Elsewhere

It would appear I fell off the blog. 

I didn't intend to get so distracted. My attitude ever since writing about Slow Blogging a few weeks ago was to embrace the idea of story telling and go with the inspiration as and when I found it. There's been plenty inspiring me but I've been stretched a little thin creatively so I just wanted to pop in, wave and let you know what's happening elsewhere. 

Obviously, I've been wandering with my camera. A lot. 

Gorse Flowers

There's been the slow plod towards a podcast relaunch. If you've been waiting, the sidebar just switched from zero news to 'relaunches March 2016'. The side bar is possibly more optimisitic than I am but I've got a whole season almost ready to go. It's just the perfectionism kicked in so now I'm tweaking and fussing. I fuss. It's a thing I do. 

There's been some blogging on other online spaces in the form of Tips for Taking Beautiful Photos. If you like the idea of improving your Photography to capture your craft projects and tell your story online, you'll be pleased to hear I'm back in Makelight Studios with Emily Quinton on 12th March 2016. You can find out more and grab tickets here

It appears March is going to be an explosion of creativity and I'm ok with this. 

(c) Emily Quinton

(c) Emily Quinton

I also had my first go at a Periscope broadcast. For those of you who've not discovered Periscope, it's a way of live broadcasting to an audience. I offered a little walk behind scenes on a photography shoot at Deans Court which was my location for a day. Those shots mean more exciting work ahead as I pull together more stories for amazing companies I am so lucky to work with, creating images and content for their communities. Periscope broadcasts are thankfully short lived, disappearing after 24 hours because talking to an audience that could see me was.... intense. 3 things I learned from Periscoping? Learn where your exits are if you're walking, try not to hold the camera if you're shaking with nerves and maybe hide the explosion of props you create when you work. Pro tips right there folks. 

I've just spent some time noodling around with the static pages on my website and sort of regret starting the job that feels like there will never be an end. I now have a Press page which makes me feel all kinds of self conscious but there it is, all the lovely people who have featured me and my work lately. I did then realise that I needed a new media pack once I sat back and looked at all the features. So if you've been thinking of interviewing me, now is a great time as I have material ready to go for the first time in about 3 years. I thought I was done until I frowned at the About Me page and before I knew it I had committed myself to getting a portfolio of my professional work up and a sponsorship pack too. 

Yes, sponsorship will make a return and I'm agonising over the decision as always. 

Image captured at Dean's Court during that fated Periscope broadcast

Image captured at Dean's Court during that fated Periscope broadcast

So there's things happening, just not here on my lovely blog or podcast. Which I miss terribly. 

I'll be right back. In the meantime feel free to roam around the new spaces on my website and let me know what you think?

Making it Work with Karie Westermann

Last week, Karie and I began a conversation about what it is like to be a freelancer in the Fibre Industry. It was inspired by Karie's series called 'Making It Work', a helpful collection of posts that cover topics such as how to submit designs to magazines and pattern layout tips. To keep the ball rolling, I invited Karie to answer some of her thoughts on freelancing full time and next we're taking the conversation to Twitter with an AMAZING bunch of fibre types. More on that later though. First, here's Karie:

pictures courtesy of Karie Bookish

pictures courtesy of Karie Bookish

You describe yourself as a freelancer within the industry and I’d like to know what that looks like to you. What different roles does that encompass?

I think it's important to establish upfront that most people working within the fibre industry tend to have a lot of roles. I work as a knitwear designer, I teach classes, I do technical and copy editing, and I translate knitting/crochet patterns. I also lend a hand in various editorial contexts from time to time. When I self-publish, I also deal with layout, styling and organising photo shoots, marketing and customer after-care. The creative control is great but it does add a lot of extra work!

I'd love you to tell us about your transition to professional full time freelancer. What did that transition look like and what things really helped you?

I think it may have looked pretty much overnight, but I worked part-time in the industry for nearly 5 years before making the jump. I worked for a yarn company part-time which helped me learn the ropes. In 2011 I released my first self-published pattern and gradually designing began taking over more and more of my working life. By early 2013 I was working around 70 hours a week and so I started looking into how I could make my working life make more sense. I spoke with other people in the industry, I looked at freelance websites, and I spent time looking at business advice. My decision came when the yarn company wanted me to step up into a new role when it would have collided with too many other commitments. I'm now three months down the line as fully self-employed. 

pictures courtesy of Karie Bookish

pictures courtesy of Karie Bookish

One thing I often find when working with those who are self-employed is that it can be hard to set goals, reflect critically, set boundaries and keep momentum when it’s just you. Many freelancers reach out and develop mentors, alliances and communities that help with some of these. If this something you have done too?

I am lucky to have a handful of mentors in my life ranging from knitting professionals to people working in marketing and human resources at a very high level. I've never sought creative guidance or looked for work from them - I think that is really important to underline - but they are great at asking difficult questions and pushing me out of my comfort zone. 

So, for anyone trying to make the same transition, I'd say: find some mentors (or let your mentors find you which is how it worked for me). Have somebody who you trust to challenge you and support you. Do not use them to find work - but have them guide your way, encourage you, and challenge you. 

pictures courtesy of Karie Bookish

pictures courtesy of Karie Bookish

How do you plan ahead? Do you have any tools or techniques for looking at your ideas, inspirations and commitments and making it come together? (Fairly sure we’re touching on time management here too)

I pretty much know what I've doing creatively until summer 2015. It's experience telling me how long things take and how much creative work I can take on. For my self-published work, I tend to think in collections which helps me organise my ideas. Pinterest works well for this and I also find that my ideas are so opaque that I don't have to worry too much about keeping my boards secret. I do plan meticulously for my own work but it's really important that I allow some flexibility into my working life. It's not a job with fixed hours and you do tend to work a lot when other people are off. 

As you’ve grown as a freelancer, what lessons have you learned or even, what lessons are you still learning!

Lesson #1: Know who you are as a creative. Spend time figuring out what makes your work yours. 

If you want to make it in this business, you need a direction. Nobody can give you your direction (although good mentors can guide you along your way). You have to define it for yourself. Some people try to be all things to all people. I've never seen that work for anyone. 

Lesson #2: It is a really, really small business. Everybody knows everybody. Word spreads quickly if you are a dream or a nightmare to work with. Collaborations are one of the cornerstones of this industry and teamwork is essential. It also helps if you develop a sense of humour about your own work and don't take your own 'vision' too seriously. Everybody likes someone who brings them cake and makes them laugh. Be nice, in other words.

Lesson #3: You have to juggle several jobs/clients in order to make a living. I see a lot of people wanting to break into the industry because they think it means sitting at home knitting all day long. Working in the fibre industry isn't super-glamorous. It's a grind at times and it's actual hard work – it takes years to create a platform and a customer base. And you don't get rich from working in this industry. 

pictures courtesy of Karie Bookish

pictures courtesy of Karie Bookish

How do you balance your creative needs as an artist and designer with making this work as a paying job?

Goodness. If I could answer that, I'd be made! For me, at least, it seems that the work I find most creatively fulfilling is also the work that pays the best. I think it also helps that I genuinely like most aspects of my work. Also: diversification. Don't put all your eggs into one basket. Recognise your strengths and think about how you can employ those strengths in different ways.

How do you manage to constantly generate new material, while still supporting previous work so that you can (hopefully) develop a steady income in between periods of busy work?

This is where working part-time in the industry comes in handy. You learn to recognise when various things happens and adjust accordingly. Trade shows happen at a certain time of year. Yarn companies launch new products at other specific times. Fibre events are also regular occurrences. Magazines have calls at certain times of the year. All this information is actually out there and all you have to do is schedule your work around those things. Other things are less predictable – tech editing for indie designers varies considerably, for instance. 

Again, I think diversification is important. 

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Enjoying this discussion? Then come join Karie, myself and a panel of industry experts to take the discussion further. On 9th September 2014 at 8.30pm BST, we will be logging on to Twitter using the hashtag #makeitwork. Each tweet should contain this hashtag so that page will (in theory) fill with interaction around the 3 core questions that we will be covering. 

I'll be posting a blog post of the panel and 3 questions that we selected from suggestions on Twitter later in the week. I can't wait to show you who to expect- it's really special when big names are happy to help others make it work as freelancers too. A big thank you too for Karie for getting the ball rolling on this. I'm thrilled to be part of it!

In Response....

Today a blog post blipped up in my Twitter Feed that made my heart sink a little when I saw the title. I grimaced, nervous and then I clicked through and..... smiled.

Right out the gate I'm going to say I love Woolly Wormhead and have had the pleasure of working with her several times. I will continue to do so in the future and I chatted to her about writing a response to her blog post. I felt I needed to. After all, she was talking about a small part of what I do.

I haven't blogged directly about what it IS that I do before but rather, alluded to it in the hope I don't make anyone feel wary that I'm in the business of supporting other businesses. I've been cautious about mixing too much work and play but let's be honest, without A Playful Day Blog and Podcast (yup, I did just capitalise that), I wouldn't have that very job. So I decided it was ok to talk today. In fact I SHOULD talk about what I do because the topic is on the table for discussion it would seem. I once had a work conversation with the incredible Emily from TinCanKnits and she said very seriously 'never apologise for your work or what you do'. So here we go Woolly and Emily, this one's for you....

I guess you could say I work in marketing. I feel sick just writing that however. I don't like sales people, PR makes me nervous and that weird advertising for things like beauty products? Yikes. No thanks. When Woolly talked about selling a designer like a product, she was right. That leaves a weird feeling in my stomach and I get scared that we've forgotten the joy of being creative for creative's sake and that you can't own talent.

Allow me to explain what I do. I am in the very privileged position to work with several designers and dyers to support their business. I'm available to hire as a freelancer which means I balance precariously, respecting confidentiality and the sensitivity needed around developing new work and business. I prepare web copy, I help plan projects and collaborations, I technically edit patterns, prepare timelines, make introductions and organise via many, many, many, emails promotional things like Blog Tours and strategic releases. I work for other self employed people and I rely on them trusting that I can help.

Why do I do it? Because I love the indie world. I adore seeing someone achieve and there's a real Feminist streak in me that wants to shout about an industry largely made up of women, often mothers, being paid what they are worth. In an industry that is often trivialised by the 'hobby' tag, I want people to be shown the respect and attention that they deserve. It's not easy to do that for yourself. Being too close or not having that particular skill set can be a really common problem in creative industries and with my writing background, I was soon telling stories that I saw as a professional friend to these wonderful independent business women.

So what of that dirty word, 'Brand'? A brand can be an identity that you slip on to get you ready to push your business to the next level; like a game face you get on before you face the world. It can help those that are a little prone to hermitting deal a little better with being so visible in this Social Media dominated era. It can also help separate work and non work as the line can get so blurred when you're making your money from your passion. I am not a fan of censoring or veiling in any form though. Just redirecting the spotlight a little to make sure we're all looking where we should and leaving the person to deal with being a Mum or a part time researcher for example. What's more, when we buy from independent suppliers we, as consumers, often do so because we want something with more personality and more of a story. We want to invest in that person.

Do I edit people? GOD NO. I have been called a cheerleader, a mother figure, a best friend, a pain in the ass, a guide and a critical friend. I sit well in all of those because yes, if you're underselling yourself I can be a royal pain in the ass. It is often the case when I'm writing about the Creatives that I work with, that I get a slightly shocked reaction, when to me, I have simply written the person and their business as I see them. 'Really?', 'Is that me?' 'Oh that's a bit scary'. Then.... I rewrite it, tone it down and you know what I've come to realise? We almost always go back to the first edit and that person suddenly seems a bit more sure of themselves. It's not intentional on my part, more of a process I've watched and started to reflect on recently.

I do not however. sit well with the full on branding that sells perfection. I love to tell a story, that's why I write and it's the thing that pulled me in. I don't want to rewrite though. It's simply not my place or my inclination.

Rereading Woolly's post again as I wrote this response, I smiled and nodded as I've felt that pressure too. Why wasn't I blogging perfect pictures and joining the ranks of 'Mummy Bloggers'? I think it's largely down to the fact that I feel I'd be betraying how hard it all is: balancing work, learning to be a mum, still being a partner and a daughter and all the other things I was before and also? It's just not on. Ever. It pits you against your peers and that's just wrong.

So that's me. That's what I do and why I love it so much. I cheerlead other people and am happy to sit behind them, watching them be amazing. Because knitters are you know. I think you've heard me mention it before.....