Free Will, Free Reign: Freelancing

Free Will, Free Reign: Freelancing

Sonali Priyadarshini | Apr 15, 2019

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Passion. An emotion which drives life and choices. When passion becomes purpose, it pours into every facet of one’s life. Sometimes, into one’s career path. When one’s passion strays away from the conventional career options, the career path ventures onto a path not taken by all.

The club culture at NIT Rourkela has been one of the most prominent characteristics of the college in memories and hearts of students and alumni alike. For passion enthusiasts, clubs become the testing facility for all of their hobbies. Be it photography, cinematography, music production, dance, tech-enthusiast, writing, debating, or cooking: NIT-R has a niche for everyone. When the call of passion becomes absolute, some of these headstrong individuals take up a road not taken often. Hence, opening up career avenues of freelancing.

Team Monday Morning brings you the story of three such individuals who chose to follow the lead of their passion and delved into diverse fields rather than engineering.

Bharat Apat: The One with the Vision

I have always loved creating stuff, be it drawing imaginary characters, writing stories or creating a new dance routine. I love thinking laterally and being able to visualise my thoughts.

The roots of design opportunities are ingrained in so many crevices of the club culture at NIT-R. From conventional event posters to projects and groups dedicated to design, the levels are of different multitudes. However, taking things up by a notch, Bharat Apat has made his way into making a career out of his passion as an Interaction Designer. Currently enrolled as a student in National Institute of Design, Bangalore, he is pursuing his Masters in Design and is comfortable designing digital interfaces.

The early inclination of choosing a discipline closer to game designing and becoming a 3D Modeller led Bharat down the path of taking up Industrial Design. Beginning with designing posters and graphics for Synergy, it developed a knack for graphic designing in him. However, his “eye-opener” for designing came through during his internship at IIT Guwahati. One thing led to another and UI designing became a natural extension to graphic design. He credits learning the fundamentals of it to IDC, IIT Bombay during his second internship program.

I spend a lot of time reading and learning about different things related to design on the internet. Medium, Behance, Youtube, Nielsen Norman Group, Coursera and Interaction Design Foundation were the main source of learning at NIT. I learnt about AR recently at NID. At the beginning of my career, I was only into Interface design and hence my primary focus was to learn visual communication to its bits. Trends and styles change but the fundamental principles of communication are timeless. Apart from learning, I was also building up my network with design professionals in the industry.

Coping up with industrial demands required reverse engineering of others’ portfolio. Exploring, processing, researching about their work gave quite an insight into the diversity of the design industry.

The industry’s demands are soaring for designers who understand the end-to-end design process i.e. from UX to UI. It would prove as an edge for anyone applying for a company to have a project relevant to that industry. A lot of companies claim that they don't care about visuals, but the truth is that visuals matter. Anyone with good UX and visual skills gets preference over someone with just either of UX or visual skills.

Freelancing began as an escape from the monotonous job at his first company. It allowed the freedom to work on much more interesting projects with the choice to choose. With close college mates, Visual Notes was founded as a collaborative freelancing network.

Abodid, Rites, Kutthum, Kunal and I formed Visual Notes. We all knew each other very well from Cinematics and Synergy hence it was easy to team up. The best part about Visual Notes isn’t the freelancing, it’s the sharing of knowledge. Everyone has a unique taste of art. Everyone is pursuing different career paths. It always leads to very interesting conversations. We have done multiple projects together. The key learning for every project was to deal with clients and deadlines. Project Management was my main learning.

The cultural difference between NIT-R and NID is quite evident. NID being a design school, people are very open to new ideas and exams aren’t a part of the curriculum. There is a freedom to take up any project of choice and work at one’s own pace. NIT is an engineering college and most of the energy goes into writing records for practicals, mugging up for exams and learning skills widely irrelevant to the industry. But something that NIT excels is in its clubs and crowds; people with very different background and future come to NIT and the conversations and debates that happen in such an environment are very different from the ones at NID. NID teaches us to be explorative and maintain our individuality while at NIT we are pushed towards being a more logical or convergent thinker.

First thing is that creative people need to stop worrying about jobs and marks, learning the craft should be their primary focus. We have a very good club culture and people need to take advantage of it to come out of their shells and collaborate with other artists, designers, musicians, filmmakers and creators. People need to believe in themselves and must understand that being a NITian means they are among the top intellectual species who can learn whatever that interests them, on their own. I would suggest, to first figure out their interest as a career and find friends and mentors who have similar interest. Not just ID, whichever department you are in, have zero expectations from NIT academics, be on your own, if you ever get any help from the academic side, consider it good fortune, because NIT curriculum is for everyone in general, it can not change to cater to the dreams of a specific individual.

As a concluding note, he urged the aspirants to trust their capabilities to learn anything on their own.

Most of the times we complain about the things we don't have (academic support) while neglecting the resources we already have (creative community). For me, the biggest obstacle was at the beginning of the career where I had no one close to look up to for guidance in design. In a way, it has helped as I explored many different creative fields to understand my cup of tea, but having a mentor would have saved me a lot of time I believe. For that, make use of the diverse crowd at NIT; find friends and mentors and collaborate with the creative community both on and outside the campus.

Sumon Rudra: The One with the Dancing Shoes

One of the founding members of the Mavericks and an alumnus of NIT Rourkela, who graduated in 2012 with a bachelor's degree in Biotechnology Engineering has laced himself with dancing shoes for good. Settled in Athens, Greece, he is living his life as a Dance Choreographer, Teacher and Performer. He worships his dance as an art form and believes in following one’s own heart.

In spite of being a forerunner in academics, he also played varied sports like Cricket, Football, Basketball. He was also among the top 3 Chess players in Rourkela and top 15 at the state level. However, life became very monotonous and pressurized at NIT-R, and he also started facing some setbacks in personal life. By the end of the first year, he had lost enthusiasm and spirit. Resulting in an emotional crisis. And the much-needed solace came from dance. Bunking classes in the second year and spending time in SAC dancing was his vent of long-suppressed aggression. And then, life changed.

In my final year I realised that for the past 15 years of my life, all I had done was sit in one place and study. The thought of doing something similar once I join a company after graduation made me restless. I had two career options, one was to teach, as I had prior experience in this. I tutored since my school days for earning pocket money. The other option was to dance.

Students of NITR discuss placements and packages from the very first day they step into this institution. Following the herd, when I started preparing my CV, I realised that the only skills I could flaunt, academically, were coding in C, C++ and a bachelor's degree in Biotechnology Engineering. Dance was my true skill as I had participated in several state and national level competitions. I decided to train formally and pursue a career in this field.

Dance as a career has no monetary stability. This is probably the main reason who most of the families get apprehensive. Thoughts emerge of times when one wouldn’t be able to dance anymore. It frightens everyone and it frightened him too. But drawing inspiration and setting a long-term goal to create job opportunities in this field helps, so that artists may pursue their career without the fear of facing social insecurities.

His first dance performance in NITR was in 2010 for freshers, a solo piece entirely choreographed all by himself.

I somehow found myself on that stage, in front of the audience with the music and lights, and that is when it all began for me. I trained under Mrs Suchismita Biswas for one year in Bharatanatyam. During the Spring Fest, I danced contemporary for the first time in NITR, because I wanted to do something new. The second time I danced here, I was judged as the runner-up which was a huge confidence booster.

After graduation, he auditioned for the Attakkalari Centre of Movement Arts in Bangalore and was selected. He learned Kalaripayyattu extensively. It is the oldest martial art form in the world. He also learned Bharatanatyam, Ballet, Bollywood, and Contemporary techniques of dance. After completing his diploma with distinction, which was the highest level of dance education in India, he was keen to learn more.

I sent my dance videos and CV to institutes abroad. I got accepted in a few institutes but National School of Dance (KSOT), Greece, where dance was taught for free, funded by the Ministry of Culture, Greece, was the most suitable one for me. Yet I had to face a lot of hardships to bear my living expenses, but Debayan Chakraborty and a few other friends from NIT, my school friends and parents pooled in to support me. I also taught Bollywood dance part-time. Later I met Anna Dimitrato. Currently, we are working together and hosting workshops in many places.

Today, he conducts various workshops in Athens, spreading his art and inspiring everyone. He along with his partner has founded the 1st Bollywood Dance Academy in Greece. They are the organisers of Bollywood and Multicultural Dance Festival. He has also been associated with So You Think You Can Dance, Greece and Greece Got Talent Shows. With the laurels flowing in for him, it’s a beautiful dream come true saga for a dance enthusiast.

Abodid Sahoo: The One with the Eye for Stories

Freelancing is relatively a tough option to pursue. It is the calling from inside that gives strength to keep up with it. The people who pursue it are very passionate about something and somehow, they feel that they can excel in that direction. The best thing about freelancing is that if you get the freedom to choose your work. For instance, if you are working on a project and you are interested in doing another project of an entirely different genre, you can always go for it. No one can bind you to a specific line of work. That exploration aspect is what draws me in.

With a strong zeal for his passion and the love for exploration, Abodid Sahoo has paved the path for many accidental engineers of NIT-R who wanted to pursue film-making, photography and design as their profession. Being actively involved in various clubs like Astro, Cinematics, Design Tab, Third Eye and Synergy, he finally got his calling for Filmmaking somewhere along the five years of this engineering. Today he is studying at The Prahlad Kakar School of Branding and Entrepreneurship with a major focus on branding and filmmaking while working on individual projects to gain experience and explore his passion for it.

Professionally speaking, it started when I was in my third year and I got a call from Mr Satyaprakash, a senior figure from NIT-R who was pursuing an MBA at IIM Indore. He was doing an internship for Deloitte and he asked if I wanted to shoot a video for a budget of about 10k INR. I picked up my friends and we did the animation. That was the first real push that I might as well take my passion as my career.

The second opportunity came through when a video he curated for S&M crew reached XIM, Bhubaneswar. XIMB has options for live projects and the group which contacted him was working as a marketing campaign for Nirupama Group of Hotels under Odisha Tourism. It had a clientele budget of 1.5 lakhs. It let travel tours and explore different places like Gopalpur, Dhabaleswar, Taratarini, etc. They were financed by the company and it bore all the expenses.

This was the first time we were hired as a team. It wasn’t an individual project. If you love travelling, then such projects would be the best thing to work for. We travelled to several places, were accommodated at their hotels and the final output was highly appreciated by some reputed firms like OYO rooms.

As this project ended, we had the idea of founding Visual Notes representing us as the team. Bharat Apat, Rites Bera, Abhisekh Kutthum, Kunal Sahoo and I formed Visual Notes as a collaborative freelancing network. We were among the firsts in NIT-R to start this “fad”. Best part, this five-member team still exists. It was a far more enriching experience than my freelancing.

Knowing talented people and witnessing their willingness to go the extra mile is what inspires you. Applying rationality, freelancing is not a platform where one can sit around until the opportunity comes to you. One needs to put out his skills, advertise and stir the word around till the opportunity comes knocking at the door. Basic networking skills are very important apart from the core technical skills. As a freelancer, one needs to be thorough with this. Even if you are not present physically, you need to be skilled enough to bag a project through a mail or telephonic conversation. I am always inspired by people with good soft skills. Approaching fearlessly to new faces and trying to just know people, helps a lot to build a good network.

Creativity in NIT-R has been compromised a lot, I would say. But there are single sparks who would put you in awe. And these are the people who are needed to lead the community. If you are very complacent with the quality of work, you are probably not on the right track for freelancing. It’s important to try and work towards the best. These clubs give you something more than academics. You grow confident in your extra-curricular activities. Slowly, these kinds of extra-curricular activities push you ahead in the freelancing career. And the fear of approaching new people should vanish.

Networking is the biggest thing one can learn in freelancing. Recently, he took up the Jawa Motorcycle project in Mumbai. That recommendation came through another cinematographer Raj Sampath, a friend with a common interest and part of a brotherhood community from Odisha. If one has the skills and the network, working as a freelancing would be smooth to a good extent.

The main struggle I face now is juggling between my grad course at PKSBE and my individual freelancing projects. It is difficult to return from class and start working on the project again through the night. At the same time, you cannot give excuses to the client that I had classes or anything. The rapport with the teachers is also very important. Working within timeframes while maintaining quality and managing grad course is definitely challenging. But it is what it is, and the zeal gives the strength.  

NITR helped me develop my emotional standpoint. Academics was not something I invested myself in. It is easy to get a six to seven-pointer without much struggle. But the network is much more important than anything else you get. There is nothing to fear people. So, keep exploring and talk to people just as you work on yourself.

Just like one dress doesn’t fit all, one profession doesn’t fit all either. Taking up something that has not been conventional is nothing to be afraid of if one has the heart for it. Team Monday Morning wishes all the diverse enthusiasts to find their calling and succeed in an industry thriving with talent and competition. 

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