Turning your labour of love into success
What does it take to have a career that you’ll love as a creative freelancer? It was a popular question raised by attendees of the Fair for Freelancers on 7 September 2016. We spoke to TFCS Art Mentors Clara Yee and Candice Phang and TFCS Freelance Writer and Designer Desiree Ng on how they started pursuing their passion, their motivation and what keeps them going through the highs and lows of building satisfying and rewarding careers as professional freelancers in Singapore.
Clara’s Tip: Balance Work with Your Life’s Essentials
Clara started freelancing while she was studying at Temasek Design School, and subsequently at Central St Martins, where she sought out opportunities to apply her skills and gain industry experience. At just 25, she has worked with major brands such as luxury fashion house Alexander McQueen, Airbnb, Warner Music and the Singapore Tourism Board.
On the advent of Singapore’s freelancer movement, Clara says, “It’s nice to see that the market is finally getting ready for freelancers. Going freelance is really like starting a business on your own, and learning to absorb the entire breadth and depth of it all. There is a whole lot more to learn… there will definitely be issues which you will not even be aware of at the beginning,” she shares.
Having earned a diverse portfolio of works ranging from fashion and experiential design to illustration, what factors did the art director think were crucial to establishing her career?
“After I graduated and spent some time in full-time employment, I wanted to design my own career in keeping with what I felt was a global shift in perspectives about work and career. I was looking for creative freedom to explore areas that do not necessarily have a place in another set-up.
What I’ve learnt over the past two years of working for myself is that I need a balance of financial, emotional and creative independence for any of these areas to truly function. It doesn’t work if you only focus on one area over others,” she reflects.
Candice’s Tip: Be prepared to hustle (while wearing many hats)
This TFCS Art Mentor may be working with established brands now such as Rimowa, Chanel and Vans on commissioned illustration works and even animation (for Harper’s Bazaar Singapore), but things were not always as rosy when she was starting out as a freelancer. Candice points out that while the rewards can be plentiful, making a career out of freelancing takes persistence and grit.
“Be prepared to hustle if you want to make it work!” Candice shares. “As a freelance professional, you have to wear a lot more hats – that of the accountant, the admin, the project manager, the creative and so on,” she explains.
How does one put aside the sense of financial security that comes with a regular income flow from a day job, and take the leap into full-time freelancing? Candice reckons that nothing quite compares to the sense of an ownership that comes with working for herself. “As a self-employed illustrator, every project is my baby. I watch them grow, and finally hand them over to the clients when the project has “matured” – that’s by far one of the most rewarding parts of the job.”
Persevere, be prepared to work hard, and not take things for granted. A good attitude definitely goes a long way!
Desiree’s Tip: Identify The Mentors in Your Life
In the course of gaining industry experience, TFCS Freelance Writer and Illustrator Desiree Ng, has quickly dispelled the myth that all a professional writer does is write. The Bachelor of Fine Arts undergraduate is pursuing Visual Communication and Communication Studies at Nanyang Technological University, and cites the importance of seeking out mentors and feedback for continuous improvement.
“I have many mentors to thank for guiding me along the way. When I was working at The Singapore Women’s Weekly,TFCS Editor Mentor Candy Lim (who was then the magazine’s Features Editor), shared many insights with me about collaborative environments, that help to put things into perspective for me as a first-time freelancer.
My drawing class professor, Ng Woon Lam, is one of the teachers who I deeply admire. Coming from a science background, I could relate to his journey as an engineer-turned-painter. He showed me how to push my learning curve by seeking mentorship from people you admire, by pursuing continuous improvement, and by finding ways to work smart.
The freelance industry is bigger than I realised! And it’ll only grow from here on. It was interesting to see so many many students come down to find out more, probably because many of us are starting to see it as a viable career option. With a stronger network of provided by platforms like The Fashion Collective Singapore, and better support for each freelancer, more of us will be encouraged to go into freelancing.”
TFCS Freelance Writer and Designer Desiree Ng shares her experience of starting out as a creative freelancer while pursuing her tertiary studies.
TFCS Makeup Mentor Ginger puts the final touches on TFCS Art Mentor Candice Phang before the shoot.
TFCS Makeup Mentor Ginger Lynette had a pleasant surprise when Aishah, a regular customer from her days of working as counter staff at M.A.C. Cosmetics, popped by the event to lend her support.