Freelancer resources

Sweet FA 2020 Winner: Mike Oughton

Mike Oughton | YunoJuno Freelancer Awards
Kat Shepherd
Kat Shepherd
January 3, 2021
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Mike kept his social media friends together and entertained daily throughout lockdown by creating a daily illustration of  ‘Who’s behind the PPE mask‘. What started out as a one off illustrative idea, quickly turned into a huge social following, where friends and followers eagerly awaited his daily posting. In a time when all people really wanted was to have some sense of normality and humour in their lives, Mike helped them momentarily forget the ever increasing  dread of COVID in a unique and topical manner.

Despite having other freelance commitments, Mike didn’t miss one posting and the community looked forward to his daily conundrum and resulting banter as everyone tried to guess who the mystery person was.  Some of the guesses were as entertaining as the illustrations themselves.

Mike then turned the best of his illustrations into 3 collectible posters which he then got printed and then sold to all his social media followers, with all proceeds going to charity, his local homeless shelter, who really needed the extra funds during covid.

Each print sold came with an essay documenting the project and a crib sheet highlighting all the incorrect and correct answers from the quiz.

We met with Mike to see how he feels about being a Sweet FA 2020 winner and to learn a little more about him.

How does it feel to be a Sweet FA 2020 winner?

It feels sweet. And more than a little surreal to be recognised for a project that began as a one-off illustration for shits and giggles. I have no delusions of being an illustrator. I thought it was bonkers enough that it turned into an art work that people were willing to buy. Getting an award for it, therefore, sums up the absurdity of 2020 for me.

It also reminds me not to let a lack of proficiency stop me having a good old bash at things, because you never know where it might lead.

AspectEmployeeIndependent Contractor
Control and supervisionDirect control over how, when, and where to workFreedom to set their own schedules and methods
PaymentRegular wages; taxes withheld by employerPaid per project; responsible for their own taxes
BenefitsHealth insurance, retirment plans, paid leaveMust arrange their own benefits
TerminationOften requires notice and may include severanceCan usually be terminated at any time without benefits
Tools and equipmentProvided by the employerTypically use their own tools
Getting an award for it, therefore, sums up the absurdity of 2020 for me.
Why did you start the illustrations?

The Famous PPE-ople project started as a way of making myself feel better during a pandemic. By happy accident, it made others feel better during a pandemic, too. So, when the chance to make a few quid out of it arose, it was only right that the money would go to those who really need help right now - the homeless.  

Let's learn some more about you:

What do you do?

I'm a freelance writer in advertising and a part-time screenwriter (Oh, and an illustrator now, let's not forget! Ha-ha!)

How did you become a Copywriter / Creative Director?

I've been a creative in advertising my whole working life. It's a great/enjoyable/infuriating/wonderful business to be part of. One of the best things it's given me, apart from a living, is the opportunity to develop skills and interests I never knew I had. For example, it never occurred to me that spending the early part of my career writing 30" commercial scripts for a well-known burger chain would give me the skills and contacts to one day write feature films that people pay to see in cinemas.

How long have you been freelancing?

Not long. I went freelance in Feb 2020, which, in light of what came along in March 2020, looks like monumentally bad timing. However, when I left my job as Head of Copy at McCann London, I was planning to take a couple of months out. In the event, I jumped straight into a fun freelance gig that came my way. So, when Covid arrived and shut down the freelance market for a while, I was mentally prepared for a break.

Why did you decide to go freelance?

I found I had less and less time and energy for my non-advertising writing endeavours whilst in a permanent role, which became unhealthy. So, going freelance was a chance to redress that balance.

What's the best thing about freelancing?

The flexibility. I've been able to take on several exciting screenwriting projects, and return to working on my novel, since I've been my own boss. And, after thirteen years at the same company, I'm really enjoying working with lots of different ad agencies and clients.

What's one thing no one ever told you about freelancing you wished you'd known at the beginning?

Enjoy your time off. Say 'yes' more.

How has YJ helped you as a freelancer?

Getting paid without having to harass finance people is rather nice. And I like the range of jobs that come up in the briefs section. I also think YJ is great for clients, because it gives them access to so many brilliant freelancers.

Can you tell me about a project you're proud to have worked on?

My proudest achievement would be getting a feature film in cinemas whilst holding down a permanent job in advertising, and writing a book about the whole process at the same time. Looking back, I have no idea how I had the energy. What a nutcase! The film is Keeping Rosy, starring Maxine Peake, directed by Steve Reeves. (It's available on BBC iPlayer over Xmas if you fancy giving it a watch.)

The book is The Forty-Year-Old Movie Virgin, available on Amazon.

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to become a Copywriter / Creative Director?

Your greatest asset is your passion. Almost everything else is learnable.

If a client was reading this, why should they hire you?

For my passion.


Meet Mike

Mike is a multi-award-winning, media neutral creative writer/one-man creative team/creative team member with 25 years full-time experience in top 10 agencies, including Leo Burnett, HHCL, BBH, McCann. He is also a published author and screenwriter whose award-winning first film 'Keeping Rosy' appeared in cinemas and on BBC1.

I've been able to take on several exciting screenwriting projects, and return to working on my novel, since I've been my own boss. And, after thirteen years at the same company, I'm really enjoying working with lots of different ad agencies and clients.
Mike Oughton, Freelance Copywriter / Creative Director
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