Freelance Alliance Spotlight: Alison Bates

What freelance services do you offer?

I’ve love to put ‘Renaissance Woman’ on my business card but I’m guessing that sounds really pretentious! But I hate pigeon-holing myself, I am an art director, graphic designer, web designer and illustrator, and have recently done a whole raft of miniature room sets and figures. So I’ll put 3D model maker as well. I’ll have a go at anything, the more arty the better, I love a challenge.

How long have you been freelancing and what did you do before you became a freelancer?     ***image10***

I’m quite a newbie to the freelancing world with just over 2 years, but before that 15 years as an art director in various London B2B and rec ad agencies.

What triggered your decision to go freelance?

It wasn’t my decision as I got made redundant (for the first time ever!) which was quite a shock to be honest. But I’m really pleased now, I’ve never had so many creative opportunities or been so appreciated.

Being on your own, are there any difficult gaps to fill, knowledge or skills wise?

Yes definitely, but now I am much more resourceful. In large agencies creatives can have a bit of an ‘Ivory Tower’ mentality, you’re very cosseted. There’s always someone to fix the glitches, answer the problems, techies and account handlers to deal with some bits so you don’t have to. Now it’s just me (and a few helpful friends and contacts). Skills gaps? - I'm building on my knowledge of Dreamweaver since I'm also a‘web designer’.

What were your goals when you started your business? Have they changed?

My goal at first was just to keep my head above water. Southampton’s a much smaller pool than London and the opportunities (whatever the financial climate) are bound to be fewer. I also have small kids and a partner who often works away, so that means commuting for work is tricky too. I try to combat that by taking on a lot of work ‘remotely’ as well as travelling once every couple of weeks to get briefed on new projects. The more flexible you can be the more clients are likely to give you a try. I still burn the midnight oil when I need to sometimes but (like now writing this), I do it when the kids are in bed.

My goals now are just to do MORE. To do more of the creative work I love, be appreciated and get paid for it. As my networking bears fruit I find people come to me because they’ve seen my website and they like what I do. ( in case you were wondering). I’m also writing and illustrating (as 3D roomsets) my own book. So if you’re in publishing, give me a ring and I’ll be straight over!

Were there any crisis points early on? Any moments when you wondered if the pressure of making your business a financial success outweighed the benefits of independence? ***image9***

Two crisis points, the first 6 months and last week. The first six months I hardly made anything. (But last financial year was quite healthy, thanks.) Then last week a major client went into liquidation owning me stacks. As it was a Ltd company with few assets, It doesn’t sound as if I’ll see much of it again. However just in the last few days I’ve had some work come in which is great news.

What are the best mistakes you’ve made? (i.e. those you’ve learned valuable lessons from.) 

Well that’s got to be the lesson I learnt above. Don’t carry on working for clients if they don’t pay you on time. The scales have fallen from my eyes on that one I can tell you.

What is your most triumphant moment so far?

It’s got to be the things satisfied clients have said. I mean you can’t top this can you? “In case I haven’t said this before (I think I have) genius, genius, Alison you are genius!“ I think I’ll get a T shirt made up with that on.

Looking back on your freelancing career now, is there anything that you
would do differently?

That's a hard one; it’s like anything in life, a lot of it’s lessons learnt through experience. I would have forced myself to do more networking earlier and used more forums like Freelance UK to chat to people in the same boat.

Maybe done a business course at night school, but that’s a bit like eating All-Bran, does anyone do that for fun?!

What things do you find personally rewarding and satisfying as a freelancer?

Apart from the praise and the money? I like meeting new people who want to meet me, it can be a real buzz, there are such a lot of bright and creative people out there doing all sorts of things. And I also like being able to see my kids in daylight hours.

What are the rewards, risks, and trade-offs? ***image8***

You are your own brand, you stand or fall on your own merits and that’s both a reward and a risk. You can choose when you work and if you have a glut, which work you do. Though there’s not many freelancers who would willingly turn away work if they could possibly squeeze it in. You don’t have security and I think every freelancer finds that difficult to deal with. You need a safety net for the lean times. That’s another thing I’ll be working on.

What have you been working on recently?

A real variety, just the way I like it:

Violent Veg Greetings Cards    

I’ve just finished modelling sets and characters for series of 12 cards for  “Violent Veg.’ Using orange nets for fishnets on an orange who was ‘selling herself’ on a street corner really made me chuckle.
FutureFibres Website    ***image6***
Very corporate and carbon fibre design development. A team effort and the client’s thrilled. Just gone live.

Knockabout Comics Website   
Another website, in production, but totally different feel. The Comics make ‘Viz’ look like kids stuff and are grungy dark and genius works of art. I’ve tried to reflect that in the design of the e-commerce site.

Dancing Girls Illustration   
For a Dance Wear Company.

Sets and character design for my book   

Apart from that I’ve just started designing a menswear website and a print catalogue, I’m quoting for some illustration work for a book and there’s always my book to be working on. In my free time (HA!)

More about Pingsweetie can be found on Alison's Freelance Alliance profile.





20th April 2009

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