ICS Interviews… Michelle Abrahall: Freelance Graphic Designer, Illustrator & Copywriter

To celebrate the self-employed, IPSE will be hosting their annual IPSE Freelancer Awards on National Freelancers’ Day, which this year falls on June 8th. There are two categories available for freelancers to enter: the Inspire category, and the Aspire category. One freelancer entering the Inspire category is Michelle Abrahall, who we recently interviewed to find out more about her freelancing story and why she decided to enter the IPSE Awards.

How did you get into freelancing?

I had pretty much given up on a creative career after years of job-hopping after graduation, but then I started doing the odd design job for friends. My confidence grew along with my portfolio, and I made the decision to give it a proper go with the attitude of ‘I’m in my thirties, if I don’t try it now I never will’! I decided to go part-time in my marketing role to test the water, and after a year of splitting my week between my ‘day job’ and freelancing, I took the plunge into full-time freelancing. I’m now in my second year of full-time freelancing and feel it’s the best career move I’ve ever made.

Is there anything that you know now that you wish you knew at the start of freelancing?

I’m more assertive now in terms of expecting a good business relationship from my clients, but I think that can only come from experience. It’s easy to say to people starting out ‘don’t undersell yourself’ or ‘don’t take work you’re not passionate about’ but at the time, you don’t know any better!

What would you say are the challenges of freelancing, and how do you combat them?

Personally, I find that juggling multiple clients and projects can be the biggest challenge, but again as you get more experienced you have a better idea of how long things take to do, and you have the confidence to say to people ‘sorry, I’m fully booked this week but I can schedule it in for next week’. Working in isolation can be an issue, but one that is easily resolved by booking in a couple of networking events and catch up coffees every month.

Do you have any tips for fellow freelancers/contractors?

Setting targets has always worked really well for me, as has keeping track of my billable hours; a concept I learned from a lawyer friend. It’s essential to be aware of how you spend your time to ensure you’re not spending too much of it on tasks that aren’t directly generating income. Admin and business development are important, but billable work should always come first.

Michelle Abrahall is what showbiz types would call a ‘triple-threat,’ but instead of being a singer, dancer and actor she is a Graphic Designer, Illustrator and Copywriter. After graduating with a degree in Illustration she finally got around to starting a freelancing business in her 30s after realising there was no ‘perfect time’ to give up the day job.

How would you describe freelancing in three words?

Liberating. Challenging. Satisfying.

Why did you decide to enter the IPSE Awards?

To be honest, it can be hard working for yourself and being your own boss. While it’s great to get positive feedback from clients, in general you have to blow your own trumpet! Freelancing is such a huge industry in the UK and one that I’m very proud to be part of, so to achieve recognition from that industry would be such a boost, personally and professionally.

Tell us a little bit about your freelance work and what you do

I’m a freelance Graphic Designer, Illustrator and Copywriter – my specialism is vector-based illustrations for logos, infographics, icons and character design. I’ve worked on all sorts of projects from book covers for dystopian thrillers, to posters for a comic convention to a bespoke squirrel tattoo. Because of my background in print and marketing I feel like I can offer my clients a little extra guidance, too.

Do you have any exciting plans for 2017?

I’ve set myself quite a few challenges this year so it’s going to be a good one! I’m hosting a branding workshop in March at the Women in Business conference, one of what will hopefully be many public speaking opportunities this year. I’m also planning to diversify my business by launching a range of illustrated giftware, which is in the early stages at the moment but it’s something I’m incredibly excited about.

It’s great to hear such a successful and inspiring freelancing story like Michelle’s. Last year we interviewed two other freelancers with also very inspiring stories: copywriter and IPSE Aspire Award winner 2015 Kelly Gilmour-Grassam, and small PR Agency owner Danielle Owen-Jones.

We’d love to hear your freelancing story too, so if you’d like your story to be featured on our blog then it’d be fantastic to hear from you: please email miranda.blake@icsuk.com or tweet us (@icscontractor). The interview could be done online or over the phone.