Some things I learned…

Rye Here Rye Now one year, Studio space one year and own studio three years.
Even though I am no longer in school following the academic year, it seems as if there is something ingrained in my psyche which drives me to make major creative and life decisions in the autumn, specifically September.

September marks the first full year of taking on a studio space and three years into having an independent practice. September also finds us celebrating one year of Rye Here Rye Now, the monthly meet-up for creatives started with fellow designer Kat Garner.

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One year in the studio
It took me almost two years to find the right studio. Many of the places that I looked at were either too expensive or too far away. Regular desk spaces did not feel very inspiring, as they did not allow me to work around other creative people. Last year, I noticed a post on Twitter from Linzie Hunter, who was looking for a replacement studio mate. She is a very successful illustrator and it has been so helpful to get advice from her on how to navigate the freelance life as a relative newbie. The fact that she also has a similar taste in music and drinks lots of tea is a bonus too. In the end, not only did I find a good space to work in but I also found a good friend. 

If you are working from home or in a office that is driving you crazy, here are few tips for finding the right workspace for you:

Tips for finding your happy, creative space

1 Do your research
I checked out about ten places before I found mine. I searched online, compared prices and visited various desk spaces and studios. I talked to friends with workspaces and to friends who shared their spaces. I also asked around in case anyone knew of spaces.

2 Pricing
I had to consider how much I could afford (including bills, VAT if required) and how the cost would spread out over the year and beyond.

3 Location
This was really important to me. I wanted it to be close enough so that it wouldn’t become too difficult to travel. I was worried that if it was too far, I just wouldn’t bother going.

4 Security
It’s always worth thinking about the security of a space before leaving your equipment and precious work in there! And if you want your items to be insured, it’s worth noting how secure your place is.

5 People
It may not seem like a key factor, but I made sure that I met everyone that I was potentially going to share a studio with. I also asked them how often they used the space. It doesn’t make sense to rent a space to share with other people if they are never there! Also, keep in mind that working in a small space everyday with the same people can be quite intense, so it is important that your personalities do not clash.

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Year three
It is noticeable that business advice articles always seem to address the challenges faced by studios or start-ups as they try to stay afloat during their first year but often fail to mention the fact that it can be a real struggle to keep the energy going after the first year. How do you cope after the novelty of being a new business owner wears off? Admittedly, I was concerned that I would find this period challenging and it proved to be the case - this past year has been a tough one.

Without doubt, my favourite experience of the year has been the running of the various projects that Rye Here Rye Now took part in. It was very exciting to be involved in so many different events but I found it very challenging to do the work whilst also looking for new clients. I was able to meet my goal of working with organisations such as Impact Hub King’s Cross, who have development scale-up programmes to help social impact start-ups get off the ground. They help them to develop their ideas and give them the support that they need to grow to the next level. I am happy to say that I will continue to support start-ups but I also plan to focus heavily on those who are scaling-up and on other organisations creating social impact, whether they are charities or commercial enterprises. This will allow me to grow my studio and learn from a range of projects. 

Three things I’ve learned over the past year

1 Keep the energy up on the marketing activities.
Sometimes I am not as diligent as I used to be about promoting my work, my projects and the things that inspire me. It is easy to forget how important it is to do this so that people don’t forget that you are still in business and are looking for opportunities. It was great for my profile to be featured in publications such as Communications Arts and The New Statesman, and it really helped me to reach a wider audience. All of this is worthwhile, but it does take time.

2 Networking is still key
Meet new people and follow up with those who you have contacted before. It is still a great way to build contacts and to find out about projects that could use your help.

3 Side projects
Before I set up on my own, I think I was a little sceptical about the benefits of side projects. I can honestly now say that they have added another creative dimension to my work and that they help to ensure ongoing creative development. Taking on personal projects or side projects outside of the client work that feeds your day to day still seems to be really key to getting the paid work that you would like to do.

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One year of Rye Here Rye Now
When we started Rye Here Rye Now, we were not sure what the response from other creative people would be. Would other designers and creative people share our view that meeting each other and swapping stories is important? Where would the journey take us? Who would come to the events?  

Our first event, held 13th September last year, drew around 25 people.  We felt really excited that we were starting something and building a community. Many of the people that we met at our first event attended our first birthday do and have been with us throughout the entire journey. It feels so good to know that we are building connections which are lasting and meaningful. Building meaningful social interactions helps to enhance the freelance experience, combating isolation and promoting personal and professional growth.

We also took part in Peckham Festival, which was truly exciting. We set up as a community group, giving everyone an opportunity to exhibit, sell their wares and get feedback on their work. This is not something that I tend to do in a day-to-day basis so I found it quite interesting and useful. It was wonderful to see how hundreds of people took part in the One Minute Portraits, providing a snapshot of Peckham.


One thing I learned over the year
Say yes!
Over the past year, we have held 13 networking events (including 5 sold out events), a day of talks at Tate Modern with Pempeople and an exhibition/market at Peckham Festival. We have also been featured in notable publications such as Time Out, It’s Nice That and Lecture in Progress. None of this would have happened unless Kat and I decided to say yes to various invitations and being willing to see where it could take us. Rye Here Rye Now would not have grown if we had just stuck to the same monthly event format. We have developed through all the people we met and decided to collaborate.

Thank you to all of the wonderful folk that I have met over the past year. It has definitely been a busy year, but it has also been a fruitful one. I look forward to the next one... Please do get in touch if you have a project you would like to discuss.

branding tips for social enterprises from our talk at Good Stories 2017

I was invited to speak at the Good Stories 2017 conference yesterday, which was produced by Matter & Co, Pioneers Post and SE100, and held at 250 Bishopsgate in London. During the conference, I met with social entrepreneurs from across the UK, who shared some great insights as to how stories can transform the way you communicate your brand. They also gave some wonderful advice on how to use social media and on how best to get your local MPs onboard.

 Miho at the Building Brilliant Brands panel – photo by Coventry University Social Enterprises

Miho at the Building Brilliant Brands panel – photo by Coventry University Social Enterprises

Shortly after the first break, I took part in the Building Brilliant Brands panel with Claire Pearson from Belu Water. It was really interesting to hear about Belu's journey from its origin through to its recent successful expansion. Claire also spoke about the importance of Belu's brand in the company's success in the high-end hotel and catering sector.

Next up, it was my turn. I gave some branding tips based on my experience. I have shared the slides below for those of you who were not able to attend the conference.

 Why is branding useful for social enterprises?

Why is branding useful for social enterprises?

But… Good is not good enough.
We have been fortunate to meet some really impressive social entrepreneurs doing wonderful work but, as we tell them in our workshops and clinics, having a great social message or story is not enough to succeed as a brand and business. You need to ensure that the quality, service, experience, design and other needs-based aspects are as well-considered, as ultimately the business has to serve the needs of its customers. There must be a balance between the social message and the experience of the product or service itself.

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Inspire to do good, not by making people feel guilty or fearful
It is more powerful to inspire people with positive stories and the potential for change than to make them feel guilty about social issues or the fearof inaction. There is a possibility that you may make people feel guilty enough to act once, if that is your brand's message, but your customers will not keep engaging and will not share their experience.

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Stories are key
Telling stories about the brand makes it more memorable and shareable. Stories are the easiest way for people to remember information. It brings the people out from behind the brand and it bridges the gap between customers and the brand. 

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Head + Heart
Branding is not an exact science. You may have a superior product but your branding might only communicate the functional attributes of that product. The brand that bridges the heart and mind to the product ultimately succeeds. Businesses need to think about the look and feel of their brand, the people behind the brand, their customer service and the other sensual aspects of the brand. As Jeff Bezos, 'Your brand is what consumers say about your product when you are not in the room.'

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Design & Beauty Matter
In this day and age, visual culture is very important. You are bombarded by over 100,000 words a day on the news and through emails, social media and ads. People look to visual culture and to sites such as Instagram for some light relief. This means that brands need to really think about how they present themselves visually. Also, the visual identity is the face of the brand and if it not memorable or appealing this will reflect poorly on the brand.

Good Stories 2017_Design and beauty matter

We had a great day at the Good Stories 2017 conference and it was nice to meet so many inspirational people. A special thanks to Matter&Co.