Here's why I started #AFreelancersLife: To highlight different freelancers every month from all sorts of backgrounds and pick their brains about what they do and how they do it. Check out all previous featured freelancers right here. If you would like to be featured just drop me a line and let me know! Today's post features one of my favorite people on Twitter: Teresa! She's a witty, talented writer from Vienna who is now based in San Francisco and tells us a little bit about how joining a co-working space affected her career and why she loves the Internet.
How long have you been a freelancer and what exactly is it that you do?
I’ve been writing since 2008, around that time I also started to work for my first publications. I am a contributing editor, journalist and reporter. I'm from Vienna, but I now live in San Francisco as a foreign correspondent. When it comes to reporting, I do a daily roundup of the most important tech stories for t3n. For various other online and print newspapers, blogs and magazines such as VICE or "Die Presse" I write about tech, startups, fashion and lifestyle. Together with my co-founder Elisabeth Oberndorfer I also run Fillmore, a magazine for innovation and lifestyle. We are bridging Silicon Valley stories with everything tech-related that’s going on in German speaking countries.
How does your typical work day look like, if there is one at all?
There is no typical work day. Every day is different depending on what I’m currently working on. I get up between 8 and 12, depends on when I went to bed. I write my t3n daily column late at night so I can publish it when it’s morning in Germany, that’s why I am sometimes up quite late. On other days I go to bed at 10pm and I really love San Francisco for that. It’s perfectly fine if you show up for a party on time, like around 7 pm and leave super early. After getting up I usually check my inbox to see if there are any emergencies, then I check Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Last but not least I also have a look at TechCrunch and my Snapchat stories. Afterwards, I make myself a coffee and try not to go back to bed, but shower instead. Then I either look at things on the Internet again (yes, you can call that work) or I convince myself to go to a coffee shop or co-working space and work from there. On some days, I do a lot of meetings or I might go to a conference, meetup or visit someone’s office.
What does your freelancing work entail?
I do a lot of research on the Internet, I write a lot of emails and I love to do in-person interviews and coffee meetings. Talking to editors and pitching my stories is also a big part of my business. Daily posts on Twitter, Facebook and other social networks are quite important as well. Another part of my work is writing invoices and bookkeeping. I usually also spend a lot of time with asking for feedback and talking to people either online or in person about new ideas I’ve been working on. I love the idea of having mentors and advisors. The one thing about my work I really don’t like is transcribing interviews. I also like to do public speaking, even though I haven’t had the chance to do a lot of it in San Francisco. Recently I got the chance to be a judge at a hackathon and I was quite proud of myself for asking questions in a room full of people.
What has been your biggest highlight so far as a freelancer?
Obviously the moment I decided to spend more time in San Francisco was pretty great, but I think my biggest highlight was finding a co-working space in Vienna. Getting to know sektor5 better was such a push for my career. I got more clients, I was able to build a stronger network, but most of all I met all those great people. Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am right now. They told me it’s perfectly fine to do your own thing, it’s perfectly fine to fail and try something new and they also gave me confidence when I was having doubts. It all started when I went to sektor5 for a coding workshop, afterwards I was coming back quite frequently for a pretty long time. It’s also the place where I met my husband for the first time.
How does your previous education & experience tie in with your current freelancer work?
My mother was having so much patience with me that she decided to try to home school me. So in the end I never went to school and I learned how to study by myself quite early. I think that’s one of the most important things in my life now and I’m really thankful for that. I know how to do things by myself, which is a key skill as a freelancer. In the meantime I also learned how to ask for help and I am not ashamed to do so anytime. I also took foreign language classes and studied linguistics for a few semesters. All that definitely taught me more about writing non-fiction, but the learning-by-doing approach is still my favorite one. Many other experienced reporters, people on Twitter and people on the other side of the game (as in: people I interview or PR representatives) told me a lot about how the “system” works. Asking “what did you like?” and “what can we do better next time?” is also pretty helpful.
Do you sometimes have motivational lows, and if so, what do you do to get out of your low?
Yes, I’m an expert on that. A lot of crying and “I just want to get out of everything” thoughts included. But over time I found four things that help me get over my motivational lows. Breathing and analyzing situations with questions such as “What exactly is bothering me right now?”, “How can I change it?” and if I can’t change it, “How can I deal with it, what are my options?” helps a lot. Also seeing a therapist from time to time was a big step, it’s kind of a safety net: Most of the time I don’t need it, but it’s always good to know it’s just one click or text message away. The third thing is that I’ve been surrounding myself with people I trust. My co-working space in Vienna, sektor5, also played a big part there. Today, my husband is there for me when it’s all just too much and we figure out together what could be approached differently. Last but not least, some time ago I realized I was always quite scared and insecure when there's no money in my bank account (surprise!). That’s when I decided to have a savings account and put money in there every month, just for my own peace of mind. And it worked wonders!
What do you love about being a freelancer? What do you hate?
I really like being able to live wherever I want, to travel and not having to go to an office every day. It’s also great to work differently with every client, since every publication expects different things from me. Sometimes it’s about writing an in-depth analysis on a certain topic, sometimes it’s writing down how something has changed during the last month and then again it’s interviewing people to get some quotes. I love to see how every single day the Internet is the one tool that helped me getting here. Without the Internet, my first editor wouldn’t have found one of my blogs which made him contact me. Without the Internet, I wouldn’t be able to communicate with Europe as if it were next door. The Internet is my newsroom. Another thing I love is being able to make some free time to be a volunteer. Recently, I joined the “Reading Partners”, where I help children in an elementary school improve their reading skills. So exciting! When working as a freelancer, I really hate when people don’t pay for the work I’ve done and I also hate opening letters coming from a lawyer, big time. Luckily though, this hasn't happened in a really long time.
How do you structure your days?
I’m really bad at that - which is why I try to have some rituals. Going outside and seeing something else than my home office is a big game changer. Using tools such as Trello, Sunrise and Dropbox help me a lot to stay organized. It also saves me a lot of time if I work from various devices. Apart from that, my days don’t really have a structure, but as already mentioned above I force myself to get out of bed in the morning and talk to other people (no, Siri doesn’t count). In the evenings, I’m writing my t3n-daily-kickoff stories and I also try to work on one of my own stories every day. These stories are then published on my Medium account, on Facebook or if it’s super short I’ll just post something I was thinking about on Twitter. Most recently, I launched my first personal newsletter on Tinyletter, so I also try to not forget about that.
Which are your favorite 3 websites or apps you’re using on a regular basis?
Facebook, Twitter and Product Hunt (Disclaimer: My husband is a founding team member of Product Hunt). It’s a great daily resource for new things in tech, such as apps, websites or tools. One thing I love about it in particular is that chances are pretty high founders are taking part in the discussion. That’s pretty awesome and great if you are looking for quotes since as an European journalist you might not get quotes from founders otherwise.
Facebook on the other hand is one of my all time favorites, not because I am the biggest fan, but because I think it shows one of the most interesting developments a tech company went through in the last years.
And then there is Twitter. A couple of months ago, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey asked users to post everything they had to say about the company on Twitter using the hashtag #helloworld. I was a big fan of the idea and decided to write a Medium post about it. Then Twitter published a blog post and I thought “Hey, that looks good!”. Took me some time to realize they actually included me in there saying: “Teresa Hammerl summarized many of the #helloworld Tweets nicely in her Medium post.” Best. Mention. Ever.
Tell us about an exciting project you have worked on which made you proud.
There is one particular project I am really proud to be able to be a part of. I joined the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival last year as a volunteer along with a few others. Today, I am still part of the family. Together, we are developing a social media content strategy for before, during and after the festival. This is a great opportunity to learn about something not entirely tech-related and to contribute my time and knowledge to an amazing project. On two weekends in spring, this annual Japanese cultural festival is taking place in Japantown, San Francisco. It’s a great way of learning more about Japanese traditions and what’s it like to organize outdoor events (I was pretty much stuck with indoor events before that and there is definitely a difference). It’s also pretty interesting to see that social media teams basically work the same way in Austria as well as in San Francisco. Who would have thought?