A few years ago I had a longterm partner, a mortgage on a beautiful house and plans for a workable balance of future design work and parenting. What happened next has been a terrifying, exciting, anxious and blessed ride to where I sit today, in a cafe in Cambridge, writing about my first year as a freelance designer, a sleeping toddler by my side and the strongest conviction I have ever had that I am on the right path.

After my relationship ended, I took some time out in London and then decided to embark on parenthood alone. I came back to Cambridge with a few months rent in the bank and three months pregnant. I rented a house with a friend for a short while and then my first big break came. A friend of mine came to see me and explained that she and her family were going to be working abroad for a while, probably eighteen months to two years, and she asked if I would like to stay in the house while they were away. I was also taken aback by the kindness and generosity of my friends, they had a beautiful house right in the centre of Cambridge, bigger than any house I had ever lived in and Gertie and I could stay there without the fear of running out of rent money. Being there and having a little breathing space has changed my life and the direction I have chosen to take my work.

Working in Neros with the sleeping nipper

Working in Neros with the sleeping nipper

I have spent my first year finding my feet, beginning to carve out a niche for my work and mastering the art of maximising working hours (I have to work when the nipper sleeps which gives me an hour during her afternoon nap and three to five hours work when she has gone to bed in the evenings, with the odd all-nighter! This is the path I have chosen, and living in a close-knit community where everyone is on your doorstep helps no end). So far I have been so surprised and pleased by the work that has come in. I have done no marketing at all, except a few posts on Facebook and Twitter to friends telling them that I was now a freelance designer. I have had a continual stream of work coming in with no gaps so far and I have also started working the equivalent of a day a week for my old publisher in London, The English and Media Centre. In my first financial year, so far I have taken on 24 separate jobs, including five logos, eight websites, two book covers, four magazine illustrations and other online design work and a few admin jobs that have come along. It has been a steep learning curve and I have learned how best to structure new projects to keep both myself and my clients on track. By the end of this financial year I will apply this knowledge to update my website with all the new completed work, and perhaps more importantly will have created a pricing structure to more confidently reflect my skills and experience.

So now as I come to the end of my first freelancing year I have so many goals and aspirations for the year ahead. I have found that, although difficult, it isn’t impossible to socialise (and even date!) so I am beginning to differentiate the weekends from the rest of the week and save at least one evening away from the computer and the iPhone. I have also promised myself that I will find a little time to work on a personal project, whether it be a painting, poem or some other creative process. At the end of January I created The Art of Protest website (artofprotest.com) and have been building an online archive of inspiring protests from around the world. It’s a case of snatching ten minutes here and there to create new posts, but it is something that I feel passionately about and having this personal creative outlet inspires and feeds in to my other work in positive ways. Click here to read my opening statement about the Art of Protest website.

As the little one becomes two in May, I am planning on taking advantage of the fifteen free nursery hours available to those in my current income bracket and significantly increase my working hours this way (I might even have time to start ironing my clothes again!).

I am so pleased to have chosen this path and to have worked with a string of wonderful new clients this year, some of whom I am already working on second and third projects with. I look forward to growing the business, finding other freelancers to collaborate with, and welcoming even more fantastic new clients in the coming months.

I’m always keen to meet other Cambridge creatives, particularly other freelance mums, if you’re out there reading this, do get in touch 🙂