RWDevCon 2017 Inspiration Talk: Finding Freedom Through Freelancing by Lyndsey Scott

Have you ever dreamed of pursuing all of your interests? Victoria’s Secret and Calvin Klein model, Lyndsey Scott, shares how she’s made room in her life for acting, modeling, and iOS development contracts. By Lyndsey Scott.

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We recorded these talks so that you can enjoy them even if you didn’t get to attend the conference. Here’s one of the inspiration talks from RWDevCon 2017: “Finding Freedom Through Freelancing” by Lyndsey Scott. I hope you enjoy it!

Note from Ray: At our recent RWDevCon tutorial conference, in addition to hands-on tutorials, we also had a number of “inspiration talks” – non-technical talks with the goal of giving you a new idea or some battle-won advice, and leaving you excited and energized.


Today I’m going to talk to you all about how I found my own personal freedom through freelancing.

It’s taken ten years, but I’ve finally managed to fully pursue all the things I love. Right now I act, I model, I do iOS development. I’ll take this time to tell you all that I’ve been able to freelance my way into balancing all three.

The Background Story

A little bit about myself: I graduated from Amherst college in 2006 with a dual major in Theater and Computer Science.

Why did I choose theater and computer science? Well, even before I started college I knew that I wanted to be a theater major. I loved acting more than anything. As a second major, I explored economics, I explored physics. Then when that physics class I wanted to take was full, I decided to give computer science a try. I had no idea what it was, but I figured I’d give it a go.

I should have known what it was, though, because when I was about 12 years old I read through this huge book of documentation that came along with my TI-89 graphing calculator, and I figured out how to build games without realizing that there was a whole academic field devoted to this hobby of mine, of coding.

When I took my first computer science course in college, I had even more fun coding than I did when I was a kid. Here I was able to learn the theory behind everything, and I was able to receive grades that validated my interest.

Programming came naturally to me. I went on to learn about algorithms, artificial intelligence, robotics, lower level programming languages, compilers and more. Eventually I graduated with that dual degree in theater and computer science.

This is 12 year old me, the programmer.

Even my newfound love for programming, though, couldn’t distract me from my acting career. I moved back in with my parents in New Jersey and hopped into the freelance life right away as an actress, going back and forth from New Jersey to New York.

I made progress by booking some roles on my own, and I managed to earn my coveted Screen Actors Guild Union card by fall. When a modeling agency found my pictures online and told me that they’d have me work with both their fashion and acting divisions, I jumped at the opportunity to have my career progress.

Lights, Costumes, Fashion!

As it turns out, I actually enjoyed modeling a lot. I soon discovered that modeling was a bit like acting, putting on different costumes and transforming into different characters.

Unfortunately, there were sides of the industry that I wasn’t as fond of. First off, by signing with an agency I lost a lot of control over my career: I was no longer legally able to find jobs on my own. Yes, I had access to better opportunities now, and the opportunities paid more money, but I often felt impatient. I felt that my progress in my career was slow. And though I wasn’t naturally outgoing, I had to learn to be.

My agency had me change my entire wardrobe, change my hair, had me lying about my age and told me exactly what to say during various meetings. In all aspects of my professional life, I was now in costume playing a character and reciting a script.

I caught on well, though, and after about a year I started making enough money to move out of my parents home and into an apartment of my own in New York. Shortly after that I had my big break: I was the first African American to score an exclusive contract with Calvin Klein.

After that, other contracts followed: DKNY, Vogue, W Magazine, Prada, Gucci, Fendi, and the Victoria’s Secret show and catalog.

I was often on planes several times a week. I lived in London, in Paris, and traveled all around Europe working with my various agencies all over the world.

Success and Anxiety

Eventually I came back to New York, where even during the peak of my success I spent most of my time at home waiting for the phone to ring. I kept my schedules clear so that my agencies could call me at any moment and have me go into an office for a last minute appointment or job.

I’d settled into making a very good living for myself, being able to afford a two story penthouse apartment in New York while only working approximately three days a month at a minimum of $6,000 a day. I’d attained relative success in this industry, but I was bored and riddled with anxiety, always waiting for the next phone call and knowing that my career could fade away at any moment.

That was around the time I got my first iPhone, around 2010, 2011.

iPhones and Inspiration

Inspired by what I saw as the beauty of the interface and the elegance of the iPhone experience, I began to use my free time and my programming background to learn how to create iOS apps for myself.

After a modeling industry shakeup, my agents all left my New York agency so I had to switch to another. The bookings dried up immediately.

They suggested I go back to Europe to get some new images for my portfolio, so I did. I took their advice in an attempt to hold on to a career that I felt had little security. I lived for nearly a year in Paris and then Berlin. I managed to book several nice editorial shoots, but magazines pay little to no money.

I had enough time, and fortunately enough savings, to let myself relax into the different cultures I was around, and I would spend every available moment I had coding.

I did the tutorials. I followed tutorial series on YouTube. I’d read Apple’s documentation, and I especially learned by doing. I built out a few apps on my own.

After nearly a year of making no money, I came back to New York to find out that my agency had actually dropped me while I was away. They didn’t tell me about this at all until I got back.