Francesca Tortora is a graphic designer and founder of Doing It For The Kids (a collaborative blog for freelance parents). A creative soul who pursued her passion for design after a well-timed redundancy offer enabled her to leave a career in project management. Francesca clearly has her head screwed on about the realities of being a working parent and her common sense approach resonates with lots of other people through her blog. With ambitions to grow the online community while still developing her graphic design business, Francesca is one busy lady.
Tell us about yourself
I’m a 30-something, born and bred Londoner, mum to a feisty toddler and freelance graphic designer (see examples of her artwork below). I used to work in project management/arts administration but retrained as a designer in 2011. I realised that I was essentially working to facilitate lots of other people’s creativity, and that I’d much rather earn money being creative myself. So I started working part-time in my then job, went to night school where I undertook a portfolio course in graphic design and was very ‘lucky’ to be offered redundancy pretty much as I finished my year of training. That small pot of money allowed me to take a financial risk and give freelancing a shot. I said I’d give it 6 months max and if it didn’t work out, I’d apply for a PAYE job — nearly six years later I’m still self-employed and genuinely wouldn’t have it any other way.
How has digital technology and social media changed the way you work?
I’m in the kind of job where I’m basically tied to my iMac. Digital technology is an inherent part of what I do – as much as I try to sketch and start projects on paper, every piece of work I produce will be processed digitally – to the point where all of my software now (Adobe CC and Office 365) is installed and managed via ‘the cloud’. But the biggest thing for me, is that digital technology allows me to work flexibly and totally free of the traditional office setup. This has always been my aim but is particularly important to me now as a parent. A lot of freelance designers will still be asked to go into their client’s studios for instance, but I have never needed or wanted to do that. If I’m working on a job full-time for a few weeks, I can speak to my clients whenever they need me via Skype, they can send me marked up PDFs and I can screen share, showing them updates and amends in real time. Digital technology – (and a damn good Wi-Fi connection!) allows me to work exactly where and how I want, and means that the client also doesn’t have the hassle of finding me a desk, a machine and a clean mug! From a marketing perspective, social media has obviously completely revolutionised how sole traders like myself get their work seen. Having said that, how much work I personally get directly through social is questionable. In my experience, the majority of my work still comes through good, old fashioned word of mouth.
And both digital technology and social media have been instrumental in allowing me to launch my passion project: a new site for freelance parents, Doing It For The Kids. In its current form DIFTK is essentially a blog, but the site is almost secondary to the stuff I’m trying to do on social (particularly Instagram) where my aim is to create a community of like-minded people who are all tackling the mad unpredictabilities, sense of isolation and endlessly unique challenges that come from being a parent and working freelance.
What are your top tips for freelancers juggling family life?
Don’t be too hard on yourself. I really do think we’re going through a difficult transition at the moment where women are under a lot of pressure to work and earn money, as well as cook, clean, look after the kids, all while somehow stringing a coherent sentence or two together and looking amazing (!!). We’re essentially being asked to do everything but often with very little support. So many of us now live in another city, country or continent from the traditional ‘village’ of extended family who would, in previous generations, have been nearby to help us out. The expectations on our shoulders can be daunting. So just be kind to yourself. If you have to put CBeebies on all day to allow you to work – so be it. If fish fingers are on the menu for the third day in a row – so what. Your family will not suffer as a result. You’re doing an amazing job. Trust me.
I’m an absolute fiend for colour and a bit of fun in my work and Joy Cho of Oh Joy! has the stuff in absolute bucket loads.
Since having a kid, my love of children’s books and illustrators has become a bit of an addiction and Jenny Thomas of Small Print Books is forever introducing me to an amazing piece of print that I don’t yet know about.
Holly Tucker of Not On The High Street is forever posting interesting tips and discussion points around being creative and running your own business.