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Discovering Freedom Through Freelance

KzooConnect Promise Freelancers

According to an article by Forbes, 2019 saw the total number of freelancers in the United States rise to 57 million. Clearly this type of work has experienced a substantial growth, so we decided to speak with three freelancing Promise Scholars in the latest edition of our Promise Alumni Series.

As a classical celloist, Thomas Barth saw the life of a freelancer as an appealing change of pace after receiving his bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and his master’s degree from the New England Conservatory of Music.

Thomas Barth - Freelancer

“None of the traditional career paths in my field interested me,” the Kalamazoo Central High School (Kalamazoo Central) graduate shared. “Most people end up playing in a symphony or pursuing a doctorate to teach at the college level. I decided to stay in Boston and build a community and life around the things that I am passionate about.”

For Barth, that passion is gained from teaching students and having the freedom to perform different styles of music.

“When I teach, I remember being in my students’ shoes,” he explained. “I see that intense excitement about learning and discovering a new thing. To this day, I remember the teachers in my life who made me the most excited about learning and I want to return the favor.”

The flexibility that Barth experiences in his work is something that fellow freelancer Jasmine Childress has come to appreciate about the lifestyle as well.

A graduate of Kalamazoo Central, Childress works as a graphic designer in Kalamazoo. Although she had not considered the profession she wanted to follow, she earned her Associate of Arts in Graphic Design from Kalamazoo Valley Community College as she had always been drawn to the creative field.

Jasmine Childress - Freelancer

“My specialties are brand strategy and identity design,” she said. “I help my clients discover who they are and realize their organization’s visual brand.”

With a catalog of work that includes branding guides, logos, collateral materials, and more, Childress has been able to build relationships with many local businesses. Eventually, she hopes to use these connections to grow the creative community in Southwest Michigan.

On the other side of the mitten, another Promise Scholar also finds herself responding to client’s branding needs. Having graduated from Western Michigan University with a Bachelor of Arts in Film, Video, and Media Studies, Latasha James has been involved with freelancing for nearly a decade. As the owner of Detroit-based firm James + Park, James prides herself on her abilities as a content creator and digital marketer.

Latasha James - Freelancer

“A lot of my work revolves around social media marketing and social first video marketing,” she said of her job. “Many of the videos I make are for Facebook Ads that amplify a client’s presence.”

The Loy Norrix High School graduate enjoys the freedom to interact directly with business owners and build relationships as a professional.

“I used to work in corporate marketing, but it was difficult not being able to interface with a client or see my direct impact on a project,” she shared. “Now, I get instant feedback and exact sales numbers from the videos I produce.”

Each of these professionals have found fulfillment in the freedom that their vocational choices have afforded them. As a new generation of students continues to use The Kalamazoo Promise, our three freelancers encourage them to follow what they love and take advantage of the opportunities that are provided.

“Talk to alumni and try to get an understanding of what options and resources you have access to,” James advised.

Barth added, “Don’t be afraid of where your path ends up taking you. It may not look exactly like you thought it would, but it is important to stay honest with yourself and keep doing what makes you happy.”

Childress supported this advice by stressing the importance of following what is right for you.

“You have the opportunity to go to school and get a degree,” she said. “If you do decide to go to school, be sure to pursue what you want to do and not something someone else wants for you.”

Thank you, freelancers, for sharing your journeys with us. We appreciate the examples you set for future Promise Scholars and hope you continue to find success and enjoyment in what you do!

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