Olivia Hanlon: Founder & CEO of Girls in Marketing

Name: Olivia Hanlon

Job title: Founder & CEO if Girls in Marketing

Career path: Before setting up Girls in Marketing as an e-learning platform and community, I was working as an SEO marketer for a property company. Whilst it wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, I truly loved SEO and I was determined to find other marketers with the same passion for this industry as I did. 

That’s when Girls in Marketing was born! In the beginning, it was a side project alongside my full-time role. Eventually, our growth meant I could quit my nine-to-five and run Girls in Marketing whole-heartedly – with the help of a few freelance SEO clients I had on the side. 

Having weekly and monthly focusses is really important as a business owner so that you can stay on track. I have autonomy over my working week; something I never had working for someone else. I love being able to provide other people with opportunities and helping to train new marketing talent too. 

I wasn’t expecting my career path to land here; I just rolled with the punches! Sometimes the best things happen when you just go with the flow. To anyone out there worrying about where their career is headed or what they want to do, try to have faith and know it will all work itself out.

Ideas & Planning: There are so many complex productivity models out there that several business owners swear by. I recently read Grace Beverley’s Working Hard or Hardly Working, which is packed full of helpful methods to successfully plan any task or business concept. But the truth is, my process of planning ideas doesn’t use anything new – I just do what works for me and tailor my workload accordingly. 

When coming up with a new business concept, I schedule a meeting with my team almost as soon as the thought enters my mind. It really helps to air out the strengths and weaknesses of a larger project like this in order to move forward. I really value other people’s opinions, so sharing my ideas is the first step when it comes to planning. 

I will then put together a flowchart of how I envisage the project to run and what the overall process looks like (basically the bigger picture.) After that, I will go into further detail using a Google Doc before entering everything into a monday.com board. This helps the team to collaboratively see what tasks need doing and the due dates for each item. 

If I’m working on a small project or task, my best advice is to act quickly. Don’t let yourself overthink the plans too much. Instead, just take that initial step to getting it done and you’ll see your ideas come into fruition much quicker.

Finance: At Girls in Marketing, we carried out vital research around salary insights in the marketing industry as so many companies protect what they financially offer their employees. There is also a huge issue around the gender pay gap, as well as the gender seniority gap, something that Girls inMarketing aims to tackle through accessible marketing education and resources. Far more men maintain senior roles in marketing and are the decision-makers, despite the fact it is a largely female-dominated industry. 

Our research showed that over half of the women who participle feel as though their monthly paycheck doesn’t reflect their experience level or responsibilities. Typical marketing salaries completely vary depending on your position within the company, and the size of that company, but according to Glassdoor, the average marketing salary is around £33,0000 with a starting salary of £21,000+. As a small business owner, there are other financial factors to consider. From marketing tools and hosting platforms to equipment expenses, tax and other businesses fees, things can get extremely expensive. It’s important to be calculated with what you’re spending, and pay an account or accounting software to help you with your bookkeeping. Girls in Marketing offers a membership, which means we have hundreds of monthly transactions so it’s incredibly important things are kept in order, and we find paying a professional to do this is much more efficient.

Networking: Personally, I joined a programme for business owners and leaders located in the Liverpool region in 2021. The Shift programme by Gather was fully-funded and gave me a chance to network with other business owners in the area. I found it incredibly inspiring to hear other people’s stories and talking to others made me reflect on our services and offering, which is a crucial part of development and growth for us. 

I don’t schedule networking sessions on a weekly or monthly basis, and the Girls in Marketing community allows me to regularly communicate with marketers and freelancers but I always jump at the chance to attend an event if I can. It’s the best way to get creative ideas for other people and propel your business into success!

Work Environment: When I worked in my nine-to-five role, the office culture wasn’t inspiring or uplifting. As I started to build my small team and find an office of my own, I knew I wanted to create an environment for people that I had dreamed of. 

We have a very relaxed, creative space for people to work and we always carve out time for discussions about new projects.

I’m so thankful to have built a community of 170,000+ marketers across social media and be running the business of my dreams. If you want to join us, take a look at our website or follow us on Instagram.


Sabira Silcock: Jeweller and owner of SKEN Studios

Name: Sabira Silcock

Job title: Jeweller and owner of SKEN Studios.

Career path: I graduated from a BA in Decorative Arts at Nottingham Trent University in 2014, the course  was quite multidisciplinary and it was during my time here that I decided I wanted to pursue a  career in jewellery. After graduating, I launched Sabira Silcock Jewellery, a business I ran  alongside working other part-time jobs. During that time, I sold mainly through shops and  galleries in the UK, with most of my earnings from sales feeding back into the business, to buy  the tools I needed. I also interned for a few small companies and trained under a very talented  Goldsmith called Loree Bologna, she taught me a lot of the traditional skills which had been  lacking in my BA course. 

In 2016, I moved to Stockholm to undertake an MA in jewellery at Konstfack, a prestigious art  and design University based in an old Ericsson phone factory. This education really pushed me  and forced me to see jewellery as a more conceptual ‘fine art’ type lens. I moved back to  Manchester in 2018 after two amazing years in Stockholm and got pregnant with my son Rupert  pretty much immediately as soon as I arrived back. It was during the first few months of being  on maternity leave with a very small Rupert that I had time to reflect and come up with ideas for  SKEN Studios. I then launched in May 2020. 

Ideas & Planning: I’m usually not a huge planner when it comes to designing a new jewellery collection. My  process normally begins with a few sketches on the back of a receipt or if the mood takes me,  one of my many half-filled sketchbooks. The initial sketches for my first SKEN Studios  collection were drawn on my iPhone notes – the only tool to hand when I was trapped while  feeding my baby son. 

After sketching, I translate my drawings into silver; I draw directly onto the silver sheet then  saw out the shapes. For my Signet rings, I carve a special type of Jewellers’ wax, which is then  cast into recycled silver. I prototype all of my designs and then test-wear them to make sure I’m  happy with the final product.  

I try to work quickly to override my true instincts to ‘fanny around’. My studio is located at the  bottom of my garden, which is proving a nice short commute, with just enough distance from  the house to prevent me from opening the fridge door every five seconds. 

Finance: I launched SKEN Studios earlier this year during lockdown, which seemed like a really risky  move but it worked out well. At the time I was furloughed from a part-time job, so I used some  of my wages from that towards start-up costs, like a website and packaging. 

I tried to make the packaging feel luxurious and special by spending time, rather than money on  the little details. I hand-stamped the cotton bags for earrings and shredded colourful waste paper  as packaging stuffing. One thing I absolutely couldn’t scrimp on was the gold embossed ring  boxes, I wanted those to feel extra special. Trades can also be a clever way to keep costs low in  the early days. I made a signet ring for my graphic designer friend and in return she designed my  logo and branding, which I love.  

The main thing I did to finance the first collection was to make my first pieces available as pre  order only. As precious metals are expensive, this allowed me to gage which pieces were  popular without huge start-up costs. Once I had enough orders, I bought the silver and made the  pieces in batch, which saves time. 

Networking: In my pre-Covid life, I worked at Manchester Craft & Design Centre, which is a great hub of  talented craftspeople. They also run regular Makers meet-ups which are great for meeting people  in the same professional boat.  At the moment, most of my networking takes places on Instagram. I’ve met some other amazing  designers and business owners; Gwen from Grey Millk, Sara who runs Kano and Tara Collette who makes the most incredible banners, to name a few. I was also approached by July Child, a  Manchester based cult brand which stocks the most stylish accessories – our signet rings will  soon be available to buy from their website. Networking doesn’t need to be stuffy and formal,  just slide someone a DM and see what happens. 

Typical working day: My typical working day is varied; I’ll be prototyping some new earrings in the morning, packing  orders after lunch and polishing rings in the afternoon. People talk about having to ‘wear  different hats’ as a small business owner, which is clichéd but true. You have to have a handle on  all these different aspects of running a business which can sometimes leave you feeling scatty but ultimately it stops me from getting bored with my work.

You can shop Sabira’s latest creations here.

Dr Victoria Khromova: Consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist

Dr Victoria Khromova

Name: Dr Victoria Khromova

Job title: Consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist, parent coach and educator

Career path: I was one of those kids who knew that I wanted to be a doctor from when I was 11 and I was pretty sure I wanted to be a psychiatrist when I was 16. I went straight out of school to the University of Sheffield medical school (and, of course, have never left this beautiful part of the country!). After graduation, I went straight into the initial two-year foundation training for doctors. That’s where you work as the most junior doctor in medical and surgical teams, do long night shifts, run to cardiac arrests and generally feel that everyone around you knows so much than you do! 

Having completed that, I could finally apply to psychiatry training – initially doing the three years of core training: a fairly gruelling time when you rotate through different psychiatry specialties and spend most of your free time revising for the Royal College Exams. Once that was out of the way I could finally specialise in what I had wanted to do since I did my first psychiatry placement in medical school – child and adolescent psychiatry. Alongside that I also decided to complete a Masters in Clinical Education as teaching is absolutely my second love. Three years of specialist training and lectures and one maternity leave later – I was finally a qualified consultant and clinical educator!

Almost as soon as I started, I found myself working in an inpatient unit for adolescents with mental health difficulties – something that I totally love! The challenge of working out what has happened with young people and how we can help them change their trajectory so that they become adults who enjoy their life is a challenge that I don’t think I will ever get bored of. And that’s pretty much what I have been doing for the last five years. 

A couple of years ago I also became interested in disseminating the knowledge and experience that I have acquired to parents. I was forever using things that I had learnt to parent my daughter and through my clinical practice I could see how much parents affect children in general, it felt unfair to me that useful knowledge can be so difficult to access sometimes in a way that makes sense. That’s why I decided to set up Emerging Parent – to help disseminate good, research-based information about child development and mental wellbeing and to offer parents support and empower them to give their children the best chance of leading fulfilled lives. I’m currently fine-tuning my ‘4 Key essentials of balanced parenting’ approach – it’s based on the four things that I have seen make a huge difference to children’s and young people’s wellbeing during my ten years of working with families, that parents can implement fairly easily once they understand them.

Ideas & Planning: I think I work differently depending on the setting. In my clinical work I have had time to develop my own ‘style’ during years of practice. This style largely depends on information gathering – I like to get as much information about a young person as I can and then think about how it all fits together to explain what is going on for them. I try to avoid the temptation of jumping in with diagnoses and treatments before I have all the information I can get. As I work with a team, I have a lot of help with doing that. I find that I need some time for the information to sink in and to turn over in my head. For very complex patients, I’ll catch my brain looking at things from all angles at random times in the day and then eventually it hits me ‘this is probably what’s going on’.

In business, though, it’s a bit different! This is probably in part because I haven’t had time to develop my own ‘style’ yet and I am still experimenting with different things. I will usually gather some information, but as there is so much information out there about any given business topic it can be hard to filter out and decide what’s most useful. So often I will do some listening and, as I’m listening, I’ll be getting a variety of ideas of how to implement it all. Then I’ll have to try things out and see if they work. When they don’t work, I go back and get some more information or different viewpoints. And then try again. A kind of trial-and-error scenario. With creating content – I increasingly like this to be audience led, so parents tell me what they would like to know and I create content around that. Though, sometimes, I will share something that has been part of my own learning, if it feels like it will be interesting. 

When I’m creating longer content – such as an online course, I find that I have to work in layers. I often get the first layer of content down, and then I’ll go through it, see the holes and add some more information in, and then keep doing that process until I’m happy with it. I think planning a bit more and getting it right from the outset will make things easier!

Finance: At present the bulk of my personal finance comes from my clinical job, and this has allowed me to be very explorative with my business so that I can find my way to a model that I enjoy. It also means there hasn’t been any pressure to make it financially viable and that things like the coronavirus crisis hasn’t affected me as much. It does feel like a very privileged position to be in, but I do hope that in the near future I will be moving to a place where the business will be making some more money. 

Money mindset is something I have done a lot of work on recently, as thinking directly about finance has been hard for me for a number of reasons, but I feel that I am getting to the point where I am in control of my finances and able to think more rationally about them. 

Networking: In terms of clinical work, we have to attend a variety of educational events and so networking happens naturally, though not so much for business purposes and more for collaboration purposes and sharing clinical experience. 

I’m not a natural networker – I prefer to be creating content or thinking of the next thing I’ll be doing, so I have recently acknowledged that and hired someone to find those opportunities for me.

Quote to live by: “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler” – often attributed to Einstein. Making complex things accessible and useful is what makes me happy!

Danielle Rhoda: Freelance Illustrator, Animator, Designer ( Maker of things)

Name: Danielle Rhoda

Job title: Freelance Illustrator, Animator, Designer

Ideas & Planning: My work usually focuses on people and places I’ve seen personally. I often begin with sketching or will turn to sketches I’ve done on-site. I used to be careful of not ‘over-sketching’ as I found that it turned out too static for my liking, I prefer it when the marks are loose and playful, often with some mistakes, it breathes life into the illustrations. I’ve never been a fan of details sketching, takes too much time and I quickly then loose focus. Like to spend a few minutes doing so and moving to the main thing! I’d describe my way of working as quite fast-paced but also carefully observed.

Finance: Just starting out in freelance so it’s in no way a stable income yet and pricing varies!

Networking: At univeristy and since I always tried to show up to various events but more for the genuine interest and networking just happens naturally then! I love to collaborate with local artists, it helps to loosen up and look at your practice from a different point of view. It’s super important to remain connected with other people in the industry, you never know what might lead to the next opportunity. Also as freelancers we might often find ourselves stuck in our own head a little bit, it’s so valuable having others to bounce your ideas off of and discuss issues as well as exciting developments.

Quote to live by – Progress is not linear

Instagram @danielle_rhoda and website www.daniellerhoda.com

Amelia Florence: Florist

Name: Amelia Florence

Job title: Florist

Ideas & Planning: With events and weddings it’s really a collaborative decision process from the initial meeting hearing the ideas, producing mood boards, samples and then execution. I love planning and executing events and visualizing how a display will look. I’m fortunate that I have a lot of experience working on large and small scale events from being a visual merchandiser before becoming a florist. 

When it comes to weekly bouquets I try to choose a different colour palette each week, using seasonal ingredients. I get stock from the Netherlands and from British growers so it depends what is available. I’m usually am inspired by one particular flower that week which I use a base and find complimenting colours and shapes.I have always worked better under pressure, being in lockdown has really highlighted this for me. I like to have busy days, which usually start very early at the flower market, it’s a real bonus to be able to see your progress at the end of a day and be surrounded by flowers

Finance: I started my career in floristry in Canada working in florists so I’m not too sure on the salary in the UK. Since moving back here I have been solely working for myself which comes with a lot of expenses. I also only knew a few people in Manchester when I moved here, It takes time to get your name out there when you move to a new city before you start making an income. I knew this would be the case and was happy to put my money into my business as I know this is what I’m supposed to be doing. 

Networking: I have collaborated with Cecily Shrimpton in creating my screen printed packaging, which I absolutely love! I work with some local businesses to provide them weekly flowers, event flowers and have collaborated with Reserve Wines for Mothers day with a wine and bouquet bundle.

Unfortunately some projects were cancelled due to Covid but I have some collaborations in the pipeline which I’m very excited about!

I’d love to go to some creative meet ups when we are allowed, as I generally work on my own it’s always great to meet people who are in a similar situation and people who can inspire me.

Quote to live by: Be kind, be patient and stay hydrated.

You can visit Amelia’s Instagram page here.

Alice Mathews: Culture & Trends Consultant and Freelance Writer

Alice Mathews, Culture & Trends Consultant and Freelance Writer

Name: Alice Mathews

Job title: Culture & Trends Consultant and Freelance Writer

Career path: Even as a child I loved writing and would scribble stories in a Woolworths notepad that I’d carry everywhere. You have to entertain yourself when you’re an only child!

I studied English and Communications at the University of Liverpool, and have called the region home ever since. After graduating in 2016, I worked as a content writer for an education start-up and took on freelance writing jobs for different lifestyle and music publications in the North West. Coming out of university it was great getting free gigs and meals at restaurants in return for an article. At the start of my career it was also a useful way to build local contacts and helped strengthen my writing skills. 

Three years ago, I moved to Manchester for my current role. I had no idea what a Culture and Trends Consultant actually was and felt totally underqualified but applied anyway. That was a real lesson to not talk myself out of doing something and stop imposter syndrome from getting in the way of new opportunities.

I’m part of a small team in a wider research company (Join the Dots) based in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. We work with various global clients to identify the changing needs, attitudes and behaviours in people’s lives across the world to track emerging trends. I find it fascinating looking into different subcultures and cultural shifts changing our society, especially with everything in flux at the moment. 

Ideas & Planning: Every brief is different, it might be understanding how a certain group’s attitude to a trend is changing or exploring how a country’s culture is evolving – but the common thread is always people and their behaviours so anything I can do to hear people’s perspectives and stories, whether it’s asking questions, reading articles, listening to podcasts or watching documentaries on BBC iPlayer.

The way I approach planning varies depending on the project. I’m a list-writer and will normally get all my thoughts down on paper before moving to my laptop. I can think more easily when my ideas, even in skeleton form, are laid out in front of me. 

For quick turnaround projects, getting a new set of eyes on the brief and chatting through ideas as a team can help spark a new angle.

That’s the same with any freelance writing jobs, I’ll chat ideas through with family and friends first so I know the general direction before I tackle the writing.

Finance: In the creative industries, people assume London is the end goal but I think that’s changing, especially now we’ve been working more flexibility. Trends research is definitely a London-centric role but it’s reassuring to know that these jobs do exist in the North, and you don’t have to get yourself into debt just to be in London.

I think avoiding that pressure is important in creative roles, where starting salaries are normally fairly low. While Manchester is more affordable in comparison, city-centre living is expensive wherever you are so it’s all about budgeting and not eating out every night – tempting as it is! 

Networking: Manchester has such a creative energy and it’s a really collaborative community. City life is usually depicted as super competitive but here everyone will happily share advice and help others out. It feels like a small-town community in a relatively big city, which is refreshing.

Outside of work, I’ll try to go to local exhibitions, talks and events to see what’s happening across the city. If you’re introverted, I think Twitter and Instagram are also a great place to stay connected with local creatives and read about exciting projects that are happening as well as getting your own work out there. I’ve had some writing work commissioned by locals via social media without ever meeting them in real life!

Culture: Even unknowingly, the place you work can have an influence on what you create. Personally, I really struggle to feel motivated and inspired in one static place. I like to change up my environment. Luckily, my workplace is flexible and allows us to work offsite if we need.

I’ll work in the office for collaborative projects and team sessions but sometimes I’ll take myself off to work in a local coffee shop or when I really need to concentrate Manchester Central Library, it reminds me of being back in univeristy and gets me in serious essay mode! It’s also a beautiful setting to work from.

Wherever my office is for that day, I think getting away from my desk and taking a walk, no matter how short, helps my productivity levels and resets my mind.

You can view Alice’s work here and keep up with her on Twitter.

Dr Jan Green: Freelance Business Strategist/Educator

Dr Jan Green. Freelance Business Strategist/Educator.

Name: Dr Jan Green

Job title: Freelance Business Strategist/Educator   

Career path: Back in the 1970s the careers room at an all girls’ grammar school in the West Riding of Yorkshire was packed with leaflets about secretarial work, nursing and primary school teaching and had little appeal for me as I played every sport that was offered and rode rather dodgy horses …. I had wider horizons, but my mother insisted I learned to type, a skill that has paid for itself many times over.

Ideas & Planning: During my career I have learnt that inspiration and ideas do not have a timetable, they are often a surprise, occurring at any time – and may be fleeting and fragile. They are important and potentially valuable and lucrative, so I follow the habit practiced by the famous author, Robert Louis Stevenson.  He always carried two books – one to read and one to write in.  When the idea is captured, on the page or screen, it is safe. It can be stored and referred to in the future. Developing ideas, in my experience, is sporadic and intermittent because it is essential to keep up the day job, the routine and maintenance elements that make up most of our working day; this is the foundation of a career. But that idea, it won’t go away, it keeps asking a question: “What are you going to do about me – and when?”

Reflecting back, I have come to the conclusion that forcing ideas rarely works effectively. I rearrange the sequence of letters in my idea, I might write a list of words that occur to me as I stare at the idea and ponder ‘are there any links between them?’ I use a thesaurus for alternatives and focus on the present tense, for example I spend time thinking, I allocate time for reading and staring into space, preferably outside. The formal description is below baseline activities, I can almost feel my brain sorting, like a filing system into order and is a strong personal recommendation.

I need distant horizons and in my mind’s eye I work back from the distance until I am up close and immediate. Sometimes when I am tracking in this way, I stop because that is where the spark or catalyst has emerged – and the decision is made about where to progress – how follows later. This exercise may take place when I am walking, cycling or running – not necessarily sitting at my desk. William Wordsworth, the poet, used to walk on gravel and the sound of his footsteps crunching gave him the rhythm for his words – and what words they were … those daffodils!  

When an idea is formed, I plan by asking myself questions about timescales to develop, potential clients and rates. All of these aspects require clarity and should be underpinned by research into the potential market and the going rate. These are stop go points when further progress can be made – or the idea has to be put on hold. Working on one idea at a time is good for progress and being focused is far more productive then the illusion of busyness.

I always wanted to travel, to go beyond those horizons and the term ‘gap year’ did not exist back when I completed my A levels, so I trawled the job vacancies and did a simple exercise a boyfriend of mine used – put a square round the jobs you would like and a circle round the jobs you have a realistic chance of getting if you put in an application. Interesting outcomes! However, this resulted in a season in Ibiza where I ran a stable and took tourists out on treks – a fascinating experience which taught me the realities of customer care and high expectations people have when on holiday. Then I took a deep breath and went to University, emerging with a degree, far greater career opportunities and a realisation that education has the potential to change lives.

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will do,” said Alice in Wonderland. Most of us are not in Wonderland and compromise was a major factor in my early days when I decided not to be an accountant and moved into sales – because there was a company car with the job!

Working in sales encourages opportunity spotting and effective communication is a great asset, and I was supported by excellent training.  Any training and/or development opportunities that have been available, I have grabbed – and learnt so much – whilst still retaining the longing for travel – I always say yes, if at all possible, then work out how afterwards.  This approach has taken me to so many parts of the world and provided material to write a PhD about exemplary business performance, which identifies ways in which people who are excellent at their job approach work – fascinating.

As I have moved into the later stages of my career, I have been asked to coach managers in companies and also teach in the post-graduate executive education sector. This work has brought a steady stream of projects in far flung locations and my top tip is preparation. Research the client and ask questions via your contact so that expectations are met and always be professional in your manner. Of course the reality is not all glamour – Dubai airport at 4am is the time to catch this airline cross roads before it gets too busy, smaller provincial airports outside core hours can be challenging when tired and jet lagged and running for connections, whilst carrying a suitcase and wearing high heels, anywhere is certainly not meant to happen, but it does! However, many journeys do go according to plan and the opportunities to meet people and experience different cultures and places are good for the memory bank.

Finance: Nobody expects to work for nothing, unless it is a voluntary role or for a charity. Checking vacancies to see what rates are being advertised for similar roles within your area of expertise is good practice. Calculating personal monthly outgoings is the foundation for budgeting so whenever a situation arises when you are asked for a quote, or to name your salary, you are prepared. Having a clear notion of what your own unique selling points are, together with previous experience, qualifications and any awards, all contribute in a positive way to enhancing personal worth and value within the market-place. Your personal profile and CV should always be up to date.

Self-employment requires careful attention to cash flow and appreciating that invoicing for work carried out will usually be on 30-days credit. A working knowledge of accounts is valuable and there are digital packages which are very easy to use and can be linked directly to a bank account, enabling a live income and expenditure account to be available at all times.  Professional advice can be expensive in the early days of a business – but usually less expensive than making costly mistakes. Women often overlook longer term financial planning and thinking about pensions – this is a priority, for us all. One of the most valuable lessons at school was compound interest – and the first £1000 is still the most difficult! One day your pension will be founded on these calculations.

Networking: Opportunities to engage in networking are extensive. When I see an event of interest and it is at a convenient time and location, I try to attend, and going alone results in the best value. Many years ago I attended an event about networking and I arrived just before the speaker was about to start and I had to walk through the audience to locate a spare seat – realising as I did that I was the only woman in the room! However, the speaker was interesting and I learnt three valuable lessons: how to shake hands with confidence, the best networking line ever: “May I join you?” and what will I say, as an icebreaker, that I am comfortable with. Keeping it light is my recommendation, examples being “How far have you travelled?” “What sector do you work in?” – remembering that the art of conversation is to keep the conversation going! Several years ago, networking provided me with the opportunity to take a position on the Board of Directors of a multi-million-pound business and make an active contribution to the ongoing success of a crowd-funded start up.

Accepting guest speaker invitations is an excellent way of growing your own network and contacts – and organising your own event is a way of ensuring the people you want to meet receive an invitation! 

Quote to live by: From my grandmother, who was ahead of her time: “DO IT NOW, WHILE YOU CAN”.

Graphics: Hannah McCreath

Sarah-Jayne Hall: Independent Marriage and Family Celebrant

Sarah-Jayne Hall, Celebrant. Photography: Jenny Appleton.

Name: Sarah-Jayne Hall

Job title: Independent Marriage and Family Celebrant

Career path: Throughout my education I wasn’t aware of the role of a Celebrant and when I did know what it was I had no idea initially how I would go about training to be one!

I attended Poynton High School and always enjoyed the creative lessons like drama, I was definitely an expressive person.  This continued on in my university years when I studied for my BA(Hons) in Media and Performance at Salford University. The course was actually recommended to me by Peter Kay – I’d written him a letter asking for advice and he was kind enough to reply. I was over the moon and followed in his footsteps and signed up for the course.  Whilst studying I worked for free on various television shows including a pilot for a cooking programme where Gino D’Campo was the host. I like to think me washing his pots led to his success and fame today! I was a typical arty, theatrical, outgoing, expressive soul with so much love to give. 

Fast forward and I finished my degree. I successfully gained an apprenticeship at Granada TV at its flagship building on Quay Street in the heart of Manchester. I was incredibly lucky and ended up working there for seven years. My role as a Technical Operator for ITV regional news (Granada Reports) taught me so much and gave me lots of skills to become a Celebrant… even though I didn’t realise it at the time. 

After many happy years there I jumped ship to work for BBC Sport where I spent six years as a TV Director and vision mixer.  14 years in the media industry gave me bucket loads of transferable skills – organisation, multitasking, communication to name a few, not to mention drive, determination and pride in my work. 

After having my son (in 2016) that’s when things changed and so did my career.  Whilst on maternity leave I attended a wedding that was led by a Celebrant, it was amazing! So personal and like no other service I’d been to before. The amount of people that turned to me and said, “You’d be great at that job” and “I could see you doing that” was incredible and it got me thinking… ‘where do I go to be able to do that?!’

Ideas & Planning: I liken the job of being a Celebrant to my previous job of being a TV Director/Vision Mixer.

You have to be able to communicate well with everyone. You need to be approachable and fair, but in control of the run order of the day. Not only that, you must listen to everybody’s views and opinions and represent them well in the show that you are making. You must be clear on your direction so that people understand what is happening and you must fix any problems as quickly and efficiently as possible.

You need to be able to reassure and make your presenters and guests feel comfortable, relaxed and informed. Timing is essential, not just being punctual to meetings, but to make sure elements of the day are timed and executed in a professional manner. This is just a handful of requirements that I transfer into my role as a Celebrant. I’m friendly, kind, easy to talk to and fun. I take on board my clients’ wishes and make them into their very own special ceremony. I’m always there to answer emails, texts and calls and on ceremony day I arrive super early so that my customers can be confident that I’m ready and waiting to give them the best day ever! My aim is to take away the stresses and bring smiles so that all they have to be concerned about is immersing themselves into the celebration.

My job is to tell a story, whether that’s someone’s life story at a celebration of life service, love story at a wedding or name story at a naming day. I am honoured that my job involves listening to lots of wonderfully amazing anecdotes, memories and tales that make up the heart of these milestone moments.

For each type of ceremony, I have to work differently due to time scale. Weddings are often booked a year or more in advance so there is more time to ponder and re-write, whereas with a funeral it can often be an extremely tight turn around in difficult circumstances. No matter what I am doing it has to be done precisely, diligently and with respect and care.

Finance: There are people that think being a Celebrant can only be a part-time job. You may find that some Celebrants do work in other jobs, whilst leading ceremonies. I believe it’s down to personal choice. I think it works as a part-time or a full-time position. Don’t get me wrong, setting up this business after being in the same role for 14 years working for companies was totally daunting. I’m still learning new things every day and I will continue to do so as a small business owner.

On average, for a funeral service you can expect to earn around £210 – that includes meeting with a family (usually at their home) and then writing the service and eulogy. For naming days and vow renewals you can earn somewhere around £300 and up, and for a wedding it can be anything from £450 up to £900 depending on requirements. But it’s worth remembering that if you’re an independent celebrant those prices can differ hugely depending on your style, location and time of year. All I’d say is, know your own worth and you can’t go far wrong.

The trickiest part for me is the financial side of things. Being self-employed I set my own prices and I have to be completely aware of budgeting and expenses. Luckily there is an app for most things these days, so I rely heavily on that to do a lot of my sums for me. Seriously though, this job has busier and quieter times, but that’s like any job or company. You just have to make sure you manage your money well. Think about everything, from travel expenses to business cards, to your website. I saved a lot of money by building my website myself, maybe there are other ways you can be clever with your incomings and skills so that it doesn’t all become one big outgoing!

Networking: One of the hardest things about being self-employed is lack of contact with humans! Now, you may think that is impossible because I am lucky enough to connect with many families and couples when I prepare and conduct ceremonies. But, the vast majority of the time I spend alone sat at my desk writing. So, having connections outside of my home is hugely important to my health and well-being.

Many of the networking groups I am part of are virtual ones – for example, Facebook groups. Being part of these forums gives me access to styled shoots and meet-ups within the industry. A styled shoot is a great way to meet other vendors and showcase all the incredible talents we have. What usually happens is a supplier from the wedding industry creates an idea and theme and puts a team of highly skilled florists, venue dressers etc… together to make a mock wedding. From there ideas are shared and a vision realised. It’s the perfect platform to try out ideas and you get to chat and meet people along the way. These shoots are always enjoyable and help to keep me sane.

Local community groups are important to me too, even if it’s just popping into the ‘Women in Business’ drop in once a week for a coffee. It’s connecting with people that helps me to enhance my network.

Another thing that I find useful is at least a few days a month (sometimes more) working in a different environment, that might be a shared office space where I can hire a desk for a day or a spot in my local restaurant. That way I get a change of scenery and I put a little bit back into my local businesses too. It’s win, win!

Speaking of local businesses, I make sure I know them and that I invest time in getting to know what they do. It might sound simple, but having relationships with those people can only make your profile stronger and therefore people trust you more and want to recommend and invest in you too.


Emma Louise Morris: PR and Communications Consultant

Emma Louise Morris, PR and Communications Consultant. Photography by Jessica Howell.

Name: Emma Louise Morris

Job title: PR and Communications Consultant

Career path: After working as a solicitor, (a job I liked but I didn’t love – Ally McBeal has a lot to answer for) I left law for a new career – not knowing exactly what that would look like.

I quickly realised that I had the right skills to move into a career in communications, having always played an active part in marketing and communications for the law firms I had worked in.

My first communications role was within the education sector and the experience I gained there soon led to a senior position working for a new charitable education trust in South Yorkshire. Here, I built from scratch the communications, marketing and press functions. After running a number of high-profile PR and communications campaigns I knew that this was what I was meant to do.

Following that I worked within the PR, communications and marketing team at Leeds Arts University (formerly Leeds College of Art) where I developed and led their media relations. I was responsible for all PR activity across the university, such as major university announcements, promotion of all exhibitions and student, alumni and artist success stories. I’ve now worked in the PR and comms industry for almost 10 years and I haven’t looked back. I love the independence and variety being a freelance PR and communications consultant offers me. I am proud to be working with practising artists, small businesses and start-ups, across the UK.

Ideas & Planning: I work from home so finding a comfortable spot to work is a must. When the sun is shining, there’s nothing I love more than taking my notebook and pen (selected from my growing stash – I’m a huge stationery geek!), and sitting in the corner of the garden. My happy place is enjoying the peace and quiet while sat in the sunshine and it’s where I’m able to be my most productive. State of mind and wellbeing is important when working from home and a dose of vitamin D is a must for me.

I like to think through my ideas and plans, so I often sit and don’t write anything for a while. Once I’ve gathered my thoughts I begin drafting out my initial ideas the old fashioned way – scribbling away.  Once I’ve got them down on paper, then I transfer them to my laptop.

When I’m not in the garden, I’m in my office where I have a little desk by the window. It’s nice to have a dedicated space to work in the house. I have a writing ritual. I like to light a candle and I must have a cup of Yorkshire Tea on the go, usually in a cup with a cheesy quote that I find inspiring (my fave being “Best mummy in Barnsley”). Lighting a candle helps to keep me calm and focused – much-needed when I’m up against a deadline.  

In terms of my ways of working, I’m a planner. My legal background plays a big part here, I like to be very organised and diarise everything! I set calendar reminders that help me work backwards from a deadline. I also love lists! I use Trello to organise my projects and client work and I’ve found it to be a great communications tool to collaborate with clients on.

I take inspiration from people and everything around me. I like to keep up to date with other writers, the media, the arts and small businesses. But most importantly, I’m inspired and fascinated by people. I enjoy working with them to communicate their positive story and do that as creatively as I can.

Finance: To some extent, I’m still figuring this one out as I’m in the early stages of my self-employed journey. I’ve learnt a lot in this past year but I’m still finding my way.

Quoting for work is by far the hardest thing about being freelance for me. It can be easy to undervalue your worth and the time you invest in a client project. I’ve learnt to be confident in the skills and professional service that I am offering. It’s a tough one predicting how long a project will take you but this comes with experience.  

My earnings vary month to month, particularly so in this first year of setting up. I’ve had a lot of one off costs like creating a website, IT, printing and subscriptions to factor in. I have clients that work in the arts so I tend to earn more over the summer months, depending when exhibitions and events fall.

Networking: During my time working at Leeds Arts University I met a lot of creatives and other PR professionals and I’ve tried to keep in touch with as many of them as possible.

I don’t tend to go to many formal networking events but I love to support and get involved in community initiatives, charity work and local events. I find this is an effective way for me to meet new people that need my services either now or further down the line. It’s all about building connections within my industry and keeping in touch with people, so I guess I’m always networking in one form or another, without realising it. Working on your own can be lonely at times. I enjoy meeting up with other PR freelancers for coffee dates. I always feel so much more connected and it’s helpful to bounce ideas around with someone else. I have a network of other business owners that I am connected with and I take inspiration from. I’m also in some helpful freelancer groups on Facebook and I follow other self-employed professionals on Instagram.

Quote to live by: “If you don’t ask, you don’t get and if you don’t try, you’ll never know.” I live by this motto and it hasn’t let me down yet!

Emma’s top tips:

  • Be kind to yourself. Working for yourself requires a lot of self-motivation, but some days the words don’t come. That’s okay though, tick off what jobs you can do that day and come back to the creative parts the next day.
  • Keep in touch with anyone you’ve had a good connection with, as many as possible – you never know when someone’s background or experience might be useful.
  • Do something you love. Making the switch from law to PR and communications was a brave move but it’s the best thing I ever did. You spend a lot of time working and I feel lucky to have finally found a career I love.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. The current COVID-19 pandemic has sadly seen a big decline in my business. Unfortunately, I don’t get any government support as I’ve not been self-employed long enough. I’ve been open about this on social media and it has been heart-warming to receive messages and emails from other professionals and businesses that want to support me in any way they can.

All graphics by Hannah McCreath.

Cydney Beasley: Make-up Artist

Cydney Beasley, Make-up Artist

Name: Cydney Beasley

Job title: Make-up Artist

Career path: Not all shoots enable you to go with your ideas; for some projects you receive a fixed brief in the TV script or from a fellow creative. You have to get inside their minds and really understand their concepts to be able to deliver the looks they desire. However, I will sometimes offer advice or opinion when I feel that it might be worth changing a particular aspect of the make-up.

I studied Media Make-up for Film and TV at the Yorkshire College of Beauty which I highly recommend and I went straight to University with these qualifications. I am now in my second year of my Make-up for Fashion BA(Hons) at the University of Salford. My studies involved an in-depth study of the history of makeup and have a good level of technical ability across all the historical periods. This has helped me gain a broader perspective on make-up and you can see elements of different periods of make-up making their way onto the runways today. The looks might have been exaggerated and adapted to suit today’s culture but the inspiration has come from historical reference.

My ideas come from art, sculpture, fashion, popular culture and movements and also what is happening in society. I take my inspiration from so many sources but the important aspect is to present and create your own ideas and concepts ensuring they are original.

Ideas & Planning: I don’t think I have any unique way of planning my work. I ensure that I am fully prepared and fully understand my role on the day. My kit and product always have to be up to date and cleaned after each use. I am also a CIDESCO graduate which has given me an in-depth insight into anatomy, beauty, cosmetology and skincare. This helps me with my work as I’m able to analyse skin and bone structure so I fully understand what I need to do to achieve the right look. These additional qualifications are helpful for all my prosthetics and special effects work.

My way of working depends on the booking: if it is a fashion show then you have a limited time to create each look and you cannot deviate from this. For a styled editorial you may have more time but e-commerce you may have to shoot several looks in half a day. Whatever the shoot depends on, it’s important to ensure your models and actors feel at ease and are comfortable.


Earnings can vary enormously depending upon what shoot you might be booked for. I have been fortunate to be chosen for a number of location shoots and one I really enjoyed was in Italy as it stretched my confidence and abilities to be able to work abroad with a team of creatives I had not met before.

I was also the assistant hair and make-up artist to the TOP 10 artist Jamie Lawson, for his video, The Answer. I consider myself lucky to have met my fashion idol, Jean Paul Gaultier on a shoot in London just before he announced his retirement.

Jobs as a MUA can vary as I am a represented artist. My agent ensures that the appropriate rate is negotiated for the job in line with all the rules and regulations for our sector. Rates can vary greatly depending upon the genre of the shoot and client.  For some film and TV productions that require specialist work it can be much more, the same applies with the haute couture runway shows.

Networking: I am represented by Boss Creatives Agency, part of the prestigious Boss Model Management in Manchester who are well known for scouting the supermodel, Karen Elson. As I belong to an agency, I have the ability to be able to collaborate and meet up with a wide range of other creative people including other MUAs, photographers, fashion stylists and producers.

To be successful in this industry it is all about connections and networking. In the beginning of my career I took on many unpaid opportunities to help build my portfolio, this is essential to establishing yourself within your chosen genre.  

Quote to live by: “If you want to be original, be ready to be copied” – Coco Chanel. This quote means a lot to me as everyone has a voice today through social media and many people describe themselves as a MUA who perhaps have not undergone the formal training route. For me, being a MUA is an art and it is also a craft as I use my hands. I am striving to broaden my horizons and to highlight my unique selling points within the very competitive industry. 

I am constantly learning my craft and along with my technical ability it is really important to develop your own style and where you can be controversial to help generate emotion from your work . I am still young at 20 and am the youngest creative agent my agency has signed which I am most grateful for as they also believe in my abilities. My aim is develop a style that will be recognised and it will be my selling point.  

Cydney’s Top Tips:

  • Be on time, never be late for a shoot.
  • Be prepared, always ensure you have the right equipment and products.
  • Be flexible – shoots can change at the last minute and you must be able to work longer hours to get the job done or to change a look in a short space of time.
  • Be confident in your abilities on set – ask the Director or Photographer to stop if you feel you need to make any adjustments.
  • Communicate – you will be working as part of a team and it’s important to make a good impression and ensure you understand what is expected of you.

All graphics by Hannah McCreath