Question for Creatives who climb


Original Post
Jaysen Henderson · · Bronx NY · Joined Dec 2010 · Points: 240

This is more a question of lifestyle than about climbing but i think this is the best place to ask it.
I live in NYC and have recently gotten a job as a designer at an advertising agency. This comes as a big change from serving coffee in yosemite valley and it comes as no surprise that free time to go climbing is not exactly the priority for the business.

My question is to any designer, developer, artist, whatever. How have you shaped your career around your ability to climb more and what was the trajectory of that. I think we are all used to the common misconception that because we work on computers we can easily work remotely. I see the obvious options as working freelance, or remotely for an agency, but I just want to hear some real stories of how that has worked out for some.

thanks,
Jaysen

Bill Czajkowski · · Albuquerque, NM · Joined Oct 2008 · Points: 15

Be more creative.

kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 9,691
Jaysen Henderson wrote:I see the obvious options as working freelance, or remotely for an agency
The problem with "working remotely" is that if the agency doesn't need to see the face of the person doing your kind of work, then with modern high-bandwidth communications,
Why not pay someone much cheaper living in another lower-wage country?

So most likely you first have to build a relationship with your employers / customers through lots of face-to-face time.
Then later you morph that into a more flexible schedule, with some of it partly at a location closer to the kind of climbing you like.

Ken
Chris C. · · Seattle, WA · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 91

The whole "digital nomad" lifestyle promoted by thousands of Instagrammers is a lie. (Most those people are on "sabbatical" or are fake affiliate marketing accounts.) The truth is, the significant majority of "creative" jobs are done in offices with AT LEAST 40/hr work weeks. When I was actively a software engineer and later a designer, it was typical for me to spend 60+/hrs a week in the office. Very few tech jobs can be done from a beach or mountain, and usually those people own their own very small businesses pulling in tiny jobs which they contract out to other developers in 3rd world countries. Most companies that allow people to work a few days from home have it as special cases for individuals with young children or medical conditions. If you asked most of these companies if you can work from home 2 days a week so you can climb, unless you are very senior and/or have some crazy awesome skill that is hard to replace, I guarantee they would tell you to fuck off.

So to answer your question, how did a creative guy like me eventually get a schedule that worked around climbing: I worked my ass off for many years and gained a good good position at a good company. No life hacks if my method. Scheduling climbs can still be a challenge for anything over 2ish weeks straight (although I will usually do a few 2-3 week climbs per year).

Kent Richards · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2009 · Points: 3
kenr wrote: The problem with "working remotely" is that if the agency doesn't need to see the face of the person doing your kind of work, then with modern high-bandwidth communications, why not pay someone much cheaper living an another lower-wage country. So most likely you first have to build a relationship with your employers / customers through lots of face-to-face time. Then later you morph that into a more flexible schedule, with some of it partly at a location closer to the kind of climbing you like.
Mostly agree with this, but at the same time there are US agencies who favor US-based subcontractors.

OP: No matter how you slice it, hours are hours. If you have tasks, deadlines, meetings, etc, you'll have to put in the hours whether you're sitting in your solar-powered van or sitting in the office.
Old lady H · · Boise, Idaho · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 120
Jaysen Henderson wrote:This is more a question of lifestyle than about climbing but i think this is the best place to ask it. I live in NYC and have recently gotten a job as a designer at an advertising agency. This comes as a big change from serving coffee in yosemite valley and it comes as no surprise that free time to go climbing is not exactly the priority for the business. My question is to any designer, developer, artist, whatever. How have you shaped your career around your ability to climb more and what was the trajectory of that. I think we are all used to the common misconception that because we work on computers we can easily work remotely. I see the obvious options as working freelance, or remotely for an agency, but I just want to hear some real stories of how that has worked out for some. thanks, Jaysen
Not what you might want to hear, but if the new job in the Big City is not your dream position/place, you may be hating it really soon.

With that in mind, if you want to stay in design, really work those personal connections, build your portfolio with the best quality you can manage, pay off debts as quickly as you can (school?), sock away money as much as you can, and then, you can be working toward what is your dream position/place.

I was self employed in the graphics area for almost twenty years. That's a really long time with no paid leave, no safety net, no pay at all, if you aren't working hard.

If you are what is being purchased, your unique style, talents, insights (faithful clientele you built up over the years, or, a product unique to yourself), then it could be okay to work from where ever. Pretty hard, otherwise, my guess, as said up thread.

That said, a relative was an old school, big ticket architect. He worked really hard about half the year, then traveled around Europe between jobs. Obviously you don't command that kind of price tag building brochures.

Best, Helen
Matthew Derrell Williams · · Holladay, Utah · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 115

My vote is for remote!

I lived in NYC for 7 years working for a handful of tech startups / design agencies as a designer. After gaining some experience and finding a company that liked having me around, I asked them if I could go remote. They said yes. I've been working in Salt Lake now for about 8 months and so far so good! Lots of time to ski and climb while still working for a company I really like.

For the time being, get up to the Gunks and Adirondacks as much as possible!

FourT6and2 Haftel · · San Francisco, CA · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 5

Been working in advertising for about 6 years or so. For the last 3, it's been freelance here in San Francisco. As a freelancer, I still work a typical full-time job in the office at an agency. I prefer it that way. I go in to work in the morning and leave at night. And when the project is over or my contract is up, I move on to a new shop. As a freelancer, you have more control over your personal life.

When I worked full-time, I was pulling 12+ hour days sometimes. And not getting paid any more for it. And the work didn't get sold/approved any more/less for it. So why would I want to keep doing that? Answer: I don't. So I went freelance. Now, when my Creative Director says we need everyone to work long hours for a pitch or something, I'm ok with it. Because I'm actually getting paid for my time.

The benefit of this is, CDs and agencies don't WANT to pay me more. So they are ok with my taking off at 5pm to go live my life. And that's when I hit the gym to climb. On the weekends, I take trips to local areas to climb outdoors.

As far as the "fake" nomadic lifestyle of some IG peeps, my best friend and his wife do that. They were living in Austin. Both freelance designers. And one day they sold their place, bought a VW van and hit the road. They've been doing it for a few years now. They'll roll up to a new city, work a few projects (in the office), and then head out when they've had their fill. They also work remote a lot. But it's been working for them. So, it's not always fake. I've been out on the road with them here and there for some trips and it's cool and all. But I wouldn't want to do it full-time. 2 weeks in that van is about all I can take.

Anyway, as an advertising creative, I don't see why that would interfere with your ability to climb. I mean, you aren't going to be dirt-bagging it for weeks/months at a time. Because you know... you have a job now.

Freelance is definitely nicer than full-time for me though. There are downsides of course. But I've basically tripled my annual income by going freelance.

So when I have downtime throughout the year, it's vacation time. I travel, go climbing, etc.

Marc801 C · · Sandy, Utah · Joined Feb 2014 · Points: 0

Pretty much in 100% agreement with what others have said. Working remotely does not give you more time to climb; you're still going to be putting in the 40 hrs. If it's a start-up, more like 60 - 70. Agency work can be even more brutal - eg: there's a hard, immovable deadline for that Superbowl ad artwork. If it takes you multiple 80 hr weeks to pull it off, well, that's expected. Even when you're "done", the client can still call for last minute changes. ("It absolutely must be to the printer tomorrow by 10am. It's only 9:30pm now, so that shouldn't be a problem, right? You said you only needed about 8 more hours."

In all aspects of design, an awful lot of stuff is done collaboratively on a white board, f2f. While there are digital remote versions of the same, most companies do not have the necessary hardware and environment to really pull it off successfully. Doing the same from your house (and it better be from your house or someplace quiet) is going to need a pretty fast net connection (75 Mbps or greater). You're not going to do this from a Starbucks or local library or your van with cell phone hot spot.

Regarding freelancing - expect to spend 25% of your time marketing yourself and looking for your next gig. That's on top of the 40 hrs / week you're spending on your current engagement. You're also responsible for all of your benefits - health insurance, savings plan, etc. and estimated income taxes. Paid holidays? Nope. You get paid for the hours you work. Period. Same with vacation time. General rule of thumb: if you're a F/T salaried exempt employee, the company is actually paying about 30% more than your annual salary for you.

Chris C. · · Seattle, WA · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 91
FourT6and2 wrote: As far as the "fake" nomadic lifestyle of some IG peeps, my best friend and his wife do that. They were living in Austin. Both freelance designers. And one day they sold their place, bought a VW van and hit the road. They've been doing it for a few years now. They'll roll up to a new city, work a few projects (in the offfice), and then head out when they've had their fill. They also work remote a lot. But it's been working for them. So, it's not always fake.
Of course are some individuals who have found themselves in situations where this is possible. Most of those individuals, like your friends it sounds like, got there through years of hard work building reputation and customer basis. Trying doing this without a great reputation and a customer basis, and you will be pulling jobs off Fiver.

As for IG, a huge load of those accounts are affiliate marketing garbage. I have an acquaintance who has a company that literally only generates "digital nomad" accounts to spam the world with self help products. Ironically, he does work from home haha
Jaysen Henderson · · Bronx NY · Joined Dec 2010 · Points: 240

I think my major issue is not that I cant climb, which is certainly not true (I climb inside 3-4 times a week and outside atleast once a week). Thea real question is whether or not I can continue to go on expeditions or climbing trips at the 4-6 week range. It seems the only way that is possible is by working freelance and going in between jobs. Can anyone speak to that type of work/life balance? Either extended trips between jobs, or working with a company long enough to take vacations longer than 2 weeks.

Kent Richards · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2009 · Points: 3
Jaysen Henderson wrote:or working with a company long enough to take vacations longer than 2 weeks.
https://youtu.be/lsiet8k1aVo
Old lady H · · Boise, Idaho · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 120
Jaysen Henderson wrote:I think my major issue is not that I cant climb, which is certainly not true (I climb inside 3-4 times a week and outside atleast once a week). Thea real question is whether or not I can continue to go on expeditions or climbing trips at the 4-6 week range. It seems the only way that is possible is by working freelance and going in between jobs. Can anyone speak to that type of work/life balance? Either extended trips between jobs, or working with a company long enough to take vacations longer than 2 weeks.
Yeah, probably can't do 4-6 weeks for most employers. If they can spare you that long, they can spare you forever.

All the stuff up thread needs to be considered, and you have to really have your act together financially.

Basically, you're more or less looking to be self employed, and it's really tough. Twenty years ago, I was charging $40 an hour, to clear a pretty small amount for myself. A sole proprietor gets shafted six ways from Sunday, IMO.
kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 9,691
Jaysen Henderson wrote:whether or not I can continue to go on expeditions or climbing trips at the 4-6 week range.
The problem with trying to do that as an employee is that halfway-organized employers have a policy about vacations -- and a policy about extra time off without pay. But even if there's no written policy, the problem most employers have with letting you go away for 4 weeks (even without pay) is that it sets precedent for other employees.
"If I let you do that, then I'd have to explain why I don't allow lots of my other employees to do it too."

The second problem is continuity of health insurance coverage.

If you're a freelancer taking time away without pay, it is less likely to set a tricky precedent for future treatment of employee requests.
And usually the health insurance is more clear.

Also allowing you as a freelancer the flexibility to be away for more days, choose your own hours, or work remotely, might help the agency support their claim (relative to U.S. Labor department) that you are not their employee.

Ken

P.S. But usually part of succeeding as a freelancer is being available as critical new projects arise. As the pace of change keeps accelerating, the time-frame to move on new opportunities gets shorter.
Missing out on a special project that allows you to upgrade your skillset could be a long-term career-ender for a freelancer.
My reaction to "6 week expeditions", in relation to building and maintaining a creative career niche around New York City is, "You gotta be kidding".
eli poss · · Durango, Co · Joined May 2014 · Points: 136

I think your best bet is to work remotely to a location that is very close to the crag. If you can be at the crag 20min after you get off work, it's a lot easier to get a few pitches in after work. Obviously a flexible schedule that can adapt to daylight hours works even better. That's one thing I love about where I live: I'm never more than a 15min drive to some rock. It may not be the highest quality rock in the world but it's not bad and I can go climbing every single day the weather is nice.

Chris C. · · Seattle, WA · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 91

4-6 weeks is tough for anybody. I can't imagine getting much good work done on an expedition either! Usually the altitude puts me out of my mind!

Marc801 C · · Sandy, Utah · Joined Feb 2014 · Points: 0
eli poss wrote:I think your best bet is to work remotely to a location that is very close to the crag. If you can be at the crag 20min after you get off work, it's a lot easier to get a few pitches in after work. Obviously a flexible schedule that can adapt to daylight hours works even better. That's one thing I love about where I live: I'm never more than a 15min drive to some rock. It may not be the highest quality rock in the world but it's not bad and I can go climbing every single day the weather is nice.
Remember, this guy is talking about 4-6 week long trips/expeditions.
FourT6and2 Haftel · · San Francisco, CA · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 5

You won't get a 4-6 week leave of absence unless you're the one in charge.

t.farrell · · New York, NY · Joined Aug 2016 · Points: 0

You aren't going to find 4-6 week vacation at any salaried position in NYC unless you've been working 20+ years. So if you can't wait til later in life for big expeditions, then you probably shouldn't be taking any full time positions. But if it's not an immediate necessity, you can either save a decent amount of money for time off between jobs or work until you have 4-6 weeks vacation.

Freelance isn't much easier though. If I bring you on as a freelancer, then I'm going to expect you to be there relatively full time. If you have to disappear for a month during the middle of a project, then you're not getting a good recommendation from me and will be easily replaced. If you're doing one-off week long projects, that might work better for free time, but it's not exactly easy to get those types of jobs. There are lots of "creative" people in the city. The good news is that you'll probably make more money freelancing. Ours typically earn 1.5-2 times what salaried employees make. Just hard to find work.

NYC isn't really a great place to pursue mountaineering...

FourT6and2 Haftel · · San Francisco, CA · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 5
t.farrell wrote:You aren't going to find 4-6 week vacation at any salaried position in NYC unless you've been working 20+ years. So if you can't wait til later in life for big expeditions, then you probably shouldn't be taking any full time positions. But if it's not an immediate necessity, you can either save a decent amount of money for time off between jobs or work until you have 4-6 weeks vacation. Freelance isn't much easier though. If I bring you on as a freelancer, then I'm going to expect you to be there relatively full time. If you have to disappear for a month during the middle of a project, then you're not getting a good recommendation from me and will be easily replaced. If you're doing one-off week long projects, that might work better for free time, but it's not exactly easy to get those types of jobs. There are lots of "creative" people in the city. The good news is that you'll probably make more money freelancing. Ours typically earn 1.5-2 times what salaried employees make. Just hard to find work. NYC isn't really a great place to pursue mountaineering...
As a freelancer, I usually have about 1-1.5 months off each year. I use that time to take trips. And yeah, I make way more as a freelancer than I ever did full-time. About double is right. I also work less hours, have more vacation, free-time, and less stress. Downside is typically fewer portfolio pieces and you don't typically see a project through to fruition. For example, if I'm working on a TV spot, I write the scripts, pitch the work, and then the full-time team or CD winds up being the ones to actually go on production and film it and everything. And by then, it doesn't even resemble the thing I wrote (I'm a writer).

I wouldn't ever take a vacation during the middle of a contract. I save that for when I have downtime.
kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 9,691
t.farrell wrote:NYC isn't really a great place to pursue mountaineering...
Not for expeditionary mountaineering.

But for rather good multi-day mountaineering, I often used to get off early from work mid-afternoon on Friday, 5:30pm flight from EWR or JFK, wake up in Geneva, drive to Chamonix, and be out on the glacier at 3000 meters on Mont Blanc before lunchtime Saturday.

In the other direction, I could be up to camp by Upper Boy Scout Lake on Mt Whitney by afternoon on Saturday.

. . (For taking short trips from sea-level, it surely helps to know some chemical tricks for acclimatization to altitude).

. . (Stairwells of buildings, even non-tall ones, are great for systematic training for mountaineering).

Ken
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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