Real World Work

Get Used to To-Do Lists: Freelancing in Costume

The title of this blog is something of a portent of what to come; I’d originally planned to post two blogs a week here on Liz Taylor Talks Costume, but sometimes life just gets in the way.

When I started this blog, I was in a really quiet period, and writing two blogs a week sounded like absolutely no problem, but of course, life had different ideas. Not that I’m complaining; at one stage I was so bored I would have sold my soul to Satan for a project. (Didn’t have to, fortunately)

Luckily, I’ve had a massive influx of work come in at once – yay! The highlighters, poly pockets and diaries have been awoken from their slumber, ready for another project.

I got thinking about freelancing in general, and everything I’ve learnt so far in my first year of total freelance work. So, I thought I’d take a break from the usual format and give you some sage advice from a freelance costumer (Also; there are experts in this. I am not one. But I’m learning!)

  1. Oh, my god, please learn to be organised.

Honestly, if you aren’t an organised person, freelancing might not be for you. I’m constantly writing to do lists, post it notes to myself, literally lists on my own skin, because there are so many things to remember when you’re working for yourself. You can’t afford to not remember things because this will get you in trouble. Take notes, take lists, and keep all your prep material in one place. You need to be organised, because if you don’t send that invoice or reply to that email, you probably won’t get paid. No matter how good your memory is, it isn’t infallible. An hour spent on filing notes, writing up meeting minutes, and recording spends and receipts will save you so much time in the long run, and allows you to sleep at night. Plus, being organised not only makes you look more professional, it also makes your job a lot easier.

  1. Ask all the questions.

Don’t be annoying, obviously. But if you don’t understand a direction, or a note, or an email, just ask. Clarify everything and make sure you and the rest of the people you’re working with are on the same page. Don’t assume, don’t take it for granted. If you’re a costumer, like me, make sure you and the director, or person above you, are on the same page; and don’t just assume that they’ll have the same vision as you. The arts and creative industries rely on artists and designers collaborating, and you can only do this if you listen to people, and ask if you aren’t sure. I promise it makes it easier, even if you feel annoying sending that clarification email.

  1. Do your taxes. Do them well, and do them early.

Don’t let the tax demon give you sleepless nights. I learnt this the hard way. Don’t make my mistakes. Learn what taxes are and how to do them. They just suck.

  1. Accept that you don’t have a 9-5 job. That’s cool.

No matter how much you want it to be, freelancing is just not 9-5. The concept of a weekend is now foreign. Say goodbye to a total day off. Remember, this is awesome. Freelancing is exciting because you get to work with so many different people, and on so many different projects. That’s the beauty of it! This took me a long time to accept – I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that I sometimes didn’t have set hours, and I was totally responsible for my workload. It’s strange being your own boss after being told what to do for four years; but it’s also great. You’re also never too old to learn; so if work’s quiet, spend time improving your skills and preparing for the next job. I’ve done costume for four years now, and I still feel like a total beginner, but I’m constantly trying to learn and improve my skills.

  1. Don’t give up.

There’s been a few times in the past year that I’ve doubted myself. I’ve doubted that I’m cut out for freelancing, doubted my talents, and didn’t think I’d get another project. But if you love what you do, don’t give up. Life’s too short to spend time on things that you don’t love. And sure, there are days when I long for a job where I can leave the office at 5pm, have my weekends to myself, and not panic about the next paycheck. But hey; my job is awesome. I’m always so happy to talk about work, and I’m so happy to be working in a job and an industry that I love.

I’ll take a few sleepless nights and 60 hours’ weeks for that.

I’ll be back with a bumper Game of Clothes just ahead of the finale; and thanks for bearing with this blogs radio silence while I’ve been buried under mounds of costumes, reference pictures and paperwork.

Till next time;

Liz xo

2 thoughts on “Get Used to To-Do Lists: Freelancing in Costume

  1. Hi liz my name is Arlene and I’m from Bangor and I’m starting off in costume and loved your post on freelancing. I’m finding it hard to get started and appreciate your words of encouragement to carry on and do what you love. I also understand all your other advice, it is very very true. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

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