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Full-Time Freelancers

Enough Already

Who

Maria Valentina Nunes (maria@staubyn.com), cofounder of St. Aubyn, a branding marketing consultancy based in New York.

Enough Already

At 32, Nunes needed a balanced life, not another book on how to get one. As a senior executive at a subsidiary of advertising giant McCann-Erickson, Nunes was road weary from constant travel abroad. When she was home, Nunes and her then-fiancé were like "two ships passing in the hallway." Red Flag Nunes restructured her job three times in one year. The company accommodated her, "but in the end, I recognized that the job I had was a bad fit for me."

Coping Mechanism

Nunes went solo — a tough move for someone on a by-the-book business track — to write her own rule book. And three years ago, Nunes and her husband founded St. Aubyn, a company that people can really live with.

The founders have kept their team small (15 employees), high-level, and hands-on. Emulating a freelance model, work is organized by client projects, and staffers choose the engagements that they want to work on. They manage their own hours, and the more projects they take on, the more money they earn. Paid vacation time is generous — at least four weeks a year — and employees often take time between projects to pursue their outside passions. Thomas Bossert can't complain. The former design director of Landor Associates says he has taken nearly seven weeks of vacation, is working on a book, is paid 50% more than he was at his old job, and is producing his best work. "I have control of my projects," says Bossert, "and therefore my life."

A version of this article appeared in the May 2001 issue of Fast Company magazine.