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A freelance brand designer

 2 May 2013

Fay Blakeley is a freelance brand designer and consultant in Cardiff. She discusses the joys of being her own boss, as well as the challenges of being ultimately accountable.

Fay co-founded a business before starting up her own brand design consultancy.
Fay co-founded a business before starting up her own brand design consultancy.

Getting into design

"I didn’t plan to work in the design industry. My degree is in Religious Studies.

"After graduating, I worked in events for a while, and then switched to a direct marketing agency for charities to work as a production manager.

"Working closely with creatives to manage production, as well as with the account management team on budgets and data segmentation, was a valuable experience.

"When things go well, the sense of achievement is immense."

"After six years I moved back to Cardiff, where I eventually co-founded Sweet, a design studio. I finally went solo and set up my own freelance branding and marketing business under my name, Fay Blakely."

Running a design business

"As I head up the business, I have to be very hands-on. My day can involve anything from client meetings, estimating, invoicing and researching for a brief to hoovering the floor!

"More officially, my job involves working with existing creative and design agencies, as well as directly with my own clients.

"I present and facilitate workshops and working sessions, helping my clients understand their brand positioning. This includes looking at:

  • core values
  • personality
  • tone of voice
  • brand promise.

"This means I either work from home or from a client’s office space."

The perks of being your own boss

"The best aspect of my job is being my own boss. When things go well, the sense of achievement is immense.

"It’s great to be accountable for the decisions I make. However, this also means that stress levels and hours can be greater than for being an employee.

"I’m a huge believer in collaboration, and this has also proved a really great way of learning from other talented, like-minded individuals." 

The challenge of being in charge

"There are new challenges every day. Setting up the business was easy – it’s keeping it going that’s tough!

"Challenges include finding new clients, fighting the clock and keeping a work-life balance so that I have time for my family.

"Another thing to think about is making sure I’m trained up to deal with the different aspects of running a business. For example, I have had to get to grips with all sort of things by learning on the job, from VAT to employment law."

Advice for a career in design

"If you want to work in design, learn how to present yourself. Presentation is key, from covering letter and CV layout through to verbally communicating your enthusiasm.

"I’m a huge believer in collaboration – a great way of learning from other talented people."

"Location is also still important, despite being in a digital age. A designer's work is about communication and relationships, and I often find that buyers want to have their agency ‘local’ to them. Design still is very London-centric.

"In my opinion, colleges should nurture creativity and enthusiasm, not worry about setting 'real life' scenarios. This is the sort of on-the-job training that you can only learn in a studio."

Are you interested in a career in design? Check out Get Into Design for case studies, career profiles and expertise.

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