Freelance learnings so far…


I’ve been a freelancer for a while now – I quit my last full-time design job at the end of 2009 in London and started freelancing in January 2010.

In the beginning I did mostly long-term contract work for industry contacts I already had – it didn’t really feel like freelancing but I couldn’t complain. My biggest and most recognizable job at the time was probably working as part of the Event Communications team responsible for graphics at the award-winning Riverside Museum of transport in Glasgow, the structure of which was beautifully designed by world famous architect Zaha Hadid.

Since moving back to SA, my freelancing has been up and down because of the kids, but it’s definitely taken on a more typical / ‘traditional’ feel of late where I’m juggling LOTS of clients and LOTS of different types of projects at the same time – and I LOVE it!

I get to do what I thrive on (being creative; solving ‘problems’ creatively) while being involved in so many varying industries all at once – no time to get bored here!

But as with any sort of job/freelancing role, there is a lot of learning to be done and things don’t always come easily/naturally – the learning never ends either but over the past 9 months or so I really feel like Im getting a grip on the whole freelancing game…

So here they are – my pearls of wisdom to share with anyone who may be interested – some of the things I have learned over the past few years that I now try to live by when it comes to freelancing:

You choose your clients as much as they choose you.

This may sound arrogant or crazy in a world where people are competing for work daily but I truly believe that a good fit with a client is more important than money and can help to eliminate the possibility of issues later down the line, time wasted and the potential to produce sub-standard work. If a client contacts me with a brief and I don’t feel the vibe, or can tell that said client is going to be a mare, I politely decline the work and where possible recommend an alternative designer who I feel might be a better fit. It has happened before that I’ve had to ‘axe’ a client or two mid-project, yikes – not an ideal situation at all but totally the best decision for both parties – if I don’t feel like I can give you my absolute best then I would rather say so as soon as possible. I try to only work with people / on projects that I will be proud to show off.

Honestly IS (mostly) the best policy.

In line with point number 1, being straight up with a client is the utmost respect I can offer as a freelancer. If this means giving my advice or opinion too, I will. If it means I lose out on work, so be it. A client may not always like what I have to say or may not always follow my advice, that is up to them, but I feel better knowing I have given someone all the info they need to make that decision. I like to pride myself on designing like I give a damn, because I really do.

There is more than enough to go around.

Some people are cagey and don’t want to share information, leads, work opportunities, contacts and knowledge. My thinking is the opposite. There is plenty of whatever you are looking for around – in the words of the late great * Paul Arden: “Do not covet your ideas. Give away everything you know, and more will come back to you.” The same goes for work – if you are proactive, genuine and provide an excellent value for money experience for your clients, I really don’t think you will ever want for work. Share, learn, share some more, collaborate, grow – the more you give, the more you get. The power of attraction is strong.

Anyone who respects you and your skills will not expect you to work for free.

I’m not saying don’t do pro bono work – I do think it has a place and I have one or two clients who I choose to work with for free – BUT under-charging and constant freebies for friends and family will only lead you down the deadly path of resentment and discontent. Your time IS worth money. Likewise with your skill and experience. OWN IT! I’ve worked out what I feel is a fair rate for my time and skill level, and I try to stick to it, within reason – I do give close friends and family ‘mates rates’ which I think is a fair compromise. The people (mostly charities) who I do do free stuff for are generally very grateful, always offer to pay even though I seldom invoice them, and often show their appreciation in other ways – through word of mouth and recommendations.

Social media is your friend.

Your very BEST FRIEND! Do it, but do it properly. And engage! There’s no point in accumulating ‘followers’ if you are not going to connect with them. Rather use fewer social media channels well, than use all of them without the time to do each one properly.

Always have an accountability partner.

This is nothing new in the world of freelancing – pick a friend or fellow freelancer who thinks and works similarly to how you do. Someone who you can bounce ideas of, someone who can put pressure on you to get stuff done when you need it, someone who can advise you when you are stuck – do the same for him / her if they need it! I’ve talked about Nicola before, she has been one of the main contributing factors towards my growth as a freelancer. And whenever I need to have a work-related-rant, she is also always there to have a glass of wine with me ;)

Constantly re-assess the way you work and the way you engage with your clients.

I mentioned above that creating an experience for your clients is what will set you apart from others – you can streamline this to work for yourself too, to make your work flow more smoothly and efficiently, and to help you to manage your time… Ask yourself: How can I do that better? How can I make this a more efficient excercise? How can I help my client communicate with me better? Often, the answers to these questions will lead to ways in which you can improve the way you work and the way your client experiences your service.

Surround yourself with inspiration and immerse yourself fully in your craft.

Design is everywhere. I’m always on the lookout for inspo. I read design related books and blogs. I follow other designers on social media. I pin stuff (oh boy, do I pin!) and I look around at how other people are doing things. I also do other non-computery things (DIY, crochet, pottery etc) that help to keep my feeling like a hands-on creative. Before I open up a new document in Illustrator, I often draw my idea on paper first… As a freelancer, we fly solo for the most part and by immersing yourself in the culture of your craft, you will help yourself to keep ahead of the crowd – to notice the trends, to see what is working out there and what isn’t – to keep yourself inspired :)

Trust you gut.

This is a big one and related to so many of the points raised above – I have learned that using my gut instinct is the best way to vet potential clients and jobs and to get a feel for what people really want from me. Instincts based on my interactions with a client right from the first hello will tell me if this person will be fussy, problematic on the finance front (in terms of paying) and/or whether the job will be right for me or not. From a work perspective, sometimes I have clients who  think they want something, but my gut tells me they need something else and this is where my Honesty Policy often kicks in. Not listening to my gut has landed me in a few tricky situations so – at the risk of sounding completely airy-fairy (but then again, isn’t there an element of that which actually makes you a good and perceptive designer?) – I have discovered that connecting with my inner feelings about a client / project is generally what influences the outcomes.

* One of my favourite #freelancelife related books is It’s Not How Good You Are, Its How Good You Want To Be by Paul Arden – TOTALLY worth a read if you are keen for some quick, sharp and thought-provoking nuggets of inspiration to be a better freelancer!

New Winter Boots, because BRRRRRRR!

I’ve definitely noticed a chill in the Midlands air recently, and after quite a cold spell last week and the beautiful Autumnal sunshine streaming through my windows daily, suspicions have been confirmed – Winter IS on it’s way!

Cue angels singing and cherubs on harps, I just LOVE LOVE LOVE this time of year – it always makes me nostalgic for London – bring out the boots, scarves and coats already!

We were in Clarens this weekend for a wedding (so lovely!) and given the altitude, we really felt the cooler weather. Of course, as always, we hadn’t quite packed for it though… Spotted a Tsonga shop when we arrived and after a quick gander, fell totally in love with these soft, wool-lined flat boots…

tsonga boots cleverbirdbanterI didn’t buy them immediately but literally could not stop thinking about them so had to go back the next day and try them on. It was game over after that and my bank account is hating me, but right now, my feet think I’m pretty rad…

tsonga-boots-cleverbirdbanter-2I remember owning my first pair of Tsonga shoes (some low-wedge mule-type numbers!) as a young teen when the local-born brand was still in it’s infancy and nowhere near as well-known as it is now, and they lasted forever!

So excited to get some good wear out of these ones – totally worth the spend for the quality and workmanship involved :)



Plastic Bottle Cactus Collection

Spotted on BoredPanda – some people are just too clever! Check out these amazing plastic bottle cactus sculptures by Veronika Richterová, , based in the Czech Republic…


plastic-bottle-sculpture-recycle-art-veronika-richterova-17 plastic-bottle-sculpture-recycle-art-veronika-richterova-9Maybe I should do this instead of real life gardening seeing as I haven’t even been able to keep some of my succulents alive lately!

To see more, visit:

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT! My A1 South African Colouring In Posters are now on sale – visit

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Just over 2 weeks ago I revealed my  * Secret Project * and my A1-sized South African Colouring In posters went on sale shortly afterwards… The response to my hard work, and support from people far and wide has been overwhelming – I just want to say a big THANK YOU to you all – wishing you many hours of fun and relaxing colouring in!

FOR THOSE WHO HAVE PURCHASED ALREADY – dont forget about the colouring in competition we’re hosting where you can win R500 by sharing a pic of your completed poster!

FOR THOSE STILL WANTING TO ORDER – drop me an email on or visit for more info!

IF YOU ARE FEELING LUCKY and would like to win a poster of your own – visit this page on Facebook: Africa, this is why I live here and enter by liking the You Biscuit! Facebook page and sharing the featured competition image (the big one that says GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY! ) Good luck!

Don’t forget to share your colouring in progress with us – we love to see your photos and hear your stories! #ColourInSA

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The 1000hearthaikus Project – by Jen Thorpe

I LOVE this! The 1000hearthaikus Project is  instagram-based project by fellow Rhodent and feminist writer Jen Thorpe who aims to write 1000 Haikus by the end of 2015.

For those who don’t know, Haiku is a form of traditional Japanese poetry – each poem is a 17-syllable verse consisting of three metrical units of 5, 7, and 5 syllables.

Jen writes daily and posts pictures of her Haiku for all to see – I’ve been following for a while and love to see what pops up next in my feed – a few snapshots below – be sure to follow the project for more absolute gems!

Thank you for sharing your beautiful words Jen :)

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{ All pics by Jen Thorpe, borrowed from her dedicated The 1000hearthaikus Project instagram account }

Time To Share My Secret Project!

Those who follow on instagram and FB will have noticed me alluding to it often and, Im happy to announce that I can FINALLY share my #SecretProject with you all!

Hours of work, over many weeks (in between client work, and, real life) have resulted in the creation of an A1 sized colouring in poster – comprising a collage of South African objects, animals, structures, plants, products, icons and symbols – for ALL AGES, and suitable for use with crayons, koki’s (felt tip pens), pencils, paint and more!

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cleverbirdbanter you biscuit colouring in poster

My idea was to offer something that would appeal design-wise to BOTH kids AND adults (yes 18-and-overs, that means you get to colour in too!) and I’ve had so much fun coming up with ideas for it, inspired by South Africa’s beauty and individuality as a country.

Posters will be available for sale @R99 each (ex. postage) from early March (next week, meep!) and will initially be sold directly via a dedicated site (You Biscuit! – coming soon!) Each poster is printed on quality 160gsm matte paper, and packaged in a protective hard-core kraft document tube, suitable for a journey through SA’s postal service ;)

I hope to get some in stores across SA too, but baby steps first, as I only sent them to print yesterday!

Super exciting stuff I tell you :) Thanks to friends and family who have supported me along the way, I appreciate each and every one of you x

Email for enquiries / direct orders / wholesale queries and follow YOU BISCUIT! on Facebook for more news, offers and competitions!

A Carefree Mama

cleverbirdbanter carefree

Let me just clarify: there is no such thing as “a carefree mom.”

I realised this yesterday in a somewhat profound moment when I was catching up with some of my fave mommy friends and one of them remarked: “I think what I miss the most [about life pre-kids] is being carefree, because we will never feel that again. No one ever tells you that…” and never a truer word was spoken!

Even when our kids aren’t around us, when we are at work or having some ‘me time’, whatever – we are constantly thinking about them. Worrying about them. Wondering what they are doing. Are they driving the babysitter insane? Did I pack enough nappies? Have they eaten? Have they slept? Are they warm enough? Did I send an extra dummy? Oh crap, I forgot the snacks…. And the ultimate concern, one that we all have at some stage or another: what if something happens to us? Who will look after them? (Another member of the mom pack said she spent an entire weekend – the first full weekend away from her little one – worrying about just that, to the point where she hardly enjoyed herself – sounds familiar, right?!)

It’s a tough one to reconcile for so many of us who are fighting the battle to maintain our identity and not to just be “Mom”. And let’s be honest, it is a battle sometimes. It’s hard to meet the demands of little ones and to still make time for ourselves; to nurture our own interests (those beyond mothering) and to make time for our partners too – and then on top of that we are still constantly worrying about everything!

I remember when I was young and single; I heard somewhere that that was probably the stage of life where I would be the richest (financially) that I will ever be: no dependents, fewer expenses, a higher amount of disposal income, only me to be worry about… And at the time it baffled me because I thought I was pretty poor compared to my banker friends in London ;) but this is kind of the same thing…

Even if someone HAD told me way back when, I wouldn’t have ‘got it’, because that’s how life works – we only know these things once we are in the thick of it.

And 99% of the time, we wouldn’t change a thing.

I’m all about embracing things these days, accepting them, trying not to sweat the small stuff – life seems a whole lot closer to carefree when I do…

Lately… (a terribly random post)

Another update-y post. I seem to have lost the mojo to blog about anything else – every time I start to write about something, I think to myself “but who cares about this?” and then stop. I know all bloggers go through it so Im not too worried, but I do wish I could drag myself out of this slump, and soon!

So for now, bear with me and feel free to stop reading now because from here on I will be rambling about a host of random things that have been on my mind and in my heart recently…

1. Having an Accountability Partner (Che talks about it here) for work and other areas of your life is the shizz. Nicola is my girl and I’m so grateful for the influence she’s had on my life in the past year or so. You might have noticed that I mention her quite often on FB and in my posts – because she’s that freaking awesome! She asked me last night when my next blog post was going to be,  and here it is! She is the one responsible for me following through with my You Biscuit idea (sooooooon I promise!) and I just want to say thank you for always pushing me, friend :)

2. “Buddha was not a Buddhist; Jesus was not a Christian. Muhammed was not a Muslim. They were all teachers who taught LOVE. LOVE was their religion.” – seen on Facebook this morning… Religion is a topic I usually try to avoid because I don’t like to get into debates about it, but it’s something I have been thinking about a lot lately and it blows my mind how blindly some people follow what they are told. There is also so much inconsistency and contradiction. I do believe that each person has the right to believe what they want to, and I try not to judge or discriminate (it honestly doesn’t matter to me, I’m not one of those people who will cut you off if we have different ideas) but I also think the world would be a better place if we all just followed the religion of LOVE and body and nature and soul…

3. I’m so tired of seeing fighting on social media. There is ‘having an opinion’ and then there is just plain “asshole”. Don’t be the latter. Sometimes I feel like giving up on social media entirely, but then, FOMO!

4. I love loadshedding. There, I said it! What a great excuse to unplug, read, go for a walk, spend time with the family etc… I know that it has a big impact on a lot of businesses, and agree that it should be better planned and more consistent – but honestly would be so happy if there was no electricity every day from 4-6pm! Whatever your thoughts on it: STOP COMPLAINING. It wont change anything. South Africans love to have a moan about these things but it gets a bit boring people…

5. How do you decide whether or not to have a third child? It is something I think about a lot. Not that it will happen soon if it does happen, I definitely need more of a break/bigger age gap and my work is really taking off at the moment and Im loving it. But, seriously – how do you make that decision? I sometimes feel like I am so blessed to already have two healthy, beautiful baby girls – am I greedy to maybe add another child to the mix? Will we be able to manage financially? And by that I mean, give them all the things we want them to have (good education, comfortable lifestyle etc). I know it’s not only about money, and I never want to look back and regret not having another one ‘because of money’, but it obviously comes into play? Part of me feels like I’m not done yet, like I cant imagine not being pregnant again; but at the same time, do I really want to go through it all again? I love my babies but they dont lie when they say it’s hard work and I feel like things are just starting to get easier (in a way!) The jury is still out…

That’s it me for now, oh so random I know!

Somebody send some inspo my way and I will love you forever ;)


February, say whaaaat?! (A little catch up)

Still trying to get my head around the fact that it’s ALREADY FEBRUARY 2015! How did that even happen?! So far I am averaging ONE blog post a month this year. Not ayoba…

The past month has been a whirlwind – probably due to the fact that I began the New Year with a nanny-free-fortnight and was literally in a child-chaos-haze for the first two weeks of Jan. Fikile (Wonder Nanny) returned (hallelujah!) and Addi went off to school (hallelujah, again!) and things have slowly started returning to ‘normal’…

I’ve been working with so many cool clients – Rondavel as usual, Tanya from Rattle & Mum and Tous Les Jours to name a few – and have some fabulous projects lined up for the next month or so too, so all is good in the work hood!

I’ve signed up for Run/Walk for Life which I will be starting on Wednesday – time to work at my running goal again – but this time, I will be doing it VERY slowly and hopefully injury-free…

I’ve kind of closed shop with Baby Bird Basics for the time being – if I’m honest, it takes up too much time and sewing bibs can become a bit monotonous (there are too many copycats around these days anyway!), so have moved on to focusing on a NEW and even MORE EXCITING little side project of mine called You Biscuit! And I can’t wait to share it with you all! It promises lots of fun, creativity and South African flava ;)

We welcomed Twinkie (pictured below) to the family recently – she’s a mixed breed special that we adopted from 4 Paws and A Tale Rescue – can’t event begin to describe the joy she has brought to our family, and to her new bestie Lily especially. They frolick around the garden ALL DAY and pass out together on their beds in the lounge at night, so sweet… Adopting was the best thing we ever did – please consider it if you are in the market for a pet!

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I won a Facebook competition at the end of last year – a very genrous voucher from The Ugly Ducking – and I went up to Rosetta to choose my prize recently, and this beautiful rocking chair now lives in Julia’s room and matches her patchy wooden floor perfectly ;)

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I know there’s been talk of a blog competition happening here soon – it is coming, I promise – can’t wait to share all the exciting goodies up for grabs :)

Hopefully now that I have broken the ice with this long overdue post, my blogging mojo will return ;)

Happy week everyone x





My favourite photo from 2014

Happy 2015 everyone! Finally getting round to my first blog post for the year – the silly season is now behind us and I can try to get back into a normal routine on the blogging, work and home front (well, as close to normal as possible while Addi is still on school holidays and our nanny is on leave for two weeks!)

At the beginning of every new year, I pick my favourite photo from the previous year to share and remember – the plan is to one day is to have a wall where I can have them all printed and framed, and now that we have moved into our forever home, I can actually start working on that :)

I have to admit that I’ve found it super hard to pick this year’s image – with the previous years’ pics, I knew immediately which one I wanted to showcase but really struggled this time round AND I’m feeling a bit self-indulgent about it because I’ve decided on using a photo of MEEEEEEEE!


Earlier in the year I had to take some professional portrait style shots of myself to use in a publication and this was one of the photos I ended up with but didn’t use because, lets be honest, it doesn’t exactly scream friendly or approachable ;) I took it in the lounge of my old home with some help from Monsieur Self-Timer and Madame Tripod, and a dash of good lighting. I like how it came out though, the contrast and clarity and oddly even the expression on my face and how nothing is perfect. It is also representative of a transformational period of the year where I’d lost a bit of baby weight and was just starting to get back on the wagon, post-baby.

Some things have changed since I took this photo – mostly physically – I have put on some of that weight I lost (crap – not letting it get to me though because this year I AM going to get back on top of it all) and also my hair, which is now back to blonde (hallelujah!) but there have also been mental and emotional changes since then, and I feel like Im really on the road to self discovery.

My mind has been opened to the likes of meditation, self actualisation, reiki and just believing in myself and making my dreams happen. To quote my dear Colleen from Midlands House of Healing, I need to stop sitting on the fence, thinking the “should have / could have / would have” ‘s and just get on with things.

I am SO excited for the year ahead. I have awesome work lined up and some fabulous home and personal projects on the go. I have a good feeling about it and I foresee great things, not only for myself but for people around me.

BRING IT, 2015 – you are mine!

Ps. If you’re interested, here are my favourite photos from previous years: