Hullo I'm Orwell
I’m a freelance branding designer. I mentor freelancers to help them make money and stay happy while they build their business. Freelancing since 2011 and starting my first business in 2016, I’ve been at this a while.
I learned the hard way that knowing design doesn’t mean you know business. But we can learn to take control of our businesses and make money in a way that works for our lives and our happiness.
I’m here to make sure other freelancers don’t have to go through what I did. By sharing my experience I steer you through the challenges, support you towards your goals and provide accountability to keep you on track.
Currently based in Berlin, I was previously a board member for charity Stepping Stones for Families, I gave design and marketing masterclasses to students for Young Enterprise Scotland and was a guest lecturer at Strathclyde University, Glasgow Caledonian University and Glasgow’s colleges.
How I got here and why I mentor freelancers
What is success to you?
Is it running your own business?
Having a team of employees?
Selling 30k projects?
Having a 6 figure business?
Delivering projects for global brands?
I’ve done all of those things in my career. All it got me was multiple burnouts, losing a close friend and multiple stints in therapy (no dissing therapy – it’s changed my life for the better).
Throughout my career I thought what I achieved at work is what made me successful. I thought having this stuff would make me happy, make people see me differently and give me access to closed groups I’d been trying to be part of for years.
My idea of money and success wasn’t reflected in my life. No matter how hard I worked, how big the projects were or how much money I made, the groups stayed closed, the people didn’t care and I wasn’t happy.
How did I get here?
I’ve been freelancing since I was 21. I’ve been a side-gig freelancer, worked in-house for a hotel, full time Junior (read dogsbody), full time freelancer and a company director. Through each stage I found two things:
1. Any amount of money has never made me happy
2. The harder I worked the harder I burned out
At the age of 29, I had everything my 21 year old self could want. A thriving business and a great team of creatives delivering quality work to national and international clients. In our second year we’d secured over 100k of projects by the end of January and on paper the year just got better from there.
But I wasn’t happy. I was spending most of my life working, thinking about work, planning work and complaining about work. I had no time or headspace for anything I enjoyed. I used my down time to numb myself, to shut off the constant buzz in my mind.
The only breaks in the fog were the too short summer festivals where I could dance, spend time with friends and escape from what was supposed to be the peak of my career so far.
I was stressed, felt constantly under pressure and didn’t know how to get out of it. My stress at work affected my everyday life, strained my relationships, made me difficult to be around – who wants to spend time with someone constantly on edge, never present and who’s favourite topic is bitching about work?
The breaking point came an evening I was mid-rant to my best friend. A switch flicked in my brain.
I had to get out of this business.
And I had to go back to therapy.
In December of that year I parted ways with the business. It wasn’t pleasant – talking with a former friend through lawyers is not what I ever expected for myself. But our relationship was unsustainable, I was miserable and something needed to change.
I went back to freelancing, kept designing for clients I knew well and kept life simple. I spent more time on myself, doing what I enjoyed. I focused more on life than I did on work – I was exploring what could come next.
My rediscovery was cut short with the arrival of covid restrictions. Most of my clients were charities working with vulnerable people and their jobs became much harder. We spent the next months dealing with a constantly shifting landscape of regulations and support. What was correct on Monday was wrong on Thursday – and my role was to create the comms that shared this ever changing info in as simple a way as possible.
I worked 7 months without a break. When I was unable to get out of bed one July morning I realised what had gone wrong.
I’d enlightened myself of the changes I needed. I’d seen the problems giving over my life to my work brought me. I knew, categorically, that it made me unhappy.
But I’d let it happen again.
I had to get out.
I downed tools, told all my clients I was unavailable and bought a one-way ticket to Berlin.
I got my release. I spent three days partying with my friends in a forest. In the long days chatting nonsense and enjoying life I forgot about the outside world.
After the dancing, getting back to Berlin, I had my friend’s flat to myself for the week. My intention was to have a break, get some time to myself and go back to Glasgow.
At the end of the first day while watching one of my favourite films (10 Things I Hate About You – it’s a great film, don’t @ me), I started journaling.
I wrote for over an hour. I cried. A lot. I was burst. Done. My brain couldn’t take the shit I kept putting myself through. I couldn’t bear the thought of going back to Glasgow, back to work, back to the stress of the work life I’d made for myself.
I’d slogged for 10 years and kept ending up in the same place. If I wanted life to change I had to fucking change it.
I immediately decided to stay in Berlin – I’d been talking about it for years and kept putting it off for the sake of work – what the fuck was that about? Clearly my subconscious brain knew that was happening, otherwise I’d have booked a return flight.
I used the rest of the week to make a plan.
- Get a flat in Berlin
- Tell my clients I was here and wasn’t coming back
- Set new boundaries about how I’d work
- When they could contact me
- When they could expect a response
- The kind of work I was willing to do
- All open projects were being pushed back and now had new deadlines
- That I’d upped my rates by 20% starting now
- Create a new day schedule:
- I would not start work before 11am
- I had breakfast every day – it’s my favourite meal and I’d often skip it to start work earlier
- I would walk every morning – I spend hours every day exploring the city
- Fridays were days for me to read, learn and work on myself
- I’d do something every day to make me happy
- See the people that made my life better as often as possible
The plan went against everything I’d done for years. I was used to cowing to clients’ demands. Being available at unreasonable times. Giving up what I want to help people who wouldn’t help themselves.
It was bold and ballsy and all of it worked!
My clients didn’t bat an eyelid. I was crazy nervous for each call and one by one they all said yes, no problem.
I asked for what I actually wanted and got it. I’d spent my time believing I had to give up life for work, to please clients to keep money coming and the first time I actually asked for what I wanted I got it.
I’d shown myself I didn’t have to choose between earning money and having the time to do what I enjoy in life.
I could work on projects I enjoy with clients I like and have days filled with the things in life that make me happy.
I’d been making a false choice for years. Instead of deciding what I want and making it real, I’d followed the blueprints of other people – people who’d also never thought to question the way things were done.
Never. Frickin, Again!
This is what I help people achieve
Getting good money
and time to enjoy it
Since then life has been better. I’ve had more perfect days in the last years than I can remember in a lifetime before it.
I set healthy boundaries with clients. I have the confidence to charge what I’m worth and say no to projects that don’t suit what I want. I have time to do what I love and I fill my days with the wee things that make me happy.
I’ve come through the shit, the burnouts, the stress of working on things that don’t fulfil or progress me to be a much more content person. I no longer feel out of control of my life because I control what I can and let go of the rest. I know I can say no and not miss out on what I want, because my day to day is filled with what I want.
I am working towards my goals in a much healthier way, enjoying my work and earning more than I ever have before. This is what my 21 year old self actually wanted. Good money, the time to enjoy it and the confidence to create the life I actually want.
Now I help other freelancers get the same for themselves. You can read a bit about them below.
Interested in mentoring?
Book a free call
Every relationship needs a first date, so let’s have a call and chat about your business. Book some of my time and we can chat about your plans for the future, what’s standing in your way and how I can help you.