Who: A 30-year-old Designer
What: Losing most of her income gave one woman the time to follow her dream of starting her own business
Working in textiles was always my goal. I studied design at university, as well as doing a master’s in illustration. Over time I managed to build up a successful portfolio, and before the pandemic I was working as a freelance textile designer.
As a freelancer, I would mostly be designing from a brief. I enjoyed the work, and was always busy, but relying on strict guidelines meant that I wasn’t able to be as creative as I would have liked. I was often working on designs that weren’t really to my taste. I relied on one company for the majority of my income, but their connections with several different clients meant that I designed women’s wear for a range of customers and styles.
The impact of lockdown
At the start of lockdown I found that I still had plenty of work, but as the Covid-19 outbreak continued, this started to slowly dry up. Eventually, I received a phone call from my main client. They were struggling to find work for me, and were going to have to put me on hold indefinitely.
Before the pandemic I had been thinking about starting my own business. It's something that I’ve always aspired to, and I’d previously attended some workshops with The Princes Trust, and researched how to create a website. When my freelance work was busy I hadn’t had the time to focus on putting what I’d learned into action, but when I realised that I would be out of work it felt like the perfect opportunity. I decided that instead of worrying about my freelancing career I would put my energy into finally starting my own business and generating some income to replace what I had lost.
I definitely had some concerns about launching a new business in the midst of a global pandemic. I worried that it would be bad taste when so many people were struggling, but as time progressed I realised that things were likely to stay like this for a while, so now seemed as good a time as ever.
Starting the process
I wanted to start with a simple product, and settled on silk scarves as these were something that I could make quite effortlessly without a lot of infrastructure. They are also light and easy to package and send to customers, which was important during lockdown. I started to make a website, and began to design and create some beautiful samples with floral and tropical prints. Because of lockdown I was unable to arrange a photo shoot to show off my new designs, so I had to get creative with DIY pictures taken from my home and garden. It wasn’t how I would have done things before Covid-19, but the photos I posted on social media were generating a lot of positive attention, and the scarves were soon beginning to sell.
Launching my own business has been so energising and creatively fulfilling. It’s given me something to focus on at a time that has been very uncertain – my business feels like something I can control in an otherwise out of control year. My work has turned into something constructive to focus on, and provided a great distraction at a lonely time when I couldn’t see many people. When I spoke to family and friends on the phone it gave us something new and positive to talk about, which I think was really nice for them as well.
The story so far
I’ve only been trading for just over two months and have already sold out of several items and had to restock. I’ve been featured in national publications, and have reached over 1,000 followers on Instagram. I even recently ran a competition to win one of my scarves, and had entrants from all over the world.
My plan now is to keep building on the great work that I’ve done, and continue enjoying the process! I’m starting to gain international customers, and am busy designing new products to meet demand. Some people might think that losing work and launching a business during a pandemic would be challenging, but I’ve had a great experience. Losing freelance work gave me the time to focus on what I really wanted to achieve.
Advice from Amanda Augustine, careers expert for TopCV
Make an inventory of your top skills and consider how you can leverage these in other capacities over the next few months. For example, do you have a non-work passion that you could somehow monetise? If you previously offered your services in person, is there a way to transition to a virtual environment?
Don’t Restrict Yourself To Your Current Industry
Consider what other sectors could benefit from your talents – particularly those that have rebounded since Covid-19 sent the economy into a tailspin. Then look to your network of contacts to see who you know in those industries, and who might be able to help with your current search for work. Introductions and endorsements from current clients can go a long way, especially when the job market is so crowded.
No one will penalise you for taking work outside of your field to get by right now. There are many organisations hiring temporary full-time and part-time employees to meet pandemic-driven demands. Once you have a clear understanding of what opportunities are available you should re-evaluate your CV and reframe your experience, skills, and experience into terms that potential employers will understand and appreciate.
We have launched the Digital Sisterhood to provide women everywhere with the community and support they need at the moment. Be that a safe space to ask questions – and receive honest answers – or somewhere to find a digital event that will offer you the information, or perhaps the encouragement, you need to get you through the coming days and weeks. We’re here for you, so please do head to digital.allbrightcollective.com to claim your 14 day free trial and join our community.