London

Mélanie Johnsson

Mélanie Johnsson is a freelance graphic designer, illustrator and letterer from France, now living in London. She designs for brands across different fields: luxury, travel, cosmetics, art, fashion and also loves to work with passionate individuals. We are so glad to have come across her work through our Creative Lady Directory and excited to share her wisdom with you, enjoy!

Melanie Johnsson | Freelance Wisdom

Tell me about your path to becoming a freelance graphic designer, illustrator, and letterer.

I come from a French family of designers and all round creative people. I was raised knowing that I could one day earn a living doing what I love, whatever it might be. I always knew I wanted to make things, but it took me a while to figure out exactly what. I went to art school in Paris thinking I would become a shoe designer. But instead, I fell in love with graphic design and photography. After I graduated, I traveled to Chile for a few months on my own, and that’s where my love for illustration was born. I spent all my time drawing and I have never stopped since. Drawing keeps me sane and happy.
I moved to London around 3 years ago. I first found a graphic design position in a travel company where I worked for a year, before realising that freelance life was calling for me. I took the plunge to work for myself and simultaneously became obsessed with brush lettering! Everything snowballed from there.

In the beginning, how did you attract your first good clients? 

The beginning was all word of mouth. The design world in London is really diverse but a lot of people know each other, and if you always strive to do a great job and are lovely to work with, people will happily recommend you to their friends and/or clients. The key is to do always do your best work, things will grow organically from that. I also got a few clients from Instagram and I still do get lots of projects through this platform. It really amazes me how powerful it is!
Mélanie Johnsson | Freelance Wisdom

Do you have any tips for being your most productive? 

I always tidy my workspace a the end of each day so that I start the next day with a wonderfully clean and tidy desk. A tidy environment equals a clear mind, and that’s very helpful when you need to be creative. I’m obsessed with making to do lists, I drink a lot of tea (Oh no, I’m turning British!) and try to exercise everyday. I believe you have to be healthy to be your most productive.

What has been your greatest struggle as a freelancer so far? 

My biggest struggle so far has been to navigate the high and lows of freelance life. The busy periods versus the less busy periods. It’s a natural thing, especially when you’re starting out, but it can easily make you feel worthless and stressed.
My best remedy is to keep doing what you love, work on personal projects and get your work noticed. Oh and also, take care of yourself.
Mélanie Johnsson | Freelance Wisdom

How do you continue to attract your ideal clients? 

The magic of social media and putting yourself out there! I get a lot of dream clients from Instagram. I think the key is to keep sharing what you do. Doing work that you love will attract similar dream jobs.
This year though, I decided to make the move to only working with brands and people that are doing things differently for the better, standing for the same creativity and meaningful causes (read: preserve the planet) that I do. So I am now actively looking for these brands and reaching out to them, hoping their actions coupled with my creative skills can help spread awareness.

Do you have any tips for dealing with the nitty-gritty business details? 

Being organised and thorough is key if you’re thinking of being your own boss. I’ve got a pretty good system to invoice, chase and do all the bookkeeping bits. I don’t use any app, I just do it all on my computer. I found a little accountancy company that I pay only when I need my tax return to be done, it’s a life saver!
Mélanie Johnsson | Freelance Wisdom

Since you are your own boss, do you have any advice for maintaining a work-life balance?

I don’t really differentiate work from life. They’re completely intertwined and that’s how I love it. I know I need to be happy and healthy to make great work, because as a creative, my mind - and my right hand - are my most important tools. I’m good at saying no to work that doesn’t feel right, at taking naps when needed, at taking time off to travel and feel inspired. It’s all pretty intense, but I like it this way. (I hope this isn’t bad advice! Everyone should find a system that works for them and allow them to be their best self).

If you could share one thing with your "just starting out" self, what would it be? 

Be patient and trust that things will naturally work out.

How do you stay creatively inspired?

I try to stay curious and open-minded. Nature and travel are my greatest source of inspiration, closely followed by cinema and people. I am a sucker for great stories, fictional or real ones.
Mélanie Johnsson | Freelance Wisdom
Melanie Johnsson | Freelance Wisdom

Any music, podcast, or book recommendations that you'd like to share?

Oh, I am obsessed with podcasts. Working from my home studio and on my own most of the time, it’s delightful to listen to people chat as if they were next to me. My current favourites are Kermode & Mayo’s film review (for film lovers - bonus: they’re hilarious), Stuff you should know (for random but interesting facts), Clever (for the best interviews of designers) and Design Matters (for the fantastic Debbie Millman).
In terms of music, I’ve been playing the soundtrack of Call me by your name on repeat and have been loving Joanna Newsom’s album Divers. Other than that, I’m very into 80’s music (David Bowie, Michael Jackson, Queen amongst other). It never fails to lift my spirits.
Book wise, I just finished The Course of Love by Alain de Botton and How to stop time by Matt Haig which I both loved.
Mélanie Johnsson | Freelance Wisdom

Are there any projects on which you're ruminating that you'd like to make time for someday?

So many! There is this big editorial project I’ve been obsessed with for a few years and am now starting to work on and trying to assemble a team to help. I’m hoping to have it become reality in the next couple of years. Other than that, I’d like to find time to start making fun videos - brush lettering and illustration tutorials, behind the scenes and other gems.

The 3 greatest attributes you need to be a freelance creative are:

Perseverance, curiosity, resilience.
Mélanie Johnsson | Freelance Wisdom

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Anjelica Roselyn

Anjelica Roselyn is a womenswear designer and fashion illustrator based in London. Her fun and unique illustration style has gained recognition from fashion icons such as Pat McGrath, Marc Jacobs, Jeremy Scott, Anna Sui, Adam Selman, Marco de Vincenzo, and Ohne Titel. We are especially loving how she is making waves in the live illustration space.   

Photo by Miles Drury

Photo by Miles Drury

In the beginning, how did you attract your first good clients? 

I think it’s a combination of being consistent - having a good portfolio that showcases your work/who you are as an artist, and consistently putting out new work. Also you can’t be shy when it comes to contacting new companies. 

Do you have any tips for being your most productive? 

Stay inspired and pace yourself. If you’re constantly burning yourself out then you’re not going to be productive when it’s time to focus. 
Anjelica Roselyn | Freelance Wisdom

What is your favorite thing about freelance?

I think the fact that you learn so much every day through doing almost everything yourself. You may have a period of time where you’re working on the same project or piece of work but freelance work makes for a varied day to day - if you’re consistent.

How do you continue to attract your ideal clients? 

I don’t think I know the magic key to attract a client however I believe clients will always hire you because there is something unique about you. If they can hire someone else for doing the exact same thing, then they will. You have to naturally stand out. 
Anjelica Roselyn | Freelance Wisdom

Lately you've been illustrating live at events. Can you tell us a bit more about what that means and what you like about it? 

I love live illustrating because you don’t have to overthink what you’re drawing - it’s very in the moment. Also it’s great to see people’s instant reactions while you’re drawing, and when you finish drawing. Plus it’s great to draw in different environments. I think it’s a great way to make you a well rounded/well experienced illustrator.
Photo by Miles Drury

Photo by Miles Drury

Do you have any tips for dealing with the nitty-gritty business details? 

I’m still learning that myself but so far I just know that you have to clear out time completely to deal with these things. Blocking out a couple days or so at a time as opposed to trying to merge everything together. Also having spreadsheets/files (like an invoice template with your logo) saved already is a huge help.
Anjelica Roselyn | Freelance Wisdom

Are there any projects on which you're ruminating that you'd like to make time for someday?

Mostly a lot of merchandise for my online store, I have so many ideas that I wish to execute eventually. 

The 3 greatest attributes you need to be a freelance creative are:

Determination, Patience, Resilience.
Anjelica Roselyn | Freelance Wisdom

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Marta Bausells

Marta Bausells is a writer, freelance journalist, and editor currently living in London by way of Barcelona. She's a European Editor-at-Large at Literary Hub, she enjoys talking to strangers on the tube, and very soon, she'll be joining ELLE UK as Literary Editor. Her work has appeared online and in print in The Guardian, The Observer, VICE, Literary Review, Little White Lies, Electric Literature and more.

Thank you Marta for sharing your experience and wisdom.

Marta Bausells | Freelance Wisdom

Tell me about your path to becoming a freelance writer.

I started out as a reporter for a newspaper back in my hometown of Barcelona. I was still in college and the newspaper was new (in fact, it launched shortly after I joined), so the whole experience was a true baptism by fire. Like any start-up, it was a small-ish team and everyone did everything. I learned a lot there – not just journalism skills but also to develop the first layers of the thick skin that, I immediately learned, was necessary to work in the media today. A couple of years later, I got a job at the Guardian as community moderator. Moderating comments is a tough job – you see the uglier side of the internet, all day every day, and have to actively deal with it. It was technically a step down from what I was doing before, but I knew it was where I wanted to be. It was at the Guardian, and in London, and for a long time I practically had to pinch myself every time I walked into the building. 
After a year I got a role on the Cities desk, and from there moved to the Arts and Culture and Books desks. Many ups and downs later, I found myself a bit stuck in a role I’d been doing for two years and from which there were little chances to move on or upwards for complicated, structural reasons. I had learned an unimaginable amount and worked with incredible editors, and was terrified of leaving – if you’re in one of the top companies in your field, surely leaving can only be a step down? But that’s also one of the fear-based vicious circles that can get you stuck for years. 
The bottomline is: do what is right for you. While I wasn’t the most confident person at times, I had always known I wanted to write so I always freelanced a bit on the side on evenings and weekends. So when the moment came and the right conditions materialized for me to be able to make the leap, I did it – it’s now been a year, and it has all been a rollercoaster, but I couldn’t be happier! 
Marta Bausells | Freelance Wisdom
Marta Bausells | Freelance Wisdom

In the beginning, how did you attract your first good clients? 

My first clients were editors and media I had worked or collaborated with during my different jobs over the years. I have found that people tend to be quite open to strangers sending them ideas (if often too busy to pay attention to your emails). It is good to have been published and be able to show it, but what really matters is whether your pitch is good. In that sense, I did benefit from already knowing how to pitch to editors. I also got good work out of sending out-of-the-blue emails to people I didn’t know at all, but equally had many good ideas ignored or rejected (which, by the way, still happens all the time – it is part of the writer’s job!)

Do you have any tips for being your most productive? 

For me, the key has been to be honest with myself, prioritize and give myself deadlines. In the past, I constantly set myself up for failure through unrealistic expectations. Days only have 24 hours and you should spend some of them sleeping (really!) and ideally some having some kind of “a life,” so having a ridiculous to-do list with 50 items, however important they all are, won’t help you. And you’ll lose money in the process. 
I make a lot of lists and stay on top of my (now digital) calendar. I decide what I absolutely must (or really care about) getting done and plan around that, starting on it first. I give myself realistic deadlines (every two hours or so) followed by short breaks (take deep breaths, drink some water, go for a walk – they are miraculous). That way I am more focused (because I know a break is coming, and that I have to finish the task because something else comes after). It is a good system to free yourself from getting overwhelmed and to avoid stretching time (the more time you feel you have, the longer any given task will take).
I set specific times of the day to check my inbox to avoid spending my entire life only doing emails (I feel like I’d be capable of that?). Also, I put my phone well far from me and I have recently started disconnecting the Internet – or Facebook and Twitter, with apps like Self Control.
There really are hundreds of tips out there, but you have to find what works for you. Ironically, there is the pretty big danger of falling into an internet rabbit hole of productivity tips, morning routine recommendations, etc. Avoid it at all costs! It will only make you feel worse about your hard work and push you to compare yourself to other people – will it really help you to know that some super-humans have meditated, gone for a run and made a smoothie by the time you’re hitting snooze for the third time? 
Marta Bausells | Freelance Wisdom
Read this article that Marta co-wrote for The Guardian right  here . 

Read this article that Marta co-wrote for The Guardian right here

What has been your greatest struggle as a freelance writer so far?

Learning to say no. I have been known to suffer from “FOMO,” and work isn’t an exception. I am slowly learning to turn down opportunities that don’t make sense for me – because of the rate, or because they will stop me from doing work I really care about or that will get me closer to my long-term goals, or a combination of the two. Without wanting to go into the debate around working for free and the cases in which one might be okay with it, I have to pay rent and live in an expensive city, and equally importantly, my work and my time are worth more than air and a pat on the back. 

What is your favorite thing about freelance?

The freedom of being able to work from where I want, make my own schedule and be in control of my time. At this particular moment in my life, that is priceless. 
Samples of Marta's interviews for  Subway Book Review . 

Samples of Marta's interviews for Subway Book Review

How do you continue to attract your ideal clients? 

You have to put your work out there. My website, Twitter and even Instagram have helped me a lot – from getting commissions out of the blue from editors who’d stumbled upon my website, to meeting someone I admired on Twitter or Instagram DMs and ending up collaborating. There are some brilliant people who get hired on name or talent alone, without curating their own online presence, but you can count them on one hand. 

What do you do to keep your creative juices flowing? 

Read, read, read. And take myself out of my comfort zone as often as possible. 
Marta Bausells | Freelance Wisdom
Marta's summer book  recommendations .

Marta's summer book recommendations.

Do you have any tips for dealing with the nitty-gritty business details? 

I once heard from someone who spent her birthday day every month doing invoices and life admin, as a “get my shit together” day (shoutout to the Call Your Girlfriend podcast). I am going to try that approach, as it sounds as good as any! I try to invoice for my work almost immediately as I file it (or at least that same week) so that there is never a big backlog. As for bookkeeping and taxes, I am still figuring out the best formula for me, which means I am almost certainly going to hire an accountant!

Since you are your own boss, do you have any advice for maintaining a work-life balance?

Even if your line of work is your passion, you need to turn the work mode “off” from time to time – that is when a lot of the best ideas happen, by the way. Do whatever it takes to set boundaries, physical and mental, however out-there they seem. I even have two different background wallpapers in my laptop. Although of course, you really want to be as far from screens as possible when you’re not working. Get outside and see your friends and loved ones – schedule it in if you need to.
Regard exercise, sleep and healthy eating as essential, like you do breathing. I find that if I maintain this triad, my energy levels, motivation and focus are generally in good shape and my work benefits greatly. It’s so easy to fall into a stress spiral and put work before everything else – but I make an effort to be strict with boundaries. I also mix up the places where I work – I have a desk at home with plants and books that inspire me, but I also work in coffee shops I like and the British Library. Otherwise it can feel like I spent my whole life staring at the same four walls, and like work and life are one same continuum of different screens and pages. 
Finally, respect days off and holidays! And, in general: give yourself a break. 
Read Marta's full article for Literary Hub right  here . 

Read Marta's full article for Literary Hub right here

Marta Bausells | Freelance Wisdom

The 3 greatest attributes you need to be a freelance creative are:

Passion, work ethic, resilience. 
Marta Bausells | Freelance Wisdom

Portrait Photography by Liz Seabrook

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