21 Mar 2017

Discovering a Creative Community + The Freedom of Freelance

 A morning spent at Waste Studio | Card Holder by Bellroy

This May will mark my second anniversary of turning full time freelance. That's two whole years of being my own boss, two whole years of pushing myself 100% into fulfilling and creative projects, and two whole of uncertainty. The unknown is a daunting prospect, but not always a bad one.

Working for myself has been a challenge. I've made mistakes, took risks, and grown from the experience. The community I have found myself turning to - for advice, to bounce ideas off, chat through issues and to collaborate with has become one of the most important aspects of my freelance life. I'm only a phone call away from several trusted voices, and that next coffee shop meeting.

My community is made up of people I've grown close to + trust. Conversations spark up through blogs, Instagram, Twitter, in coffee shops...These interactions can quickly turn into planning trips to meet up with people who share a similar interest; be that in a town I know well or a city I feel a stranger in. Repeat contact with these familiar faces, in turn, makes the community stronger and introduces you to whole new side of the industry.

The freedom that freelancing gives me means that I don't need much to make something happen. Take mine + Jordan's recent trip to Nottingham for example. We wanted to explore what the city had to offer, so we arranged a suitable date for us to meet, packed the essentials phone, camera, laptop, notepad, pen, Bellroy wallet + keys and set about planning our day to maximise time.

 Break time at Outpost Coffee Roasters
 A visit to Nottingham-based homeware + design brand Lane

Having previously visited the city last year I was keen to show Jordan some of my favourite spots, introduce him to some local creatives, and also check out a couple of new places on my radar. We started with a trip to the Nottingham Contemporary Gallery, followed by a break at Outpost Coffee. Fuelled by flat whites + chocolate brownies, we got to planning out the next 24 hours jotting notes down in my leather notepad by sending a some quick emails to see who was free to meet up.

A few conversations later and we'd arranged to meet the guys from Universal Works who previously sent us some recommendations for our last trip to Nottingham and our good friends Ian and Felicity of Campbell Cole for beers at Junkyard. Our chat turns to the benefits of living in a small city, growing up in the North, and how social media has been a game changer for small businesses and creatives.

For many freelancers it has became a passion to meet the  people behind the brands; getting to know the whys + hows behind the products
 and form lasting relationships.

Sure, meeting these people does definately makes for more meaningful content, but that's not always the motive. For me it's about making a connection with intelligent, funny and inspiring people allowing us to collaborate and develop new skills through understanding different disciplines.

Early the next morning we spent an hour at Waste Studio, a multi-purpose creative agency with one of the coolest offices going. I could spend hours chatting to Norm + co, if time allowed it... Hearing about some of the design work, brand lookbooks and community projects these guys have worked on gives me that extra push to work on those passion projects I've been putting on the back-burner. Next door to Waste Studio is Ideas on Paper an independent book shop filled wall-to-wall with hard-to-find magazines, art books + graphic design inspiration.

We also finally got to meet the team behind Lane, an independent homeware and design brand based out of an old school building, Primary Studios. The studios are artist-led spaces that help support local businesses through various creative programmes. It's a great sign of Nottingham's entrepreneurial spirit.

 Talking SS17 inspiration at the Universal Works HQ

The freedom of being your own boss throws up a few constants; the ability to set our own hours, work from any suitable location, (WIFI + coffee as standard), create meaningful work and immerse yourself in a warm and welcoming community. This also means you only have yourself to answer to if your work isn't up to scratch or you become complacent.

"If people don't love your work, or people don't hate your work then have you really done anything at all?
Tinker Hatfield, Nike

Over these past two years I've found what works for me, and one of those is to create a clean, uncluttered, calm and familiar environment one with good natural light, where everything has its place. Anything "unnecessary" can sometimes act a distraction. I don't necessarily mean "minimal" as such, but rather, considered and with a purpose.

Coat c/o Percival | Sweatshirt by Several | Jeans by Albam | Sneakers by Converse | Bag by Parka London | Accessories by Bellroy
Images of me by Jordan Bunker

I like to try and make the transition from my office at home to a working away as seamless as possible. The products which mirror a similar stripped-back, considered ethos contribute massively to each trip's success. Take Bellroy's Key Cover for example compacting my keys to a few centimetres in width, or the Phone Case which has a handy compartment for your bank card, all set for contactless payments. It's about working smarter and with more efficiency. And that's the same being your own boss.

I started this piece off by saying that the unknown is a daunting prospect. It still is. But if we took the easy road one which didn't challenge us, evoke self-doubt or have us looking at missed opportunities as a means to build something better - then how would we ever be truly satisfied that we gave it our all? The path is uncertain but the values stay the same. I'm just looking forward to wherever that next train journey take me. 

Have you ever considered working as a freelancer in your line of work, recently took the plunge, or do you feel more suited to a reliable 9-5 structure?

This post is in partnership with Bellroy. Thank you for taking the time to support the brands + businesses that make this blog happen.


  1. Loving the Bellroy accessories - the key cover in particular - might have to check them out. Couldn't agree more with the Tinker quote too, you should always want a reaction!

    It's Matt Thompson

  2. Great shots, Ma! you have me craving some coffee and to start some new, creative project

  3. Nice post man!


  4. I just came across your Instagram and am so glad I clicked on your blog link. I literally just moved to London a few days ago and have been debating between taking the easy route (9-5 desk job) or taking the uncertain route, starting fresh and restarting my blog. It was such a relief to read your post and get that extra bit of motivation to start my blog again. Nice work and incredible photos!!

  5. Loved reading this mate! Congrats on the freelancing anniversary and here's to new projects and even more creativity! :)

    Kosta // Cool Gear Cavalier

  6. This is such a great post! Congratulations on your freelance anniversary! I'm loving all these amazing photos!


  7. Ryan Mules20:55

    Really enjoyed your insight into the freelance life, Matt. Waste Studio looks amazing too!


  8. Coffee and create! I need a catch up on your new posts.

  9. Thanks for stopping by, Ryan. I hope you found it helpful.

  10. Thanks Valerie, it's lovely to hear from you again.

  11. Thanks buddy, I appreciate you coming over for a ready. Here here!

  12. Defo have a look into Bellroy if you're not familar. We've been using their products for a few years, improvements are made constantly and they're always dropping helpful products.

  13. That's so good to hear, Lavina. How have you been getting on since you moved to London then, and what was the reason for moving? You can make it work, but you need to find a group of people who can support you and give regular feedback. It's hard doing it alone.

  14. Peter Mitchell21:35

    Great post Mat, I've recently taken the plunge into freelance life. Not by choice, but looking to give it as good a go as i can whilst I've got the opportunity.

    Love reading these freelance based posts. Those Bellroy journals look so nice, might need to get my hand on one with my next pot of spare cash to treat myself.

  15. Lavina12:31

    Thanks for the advice! I'm definitely going to give it another go. It's going well so far, I moved here after getting married ha.


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