Where passion goes overtime: the perks of being a freelancer

In the third and final part of this series, we chat with three women who have worked hard, balancing multiple jobs to make a name for themselves in their different industries


As the Irish economy goes on an ever-changing identity crisis, some people have to create their own employment opportunities to earn money and make a living. Self-starters and forward-thinkers, this way of working often means that days off are a rarity and the lines between work and play are often blurred.

Over the course of this series, we've heard from music writer Andrea Cleary, photographer Ruth Medjber, DJ and radio presenter Claire Beck, fashion stylist Justine King and DJ and all-round buzzer Tara Stewart. Two things that they all have in common is that they are incredible at what they do but the traditional working week doesn't apply to them. However, none of them is willing to trade in what they do for anything else. Their passion runs high and they're a testament that it takes the whopper combination of hard work, self-discipline and talent to succeed.

This week, we hear from costume designer Saileóg O'Halloran, make-up artist Holly Fitzsimons and communications coordinator Julie Blakeney. Three extremely different women, they take their own approach to work and set their own pace in order to get the job done.

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Saileóg O’Halloran 

freelancing in Ireland

What’s your official job title?
Costume Designer

What other jobs do you do under that banner?
Designer, assistant, stylist, friends' clothing consultant, etc.

What’s an average working day for you?
It depends on what job I'm on and what stage I'm at with it. My most recent job was Macnas, where an average day would be 8.30 am start followed by check-in with all makers to see where we're at. I could then have individual fittings, discussions with directors and other designers, fabric selecting or decisions to be made on costumes — all working towards group fittings in the evening. Once they were done, and notes were made, I would recap on everything and look at what's in store the following day. Usually, I'd be home by 8.30/9 pm.

How many days of the week do you work?
Minimum five and a maximum of seven. It depends on the job, where it is and what it needs from me.

Do your mates/family think you’re mad?
Most definitely but they still support me which is brilliant.

Do you ever see a day where you can cut out the side gigs?/Would you want to?
Every single job is different and helps me learn more and more about my industry and myself. A side gig can sometimes lead to something bigger and incredibly exciting so I don't think I'll cut them any time soon.

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Holly Fitzsimons

freelancing in Ireland

What’s your official job title?
Supervisor at MAC Cosmetics, make-up artist, media product specialist and social media manager.

What other jobs do you do under that banner?
At MAC, I’m always on the floor, just like any of the other artists but with added responsibility as a supervisor. I’m still required to sell and reach a target so I’m still a salesperson as before. I’ve also taken on the role in MAC as a media product specialist for the second time. This is a six-month role where you create looks for the team, based on new collections we launch in-store, to wear on a weekly basis. I also help run the store social media.

At Cowboys and Angels, I’m the make-up artist and social media manager. I work there most weekends and help with Instagram throughout the week.

What’s an average working day for you?
Each day varies depending on where I am. Because I work at MAC in the airport, I could be up at 2 am or 10 am. Most days consist of being on counter working alongside the team, doing customers' make-up and helping them choose the correct products while also trying to reach a target. As a supervisor, you’re also someone who’s there to help support the rest of the management team. This could be to do with figures, training, events, you name it. 

At the beginning of the week, I will create mood boards and write up details on a look the team will be required to wear one day that week. This will always be based on new products we’ve launched in-store. I work alongside the lovely Aoife whom I share the media product specialist role with, so the workload is always shared. We’re also responsible for running the Instagram account of MAC in Terminal 1.

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At Cowboys and Angels, I work every second Saturday or any weekend I get off. Here I do make-up on our lovely clients. I love doing make-up especially when clients let me get creative. I also work alongside Sheila to run the Instagram and Facebook page throughout the week.

How many days of the week do you work?
I work five to seven days a week. 

Do your mates/family think you’re mad?
Sometimes I think I’m mad myself! Even though I don’t see them as often as I’d like, my family and friends are all really supportive of me and know that I want to create a future for myself and be independent. I get tired, like us all, but I really believe if you work hard you will get to where you want to be.

Do you ever see a day where you can cut out the side gigs?/Would you want to?
Make-up is my passion so I hope to still be doing that in 20 years time. I don’t see myself working on a make-up counter forever but while I’m with a great brand and continue to have people who believe in me there I’ll stay, progress and get as much experience as I can get.  Eventually, I would probably like to have more than three days off a month but I'm content at the minute as each job is very different and I enjoy them all.

Julie Blakeney

freelancing in Ireland

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What’s your official job title?
Hmm, that is an interesting question and it is one I'm currently finding hard to define! I do a ton of different jobs that vary in theme but the main action they all loop back to is communications. Right now, I'd call myself a communications collaborator. 

What other jobs do you do under that banner?
I head up a communications business called Jailbird. We work with lots of different agencies and brands on PR, sponsorship management and communications strategy. I also own a fitness business called Fearless Moves which hosts fun, music-themed HITT/ Dance classes in pop up spaces across Ireland. I recently started a podcast called Wait Till I Tell Ya with my pals Sarah Byrne and Luke Reilly, where we gather gas stories and invite our mates on to tell their own stories. 

What’s an average working day for you?
Varied is one word to describe it. I'm a little fanatical about utilising my time correctly as I have so much going on. I'm a massive proponent of weekly actions lists. I generally get up at 6 am and exercise. This makes me far more alert for the day ahead and puts me in a good mood. I'm a news obsessive — kind of goes with the territory — so I listen to Irish radio in the morning and then usually the Guardian or Gimlet news podcasts throughout the day. 

I generally have two or three meetings or calls with clients or team members. While this is an essential part of what I do, anyone who works with me will tell you that I'm obsessed with 'desk time'. Writing forms a huge part of any communications professional's role and having time to sit and think is key to creating good plans, key message documents or a well-written sell in an email to media. 

I do my best not to work past 6 pm as I'm a big believer in having downtime that helps you unwind and ultimately energises you and makes you more creative. In the evenings I might do yoga, meet up with pals or work on elements of our podcast or work on Fearless Moves plans. I don't really see those tasks as work chores. I do my best to be in bed before 10 pm as sleep is key to me fitting everything in the next day. Boring but true!

How many days of the week do you work?
Mainly five days but I do tend to work weekends and evenings if I have events for clients or Fearless Moves classes. Again, this doesn't really feel like work which is handy!

Do your mates/family think you’re mad?
They think I love to work and they would be right. I get amazing satisfaction from all elements of my profession and I'm incredibly lucky and grateful to be in that situation.

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Do you ever see a day where you can cut out the side gigs?/Would you want to?
No, I love it. I have a brain that tends to get bored very easily. I learned long ago that if I'm not constantly on the go, I get anxious and feel down. I know it sounds weird, but the more I do, the more I feel energised to take on more. I think I'll always work in communications but the beauty of what I do is that it can be applied to lots of different types of businesses and projects.


Read more: There are perks to being a freelance worker, but here's the reality

Read more: Irish artists taking to the streets: Meet Holly Pereira and Jess Tobin

Read more: Trying to start a 'side hustle'? Here's six tips to remember (before you do)

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