An introduction to Me!

I thought I would share a little insight into my life as a freelance Illustrator & product designer. Where it all started & where I am now...

So this is me! I work as a freelance illustrator from my house in Surrey, just outside of London. Being an illustrator gives me the freedom to work with clients all over the world & my location doesn't matter. Which is great!

But I didn't start out as a freelancer. I went to a university in Bristol. After graduating I did a variety of jobs including working in a pub, opening envelopes (yes that's a job) & being an estate agent.

I think I was too scared to even try & become an illustrator, so I set about avoiding it. My whole time at university, I was told 'It's hard to get a career as an illustrator & you will most likely fail'. My family suggested I train to be a teacher, as that was guaranteed work. So as I sat there one day looking into how to be a primary school teacher, I realised something very important. Firstly, I hate children, so what am I doing? & secondly, everyone else in the world thinks this illustration career is impossible, so I have nothing to loose & no one to disappoint if I try, but fail!

So I packed up my bags, left Bristol & headed home for a few months to get myself set up as a designer. I spent those months being creative & building up my portfolio, setting up websites, getting my CV out there as much as I could & getting focused. After a few months I decided to take the leap & I headed off to London, the city of dreams! Or so I thought!

I managed to find a room the size of a closet to set up camp. I juggled freelance work & part time work to pay my rent. I was so new to freelancing & had no idea what I was doing! Looking back now on what I initially created & how I went about it, makes me cringe! But you have to start somewhere! My savings were running out & I was starting to imagine packing my bags & heading back home with nothing to show for it.

One night I was out for some 'cheer me up' drinks & someone suggested I meet up with one of their friends who was also a freelancer. A few days later I shyly headed out to meet this mysterious girl. We hit it off & she began to throw work my way over the coming months.

That's the great thing about the freelance community. Everyone has different styles & are suited to different projects. Instead of turning down a project because it isn't right for me, I tend to try & bat it in another direction to someone I think is more suited to it. That way it makes the client happy & your freelancing friends happy too! Win, win!

My first big freelancing job I got was at the online card company Moonpig. I was hired to help the design team out with some artworking for a week. I got on really well with the team & felt so excited to be a part of something creative. One week turned into two, two turned into three.

I had been freelancing for a few months when the girl next to me decided to hand in her notice. On hearing this, I quickly jumped at the chance to get my first full time creative role. A week later, I was a permanent Artworker at Moonpig. Over the next few years, I worked my way up to being a mid-weight designer.

Looking back on my first few months in London, I learnt a lot! You make your own luck, especially in the creative industry. You can't just sit around & expect it to happen. Through putting yourself out there & going that extra mile in everything you do, it helps you to get where you want. Yes, there is definitely an element of being in the right place at the right time, but, you have to do things to get yourself in those places to begin with, even if it feels scary or out of your comfort zone.

After 4 years of working as a designer at Moonpig, I decided that I was due a new adventure. Over the years, I had been freelancing on the side for a variety of companies. One of these was the start up company Ginger Ray. I was approached by them to come on board as their first designer. They were still quite small back then, but growing fast. I took the risk & I jumped straight in. It was exciting & fast paced. I was learning a lot everyday which was just what I wanted. Over the 5 years I was there, I worked my way up to Design Manger. I looked after a small team of designers & helped with the whole creative process of the company.

I am proud of where I have got to & what I have learnt over the past 10 years.

Now on to the next chapter in my life. A full time freelance illustrator.

I will let you know how it goes....

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Samantha Marando

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