Glasgow, I love this city!

Glasgow, I love this city!

AIMG_7914s a relatively recent graduate taking the self employed path I absolutely love living in Glasgow. Coming from London with it’s hectic pace and extremely ambitious citizens Glasgow has been a refreshing, eye opening change. Here’s why I love this city.

Glasgow’s a “nursery for ideas, people, careers” as my friend says, and I would add it’s a nursery for conversations. With very little money you can get your idea started up, there’s space to test it, enough of a mass of people to get traction and no rush for it to succeed. 

There is a DIY spirit that is entrenched in this city. The Glasgow Effect (the cities unexplained poor health and low life expectancy disparities) and the Glasgow Miracle (the cities booming creative industry) makes for an interesting juxtaposition. It’s a beautiful breeding ground for creative solutions. I have never met so many socially conscious people as in Glasgow!

Support is accessible here. It’s a small enough city where the networks are close, everyone seems to know someone who knows someone. It’s small enough to bump into people randomly. You can strike up a random conversation that lead to great collaborations.


Living costs are low, so you can have a great lifestyle with relatively little income. This frees up more time to work on passion projects. If you want to start a business, there are enough empty spaces for creative use of space. There are so many projects turning Glasgows empty sites into community hubs, like the Stalled Spaces initiative.

Lastly I love this city because of it’s pace. It’s big enough that there is a lot happening but small enough that it’s not overwhelming (you can actually see the outskirts of the city!) Unlike London where change is rapid, streets change in a matter of months here change is slow enough to be appreciated. Finnieston now one of Glasgow’s trendiest areas has been up and coming for more than a decade!

As a freelance creative Glasgow is a nursery for ideas, people and conversations. I love this city 🙂

Week 1: How I made my portfolio website

Week 1: How I made my portfolio website

I’ve decided to dedicate time to the business of being freelance (Grace the biz) so I’ve finally decided to set up a portfolio website. Over the next weeks I’ll be writing about the steps and resources I’m using to building it :).

Week 1

– I’ve set aside some time to do this because I know I wont if it’s not scheduled! Wednesday mornings every week is my chosen day.

Step 1: Research sites that I love 

I came across Tyler Riewer’s site on twitter a few months ago and absolutely loved the simplicity, humour and personal touches. Also loved that all you needed to know was on one page. 

Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 12.31.33

I also searched “best portfolio websites” selecting websites I really liked and writing what I liked about them. love the humour in this website, simple and easy to navigate and she gives us nuggets like tips page– again one page will all the information; portfolio,services, works, about me, timeline. The balloon navigator is cute! the allen is…. thinking, reading, collecting, designing, editing, writing, playing around. It gives you a clear idea about what he does.– amazing site that really shows off his animation/ web building skills

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The key things every site I saw has are;

  • About me
  • Services
  • Portfolio
  • Works/ CV/ current projects
  • Contact details

Step 2: Create a brief for the site

So I’ve decided on a one page. It’s simple and less daunting for my first website design and build!

  • Simple- one page with all my key information
  • Easily navigable
  • Friendly
  • Grace-full
  • Use symbols?

Key elements

  • logo and name
  • tagline- tactician; project development, design & architecture, community engagement
  • headshot/ picture of me
  • text about myself, my story & what I love
  • services; community arts, architecture, graphic design, project development
  • working on now
  • timeline (how do I show this as my experience isnt very linear, lots of simultaneous projects?)
  • portfolio/ projects
  • contact details
  • social media (email, twitter, linked in)
  • FAQs- e.g why do you laugh all the time? 
  • links to blogs- roller banner of interesting things or posts from blogs

Tools I want to use/ learn

  • Udemy course
  • wordpress
  • key word research
  • google analytics

Step 3: Decide on what platform to use

I had a look at free sites like wix, some of my friends have used it but I didn’t like the look of it particularly and I would like to use this opportunity to learn about web design & coding. 

Step 5: Set up a domain name & web hosting

Choosing a domain name, I found some tips on Robert Mening’s blog post on how to make a website

    • A) Is it brandable? For example, if you make a site about poetry then is not a good choice: or is much better.
    • B) Is it memorable? Short, punchy and clear domain names are much easier to remember.If your domain name is too fuzzy, too long or spelled in a strange way, visitors may forget it.
    • C) Is it catchy? You want a name that rolls off the tongue, describes what you do and sticks head. Coming up with a cool name can be a bit tough since there are approximately 150 million active domain names in the world right now – but don’t give up.
    • There’s one rule that always applies to domain names: If you like it, go for it.

My domain name?

Next web hosting for my website the best description I’ve heard is it’s like paying rent for a store front but online. 

I used 1&1 because I’d already bought my domain name with them and they had a good deal (I thought the price was per year but t’s actually per month so read the small print!)

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So I’m already to get started designing and building :). Check out week 2 soon :).

Charting a freelance career, lessons from Seth Godin

Charting a freelance career, lessons from Seth Godin


I completed Seth Godins brilliant Freelancer Udemy Course. Really made me reflect on what I’m doing with my freelance career, who I want to work with and what I want to be known for.

Check it out :).



Moment– a moment in time, where is the moment

Management– who is your boss? you are, manage your career

Department- biz to biz, find the right department

Movement- can you create one?

Agreement- you are more likely to make a difference they are happy to see

Environment- you get to pick

Persistent- showing up and staying, being respectful

Consistent- Find a tool and use it and use it even after it bores you

Potent- thing that really matters

Statement- what is your point of view, what do you stand for?

Investment- what are you investing in your work? What lifetime value?

Argument- objections are your friend, listen!

Equipment- better be good enough, doesn’t matter what equipment you use, how does it make us feel?

Element- are you in your element, or floundering

Comment- what do they say when they talk about you

Document- write down what you do

Excrement- every once in a while your gonna step in it, what are you going to do? That’s how we’ll judge you

Assessment- when you look at a problem assess it

Improvement- opportunity not a threat

Achievement- what do yours look like? what stories do you tell and what do you ship?

Instrument- we’ve all been given one, commit and persist


Productivity challenge: taking time off

Productivity challenge: taking time off


One of the trickiest things that I’m discovering about being self employed is taking time off. I remember the reply after comenting to a freelance computer specialist at my cousins party, that it must be great having all that freedom. His answer was that it means you cant take a holiday because you wont get paid. I understand that feeling now. But this weekend I took a short four days break in Scotlands beautiful Highlands and it was amazing. 

I hadnt realised how much I needed a break. It is hard to take time off when your getting paid is dependent on you working. There is a great post by Seth Godin on this. 

We had three days up north in the beautiful Highlands and Isle of Skye with the most glorious weather. It made me realise I need to start taking more breaks, setting boundaries between work and the rest of my life. Working from home can blur this. Work continues in the evenings and weekends. But just having time away, no computer, little internet really cleared my head. I got back to work this week with my energy, motivations and smile up again. 🙂

Here’s some great advice on the power of creative sabbaticals from Stefan Sagmeister on TED.

Let me know if you have any tips for taking breaks 🙂

Random thoughts on should i work for free?

Random thoughts on should i work for free?

I saw a funny twitter conversation on my blog feed between Andy Young and James Porteous yesterday. It made me think about the question should I work for free? Whether you’re a student, graduate, freelancer or start up it is a question we at some point ask ourselves, especially in the creative industry it seems. I have usually been opposed to the idea. Mostly because i think if the client’s getting charged for the time spent, the intern should also be paid. But with the multiple hats I’m currently wearing I’ve started to look at it from a different perspective.

alt= twitter andy young james porteous

For students it is difficult. I have always felt that the prevalence of unpaid internships in creative industries, can put off those who cant afford to work for free. It’s not so bad for a week or two but unpaid work for months at a time can put you in a tough situation especially when you need to things like pay your rent. I was lucky as a student that all my summer work with architecture offices were paid but I have friends who worked unpaid. They saw they saw the experience they were getting as invaluable.

Unpaid work comes in various forms for freelancers, from clients who ask you to do the work for free in order to develop your portfolio to self commissioned work which could lead on to new and exciting work. For me the toughest part about getting paid as a freelancer has been understanding what my hourly rate should be and explaining both to myself and the client why I can’t work for less. Cultural Enterprise Office here in Scotland have a great guide to this!

Businesses have both sides of the coin, young startups and even established companies can work unpaid on projects for example on competition entries, with the hope of getting the exposure. And they can also have employees working for them for free. Young startups directors often work unpaid for months or even years while the company is get so to pay an intern when you yourself aren’t being paid is tough. These are things we have been musing over at our social enterprise start-up. A portion of our work will always be for free as we started and continue as a charity, but we believe in paying potential staff and in living wage, which is difficult until we can have enough cashflow to support that.

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I really respect the mantra of design giants Pearlfisher, they absolutely refuse to work for free. Interestingly in his interview with Debbie Millman co-founder Jonathan Ford explains that they have found that saying ‘no’ can be an aphrodisiac to clients. Saying no seems to make them bend over backwards to work with them. I think it comes down to being confident in the value you are bringing. This is definitely something I aspire to.

If you are deciding whether or not to work for free here’s a brilliant guide from Jessica Hirsche to help 🙂


Let me know your thoughts on working for free! 🙂

Who do you want your customers to become?

Who do you want your customers to become?

How much of your day are you spending finding the clients you want instead of working for the ones you have?

Seth Godin asks this question in his Creative Mornings talk (another great one, thanks Swiss Miss). I just rewatched this talk as I’ve started the job hunt again and remembered how slow and demoralising it can be, but Seth’s talk made me realise that I’ve been looking at the whole thing the wrong way! Instead of searching for positions and trying to get myself to fit the criteria, I should be looking for opportunities to use my skills to help people. Opportunities to work with the clients/ customers/ people I want. Opportunities to do work that makes a difference.
It requires a big change in mindset, to turn from seeing obstacles to seeing opportunities. To think of yourself as your own client. It’s not easy I’ve taken three steps to open my mind to come up with solutions and start thinking of an answer to this question. I’ve done each one as a quick brainstorm and will keep adding to it.
  1. What is your idea of the worst work/ job you could do? Flip the question and describe what the worst work you could do would be. What are the worst types of clients, what would be the worst type of job, how could you do work that makes no change or doesn’t matter.
  2. What would the ideal job/ project/ client be? Write a job description of the perfect job and even draw up your ideal schedule- what percentage of your time would you want to be for creative work, client work, other work?
  3. How can you use your skills/ interests to create opportunities? Brainstorm the types of work you are interested in, why, how can I help people with it and how can I create opportunities?
Do you have any tips on how to create/ find projects that affect change? Let me know 🙂
Doing the work you love versus loving the work you do

Doing the work you love versus loving the work you do


Do what you love or love what you do? This question has stuck with me since listening to this Creative Mornings Talk by Ben Chestnut, CEO of mailchimp.
I remember speaking to a friend about this very topic a couple of years ago. We mused that it seemed like few people on our course actually loved architecture. So many had a hobby or something else they did that they absolutely loved and we wondered about whether your passion had to be your job. She loved photography and I loved fashion but we didn’t really want them to be our careers.

Loving what you do instead takes away the pressure that the follow your passion movement has. If you make the most of what you’re doing you can be just as happy and fulfilled. You will also be able to develop skills that will make “you so good they can’t ignore you” as Cal Newport says in his brilliant talk Following your passion is not good career advice.

 In his creative morning talk Ben interestingly says that if he’d tried to turn his love of cartooning into a business or career, it could have killed his passion.

I think the better and more fulfilling path is to love what you do. Find the things you love about it and start to add them up.

How to get funding for your project

How to get funding for your project

We had a fantastic class on how to apply for funding for your project or idea, yesterday at the Artist Mentoring Programme (the course I’m on with Impact Arts). I just made a quick diagram just highlighting key lessons and tips. Also below is the LEAP Process diagram, which is a framework for evaluating community/ social impact work used by the Scottish Government.

alt=how to apply for funding

alt= Leap process diagram

James White = You dont need clients to make work

James White = You dont need clients to make work

I found this brilliantly funny talk by James White on Organised Wonder. He talks about passion projects and using them to find your voice. 
He spent 4 years making experimental projects, just for fun. Playing with different things, different processes. He  ended up making drive poster that went viral, but more importantly it showed him what he loved to do. Making posters. 
His honesty is great
“I don’t know where it’s going but I’m getting out of the woods, being renegade and trying new things”
So what do you do?

So what do you do?

So what do you do? As many of freelancers/ self employed people in what ever capacity could tell you know this is a dreaded question. Worse than doing a job that no ones heard of and you know trying to explain will make them mentally switch off. Is probably doing multiple jobs in multiple fields and thinking where do I start or which answer do I give today. Worse still is forgetting what you previously told the person. Speaking to others working with multiple hats this a recurring theme.

Since graduating last summer,  I have ended up doing a mix of things away from the traditional post Part II architecture path. And it’s been brilliant but when some asks me what do you do? I’m stumped.  I usually have to pause and assess the context and conversation and choose the answer. I currently start with “I studied architecture but…” Then the options range from the short “I am part of humanitarian design organisation Orkidstudio,” to the mid length “we’re setting up a social enterprise and I also do freelance work”. With the long version in exceptional circumstances “I do freelance graphics with an online fashion company Unineed, research for project for a events and space management agency TAKTAL and I’m doing a course in community arts with Impact Arts, and also doing front of house work at a theatre.” As you can see that is definitely a mouthful.
So I thought I would try to come up with a simpler answer to the “what do you do” question. Asking instead what do I do and why do I do what I do? The best I’ve got so far is “I am a recent architecture graduate, working on local and global projects that use design solutions to affect positive social and economic change.” I’ll give it a try and let’s see what the feedback is. If you have any tips let me know 🙂