We’re passing the mic to some of our favorite freelancers who make Wingspan’s community thrive, and who remind us every day that there are no wrong ways to take care of business. Want to be featured? Submit yourself here!
Sarah Hussaini is an architect turned ceramicist, a pottery teacher, and the founder of Not Work Related, a Brooklyn-based housewares company sold online and in shops around the U.S.
The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
In your own words, what do you do?
Not Work Related is a whimsical approach to ceramic home goods.
Where do you call home?
Brooklyn, New York.
What’s the first thing you do when you wake up?
I roll over and check how many times I’ve hit snooze. I’m pretty notorious for setting like four alarms. I have this dream that I’m going to wake up at 5:30 every day, but by the time I wake up, it’s actually like 6:30.
What’s your favorite thing about freelancing?
My background is in architecture. The hardest thing for me was being creative for other people and then not getting any credit for it. For the first time, not only do I get to make stuff that I approve of, and I don't have to get someone else's approval [for], but at the same time, I get credit for my work.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
The biggest thing that has provided me the stability to grow Not Work Related has been a diverse income. I really would recommend trying to either diversify your income or keep something part-time. Even if it’s a job that you don’t love, having someone else pay you even just a little bit every week will provide you a lot of mental sanity, and it’ll give the financial space to figure out your own business and let it grow naturally.
What’s your biggest challenge as an independent professional?
Figuring out what is the business structure of Not Work Related. And how to keep it running and also pay for my apartment and my student loans. I try to make the best decisions that I can, decisions that align with my values, and the company’s values.
What’s your favorite freelance project you’ve worked on?
In February, I got to work with a company called Witzig. They are a wiener dog startup—they focus only on dachshunds. They asked me to make a dog bowl that would be a slow feeder. It was a combination of their branding and my aesthetics, so there were extruded zigzags and little squiggles and dash lines inside the dog bowl in these bright colors. They were designed to help dogs eat at a healthier pace so that there were little obstacles in their eating process. It was just a very cool project because it was something that I made for not humans, and I got more into the product design, like the functionality of the thing. I got to use my architecture background as well: I 3D-printed an extruder die for the project that I used to extrude all of the shapes.[gallery ids="2655,2658,2657,2656,2659,2660"]
What’s your best hot-take / unpopular opinion?
I’m super over boob mugs, boob cups, boob planters, boobs on anything—boob rugs, boob shirts.
What do you wish you’d known 10 years ago?
That working for myself was an option. I wish I had realized that I could generate income independently. My mom is a microbiologist; my dad is an accountant. I didn’t know anyone who had a small business or was an independent artist.
Most iconic work role model?
The Anou: They work with artisans in Bedouin communities to create fair trade goods. I love seeing companies and people that are using art and craft to create opportunities.
How do you deal with difficult clients?
I don’t necessarily have difficult clients—I more have people who do not understand how much work it is to try to run everything by yourself. I’m everything: the customer service, the secretary, the accountant, the lawyer, the actual artist, the person who cleans the sink and mops the floors. I just get back to them as soon as I cool off. Often, I’ll have my boyfriend read over the email or the communication, just because I need another set of eyes that isn’t as emotional about the situation. Having a third party read over the communication has helped remove any emotional language.
What—or who—is your go-to source for inspiration?
Artists like Josef Albers and Karel Martens. When I first started, I was super inspired by Ettore Sottsass and the Memphis Design Group’s work.
Best workday lunch?
I haven’t gotten to eat lunch at home in a long time. Just the idea of being able to sit down in the middle of the day for a meal that’s not in a Tupperware sounds nice.
What’s your anthem?
Smoko—The Chats. If I'm ever in a bad mood, this song/video cheers me up instantly.
What’s your email sign off?
I’ve tried hard to stop saying “Best” because I think it sounds too impersonal and it just sounds like something I would do when I was working in an office, so I’m trying to transition to just saying “Thanks,” but a lot of times the “Best” slips out.
What is the best freelancing pro-tip you have for folks venturing out on their own?
Just because you can do something doesn't mean that you’re the best person to do it. If you can afford to, get a photographer, get a designer, get an accountant to help with your taxes. Maybe you can give them something or buy them lunch or give them whatever you do. You can be a jack of all trades, but you’re not going to be amazing at everything.
Where can people find you?
Website: www.shopnotworkrelated.com (There will be a shop update at the end of the month!) and Instagram: @notworkrelated_
Want to be our next featured freelancer? Submit here! While you focus on doing the work you love, Wingspan takes care of the rest, from invoicing to bookkeeping. Sign up for a free 30-day trial here.
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