I WANNA TAKE THE PLUNGE - Q&A #thefreelancefall
So here it is, a little Q & A session from the studio.
As of late I've been trying to manage the whole "email inbox" saga --- lot's of flow but never enough hours in a day to tend to it all meticulously. I have been getting many beautiful emails from courageous souls and school leavers seeking advice about taking the freelance plunge or what to do post graduation. I'm sorry, but I haven't been able to reply to them all personally so I came up with this wondrous solution --- a Q&A blog post! I have dropped in some of the general questions you have been asking and will endeavour to add to this post as the questions come in. Here's a little starter to get the ball rolling!
Hope this helps your journey!
How did you you launch into full time freelance?
One thing I firmly believe is that there will never be a perfect time where everything aligns, the stars write a message in the sky and your world is a perfect oasis ready to take the #freelancefall --- Life is messy and truth be told moving out of your comfy full time pay packet into the freelance life poses some true and crazy turbulence --- some are lucky to have a cushion of paper note$ to land their rickety fall but I was not one of them. My freelance fall came at the most craziest time in my life.
I was 4 months fresh to motherhood with plans to go back to my full time design job when I was un-warned and struck with love for this new little human, Peaches Wilde. I wanted to stay home with my new love bundle yet my desire to create never faded. I thought, why not combine the two? So that's exactly what I did.
At the time, my husband had also taken a massive plunge into his dream to be a full time Stuntman --- so here we are, two freelancers, pocket full of dreams, no savings, a new born baby and paying very high rent on the northern beaches of Sydney --- It was NOT the perfect scenario for us to both do the crazy plunge, but we did it and we are both here to tell the story. No looking back!
It's taken a lot of hard work and been very stressful at times, there has been many weeks where we have been waiting and waiting for an invoice to get paid (not all clients pay on time) --- we have questioned our decisions many a times over and over, yet consistently having a deeper conviction that this is what we both needed to do. Unified, we both wanted to live an exciting life, so we took some risks, some have been calculated and some were done blindfolded. Two and a half years later I can honestly say, it has all been worth it. We are finally in a place where we can see the light, the lifestyle benefits are showing their faces, the work is rolling with ease and we both have a true sense of joy because we both LOVE our day jobs. I'm not saying that we have landed at our "made it" moment and that it's all easy --- But these past few months have truly proven that the sacrifices and risks eventually pay off and that you really can do what you love for a living and merge it all together to suit the things that are important to you --- eg: family.
I guess the main point here is that once you decide to go freelance, you need to own your decision and have no back up plan. No matter what doubt comes your way or what crazy things people say --- If you own it, you'll do it, it's a sink or swim scenario --- It's amazing how productive, resourceful and innovative you become when you actually have to earn your living without the security of a weekly pay cheque in a secure job. Like a said, there's no good time to plunge, it's now or never... if you don't try, you'll never know.
What does your week look like if both you and your husband are freelancers with a 2 year old?
I get asked this a lot --- let’s be real, it’s not all glam... But I have a few little things in place that make work-mum-life somewhat easier. Somedays it’s smooth and I feel on top of the world and sing songs like “Freelance is the free life” --- and other days it’s not so great, trying to meet a deadline with a 2 year old is a stress and plain right crazy (sometimes I drop a few %$#@) -- But right now we have a pretty good set up, like I said before, my husband and I are those silly dreamers that decided to leave the comfy life and go for our BIG crazy dreams and silly us we both decided to do it at the same time. Sometimes we look at each other and say “we are crazy!” “Are we stupid?”--- but we both decided we’d rather be 80 and old and stoked we tried!
This is how it works for us --- At the beginning of every week we plan who’s working and who’s being mum, some weeks we can only plan day by day... So when Calebs in-between stunt gigs, I’m full time designer and when he’s on a movie full time, I’m full time mumma doing the crazy juggle --- working some serious late nights and sneaking in some work when Peaches is having her day nap or sometimes (guilty) I have to put her in front of a few episodes of Pepa pig to meet a deadline. It’s a serious juggle but it somehow works in this crazy little nomadic family of ours. Some days I cry when it’s hard and other days I think to myself I wouldn't have it any other way. We could never say life is boring --- I LOVE the flexibility we have and I love how every week is different. Right now as I'm writing this blog post it's Monday, Caleb (my husband) is at the zoo with our daughter Peaches and I've been catching up on some emails and delving into a few design jobs. I feel blessed that they can have a daddy daughter date whilst I get to play catch up --- tomorrow will look different again, and I love that!
Who are your mentors?
Get ready for the List!!!
In terms of Life mentors, I have been abundantly and generously surrounded by women that for whatever reason have decided to invest time, love, wisdom and correction into my life. My mentors would be firstly my Mum, she's the reason I'm here, the reason I walk in daily creativity --- she nurtured it from a young age and continues to. I also have a handful of women that have played a huge role in my life over both long and short periods of time. All nurturing/directing me as a creative and encouraging me in my journey through adulthood --- These women being - Heidi Lakin, Skie Peterson, River Bennett, Tara Delamonte --- If you ever have the opportunity to meet these women, you will immediately be captivated by the scope of what they walk in. I actually don't have words suffice to describe them, but I'm thankful for the moments of life they have walked with me.
How did you get into design?
I graduated from year 12 and at the age of 19 moved to a small coastal surf town, Mollymook where my best friend and I opened a Dance Academy. It ran at full speed for 7 years, seeing itself with 400 beautiful students. In my 6th year of running the Academy I met prince charming and traded my hip hop shoes for a Mac book pro. Ironically, a massive multi-million dollar Design school opened up across the road from our dance studio. A German lad by the name of Karl Von Busse decided to bring a taste of Sydney design education to our humble little town in Mollymook! I was so curious about it – the building looked so sparkly and pretty and just downright ‘wow’! So one afternoon I paid a visit and it was … amazing!
Immediately I thought and inwardly declared, ‘I am going to study here’ - And that I did. It's interesting, but I think I'd been un-officially designing my whole life --- whether it was spending hours on dance academy's monthly newsletter or decorating my room, my perfectionist nature (which is a whole other story) has had my aesthetic radar on full speed my entire life.
So My first day of design school was a "revelation, everything aligning, wow oh wow" moment for me --- everything suddenly made sense and I knew I was exactly where I needed to be. I never really excelled or did well in high school (quite the opposite really) so design school for me was massively redemptive, it just made sense in my chaotic mind. I'm not telling you this to make out like I'm awesome, but I miraculously graduated design school as DUX of my grade, this in itself was huge in showing me that I was on the right track....I surprised myself and most likely my parents too!
Post graduation I landed a job in an Fashion PR agency doing their in house design and running around like a little minion from the devil wears Prada – The small town girl in me wasn’t cut out for the fashion industry so I pursued a job at a boutique design agency that was a beautiful yet stressful introduction to the fast pace design world. After working there for one year an opportunity arose to become the lead designer in the creative department at C3 Church, Oxford falls. This is where my creativity was unleashed, released, edified and strengthened – I was given all the creative freedom in the world – Story shortened, I fell pregnant 2 years into the job and now have a 2 year old little girl named Peaches and am currently working “full time” as a freelance Mumma specialising in Visual Communication + Graphic Design & Creative Content --- I have also just released my first ever E-mag #lagoontothemoon. I LOVE FREELANCE! and I love that this career choice partners so well with the path Caleb (my husband) has taken. He travels quite a bit, so it gives me the option to travel with him.
I want to study design, what should I do?
Start backwards, figure out what you want the end result to be and then find a college, uni or design school that will get you there!
I went to a private design school (which was a bit more expensive) but well worth the investment. Being private meant there was limited numbers on the intake which allowed for more "one on one" teacher to student interaction. I felt extremely nurtured throughout my time at design school. My course crammed 3 years into 2 years which meant I was full time 9-3pm, Monday to Friday for 2 years straight (I loved being immersed in it) I worked my butt off and pretty much ate, drank and dreamt about design for 2 years straight. We were given many amazing opportunities, some that allowed us to travel to France and England all in the name of design. It was all very tactile/hands on experience. I loved that it was creatively focused rather then text book focused. The course was very structured, tight deadlines and high expectations but very fluid in terms of finding your expression! I came alive creatively (maybe some of the most creative days of my life) --- I also found that being at a smaller design school meant that the lecturers had time to help customise what you wanted to do in the future and help you get there!
I guess you need to figure out what you want the end result to be? and see if there are courses that will help you get to your desired destination. There is so much on offer these days in terms of the creative industry. I studied almost 6 years ago and there was barely as much as there is now! What a time to be alive! In hindsight, the certificate certainly qualifies your title yet I have never used my piece of paper (qualification) to get a job in the industry --- every job interview was based on the "proof is in the pudding" --- They wanted to see my work!
I really recommend a strong focus on getting a good portfolio together under the guidance of your course/lecturers or a mentor. Try get some freelance work on the side to have as portfolio pieces post graduation. Implement everything you learn &... LISTEN in typography lectures (this is very important). Give your days of learning everything you got! Use it as a safe time to find your passion, flavour and expression! Don't cut corners, treat it as you would a job because post uni --- it's a jungle out there!
I've just graduated, now what?
I got my first ever job because I physically knocked on the door of the dream studio I wanted to work at. I dressed up, put a lot of effort into my portfolio, knocked on the door un-announced and said " I want to work for you". There was no job going at the time I knocked on their door but I wanted to work there so badly I just kept on checking in. I'd send emails saying "Hi, it's Tess here, has anything come up yet?" --- I pested (hustled) my way until they got sooooo sick of me they were like "Give this girl a job!". Persistence pays off --- it's a creative industry, so seek out your dream job creatively. There's about a zillion other people graduating design school at the same time as you, they too are looking for a job, so you have to stand out, don't be afraid to knock on a door or send a creative mail package --- go the extra mile, think outside the box and it will pay off.
Working in an agency isn't for everyone, Maybe you are fresh out of school and you want to go freelance, my advice would be to intern with an established freelance designer... learn the ropes, create in a safe environment that is parallel to the lifestyle you are seeking out. See what it's really like and weigh up if freelance really is for you? If not, maybe an agency is the way to go. Hustle down that dream job, Learn, be pushed and work under some pressure, maybe fast pace is your cup of tea. Don't be afraid to try a couple of things until you find the magic formula --- It took me three jobs (which I learnt so much from) to get to this stage in life where I know... that I know...that I know... that I like freelance and that this is what I truly want to do!
How do you stay motivated and inspired as a freelancer?
My surroundings are paramount to my productivity and level of inspo! If my studio is a mess, my designs are disjointed and messy too! I find creating a tranquil space around me that looks inspiring makes for inspiring design results and maximises my output. I try to make a point of having tangible, colourful and live elements around me when I’m working. I believe that in the creative process there is a good kind of “distraction”. Have yourself some good magazines close by, fresh cups of water, rocks, plants and music. Taking 10′ to distract yourself creatively will essentially payoff and set you on your merry track to achieve a wonderful and magical end result. #distractyourself Make creating an experience. I also make sure I see the ocean everyday — I start my day at 6am — grab a coffee from my local and hang at the Beach for some chill time then clock in at 10:30and begin a full day of design.
You gotta know what works for you and create yourself a little bit of fluid structure, write lists, stay on top of your emails, keep flow --- This is a big one for me.... being in the back-log of a zillion emails is my downward spiral into the dark pit of dis-organisation and despair. When my emails are not tended to and piling up as high as the sky, everything else around me slowly follows and before I know it I'm sitting in a uninspiring virtual and cyber mess! Everything is linked --- stay on-top of the things that matter eg: Liaising with Clients, Colabs, Events, Work flow --- and everything else should follow. I think one of my major motivations is that I actually need to pay my bills! ha! Money isn't my soul motivation in doing my passion, but in being realistic I still have to pay bills like everyone else, this fact is enough to whip me into gear.
I Love your lifestyle, I really want to freelance too, what are some steps I can take?
I love freelance because it's a flexi kind of lifestyle, you can be at the beach all morning and then be in the studio for a couple of hours in the arvo -- eat, sleep, repeat and reverse it! It's a joy... BUT, It requires some hard work. I didn't just wake up over night and have a ready made beach / design / freelance lifestyle --- It took some serious risks, being all in and sold out to my decision, it required discipline, energy, late nights and a whole lot of old fashion hard work.
For me personally it required some serious discipline with the social media platforms, being committed to getting my work out there, blogging, colabs, networking etc... 95% of my work flow currently comes through the door of instagram, once I figured out how powerful social media was I decided to nurture it, engage in it and share my love for life, design and freelance through the little visual boxes we all scroll through on the daily. It's not for everyone, but with my stream of work it's paramount --- it's free visual marketing with the opportunity to connect with a like minded community of people and share my passion for life!
Best piece of advice you’ve learnt?
Have a morning ritual!
The way you start your day is so important - it really is the catalyst to where your day will end up. Like I said earlier - I start my day at the beach - some coffee, some play and some prayer. My productivity flows from these small and simple things.
Who inspires you?
I have so may creative heroes! I’m basically inspired by anyone who is living there passion, wether it be a missionary in india or a furniture maker in Switzerland! People that LOVE the call on their life and live it inspire me! No life is the same, everyone is called to something different, the fun part is figuring out what that is!
I’m blessed to be surrounded by so many people that are uber creative and also happen to be some of my closest friends - too many to name! I have friends that are writers, film makers, videographers, photographers, furniture makers, stylists and fashion gurus. Such a high calibre of creative personality types in my world! I’m daily challenged and encouraged by each and every one of them. I’m also married to a stunt man. My husband is one of my biggest inspirations - he chased his dream and is actually doing it against all odds! There's been so many times that he could of given up but here he is, doing his thing and loving it!
What scared you the most going freelance?
Financial security was a major concern along with doubting work flow - I wondered if work would actually come? The funny thing about freelance is you have to actually be freelancing to get the work, it requires masses of your time to get the "work cycle" flowing from one job to the next - once you are in the freelance river it seems that the work makes its way into your email in-box... And this is when the beauty of freelance begins.
From a design perspective, What are your top 3 thoughts on creating a brand?
- Tone of voice (What you want to say to the world)
- The back story ( I love hiding the backstory into the branding / logo and execution of design elements, keeps it 3 dimensional)
- Typography (Type is a make or break) --- Something I'm always trying to grow in.
What's a simple studio tip?
A day isn't done until everything is back in it's place. For me personally my desk looks like a rainbow bomb at the end of a day, paints, crayons, lists, food remnants and mugs of half drunken tea all over the place... I have made it a habit to clear, clean and re-adjust my desk before I sign off so that I am creating a clean slate for the day after --- Don't under-estimate the power of starting your morning with everything in it's place. Clean desk, clear mind... Simple and true.
Here's a few tips to help you articulate the next step in going freelance... and a few things I have learnt along the way!
- Own your decision no matter what
- Utilise the free marketing on hand (instagram, pinterest, facebook) --- connect and keep it real
- Be passionate and believe in what you do
- Do everything with integrity and accountability
- Speak what you see
- Seek counsel and advice amongst a handful of people that have done something similar or gone before you
- Watch what you say, words carry weight and are very powerful
- Know your strengths
- Delegate and collaborate
- Don't procrastinate
- Get your branding sorted (website, biz card, social media consistency etc)
- Think of your clients as a privilege, they are the reason you get to do what you do
- Let your word be your word
- Don't take on too much too soon, pace yourself but work hard
- When overwhelmed, write a list
- Know when to call it a day
- Be comfy in your flaws, I am really bad at grammar, I know this about myself, I work hard to improve it but I also feel secure acknowledging it's not my strength. I'll often get a copyrighter to assist me when it comes to the big jobs because I know my scope and I've learnt that I can't be good at everything. I try really hard not to waste my energy and sweat over the small things. This is where delegation becomes key!
- Don't underestimate quality, sometimes you have to spend money to make money
- Know that there will be plenty of trial and error, but thats ok, this is a crucial part in the refining process of your business
- If you have a bad day, it doesn't mean you've made a bad decision... bad days happen often and thats ok
- Surround yourself with dreamers and only a hand full of realists
- Know that the creative process isn't always cups of tea and fun music, sometimes its a choice, a choice to create
wether you feel it or not.
- Don't let your emotions dictate your decisions
- Make sure your day off, is your day off --- no emails
- Don't be territorial, there is plenty of work to go around, share the love, share ideas, be generous, give and it will come back to you!
- Colab.... and do it lots!
- Don't isolate yourself, surround yourself with other freelancers
- If you have a quiet period, use that time to colab, network, refine and hustle for more work
- When you talk about what you do, talk confidently --- it's amazing how much your tone of voice dictates the direction of your business, speak life even if you are not feeling it!
- Don't look left at what "she's doing" or to the right at what "he's doing" --- look forward and create without comparing yourself. You will find your mojo and you will flow flow flow! Comparison is the paramount of creative dry spells and creative destruction! Just create and the rest will un-fold
- Surround your workspace with plants --- green and clean will keep you keen!
- Take breaks and holidays often
- Within reason & using wisdom, don't let money be the deciding factor of plunging into what you love! Obviously if you have a zillion debts, freelance might not be the wisest thing for you to do right now. Again, seek advice, but make decisions based on passion!
- Create a beautiful environment to work in
- Trust your gut, intuition is a gift from above
- Don't underestimate the power of a morning ritual aka coffee, swim, sun!
- Creative lows happen often, don't be offended by them, just go through the motions and drink coffee if all else fails
- Stress is killer and health is more important then your job, no your warning signs and be kind to yourself
- Do things that scare the crap out of you, do them often
- This is cliche` to the max... but be YOU... we hear this a lot and it's become lame, but let it sink in. You have great things to offer!