Eighty one.

When you’re full-time freelance and full-time employed at the same time.

This week Frankie Tortora and Steve Folland have a chat in response to a question from interior and events stylist Sally Cullen. She says:

“Hey Frankie, Steve and the DIFTK community,

Last year when we were still deep in lockdown I was asked if I would like to cover maternity leave on a magazine for a year. I wasn’t sure what was in store for my freelance career as an interiors stylist at that point (thanks Covid) so I said yes on the proviso I could still keep all my regular client work and fit that around the full time job.

That was nearly 8 months ago and far from slowing down, my freelance work has increased way more than I could have predicted and I have basically been working 2 full time jobs since then. Gulp.

I have been trying to survive week at a time doing my best not to let any of the (many) balls drop but I have the niggling feeling in the back of my mind that I should be making more of this unicorn time as an employed person, but I’m too knackered to think what that looks like!

I have ceased all social media updates because I just do not have the bandwidth right now but what else could I, or should I be doing with the handful of weeks I have left in-house?Should I be getting training? Using this high profile magazine job to get more freelance work? Using it as a way to create more portfolio work? I need to act soon before it all feels a dream and I’m back on the other side of the commissioning fence!

Yours, Completely-Spent-Sally”

Take note dear listener! We might swear a bit. This one’s for the parents. To be enjoyed at your desk or once the kiddos are in bed.

Here’s what was said in this episode:

Comments on the previous episode:

[00:00:35] – Frankie
Hello, you’re listening to the Doing It For The Kids podcast, where we swear a bit too much and talk a bit too fast about freelance life with kids in the mix. I’m Frankie, and this is Steve.

[00:00:45] – Steve
Hello. Yes, each episode, we take a question from the Doing It For The Kids community, do our best to answer it, but we start each episode by looking back at the last one. Last time we were talking about…

[00:00:55] – Frankie
We were talking about… Oh, my God, my laptop!

[00:00:57] – Steve
Were we?

[00:00:58] – Frankie
No, we weren’t. But we should be. It’s dying and the fan is just constantly on.

[00:01:02] – Steve
But you have a new laptop.

[00:01:03] – Frankie
It’s four years old now.

[00:01:05] – Steve
Is it? No, it’s not.

[00:01:07] – Frankie
Yes, it is. 2018.

[00:01:09] – Steve

[00:01:09] – Frankie

[00:01:10] – Steve
We’ve known each other quite a while now.

[00:01:13] – Frankie
Far too long. Right. What was the episode about? It was Rose’s question about how to get work done over the well, over school holidays generally, but particularly, obviously, the long summer break.

[00:01:25] – Steve
Jenny Proctor got in touch, saying,

“I get through with a combination of holiday clubs, play dates, screen time and evening working. These are the moments when having lovely clients who are also parents totally pays off. I’m a single parent, so I do get time when my children are with their dad, which is a rare advantage of solo parenting.

But I also need to block in some time off. It’s far too easy to spend every minute of child-free time working. Also, make sure you plan a treat for yourself once they are back to school. I had a spa day by myself last September. It was amazing!”

[00:02:00] – Steve
That is such a good point, Jenny.

[00:02:02] – Frankie
I know. I love that so much.

[00:02:04] – Steve
Yes. Remember, there’s two things, actually, because I don’t think we said it… Never tell people the day you are actually starting back at work. And then that also allows you not just to, sort of, ease yourself back in, but to go and have a spa day by the sounds of it.

[00:02:22] – Frankie
Treat yourself, yeah!

Remi Harris says:

“I’ve taken August off from client work for the last few years because I have the sort of business that works to do that. And it’s normally quiet at that time of year anyway. That means no deadlines, pressure, out of office is on.

I will work on marketing, writing, admin, do some meetings, reply to emails, maybe go to some events, but that tends to be slow paced, so I can do it in a couple of hours a day.

P.S. I allow loads of screen time, by the way. My kids definitely aren’t romping through a meadow in some idyllic fashion!”

[00:02:53] – Steve
Beth Cox says:

“As you mentioned, while we should be used to working with kids around following Covid lockdowns, that doesn’t necessarily take into account the trauma response of both parent and adult when finding themselves in a similar situation again, which makes it infinitely harder.”

[00:03:11] – Frankie
Yeah, we’ve got the hangover now from Covid when we have these blocks of time where we’re all at home in the house. It’s picking at scabs, isn’t it? From the last couple of years, which we didn’t have before in previous summer holidays.

And Jonathan Pike says:

“The Ikea bit nearly had me spitting coffee across the desk.”

[00:03:31] – Steve
That suggests he thinks you were joking. She was deadly serious.

[00:03:36] – Frankie
I think he was just shocked that such a thing would exist. It definitely exists. I actually went back to check because I said two hours. Apparently it’s only one. You only get one free hour of childcare at Ikea, but even so.

[00:03:47] – Steve
And never underestimate the productivity power juice of those Swedish meatballs!

Our answer to this week's question:

[00:06:10] – Frankie
Our question for episode 81 comes from Sally Cullen, who is an Interior and Events Stylist at www.sallycullen.com. Cullen is spelt C-U-L-L-E-N.

Sally says:

“Hey, Frankie, Steve and the Doing It For The Kids community.

Last year, when we were still deep in lockdown, I was asked if I would like to cover maternity leave on a magazine for a year. I wasn’t sure what was in store for my freelance career as an interior stylist at that point. Thanks, Covid. So I said yes, on the proviso I could still keep all my regular client work and fit that around the full-time job.

That was nearly eight months ago and far from slowing down, my freelance work has increased way more than I could have predicted. I’ve basically been working two full-time jobs since then. Gulp.

I’ve been trying to survive a week at a time, doing my best not to let any of the many balls drop. But I have the niggling feeling in the back of my mind that I should be making more of this ‘unicorn time’ as an employed person, but I’m too knackered to think what that looks like.

I’ve ceased all social media updates because I just do not have the bandwidth right now. But what else could I or should I be doing with the handful of weeks I have left in-house? Should I be getting training, using this high profile magazine job to get more freelance work? Using it as a way to create more portfolio work?

I need to act soon before it all feels a dream and I’m back on the other side of the commissioning fence.


Completely Spent Sally.”

[00:07:32] – Steve
I mean, well, for a start, well done Sally for holding down two full-time jobs.

[00:07:37] – Frankie
Eight months in. Well done. Only four to go!

[00:07:40] – Steve
Yeah. That’s amazing, isn’t it? Well, I think one thing is we all know a key to running our businesses, is like, networking. Not necessarily going to a networking event, but the people you know. And therefore, if you’ve got a high profile job at a high profile magazine in the industry you freelance in, it makes sense to connect on LinkedIn or Instagram or whatever.

Just make sure all of those people you’ve come into contact with be it within the magazine or all of the people you’ve probably met within the industry. Make sure that those connections are cemented on whatever networking thing you use.

[00:08:18] – Frankie
Yes, milk that network where you’re currently working, but also make sure those people know that you’re only temporary in that role. Like, I bet so many people that you’re working with and talking to in that job don’t know that you’re a freelancer.

They’re like “oh, she’s maternity cover for Blah”. But they might assume that you’re going to go to some other job after this. Not that you run your own business, so make sure that all those people know — whether it’s on LinkedIn or literally on email. Like, “I’m only in this role till x time and then after that…”

Drop it in! Make sure people know that you run your own thing and that after you finish this role, if they want to work with you in a freelance capacity, you are very much available.

[00:08:56] – Steve
Yeah. So presuming that it doesn’t compromise what you do for the full-time employer.

[00:09:01] – Frankie
Check your contract, folks!

[00:09:03] – Steve
I’m sure you’re classy enough to figure that out, but yeah, absolutely.

I know you said you ceased all social media updates because you don’t have the bandwidth, but I would say you’ve…

[00:09:16] – Frankie
…got the budget, surely? Like, if you’re working two jobs, could you pay somebody to help you out? Could you?

[00:09:21] – Steve
Oh, she’s talking about outsourcing!

[00:09:24] – Frankie
I know, I’m doing it again, but in this situation, as you say… you’re busy. Surely, like, spend some money on your business?

[00:09:35] – Steve
That’s a very good point actually, because either you’re going to have to do it yourself or you’re going to have to pay someone to help you. But it’s curious because obviously it sounds like you’re busy freelance anyway, but we should never really stop being visible.

[00:09:49] – Frankie
Never get complacent.

[00:09:51] – Steve
No. Especially if you’re going back to that full-time, right? Yeah. I think if your work comes from Instagram, for example, time to start reappearing.

[00:10:02] – Frankie
But, like, talk about, she says… ‘unicorn time’ — being in a situation where you have literally two full-time jobs that are thriving. Like, of all the times we’ve said to outsource, this is it, surely? That is a very unique position to be in. Invest, like, you can. Spend money on your business. I don’t know what that could be — social media? But there might be a million other things you haven’t been doing that you can now currently afford to do.

[00:10:29] – Steve
Yeah, you don’t mention it, but if you’ve not updated your website for a while —it’s a lovely website! — but if you’ve been meaning to do some case studies, for example, or get some new photos done of yourself or whatever, maybe this is a good time to do that?

[00:10:46] – Frankie
Headshots? Do you need new equipment? Do you need a new laptop? Do you need people to help you do the admin? Do you need an accountant that you didn’t have before? I don’t know. There’s a million things I could spend money on in my business if I had it, so that’s worth thinking about.

Not just spending money for the sake of it, but getting your business in the strongest position it could be, given the unique situation that you’re in.

[00:11:09] – Steve
You say you’re not appearing on Instagram, for example, but why can you not tell us on your Instagram about your time at the magazine?

[00:11:21] – Frankie
Because she is knackered and is working two jobs and it doesn’t happen?

[00:11:23] – Steve
No, I get that, but surely one of the lovely things about a full-time job is when you sit around doing nothing?

[00:11:29] – Frankie
Oh, while you’re at work, you mean?

[00:11:31] – Steve

[00:11:33] – Frankie
The quietest part of her week is while she’s at work at the employed job. No kids! No freelancing!

[00:11:41] – Steve
Isn’t that the time when you sit there with your designated coffee break doing your instagram stories? Not even being facetious, really.

My experience of having work full-time… Admittedly, when I had kids, it tended to be head down, get everything done, get out the door to pick them up. But maybe there is a bit more flexibility there? Just to show us what you’re doing for the magazine or some of your current freelance projects.

You don’t have to go down the Reels side of things, just the stories. Let us back into your life, Sally. Let’s see what you’re doing for this interesting few months when you’re doing both things. Should be plenty of content simply by doing both of those things.

[00:12:28] – Frankie
Yeah. And on the training thing, she makes a really good point, because training is one of the perks of being in an employed job, in my experience, anyway. When I briefly worked for an organisation, I got loads of training while I was there, just day-to-day, like upping my skills for my job.

They had a budget to spend on supporting their staff and I was allowed to ask for different courses and whatnot. I mean, they might reject it, but it’s worth asking. The worst they can say is no. But also, on the other end of that, again, if you’re earning from your employed job and your freelance business, have you got budget to pay for training yourself that would benefit your freelance business?

Have you noticed gaps in your knowledge doing this job that you need to plug? And can you invest in yourself because, again, hopefully you’ve got the money to pay for it. Also. I’m going to go out on a limb and say while you’re earning two salaries, essentially — save.

Yeah, put some money in savings because then if this job does end and you go back to freelance and for whatever reason the freelance stuff doesn’t quite go as successfully (not to suggest it would because it sounds like it’s thriving already) but for whatever reason, if it was to go quiet again, you’d have a buffer saved from this position that you’re in at the moment. That seems like a very no brainer thing to do. You may well be doing that already.

[00:13:47] – Steve
“Should I be using this high profile magazine job to get more freelance work, using it as a way to create more portfolio work?” So I guess the answer is yes. Why would you not? Unless there’s something in your contract that says you can’t share what you’re doing at that magazine.

[00:14:03] – Frankie
Well, that is often the case. I mean, particularly with agencies. Yeah. You need to check what you can and cannot share. If it’s not a trade magazine, if it’s a publicly available magazine and you’ve worked on it, surely you can be like… “here’s some spreads from this magazine that I worked on”. I don’t know.

[00:14:21] – Steve
Unless there is like a clear contractual reason why not, get those things in your portfolio, get those on your Instagram.

[00:14:29] – Frankie
I wonder if she worries that it’s confusing to have in-house stuff on her freelance account?

[00:14:34] – Steve
But there’s the thing, right? Potential clients for the future…

[00:14:38] – Frankie
…don’t care?

[00:14:40] – Steve
Yeah, because the fact is, you could have been working freelance for that magazine for the past five years, regularly creating spreads for them. So the fact that you’ve been doing it on a full-time kind of basis, that’s kind of irrelevant. Like, if you take a full-time role in a company, anyone this is, you can simply look at it as taking a long-term client project.

The fact that you’re full-time or whatever, that’s simply an HMRC thing. The fact is you’ve been working for a client. Look at it that way. You’ve been working for a client, creating all of this work, so show it! Unless you can’t…

But yeah, to me, psychologically, you don’t need to look at this as a full-time and freelance thing. If you’re working in the same field, doing the same thing, and that seems to be styling for magazines and whatever, then simply show that work like it’s your freelance work. Unless contractually, you can’t.

[00:15:44] – Frankie
You know when Steve feels passionately about something because he gesticulates so much, you can’t see but the arms there for the last 30 seconds were off the charts!

Also, I feel like we do need to take a moment to recognise Completely Spent Sally. How have you done that?

[00:16:00] – Steve
It’s amazing.

[00:16:01] – Frankie
You’ve done this literally full-time job. I don’t know how much client work you’ve had, but it sounds like it’s been busy. You’ve got a family. We’re still in a partial pandemic. Honestly, if I could hand out audio trophies, I would give one to Sally.

[00:16:22] – Steve
I feel like there’s a good point in there. You know how, like, we started this episode with the comment which was like, “at the end of the summer holidays…”

[00:16:28] – Frankie
Yes, right.

[00:16:29] – Steve
Take time for yourself. Reward yourself. Completely Spent Sally needs to be Completely Topped Up Sally.

[00:16:35] – Frankie

[00:16:35] – Steve
And forgive me if that’s some God awful euphemism that I’m not aware of.

[00:16:40] – Frankie
Yeah. If you can, at the end of that contract, even if you don’t take a holiday, even if you go nowhere, even if you just sit on the sofa in your pants and eat chocolate… You’re out of office should be like, “I am on leave for two weeks”. And then you start your freelance stuff two weeks later. You know what I mean? Like, take time.

[00:17:00] – Steve
You really do deserve it.

[00:17:01] – Frankie

[00:17:03] – Steve
And it can always be tempting with freelance work just to go from one thing to the other, to the other, to the other… To take too much on to keep all of those plates spinning. But if you really are as knackered as you say you are — and I bet you are, I’m knackered just thinking about it — then yeah, please do take some time out.

[00:17:23] – Frankie
Even if time out to you is planning your relaunch as a freelancer. Do you know what I mean? Working ‘in’ the business. Is it in? On? In? On? On? In? On? In?

[00:17:38] – Steve
On, yeah.

[00:17:40] – Frankie
Even if time out is not doing client work and doing admin and planning and marketing, that’s fine. I still think it’s just the relentlessness of being creative I find the most draining, I don’t know about anybody else? Whereas doing a bit of excel and planning is sort of weirdly nourishing sometimes.

But ideally — sofa, pants, chocolate. Maybe buy yourself some new pants, push the boat out.

What would your advice be?

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