We are excited to be taking the conversation international again this week, this time with Creative Lady Directory member Kelsey Hutchinson from Australia.
Kelsey is a designer & illustrator who creates handcrafted identities, printed matter, illustration and lettering for kind people. She brings together a perfectly imperfect design sensibility and a personal transparent environment — one that results in thoughtful design and sustainable outcomes. Thank you so much, Kelsey, for sharing your wisdom with us!
Tell me about your path to becoming a freelance designer and illustrator?
Shortly after graduating from a design degree in my homeland of Australia, I set off to travel for a few months and found myself residing in London. I was invited to intern at a couple of fancy design studios where I was contributing to concept ideas for pharmaceutical companies and banks. I instantly felt this wasn’t the road for me. That being said, I soaked up the experience and felt it was a good place to start before I decided what was next. Shortly after, I landed a full-time position as an in-house designer at a high-end lifestyle brand. My role here was incredibly broad and included styling, assisting in photo shoots, marketing media, textile print design as well as producing creative graphics required for an international brand. The experience I gained here was overwhelming and I will be forever grateful for what the position taught me. Towards the end of my time in London I went freelance for the very same company and worked on a retainer. I began to source my own clients for the days I had available. When I wasn’t working, I was taking short trips to Europe and spending my time exploring the city and generally making the most of being a twenty-something. It was an eventful time in my life and not how I imagined transitioning into full time freelance. I’m now back home, living and working from a little Beach Shack studio smack bang by the sea on the Sunshine Coast, Australia.
In the beginning, how did you attract your first good clients?
EMAIL. Whether I was cold-emailing someone that I admired to casually meet for a coffee or reaching out to a friend of a friend or even a previous work colleague. I also asked friends to introduce me to people within their circle via email, this encouraged a more natural conversation! Sure some came back with ‘sorry we are not interested’ or ‘we don’t think you're the right fit’ and of course some didn’t reply at all. However many people did get back to me and provided me with the opportunity to produce some of the work I am most proud of and relationships that have been invaluable.
We love how you call your design sensibility perfectly imperfect. Tell us a little bit more about your style.
I’ve always been naturally pulled towards objects and things that are a little off. I grew up with my mum collecting beautiful trinkets and ceramics so I have a feeling this may have something to do with it! I like the asperity and asymmetry in design and have always been drawn to the overtly handmade. With the current makers movement this may be in my favour, but it will always be my personal taste and I feel overjoyed when clients reach out seeking this.
What has been your greatest struggle as a freelance creative so far?
It would have to be comparing opportunities I would have living in a bustling city versus a surf town (thank you internet!). Also, not knowing when enough is enough is something else I struggle with, there is always something else to work on after you have crossed off all your to do’s for the day.
What is your favorite thing about freelance?
1. Direct contact with clients and the satisfaction of seeing a job through from start to finish.
2. For a short trip this month I can simply plan to work evenings for a week so I can explore Tasmania by day.
3. Days at home with my Aussie Shepherd pup Birdie!
What do you do to stay creatively inspired?
Without a doubt, travel! Last year I went backpacking with my partner for three months. We made it through Morocco, Spain, Sicily and Portugal, always aiming for places considered off the beaten track (places like Azores and Tafedna). I love seeking out the unexpected. I also live by the ocean and hinterland, so getting away from the mac and going for a drive through the mountains or swimming in the sea over the Aussie summer cures just about anything.
What advice would you give to a fellow designer who is thinking about going out on her own?
When I was completing my design degree I would envy designers blogging about the freelance lifestyle. Back then I didn’t realise the resilience, persistence, careful email wording, tears, the guilt of missing a deadline and the general highs and lows of the job. Don’t get distracted by the beautiful social media outlets and remember that anything worth doing takes a lot of hard work.
The 3 greatest attributes you need to be a freelance creative are:
Be persistent, stay humble & don’t take yourself too seriously.