Featured Freelancer: Karen Manganillo

Written by Maari Casey on October 18, 2019

Meet October’s Featured Freelancer Karen of KLP Designs. Karen is a triple threat (art direction, design & production) who thinks big picture but is obsessed with the details.

Karen of KLP Designs is a triple threat (art direction, design & production) who thinks big picture but is obsessed with the details. Need a national brand campaign, kick-ass content or an eye-grabbing logo? Karen can do it. When she’s not working, she can be found incorporating the 2019 Pantone of the Year into every room of her home. 

We asked her a few questions about her experience as a freelancer and are pumped to share with you her perspective.

How long have you been freelancing?
10 years

What do you do?
I started as an art director at a boutique New York ad agency where I had the opportunity to work on some of the largest brands in the world (Coca-Cola, The Wall Street Journal, P&G). Since the agency was small, art directors saw their projects through every stage of production and I learned fast how to create mechanicals and obsess about all the little things that made the difference between ‘good’ and ‘great’. 

What is your “exit story?” Why did you decide to freelance? 
I got tired of the agency politics and wanted to concentrate on what I love most–creating beautiful, smart work that generates positive response for my clients. 

Share how freelancing has been great and/or how it has been hard. (Positives vs. Painpoints)
Freelance is a constant struggle of ‘am I good enough’, ‘am I ever going to get another job’ and ‘oh sh*t I have too much work on my plate!’ I’ve gone through times where I love the projects I’ve got on my roster and others where I’m counting down till they’re over. Sometimes I really would love an all-expense-paid trip to Los Angeles and breakfast at Shutters, and on those days I wish I were still (in New York and) full-time at an agency. But then I’ll get a call from a branding client saying they got product in another store, or a dream contract gig saying I could work from home but PLEASE can I take on their work–or my kids asking if we can go to the museum on a random Tuesday–and I know this is what I should be doing.

What are some things you wish you would have known when you started freelancing?
Charge what you’re worth. Build out a calendar that works for not only your client needs but also your own. The accounting aspect of freelance is very important, but it shouldn’t be the hold-up to going out on your own. Invest in a SEP account. Always ask to see paper samples before production begins. Explain Pantone colors to your clients. DON’T DO FREE WORK FOR FRIENDS. 

What is some advice you would share with clients on how to best work with freelancers?
The freelancer schedule can change drastically by the day/week depending on projects that are in the works, being pitched or waiting for the green light. As freelancers, we don’t mean to sound flakey when we don’t know our availability months in advance. But the second we do, we’ll jump at great opportunities. 

Karen is just one of many exceptional freelancers we have in our network. Freelancers like Karen are the reason that Uncompany exists and why we can provide UNRIVALED talent to our clients.