CoLab event

Happy New Year everyone 🙂

As I thought might be the case there hasn’t been a great deal of interesting creative-ness happening in my life since the previous update; I went up to Wales the weekend after and helped move furniture, Christmas happened shortly afterward where I went home to my parents, ate lots of food, watched some TV and met up with family and overall time just went by far too quickly.

Back in Bristol my time staying at my cousins is coming to an end so my priority at the moment is to find some work to help pay for accommodation, then go house/flat hunting. There’s some interesting animation/illustration projects that are hopefully forming for me at the moment but in the short term I need something consistent money wise, so that’s what my New Year so far has been focused on.

However I did attend an event at CoLab yesterday evening that I think is worth listing the notes from as much of what they said is really interesting and relevant to lots of specialisms. It was a session involving three local creatives- Mike Shipley (Illustrator), Kim Thomson (‘Creative Practitioner’ – creates multidisciplinary work) and Harriet Kingaby (Creative Marketing) discussing how they got where they are, what they’ve learned in the process of getting there and giving generally useful advice. As before with events similar to this I’ll list the points I think were most interesting or relevant. It’ll be a typing up of the notes I made at the time, rather than a full recounting, and whilst I’ve added to some of them don’t go in expecting complete sentences or anything. I hope it’s interesting/helpful to someone.

CoLab in Bristol. It's right in the center of Bristol and if you've walked through the town centre you'll have walked past it, but no one I spoke to in the last few days seems to know it.

CoLab in Bristol. It’s right in the centre of Bristol; if you’ve walked through the town centre you’ll have walked past it, but no one I spoke to in the last few days seems to know it; a real shame, it’s a great little place.

Mike Shipley – Recently finished a collaboration with writer Ben Galley to turn one of his books into a graphic novel.

– He found this job via, a website for finding freelance artists, designers, animators etc. You don’t always get the best money for this though, everyone’s competing on price. Mike got chosen for this role because he was really keen, basically starting work on it before he was given the job.

Kickstarter – How lots of small projects get funded now, including this one. You have to be realistic about the money though – Mike ended up living on £4000 for two years as A) he thought it’d take less time than that and B) thought that amount would cover it.

Tips: Make a detailed contract, including a section on amendments to work, making sure you’re getting paid for any changes you have to make (eg; half the item cost). Has the benefit of the employer having to decide if they really want that change enough to pay for it.

– Make sure your job quote is reasonable, don’t underestimate time, costs etc. Consider how you’re going to support yourself – Don’t undersell your abilities.

– Include a section on copyright/royalties.

– Never do work for free or for ‘promises’ (exposure, more work, etc). It pulls the whole industry down if people are giving their skills away for free.

– Separate life from work. Get a studio so that you’re not working from home and it’s easier to manage time-wise. Work healthy hours and get a rest from doing it.

Promoting: For this project they already had a fanbase from the books they were adapting from but they also placed ads in comic books/relevant websites/comic shops. Social media played a part.

– Had to create artwork purely to promote it (eg; rewards on Kickstarter page, conecpt art, etc). When making a kickstarter you have to put the effort into making it presentable graphically. Get this written into the contract as being paid for? (remember Kickstarter has a kind of ‘indie’ vibe though).

Quoting for work – Always used to underquote, but now after this Mike overquotes and negotiates more.

– Reputation and Contacts are key to getting jobs.

– If you’re not getting enough money from it make sure you’re getting something else of value from the project. Promises with no backing aren’t enough.

– If you’re asking about the budget (in relation to how much you should charge them) talk about ‘tiers’ of quality – you can do a better job with more money as you’ll have more time. Make mock ups to demonstrate this?


Kim Thomson – Creates jewellery, small pieces of multidisciplinary art and holds workshops on creating things.

– Multidisciplinary = self employed in everything, she finds it easier to find work that way. Does workshops for ADHD children and other disabilities.

– Rubbish at school, got diagnosed with dyslexia at Uni and graduated with a 1st.

– advised only giving your time away for free if you’re getting something useful from it yourself.

– Found tutoring much easier than teaching as there’s nowhere near as much paperwork.

– Got funding to start her business from Business Link, Arts Council and Princes Trust.

– Studied a ‘certificate in learning’ – much easier than a PGCE

– Building up trust and friendship with children is the most important part of what she does, not so much the technical skills; found that people prefer coming back to someone they know and trust even if they’re not the best at woodwork, for example.

– Recommended the AA2A website, on the site is a pay scale to help with charging for work. Your pay scale should increase based on your experience and the time you’ve spent working in your profession.

– It’s okay to stop doing what you studied your degree in if you’re no longer enjoying it.

Pricing: Created ‘menus’ for each material type and workshop, showing the differences in cost (whilst Kim charged the same hourly rate the material costs vary) as well as examples of finished things.

CV’s: Make it vibrant (I’m not sure ‘vibrant’ is always the best advice personally, the rest seems good though), clear to read and well-organised – artists seem in her opinion to put very little effort into CV’s in regards to layout and spelling.

– Cons of self employment; – No colleagues, Tax returns

Advice for Uni students; Don’t work hard, work smart. Don’t put all your effort into the wrong areas (examples included degree shows with average work but amazing display cabinets). What are the main objectives for the project – Those should be the focus.

Q&A – What do you wish you’d known?;

– A degree doesn’t cut it by itself, you either need experience or an additional boost in education if experience alone doesn’t work out.

– It’s okay to change your mind on your career

– There’s lots of help out there for setting up businesses but you have to find it (Princes Trust, Arts Trust). Phone up and ask to speak to someone about getting help if the website is too daunting (they often are).


Harriet Kingaby – Freelance Creative Marketing Consultant

– Worked for agencies for years before going freelance.

– Marketing is about far more than just selling.

– Started at Energy Saving Trust testing white goods before moving to the art department – Interdisciplinary thinking was key to that (acting as a bridge between the two groups)

– Moved through lots of companies, learning lots about PR, building up experience to eventually become a consultant.

You can move from a creative background to marketing very easily, and it’s a big skill to be able to tell good/bad design.

Advantages/Disadvantages of a large agency/brand vs small;

Small – You’ll do everything, from the initial phone call through to the final product.

– You’ll have to work silly hours to get projects done.

– Learn by your own mistakes as there’s much less of a support network

Large – You’ll become much more specialised

– Be part of a team

– Bureaucratic – can take a while to get promoted

– Ad campaigns can take years and years – Everything has to be focus tested

Questions to ask yourself:

– Do I want to work on lots of different brands?

– Sell or Influence?

– How important is the output?

– Do I want to specialise or get broad experience?- Go for broad first?

Getting clients as freelance:

– Harriet looked at agencies, contacted some of the higher ups and met up with them

– Created a ‘dossier’ of what she does and can provide to help with those meetinngs

– ‘Have coffee’ with lots of people and follow up ‘with Christmas cards’ – Make contacts and keep in touch, maintain your relationships

– Storytelling is key to selling yourself; What is your story?

Networking advice:

– Go straight to the drinks table, find someone else looking scared and mention how much you hate these things.

– Try to roleplay, take yourself out of yourself, fill a role you wouldn’t usually. Think of yourself as a designer trying to meet clients, for example.

– Assume the posture of a confident person – lots of V shape in your body posture (arms on hips, legs apart, etc – don’t appear angry though :P).

– Specific cultures grow really strong within agencies, research them well before getting involved properly; is it somewhere you want to be? When there use the agency bar (if they have one) to meet people. If there’s somewhere in particular you want to work research the heads of departments and offer to meet for coffee. Suggest something they’re missing in the company (something you specialise in?)

– Follow people who work where you want to work on Twitter, see what events they go to

– Demonstrate that you’re interested and follow what’s going on in the industry

– Write/make some kind of commentary on it (Blog/Video/media content etc).

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