10 things I wish I knew before I became a Freelance Interior Stylist
I’ve learned a lot of lessons over the years as an Interior Stylist. Here’s what I would share with new assistants
A few years ago I made a mistake and I felt I should have known better as an experienced Interior Stylist.
It doesn’t happen often but if someone had told me how to handle that situation from the moment I went freelance then I might have made better decisions. This post is all about the things I wish someone had told me from the start. The silly little pieces of advice that will make your life a little bit easier, smoother, and hopefully work-wise – busier.
Let me know what you think. Does this help? Have you got more advice to add to the list? Let me know in the comments below.
Get it in writing
This is a lesson I should have learned a long time ago. I found myself in a situation where I did a styling job without confirming how much I was going to be paid, what the expenses budget was, and any other details. It was an unusual situation and not one I have found myself in before where the client booked and communicated with me only via WhatsApp. Have you ever had that before?
I know that you should always get your fee and any other details confirmed before you buy even one prop – or write one word for that matter, but I thought I had it all figured out in my head. It turned out that I thought the fee was my fee + expenses. The client thought the whole budget included expenses. It was an expensive mistake and one that I haven’t let happen again.
That’s the main reason I created a rate card – so I wouldn’t have to have uncomfortable conversations about money. I’m pretty confident in my fees now but when I first started out I wasn’t and it helped to have a rate card to set the tone and get the ball rolling. You can listen to the podcast about Rate cards and how to set one up here or check out the blog post on rate cards here.
It’s also the reason I only work with a signed contract – but that’s a blog post for another day.
There’s no such thing as procrastination for an Interior Stylist
Really, there isn’t! I’ve heard this quite a lot recently on podcasts and the more I hear it the more I think it rings true. Why am I avoiding calling that client/ making that prop / drawing the shoot plan? It’s not procrastination. It’s fear or stress that makes you avoid it. The more I look into the ‘WHY’ I am NOT doing something the easier it is to get my arse into gear and get on with it.
There’s a great book I’ve just re-read called Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy. It’s all about doing the worst job first. So, before I start my day I write a to-do list in order of importance and don’t start number 2 till number one is completed. That is a game-changer. It’s also a procrastination eliminator!
The work will come
It always does. So whether it’s January and it’s all gone very quiet or it’s August and you can’t believe all the Christmas shoots are over, the work will pick up again.
It’s easy to feel like you’re the only one with a quiet spell but trust me – you’re not- no matter what it looks like for other stylists and writers on Instagram.
Get your phone out and catch up with an editor / pr / brand. Go for coffee, meet for lunch, or dare I say it – write a blog post! Whatever you do don’t sit around on your own. Get yourself out there and be seen. That’s the winning ticket.
You will fall off press lists – more than once!
Oh, my word. If I had a pound for every time I’d fallen off a press list I’d be a rich woman sitting in the Bahamas right now! It happens ALL THE TIME! It’s totally infuriating but what I’ve learned – and it did take me a while, is that it’s not us! The PRs haven’t decided that we aren’t worthy of an invite to their latest press launch. They’ve just changed PR agency. That’s it.
For a pr their list is their bread and butter so when they lose a brand as a client they take their list with them and if the new agency comes in and you’re not already on their list you won’t get invited. It’s as simple as that. It’s not personal.
But personally speaking – in this age of there being soooo many freelance interior stylists and writers who produce the content for so many editorial shoots, features AND online content I do think any new agency taking on a brand should make more of an effort to find out who’s missing from their list. Don’t you? It would be so easy to share their invite on InsideStylists.com and link to a whole host of freelancers! Just saying!
You can work in your PJ’s – but it’s better not to.
There’s this whole thing about freelancers working from home in their pajamas but I have to say that there have been studies to show that you’re more productive if you get dressed as if you are going into an office. I’m not talking shirts and heels here. Just not anything that is considered “loungewear”.
There’s something about the tone of your voice on a phone call that translates into an email when you aren’t dressed and ready – also lets face it the postman is definitely going to deliver paint and fabric swatches when you’re still in your dressing gown. Now, I know there’s nothing wrong with this at all. If that’s how you roll -you do you. But if you want to be more productive and feel ready to take the day on full steam ahead you might find getting dressed from the get-go helps. Give it a try and let me know if you feel the difference.
Note to self: This includes staying in dog walking clothes Emma!
Motivation can be created
Yeah, I read that in a blog post recently and thought – WTF, but it’s true. We’ve had a lot going on in the last few years and motivation has been a bit low. You know? That ‘how many times can I press the snooze button’ thing? Well, I have two solutions.
1) Get up and get out. This is where Alan Taylor my dog comes in handy! By changing your scenery you are getting fresh air and a fresh perspective and can plan out your day to start as soon as you get back. A short walk outside will change everything. No dog is necessary but if you want one you can borrow Alan – just get yourself some trackies you don’t mind getting muddy!
And 2) get accountability. This is massive for me. If I know someone is watching what I’m doing then I am 10 times more likely to get on with it.
I’ll link through to podcast episode 80 which is all about accountability and how to get it. Or check out Focus Mate. It’s body doubling and is how my ADHD brain gets so much done. It’s possible the best ££ I spend each month
Netflix is the enemy of a quick lunch
I did’t learn this lesson quickly enough! When I first went Freelance I used to watch 20 minutes of Grey’s Anatomy when I stopped for lunch. There were perfectly timed advert breaks. But the moment that finished I was watching for waaayyy too long. Even now I have to leave the laptop upstairs when I stop for lunch – the temptation is too much for me!
Yes, you need insurance!
This is a really personal one but for me, it’s a must. I have business insurance because I care about what happens to me, my assistants, and anything expensive I hire – not to mention the copyright laws that I had added to my insurance documents. I even have website insurance but that’s not the one I’m talking about.
A few years ago I got critical illness insurance. It’s a totally personal thing but I’ve had so many friends get ill that the thought of how we would eat if I couldn’t work was keeping me up at night. So, I decided that was an expense I needed to bare. It’s worth every penny.
That TAX return thing won’t go away.
Do you look at the dreaded pile of invoices and receipts and say year after year “I’m going to do my tax return before the end of April so I know exactly what I’ll need to pay and as January 31st looms you’re still filing your online return- usually around 28th/29th/30th Jan!
Since I started using Freeagent to send all my invoices my tax return is soooo easy to do. I just need to add in my expenses and the system fills in most of the form (well maybe not most of it but a lot). I can see what my tax bill payments are looking like at any time throughout the year before I’ve filed it as it just keeps adding it up. This is great as I can budget for the tax bill way in advance.
The other thing I’ve started doing – and I know my accountant brother-in-law would think I’m mad, but I send around 10% of my fees from every invoice straight to my HMRC account. It does earn a tiny amount of interest but for me, it’s seeing it add up over the year and having it there, ready when I need to pay the bill that makes me feel more in control and less tempted to use that money for props, a new laptop or a weekend away with the family. Mr MT said that if I was working PAYE it would be taken at source and this is pretty much the same thing.
Inside Stylists would help more people than I ever imagined and it’s just little old me!
This really is the one that surprised me the most. It took me absolutely ages to set up the Facebook group that was the start of Inside Stylists (like two years. Serious imposter syndrome there!) I never expected Inside Stylists to grow into the thriving community it is now. Everyone is so supportive and encouraging and when I get asked why I share everything I know about interior styling – people think it will be detrimental to my own styling career, I have to say that it has had exactly the opposite effect. If someone can’t do a job they pass it on and not just to me – to others. It’s not a competition, it’s a support network and it feels really good to get and give support.
If I’d have known how successful and desired it was I would have done it years ago!
Every time someone tells me that they hired a stylist or assistant after finding their profile on Inside Stylists it gives me the warm and fuzzies. So thank you for making this interior community what it is today. It makes working in this industry more than just that little bit better.
If you’d like to be part of the Inside Stylist community head over to this page to find out all about how to join. We’d love to see you in there.