Every freelance journey is driven by unique motivations, goals, routines, and visions of success. But it’s also a shared experience—one that’s understood by millions of others around the world who know the challenges and triumphs of being self-employed.
For many independent professionals, every day of that adventure starts with a great cup of coffee!
October 1 was International Coffee Day, but the coffee-fueled team at Upwork decided that one of our community’s favorite beverages deserved even greater recognition. We collaborated with California-based Red Bay Coffee to create a medium dark roast custom blend, then commissioned six artists from the Upwork platform to help us celebrate coffee’s role as a reliable companion through change, creativity, and hustle.
We’re proud to share the incredible pieces created for “Wake & Make” and to introduce some of the artists behind the inspiring designs. Have a look!
Favorite coffee drink: Huge latte or cappuccino, no sugar
“My schedule and surroundings might be different, but my coffee cup stays the same. It helps me gather my thoughts together before I dive into a new day.”
For Polina Zimina, the power of being an independent professional is the privilege of choice. “I am the one responsible for my location, surroundings, workload—I couldn't have imagined a life like this even a few years ago,” she said. “Life unfolds in mysterious ways and this freelancing lifestyle has helped me to grow as a person.”
Having recently settled in the country of Georgia for the next few months, Polina is a “slow traveler”. Life as a freelance artist has given her a wealth of experiences that inspire her work.
“I’ve found myself working in all kinds of environments,” she said. “My projects are just as varied: from deep tech stuff, to dinosaurs and unicorns. I wanted to show that mix of everything in the coffee cup I’m holding [in the illustration].”
Click here to see more of Polina’s work.
Favorite coffee drink: Cappuccino
“To me, having moments for self consciousness is one of the best things to stimulate creativity.”
“The mindset reflected in the piece is about taking life slowly, being aware of the present moment, taking the time to see what’s around, and enjoying life like a good cup of coffee in the morning,” said Catalina Vásquez Salazar.
Catalina started working for herself because she wanted the flexibility to manage her own time. She wakes up at 7:00 a.m. and takes 30-60 minutes for herself before the day starts to meditate, exercise, or just stay in bed a little longer.
She prepares her coffee just before she heads into the studio.
“I try to give myself space between projects, time to let myself flow with the everyday and allow my brain and thoughts to rest,” she said. “When I do that, I can think more clearly and my ideas are fresher. Then I feel like I’m ready to work.”
Click here to see more of Catalina’s work.
San Jose, Costa Rica
Favorite coffee drink: Starbucks Pumpkin Spice
“I wanted to do my best to get ahead by myself but I had no idea how that plan would turn out. I had to trust my instincts and keep giving everything. Now I have a team of four people.”
For Anthony Orozco Matamoros, coffee is essential. He starts his day at 6:00 a.m. with an espresso. That keeps him going for a while, then he has two cups of coffee to fuel his work for the rest of the day.
“The illustration tells a bit about my mornings: sitting at a desk sketching on my iPad, having a cup of coffee with my cats,” he said.
Anthony has worked with clients in more than 40 countries, including the NBA, Gatorade, and Ultimate Guitar Pro. “I love what I do—I have more freedom to create what I really like,” he said. “I am very grateful to my clients and all the people who have supported me because I am living my dream thanks to them.”
Click here to see more of Anthony’s work.
Favorite coffee drink: Espresso
“As soon as I turn on the machine and smell the coffee, I’m already mentally prepared to be at my desk. I loved this project: To illustrate the moment when inspiration hits, while having that first sip of coffee.”
Andrea Bojkovska’s spark of inspiration for her illustration came from an unexpected place: A Netflix show about space shuttles.
“After thinking about how I feel every morning while I wait by my espresso machine and finally sense that smell of coffee, it hit me,” she said. “What could better explain the boost of energy than a space shuttle launch!”
Andrea learned to drink and appreciate good coffee while living in Italy. The ability to work remotely is something she’s grateful for, but it isn’t the only benefit. “As a creative, a 9-to-5 job doesn’t work very well for me. I like being able to set my own schedule and work in my own space with my dog nearby.”
Click here to see more of Andrea’s work.
Favorite coffee drink: A simple latte
“The flexibility of managing my own hours, as well as having the ability to work from where I want to, gives my life a sense of freedom and possibility.”
A Swedish-Italian illustrator from Brussels, Kiki Ljung’s unique style has led to commissions from Facebook, The New York Times, and Penguin Books.
Kiki designs her day so she has space to create and turns to coffee to get her day moving in the right direction. “My partner is quite the coffee enthusiast,” she explained. “We alternate between French press, AeroPress, and moka pot.”
Each of those brewing methods has a bit of a process, something Kiki sees reflected in the rituals that shape a rewarding day of work. “My design depicts a person picking flowers, a moment of lightness and leisure separate from work, but which can help fuel or set the frame for a productive day.”
Click here to see more of Kiki’s work.
São Paulo, Brazil
Favorite coffee drink: Classic black coffee
“I wanted the lettering design to be strong and robust, just how I like my coffee!”
This campaign was a perfect fit for Sérgio Bergocce; every workday, he literally wakes up, makes coffee, and gets to work. “I’ll drink 2-3 cups of coffee with toast or a slice of bread to start the day,” he said. “Only after that do I consider myself really awake! Then I start to plan and organize my day.”
Sérgio was an art director in a publishing house when he produced his first lettering pieces for magazines and books. Since specializing in hand lettering, he’s worked with clients like Mercedes-Benz, Snapchat, Converse, and Y&R.
“Freelancing has opened up a range of possibilities, such as working with different companies and selecting the projects I would like to be involved with,” he said. “Being challenged with each new client makes the day-to-day much easier and more pleasurable.”
Click here to see more of Sérgio’s work.
Want to learn more about each of the artists involved in this project? Read more and join the conversation about “Wake & Make” in the Upwork Community.