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 Freelance Austin’s new Programs Chair Leah Fisher Nyfeler. Want to nominate a member to be interviewed for this feature? Let us know!
What’s your superhero power?
I love this question! My superhero power is content strategy. As editor in chief of an extremely short-staffed fitness magazine, I learned to efficiently wrangle all possible use out of every piece of information, article and photo. It’s like X-ray vision; content strategy just happens. I can’t turn it off.
When I write a print piece, I’ve mentally packaged two online options and three social media blasts. And how ’bout some sort of community outreach with that? Joint promotion? Oh, organizing written material into multi-platform uses is such a creative rush!
How do you describe the work you do?
Freelance writing (magazine-based, short-form informational content, with a focus on wellness and Austin/Texas promotions) and editing (book-length). Blog services (organization, clean-up, editing and content generation). Social media coverage (live tweeting, Instagram and Facebook materials).
Describe your path to becoming a freelancer/small-business owner/solopreneur.
My path was, as Sheryl Sandberg described, more of a jungle-gym scramble than a career ladder climb – what I like to call an “open door” approach. I started as a secondary English teacher.
Babies and a desire to keep working pushed me into educational-content freelancing. Running and kids’ team sports led to newsletter production, Ironman training to blogging, and an empty nest ushered in magazine writing, editing and management. In turn, magazine work promoted social media adoption. I’ve since added multi-platform communications management to my freelance list.
Was there an “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to strike out on your own?
The gig economy has always made sense for my life, but my “aha” freelance conversion moment derived from a conscientious struggle. As an industry, publishing has resorted to staff cuts and, therefore, reliance on unpaid (or barely paid) freelancers. Asking people to provide quality work without appropriate compensation took a huge toll, mentally and physically. I couldn’t continue to convince others to give away their talent, so I quit. Focusing on my writing and editing = the only person I’m talking into a job these days is me.
How has career independence changed your professional and personal world?
As a freelancer, I’ve spent much more time on continuing education than I could while under production pressure. I’m free to travel because I can work from remote locations. The ability to take a wide variety of jobs has led to exciting personal contacts and unique experiences.
Our members cite connections with people from varied expertise and career stages as one of the biggest benefits of Freelance Austin. Have you had mentors along the way, from Freelance Austin or elsewhere?
I would not be a freelancer if it weren’t for the wonderful guidance of my dear friend and mentor, Patti DeNucci (Intentional Networker). She gave me my first jobs, provided expert advice on best practices and created Austin’s brown-bag lunch meeting that sent so many of us on our freelance way. I continue to benefit from mentors, most recently Sandra Kleinsasser (WriteAustin.com), who I met through the WCA’s find-a-mentor program. Three people who’ve made a huge impact through small-group encounters are Cathy Benavides (ATX Slave to Social), Corrin Foster (Greenleaf Book Group) and Kristin Shaw – and they most likely don’t even know their profound influence on me.
Has there been a point when you’ve taken a big risk to move forward?
Am I weirdly neurotic if I say that every move forward in freelancing feels like a big risk?
Tell us what your day is like. Do you have a routine?
My days are routine in that they always vary. I schedule in blocks of time, which are project based and float to accommodate need. Typically, I get email and social media done early, exercise, and then set aside blocks of morning and afternoon work time.
Types of work are slotted on different weekdays. For example, Monday tends to be an administrative day, while Tuesday/Thursday include blog writing and volunteer position duties.
What, outside of your professional work, drives you? Any hobbies, passions or side projects?
My workout passion has directly led to jobs. Who knew that being a long-distance runner and Ironman triathlete could translate into regular work? (I didn’t.)
Passion guides everything I do. Reading, being outside amid nature, great food, people I love, travel, education, an insane curiosity – my personal world is inseparable from my professional life.
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?
Freelancing is not about a resume; it’s about relationships. Time spent cultivating productive, supportive relationships in the field is always time well spent.
Austin has a thriving independent worker population. Do you see any ways the creative and freelance community in Austin could be better?
Community building. Finding ways for related organizations to work together instead of occupying niche areas builds stronger groups. As 2017 program chair for Freelance Austin, I’d like to find ways to enhance Freelance Austin’s identity through mutually beneficial relationships with other professional organizations.
What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out?
Find time to get up from the computer and move. Set that habit early and make it nonnegotiable – every 45 minutes, for example, take a short walk break. Stand up and stretch. Do a 1-minute plank. Your body will thank you.
Don’t forget to nominate someone for a future Faces of Freelance Austin interview! Who should we feature next?
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