On what I do for a living and how I got there. (Subtitle: Do what you want).

So, this has been asked recently a few times, and I’m sure you can get a vague idea of my professional like from my Insta account…(recently changed from Mrs Elliott to Mx Elliott – more on that soon!!). I am…. I….. Well. I work in a small design studio. I would describe myself as a graphic designer but that’s not quite the whole story. Shall we start at the middle?

After doing a criminology degree and then working as an analyst for 6 years, I had a kid and took the plunge. I decided to do what made me happy. SHOCK! Despite my very analytical and ‘boring’ choices, I’ve always dabbled with art, illustration and design. While living with the Mista’s parents to save for a house, I decided to study study study, and put myself out there as a freelancer to gain a bit of experience and exposure. Yes, the industry has a ‘breaking-in’ problem, and working for exposure (as in, not cash) is not a good way to make a living, but as we were rent/mortgage/obligation free for a year, and I was still working full time as an analyst, I had literally nothing to lose.

So I did. I picked up a few gigs, illustrated for a magazine and some national campaigns, and even got a few award nominations under my belt. Working hard, and more importantly, working A LOT, opened the doors that I needed. Sleep is overrated, anyway.

Fast forward a couple of years and after returning to my analyst role post baby, I realised that all the ingredients were wrong. I found myself in the part-time mum boat of literally (and I mean literally) spending ALL my wages on childcare. I was going to work, so that I could afford to go to work. My role wasn’t making my happy, it was inflexible, I felt at odds with the management and I couldn’t see a future. When I went to work, I checked my crazy at the door. Age 28 and I was starting to turn into a bland, faceless corporate drone. The only thing that kept me sane (professionally) was that I had the opportunity to create and design data dashboarding, and was doing a bit of a job shadow with our internal communications team.

After a month back from Maternity leave, a part time role came up in said Internal Communications team. I applied and nailed it. The role still wasn’t the creative dream come true, but it was much closer to where I wanted to be. I was looking after business accounts and writing and editing copy, but there was an element of design to everything I did. Eventually, the other designer in the team left, and I had the chance to come in full time. I established a whole bunch of processes, and soon, the studio was formally created.

As I said, it’s a small studio, so there are lots of elements to what I do. In the last week I’ve created large format banners, digital assets, a new identifier (logo), an animation (kinetic typography – fun!), as well as headshots and videography. One day I’ll move into a creative director role, and for now, the skills I’m picking up in project and stakeholder management are definitely helping to build towards that. My advice to any aspiring creative is to do work – lots of it – anywhere you can. Whether that’s freelance (for fair pay – and I mean fair based on your skill and experience. Don’t work for free), or just starting to apply a design eye to whatever the hell is paying your mortgage right now – start. And don’t stop ’till you get enough.

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