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As an Economics major, I’m a super risk adverse individual, so freelancing/contract work has never been my choice when it comes to employment. But I’ve always dreamt to be an entrepreneur, and risk is always associated with owning a business. I find myself at this crossroad far too many times.

When it comes down to giving up something just to get some work-life balance, it’s either my day job or freelancing.

The Pros and Cons of Freelancing

Pro: Flexible schedule; I can work as much or as little as I want
Pro: No supervision or pressure from my boss; I can choose my projects, and manage my own time
Pro: I can take more than 2 weeks of vacation every year; visit my family in Hong Kong more often
Pro: I can work from anywhere on my laptop
Pro: Not being tied to a chair means I can find inspiration elsewhere (important for a graphic designer)
Pro: With a flexible schedule, I can take classes to keep up with technology
Pro: I like to jump from one project to another; some ideas need time to grow and perfect; so when I’m on my own time, I am much more efficient, and not a single minute is wasted
Pro: No resentment about not being recognized at work (no office politics to deal with)

Con: Unstable income; hard to budget or save up; feast or famine (something I absolutely hate)
Con: No rest; got to get my own clients, win contracts, come up with ideas, and keep a steady workflow
Con: Covered under a less fabulous benefit plan (my spouse’s)
Con: Difficult to predict/prep for the future; after spending a year at a corporate job, you get the gist of the workflow, but when you freelance, you never know what you’re going to get, there’s no “low” or “high” season
Con: Have to do your own bookkeeping (can get horrendous)
Con: At a corporate job, I get paid even when it’s slow; when I freelance, I get paid per hour, and when I estimate my projects poorly, I run the risk of being underpaid
Con: No coworkers mean less collaboration, no one to learn from or bounce ideas off of

This post is really an exercise for me to see the bigger picture. Writing these lists reaffirms my goal to freelance full-time in the long run, just exactly when to take that leap is still very blurry. The pros always outweigh the cons—I just need to learn to live adventurously.

(Do What You Love poster above is a commissioned piece, custom lettered by Alan Ariail for Rokotype)

Sims 4 is out and I’m holding out – it’s a very dangerous game and I’ve lost countless hours, weeks and months playing it before. With a full time job, freelance projects, part time school and the Walking Dead Season 5 coming back in a month or so, AM I READY TO LOSE EVEN MORE TIME WITH FRIENDS AND FAMILY? Back in the day when I was playing Sims 2, I spent the most time building the house and decorating it. I loved it so much that I thought I could be an interior designer. I began taking a Bath and Kitchen Interior Design certificate but quickly realized drawing floor plans wasn’t exciting…at all. I’m more into “interior decorating” but is it a viable profession? Those who would hire such a service probably have more disposable income, but when you have more disposable income, wouldn’t you want to decorate your own home? Ever since I moved in with my partner 5+ years ago, I’ve been totally taking over decorating our condo. We both love designer vinyl toys, plastic guns, music and colourful prints – all reasons that brought us together. We’ve bought prints from Yuma Lum, Lora Zombie, and Kaws; commissioned a custom piece from Scott Sueme, a local graffiti artist; and hired Chris Piascik to design my toy shop logo. Everything I’m excited about revolves around art – love to be surrounded by it, inspired by it, and be creating it.

Chris Piascik designed this logo for my Roko Toys biz

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Yuma Lum Happy Polaroid print bought on Etsy

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Kimpsons Original Poster bought on eBay

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Lora Zombie’s Meow print bought on Eyes on Walls

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A limited edition print by Scott Sueme, a local graffiti artist

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A custom piece by Scott Sueme, received it as a birthday present from my spouse

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I have a lot to celebrate this year – I found my passion in graphic design, have my own design business and doing what I love everyday, for more than 8 hours a day, and I’m turning the big 30 (omg). So I’ve decided to commission another piece of art to commemorate this moment. I found, Alan Ariail, a super talented calligrapher and hand letterer, and he agreed to help me design a “Do what you love” piece. Can’t wait – giggidy!

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In The Game of Life (a board game that I used to play every week when I was 12), I learned that if you want to make money, you got to be an accountant, a doctor or a police officer. If you end up with the “Artist” career card, and get pregnant with twins, you’re pretty much screwed. This is also true in the non-game version of Life. Ever heard of the term “starving artist”? Ever seen painters and wood carvers “owning their own businesses” on the streets of Vancouver? I certainly have.

So did I ever think about becoming an artist? Hell no! I’m a hungry girl. And I wanted to be a real business owner; I wanted to decorate my store, sell awesome things, and tell people that I’m an entrepreneur. That was one of the reasons why I chose to major in economics.

And it was because of my background in economics that I became drawn to e-commerce. What I really I liked about e-commerce is that anyone can own their own online store for less than $100 to start, and the best thing is, an online store is open 24/7 and can market to anyone anywhere in the world. All I needed was a camera, a Paypal account, things to sell, and BAM, I was in business! It’s been about 12 years now since I first started buying and selling on eBay, which I think it’s the best thing since sliced bread.

Because of my experience with eBay, I was sure that e-commerce was the way to go; I could sell during the night and still work a 9-5 job during the day. The tricky part was figuring out what to sell. After working for 6 years in an assortment of boring jobs, I finally realized that I could sell art…and actually not starve.

So in 2012, I launched my first business: An e-commerce site called Roko Toys that sold designer vinyl toys. I was serious about it – I hired someone to design my logo, got my business name approved, got my business license, opened a GST account, got an importing license, scored a few wholesale accounts, spent $1,000 on inventory, and BAM, I was an entrepreneur, I WAS A SOLE PROPRIETOR. It felt good. I felt proud. It was fun.

Of course my business sucked, and I had to close it down after a year, when I realized that my prices weren’t competitive enough (I live in a tax-heavy country). I’m glad I did it though because if I never tried, I would’ve never known that I’m actually not that into selling products. It just wasn’t my style (I’m a minimalist). I hated having boxes and boxes of inventory that didn’t move.

The closing of my online shop was the ah-ha moment for me – when I realized that instead of products, what I should really be selling is services, my graphic design services.

There isn’t really any interesting backstory on how I ended up with the “artist career card”. I simply enrolled into a part-time Illustrator class and I loved it.

Who knew flat vector graphics would turn me on so much? Who knew a shopaholic like me would buy fonts and be so super satisfied by it? Who knew I could work in the corporate world with a tattoo on my wrist doing what I love? Who knew I would have a professional title, be my own boss and break-even first year into owning my own design business?

Who knew that in the non-game version of Life, I would be holding the “artist career card” and actually earn enough to feed myself?

Life right now is a solid 9.3 on the Roko’s Richter Scale of Happiness.

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My partner and I have been living in our condo for over 5 years now, and only recently have we decided to convert our 2nd bedroom into a creative space for my freelancing work. This room definitely gets more light than the little corner in our bedroom. I’ve got my desk in, my printer, my Eames chair, got my lounging corner set up for my partner, and my loyal staff’s ready to work – I’m definitely lovin’ it!

New site, new space, new blog and a whole lot of new and exciting projects coming up!