to merge my passion for storytelling and seeing changes and results from my work. I decided to go off on my own and see how I could help build other people’s businesses while running my own.
Was there an “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to strike out on your own?
I think I had this very young idea that if you couldn’t find your dream position to create it. Right after college, I worked for entrepreneur Mark Cuban at one of his start-up companies where I did a little bit of everything. It spoiled me. From then on, I wasn’t happy solely working in marketing or just writing editorial.
Running my own business, I could pick and choose clients that I found interesting or that I related to. Hence, I still felt a connection and passion for their work and could excitedly promote it, while providing a service to them and hopefully building their business. When I realized that I was a person who enjoyed and excelled at wearing many hats, entrepreneurship was the way to do it.
How has career independence changed your professional and personal world?
I think that, until you’ve walked the path, you truly don’t know what it’s like. There’s very much a glamorization of entrepreneurship. There are definitely some perks, but you have to be extremely self-disciplined and the luxury of having your workday end at 5pm or 6pm (when you are no longer “on the clock”) doesn’t technically exist.
On average, you are as good as the work you produce and that is both a pro and a con. Instead of making one person happy, you are usually making multiple individuals happy and meeting their expectations — daily. It’s hard to ever feel truly satisfied and to tell yourself you deserve a break because you often don’t have anyone else to pull the load when you lighten it the slightest bit. I can’t recall a single weekend where I haven’t worked [at least a] bit in six years. But, on the bright side, it builds confidence, and knowing you can do it and take on the multitude of challenges presented is a huge part of the reward.
Has there been a point when you’ve taken a big risk to move forward?
Moving my business from Dallas to Austin after living there for seven years was a huge risk as my entire network and clients were there. But, I am originally from the Midwest and grew up in the woods on lakes and Austin just always seemed like home when I was here.
Tell us what your day is like. Do you have a routine?
I start my day with Instagram. As I manage multiple accounts, I rarely get the chance to actually look at my own feed. It’s a great time to see what’s going on with friends and my favorite brands near and far and kind of “tune in” to the digital space. I then make coffee, walk the dogs, and begin working in my office, which overlooks gorgeous heritage trees in South Austin.
What, outside of your professional work, drives you? Any hobbies, passions or side projects?
I love a great hike in the woods with my 2 dogs and fiancé, traveling, coffee or cocktails with friends, visiting a new place or restaurant, and an adventurous weekend away — basically anything to recharge and inspire my work. I’m involved in the The Women’s Symphony League of Austin and Ballet Austin. I love taking fun classes like the wreath making class I recently took with Gypsy Floral, a candle making class at Kettle & Brine and a holiday platter ceramics class with Foxware Ceramics!
What was the biggest surprise or shock you found in freelancing? If you could share a bit of wisdom with your newbie freelance self what would it be?
It’s a constant wave of ups and downs and with that comes emotions. You have to please a variety of personalities and work with a variety of different people. When a client wants something – it’s not a boss to whom you can say, “Well, I’m working on this first, then x, y and z.” You have to let the client know they matter and make sure you are giving everyone the attention and quality work they deserve (even when they ALL want it at the same time). The role of a freelancer doesn’t leave room for many excuses — even if you are completely overwhelmed. Competition is fierce and if you don’t get the job done, someone else will.
Austin has a thriving independent worker population, do you see any ways the creative and freelance community in Austin could be better?
The people in Austin’s community seem to be collaborative and willing to help each other. They don’t seem as threatened to share knowledge and contacts, which is wise. They are more confident and willing to build relationships rather than having a “to each their own” mentality. There are a lot of small groups that meet that I didn’t find out about until months after I was first introduced to the landscape. But, if you are looking for a specific type of individual to network with and be around, I’d say there’s a strong chance that it’s out there. And, if there’s not, it gives you the opportunity to create it in a welcoming community!
What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out?
Foster meaningful relationships. It’s easy to live an isolated life freelancing so you have to make it just as much of a priority to get out and get to know your industry locally. Personal relationships very much still matter in a digital world!
Don’t forget to nominate someone for a future Faces of Freelance Austin interview! Who should we feature next?
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