A freelancer’s guide to New York City and Brooklyn
The New York City metro area is one of if not the most exciting place to live, especially for creatives. The city is filled with people motivated to do the very best they can in whatever they’re doing. It’s also a melting pot of culture, providing you with a mix of inspiration wherever you look.
Because New York is the second biggest city by population after Tokyo, it’s also an expensive place to live due to demand. And like most cities, it’s going through some changes. Many will say that it doesn’t have the sense of creative community it once did. Others say you just have to know where to look. With that, here is a freelancer’s guide to New York City and Brooklyn. If you’re not set on NY, you can also check out Portland, OR and the San Francisco Bay Area.
Freelance livability score: 8/10
People in New York are always busy, always working – or thinking about their next project. There’s a major sense of “hustle” in the New York area, no matter what industry you work in. That’s awesome for staying motivated and connected to people you could work with. It’s hard to not want to build something when living there. But with that, comes the feeling that you “have” to always be working.
Between how much people work, the constant bustle, and city-specific challenges like navigating public transportation, it’s easy to burnout in New York. You just have to force yourself to take a breather and enjoy all that the city has to offer. Visit a museum, spend a day in one of the city’s huge parks or head down to the beach if it’s summer time.
Most of New York’s high cost lies in housing and some basics like groceries. There are plenty of free things to do and tons of inexpensive delicious food (and drinks if that’s your thing) available nearly anywhere you go. You can find housing for less than $1,000 month in Brooklyn or the Upper East Side with roommates. To pay less than $1,000/month, expect to live with one other person – more likely two or three. You can find a studio for about $1,800 in less gentrified parts of those areas as well.
A photo posted by Shannon Byrne (@shannonleebyrne) on
Peep David Parmet added, “Artists and others are moving out of New York to communities in the Hudson Valley and Catskill Mountains. Since it’s easy to be connected and there are plenty of commuter lines into and out of NYC, living out of the City is no longer so unthinkable.”
But in New York, no one is ever home. They just use their home as a place to sleep, so they don’t seem to mind the cost. After all, you’re in one of the most exciting places in the world.
Job opportunities for freelancers
Not only will you come across all walks of life in New York, you’ll also find almost every industry you could think of. There’s booming industry in tech, fashion, art, finance, distilling, retail, and beyond. There is also a lot of intersection and collaboration among industries. That means that there are opportunities in almost any area you could want – and also a lot of competition.
Specifically, it’s a great time to be working in the tech industry in New York. It’s not quite as established or competitive as the Bay Area but it’s getting there. The NY tech community is growing quickly and still figuring out its identity – which makes it an exciting time to join. Because NY tech is solving problems across industries, you can probably find a job in whatever niche you’re focused on.
David added, “Aside from being the center of finance, publishing, and the creative and performing arts, New York City boasts a vibrant tech startup scene. The New York Tech Meetup Group boasts more than 50,000 members – events are typically sold out as soon as tickets are available.”
A photo posted by Christine Amorose (@cestchristine) on
To find clients, New York is all about building relationships and connections. It’s crazy how many opportunities you can find once you put yourself out there. But you have to take that first step. The groups, events and communities covered before are awesome for this.
Platforms like CloudPeeps are always an option for finding jobs and connecting with other freelancers. Online communities are especially great if you’re new to a location. In addition to CloudPeeps, I’ve met a lot of my clients and creative friends through Twitter and blogging. One of the best things about New York is that there are so many people but it can feel small and accessible.
The layout and transportation situation
We won’t sugarcoat this one. Although New York’s transportation system is one of the most advanced, it’s also one of the most complex and at times, frustrating. Some of the trains and lines are old and require a lot of maintenance. There is often construction happening so unless you know where to look, you could get down to your subway stop and realize your train isn’t running.
The good news is, that you’ll find cell service and wifi in more and more stops. If you visit MTA.info before traveling or use apps such as Embark you should learn the ropes pretty quickly. The app Exit Strategy will even tell you which train car to get on to be closest to your exit, and which exit to take.
Plus, you don’t need a car in New York City, which eliminates a huge expense.
In Brooklyn, the bus system is a solid option as well. Sometimes it’s a better bet than the subway, especially if you’re traveling between central or south Brooklyn and north Brooklyn.
If you do rely on public transportation in New York, it’s important to include plenty of buffer time when traveling for meetings. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve been late to something. Unpredictable transit systems are just one of New York’s many quirks.
Many people bike the city – it just takes some confidence and care. Surely, you’ve heard of plenty of people being “doored” in New York. But if you’re paying attention to where you’re going and know the roads, you can zoom right past all of that traffic to get where you’re going. If you’re going to bike a lot, I’d suggest buying a nice fast, light-weight (read: five-story walkup) bike. If you’re not ready to commit, the Citi Bike program is a great option for dipping your toe in the NY bike scene.
🎡🎢🚵💨🚵💨🚵💨🎢🎡 headed to #coneyisland with the friday squad… #cutworkridebikes 👊✌ . . #FreakinWeekend #beepbeep #GoBuckWildWithYourChild #kidsrideclub #kidsrideclubnyc #recycleabicycle #bikeny #bikenyc #bikenewyork #kidswhoride #kidswhorace #cycling #cyclist #grandarmyplaza #prospectpark #brooklyn #nyc @prospect_park
A photo posted by kenji edmonds (@nyckenji) on
Of course, cabs or Uber and Lyft are also options for getting around in a pinch. But like any expense, it can add up if you’re not careful.
Coworking and cafes
There are far too many cafes in New York to list here. Nearly every corner you turn, you’ll find an option for feeding your caffeine addiction. That said, finding a cafe with ample room, outlets and solid wifi can be a challenge. Same goes for cafes you won’t feel rushed out of. Here are some of our favorite coffee shops to work in where that won’t be a problem.
- Whynot Coffee
- Konditori (chain with many other locations)
- La Colombe Torrefaction (but don’t plan on staying there too long)
- Stumptown Ace Hotel
- City Bakery
- Ninth Street Espresso (limited seating)
- Gregory’s Coffee
- Berkli Parc
- Ground Control
- Toby’s Estate (popular spot – get there early!)
- Kinfolk Studios
- Budin (wifi can be spotty sometimes, though)
- The West
A photo posted by Toby’s Estate Brooklyn (@tobysbrooklyn) on
- Here’s a list from Foursquare.
Crown Heights/Prospect Heights
Fort Green/Clinton Hill
There is also no shortage of coworking spaces in the New York area. Here are some of our favorites.
- Orbital (Lower East Side)
- Fueled (SoHo)
- The Farm (SoHo)
- Primary (FiDi)
- Bar Works (Midtown, Times Square and West Village)
- Projective Space (multiple)
- WeWork (several locations, everywhere including Brooklyn)
- Bat Haus (Bushwick)
- Brooklyn Desks (Bushwick)
- No-Space (Greenpoint)
- The Yard (Williamsburg)
- Franklin Electric and Dean Machine (Crown Heights)
- Friends Work Here (Boerum Hill)
- Bklyn Commons (Prospect Lefferts Garden)
- The Compound Cowork (Prospect Lefferts Garden)
- Brooklyn Works at 159 (South Slope)
Here are a ton more of coworking spaces across Brooklyn from the Brokelyn blog.
Communities, events and groups
As mentioned, the New York Metro area certainly is not lacking in opportunities to meet people and mingle or collaborate. You can find a group, community or event for pretty much any interest. We suggest doing a search for your industry or interest of choice on Meetup.com.
Here are some of the favorites among our freelance community.
- Freelance Friday (cowork with fellow freelancers!)
- Creative Mornings
- Freelancers Union Spark Events
- Women In Tech NY
- NY Tech Meetup
- Creative Happy Hour (aka Crappy Hour)
A photo posted by CreativeMornings/NewYork (@newyork_cm) on
Life in the big city
Hopefully, I didn’t scare you. New York is an incredible, invigorating place to live. It’s the perfect place for creatives in so many ways. It just requires a bit more strategic hustle to live comfortably and knowing when it’s time to take a break. I suggest Airbnbing your apartment in January and July and escaping to somewhere with better weather. 🙂 Aside from that, immerse yourself in the culture and make the most of it. You’ll never look back.
Have tips for living in New York as a freelancer to add? Leave them in the comments below!
*Above photo from loving-newyork.com.*
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