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Image / Editorial

There are perks to being a freelance worker, but here’s the reality


by Louise Bruton
25th Oct 2019

Justine King and Tara Stewart

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Freelance work in Ireland - Justine King and Tara Stewart

In part one of this three-part series, I introduce the real-life challenges of working the seemingly glamorous job of a creative freelancer in the Irish media sector


Working in media and, indeed, working as a freelancer has its charms and perks. Free tickets to gigs, events with booze and teeny, tiny canapés and previews of new music, films or fashion lines land in our inbox on a weekly basis. We often get to work from home and choose our own hours.

But for all the perks, there are long working days and weeks that run into each other, non-existent social lives and tax returns that must be done.

When I read Vulture‘s recent piece on how indie musicians actually make money, the number of side gigs that these people did so that they could fuel their main passion felt very familiar. Whether you’re in a touring indie band, a creative or working in media, it’s more than likely that you are balancing multiple jobs so you can make a living and do what you love.

It never stops

It’s often said that if you do what you love, then you’ll never work a day in your life – but the reality is that if you do what you love, you never actually stop working.

“Nobody enjoys the chasing invoices part of being your own boss…”

I spoke to five of the hardest-working women I know in Irish media and asked them about the work that goes on behind the Instagram posts. Most of them are self-employed, with the occasional contract job, and, unsurprisingly, most work seven-day weeks and love every minute of it. Well, almost every minute. Nobody enjoys the chasing invoices part of being your own boss.

Each one of these women is incredibly successful in their own right and they’ve worked very hard to get to the point they’re at now. So, just in case you never realised just how hard and how much they work, I’ll let them explain for themselves. First up, Tara Stewart and Justine King.

Next in the series, I’ll be speaking to these inspiring women:

Andrea Cleary: broadcaster, culture writer, music critic, social media specialist, tech blogger, copywriter.

Ruth Medjber: marketing & PR, stylist, terrible graphic designer (we disagree), studio manager, cleaner, lighting engineer, copywriter, re-toucher. AKA… photographer.

Claire Beck: DJ, radio presenter, producer, researcher, music manager, mentor, voice-over artist, choreographer/director, event planner, promoter, stage manager, performer, costume designer, booker, writer, podcast host, accountant. 

Let’s get started…

 

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Tara Stewart

What’s your official job title?
DJ and radio presenter.

What other jobs do you do under that banner?
Freelance writer, brand collaborations on Instagram (influencer… hashtag sponsored content), MC.

What’s an average working day for you?
Each day is different. Some days I could start radio at 9 am, or noon until 4 pm. In radio, I present entertainment news on-air. Between being on-air, I work on gigs and emails trying to juggle all my freelance bits. 

A lot of days, I DJ from about 6 pm for three to six hours. Other days, I start radio in the morning at 8 am and could be in until super late at night. I have numerous hats to juggle each day, working on my on-air work, speaking to brands and clients about gigs and always thinking of what I can do to further myself all the time.

Lately, I wish I had a bit more free time to be creative. I know this sounds silly, but I want to start playing around with make-up, but I don’t have the free time to be doing that. Don’t worry; I’m not becoming a MUA! I just mean for myself.

I also want to re-do a dressmaking course and go to Ballymaloe Cookery School one day and go travelling around Asia for a year, but I don’t know when I’ll have the time for that! I also don’t know when I’ll feel I can take the time off my career to do something like that.

How many days of the week do you work?
I work in radio five days and some evenings doing gigs on the weekends. So, it can be from five to seven days.

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Do your mates/family think you’re mad?
My mates think I’m mad for always working and always thinking I need to do more. Maybe I’ll never be satisfied (LOL – bit grim?) but I just love what I do and love to work.

I mean, I love money too – so I’m not gonna say that’s not a huge reason why I love to work so much. A massive part is being worried that next month I will get no work.

I get overwhelmed sometimes with everything. But I’ve worked really hard on my mental health so I think I have a good handle on things. I won’t lie, though.  I wish I socialised more with my friends. I just don’t have much free time so try spend that by myself or with my boyfriend.

Do you ever see a day where you can cut out the side gigs? And would you want to?
I don’t think so. I’m on the radio [as my main job], so DJing is kind of my side gig – but I love both jobs. I would hate to give one up for the other. I compare my life now to what it used to be.

I was a waitress DJing gigs I didn’t enjoy, just for the experience and to earn money. I did so many gigs for free, but now I get paid to do what I really love, which is play music for people and make people dance.

So, the answer, I think, is… no, I wouldn’t want to.

 

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Justine King

What’s your official job title?
I’m a freelance fashion stylist.

What other jobs do you do under that banner?
Aside from styling, I’m the creative consultant for a fashion brand, a regular fashion contributor to Virgin Media Television’s Xposé. I am an occasional fashion and lifestyle journalist, covering Fashion Week for the Irish Times in the past. I also work as a voiceover artist, voicing TV, radio and online commercials.

So, those are just the various different “jobs” I do, but within being a self-employed sole trader, I wear all of the hats in running my own business, from PR manager to accountant. The list is endless!

What’s an average working day for you?
It’s such a clichéd response but, literally, no two days are the same. So what might be best is to describe today. I logged on to social media as soon as I woke to plan and post the day’s content for the fashion brand I consult for. I also responded to outstanding emails.

Then my first job of the day was shooting some commercial fashion segments with Xposé, so I was shooting on location from 9 am to 2 pm. From there, I went straight to my next job, pulling looks for a shoot I have with Arnotts later in the week.

When I wrapped up there, I returned any pieces from this morning’s shoot to the shops I got them from. In the evening, I caught up with admin – emails, invoicing and VAT returns – before logging back on to social media to post more on behalf of the fashion brand.

All in all, my working day was 7 am – 10 pm and that’s pretty standard hours when I’m busy.

How many days of the week do you work?
It really depends, week-to-week. Some weeks I’ll work six days, some weeks I’ll only be booked three days, but will fill the other days working on planning for future work or contacting brands with ideas.

I need the quieter weeks like that in order for it to be sustainable. Ideally, I’d have someone else reaching out to brands and managing my bookings, but I’ve tried that before and it just works best for me being in control of all elements of the business, from initial enquiry to invoicing after the job.

It probably means I’m a control freak, but you kind of need to be obsessed with your job to survive the craziness when things are busy.

Do your mates/family think you’re mad?
I think my family thought I was mad when I first decided this was what I wanted to do. I didn’t have any contacts in the industry and it probably seemed a bit idealistic that I’d be able to make any money doing this.

But it’s been 10 years now since my first ever fashion internship and I think I’ve proven to them that I can create a sustainable life for myself doing what I love.

My friends think it’s mad how many evenings a week I give up to attend work events for no financial gain, but they also know I work in a job I absolutely love so, if anything, they admire that.

The reason I chose a job in a creative industry is because every job is so different.

Do you ever see a day where you can cut out the side gigs? Would you want to?
I don’t think I would want to. There aren’t any of my various jobs that I don’t enjoy. I’d definitely be bored doing the same type of shoots day in, day out.

The reason I chose a job in a creative industry – and not in an office where I’d probably earn four times what I earn now –  is because every job is so different and you work with different people all of the time.

I definitely hope to see a day where regular, well-paid work is almost guaranteed and I can pick and choose the jobs I really want to do. I can already see that starting to happen, which only motivates me to work harder.

Stay tuned to IMAGE.ie for more real-life experiences of freelancers in Ireland.

Feature photo: Tara Stewart


Read more: Will I be able to earn enough to live?

Read more: Diversity is more than a buzzword in fashion

Read more: Improving your negotiation skills at work

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