[quote style=”boxed”] I would probably have started sooner. For years, I thought sticking to one industry or focusing on a specific career path was the way to go. I wish I’d known from the start that this kind of living was possible.[/quote]
Saul of Hearts is a writer, musician, videographer, and yoga instructor based in LA. His business, The Lateral Freelancer, is focused on helping people build up diverse, interesting, and unconventional freelance lives using the Share Economy.
Saul was born in Boston, and studied visual & media arts at Emerson College. He spent the next four years freelancing in film and video, traveling all across the U.S., and studying everything from evolutionary psychology to yoga instruction.
He currently lives in an intentional community in LA in which 80+ artists, musicians, and creative types share half-a-dozen houses on adjacent streets. He’s helped out with neighborhood activities including open mics, craft fairs, bike workshops, and a nightly meal plan, and occasional performs songs at local coffee shops.
Most recently, he’s written articles for Slate, Brazen Careerist, Economag, and more, on topics ranging from mindfulness, to polyamory, to genetic engineering.
Saul has attended Burning Man for five years and written an e-book about his experiences. He’s also traveled to nearly every U.S. state, including several cross-country railroad trips.
His goal is to move to Portland in 2014 to begin a new community house there, while continuing to write more e-books, build his business,and grow his blog.
Where did the idea for The Lateral Freelancer come from?
I’d spent years trying to make it as a freelancer within my industry — film and video — only to face unpaid internships, underpaid gigs, and competition with friends. It wasn’t until I branched out into multiple fields — and started thinking laterally — that I was able to make a living. This project started out as my attempt to document that lifestyle.
What does your typical day look like?
It varies — some days I’m working from home on a video editing project, others I’m working on a TaskRabbit gig for an individual client or small company, other days I’m offering a ride, or sitting a dog, or cooking a meal for paying guests. I find most of these gigs by using the Share Economy — sites like Airbnb, Lyft, Zaarly, Vayable, Feastly, DogVacay …. the list is endless.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Mostly, through writing. I’ve written about everything from freelance work to travel; from dating to community living; from Burning Man to yoga; even popular science.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
The Share Economy — as mentioned above, it’s how I find most of my gigs. But in particular, I find it exciting because it cuts out the middleman and conventional ways of doing business. When freelancers can connect with clients directly over the internet, when neighbors can meet via time banks and dinner plans, when people can share surplus goods — like cars, bikes, and electronics — on sites like RelayRides and SnapGoods … it opens up a whole new way of interacting.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Staying connected to readers and other bloggers. I make it a point to respond to e-mails as soon as possible, and respond to most comments on my blog. Some people prefer to check their e-mail at a designated times each day, but I much prefer to respond to e-mails as soon as I get them and not let them pile up in my inbox.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
Luckily, because most of my jobs are short-term, I don’t have to put up with “bad jobs” for very long. Once, I was hired to work at a wine tasting, only to find I’d be carrying buckets of discarded wine back and forth to the toilet all night. I learned to ask more questions up front and be sure what I was getting into before accepting a gig!
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I would probably have started sooner. For years, I thought sticking to one industry or focusing on a specific career path was the way to go. I wish I’d known from the start that this kind of living was possible.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Try every new website or service (related to your field) that comes along. Even if you’ve been using a particular program for years, you won’t know if you’re missing out on something better until you try it. I’ve found lots of great new tools this way.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
Guest posting. For months, I’d been trying to grow my Twitter followers and e-mail list, but nothing worked. It wasn’t until I started contributing relevant posts to blogs I admired that I started to see more traffic. I think reaching out and building relationships with fellow entrepreneurs is the key to a successful business.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Early on in my business, I launched a community-based platform on Ning.com. I thought it would be a big hit with my friends and neighbors — a way for us to communicate away from Facebook. But it was harder than I expected to build up momentum, and most of the people trying to sign up were spam-bots! I realized I needed more time to build up an audience before launching that kind of project. Luckily, the great thing about projects that fail is that most of the time no one notices! I cut my losses, closed down the site, and focused on promoting my blog and e-books instead.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I’d love to see a “tip jar” widget that bloggers can embed in their articles. While dwolla.com does the trick for now, a service solely devoted to tipping that can be used across sites and platforms would be ideal!
Tell us something about you that very few people know?
I consider myself polyamorous — open to multiple committed relationships at the same time. I guess it’s only natural that my relationship style would be so similar to the way I approach other aspects of my life.
What are your three favorite online tools, software or resources and what do you love about them?
— Bufferapp.com is phenomenal. When I read an article that I want to share, I simply hit the Buffer icon on my browsers and it cues the article to be Tweeted at pre-selected times throughout the day.
— Dwolla.com is a great tool for sending and receiving money. Unlike Paypal, fees are only $.25 per transfer, and transfers under $10 are free. That means I can leave a “tip jar” widget on my blog for anyone who wants to contribute.
— Sellfy.com is my favorite site for selling products and e-books. I can easily set up an affiliate program for loyal readers who want to share my work, and I can also offer a discounted rate for anyone who Tweets about the product.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I’m sure it’s been said, but The $100 Startup is a go-to resource for entrepreneurs like me. Chris Guillebeau’s earlier book, The Art of Non-Conformity, makes a great companion volume.
List three experts who have helped you as an entrepreneur who you think other entrepreneurs should follow. And why?
Emilie Wapnick’s site, www.puttylike.com, helped me realize that I didn’t have to choose just “one thing” to specialize in. I could incorporate all of my interests into my freelance life and still make a living at it.
Colin Wright has been traveling the world for years, moving to a new country every four months, and blogging about it at www.exilelifestyle.com His work is quality resource for anyone looking to be location-independent.
Tyler Tervooren’s site, www.advancedriskology.com, has some great resources for unconventional risk-taking. Whether it’s quitting your job, trying online dating, dealing with a traffic stop, or deciding whether or not to go to college, Tyler’s advice is practical and well thought-out.
Saul of Hearts on Twitter: @saulofhearts