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Sweet FA 2020 Winner: Sophie O'Connor

Sophie helped support freelancers through lockdown through her online network, The Village Creatives. She would run weekly virtual catchups and check-ins, mentoring new freelancers.

We met with Sophie to see how she feels about being a Sweet FA 2020 winner and to learn a little more about her.

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

Erm shocked and flattered. I really didn’t expect to win, I'm just happy to have helped at least one person during a difficult ten months.

I'm just happy to have helped at least one person during a difficult ten months.
Why did you start The Village Creatives?

I started The Village Creatives after moving to Manchester working from home as a freelancer and not having a huge network of creatives, having spent the last ten years in London. Initially I held monthly co-working meet-ups in Manchester but due to Covid stopping us from having physical meet ups, I decided to start weekly Zoom catch-ups and set up an event on The Dots and LinkedIn to draw creatives who had been furloughed or were new to freelancing. The aim was help motivate and advise as much as I could while I was furloughed myself (out of choice as a mum of two).

Let's learn some more about you:

What do you do?

I’m a senior designer working with variety of global advertising agencies and independent clients. I specialise in brand development and typography and am due to start a Brand Strategy course in January with Marty Neumeire and Andy Star at Level C. Super excited.

How did you become a Senior Designer?

I was born into advertising so my love of graphic design started at a young age thus I had my sights set on working for a big consumer ad agency after leaving Uni. I moved to London after studying at John Moores University in Liverpool. I started my career out doing professional placements until I got my first job working at Elmwood in Soho as a junior designer, eventually landing my dream job at Fallon under the guidance of Mark Elwood.

Sophie is full of brilliant ideas that can be delivered with great execution. She goes above and beyond the brief and always comes back with unexpected solutions. Her attitude is first class and I really enjoy working with her.
Darren Cox, Partner & Head of Design - Forever Beta
How long have you been freelancing?

I first went freelance in 2009 following a redundancy and then found my time ‘permelanacing’ at a number of agencies until I joined Mother in 2012 as permanent senior designer (following the birth of my first son in 2011). When we left London in 2016 I decided to set up a Ltd company and have been freelancing part-time since (as well as having my second child in 2018).

Why did you decide to go freelance?

Initially it wasn’t a choice and I was very nervous but once I got into the swing of moving around agencies I fell in love with the variety and flexibility. I also enjoy the adrenaline buzz of meeting new people and working on new projects.

What's the best thing about freelancing?

Being your own boss and having the flexibility to choose when and where you work, along with the variety of clients I get to work with.

What's the hardest thing about freelancing?

I initially found planning, budgeting and accounts the hardest part as that had always been someone else’s job in the agency/ studio. I’ve got proposals and timelines down to a tee now but it took several years to build confidence in that area. I would say the hardest thing now is 'switching off' when you’re working independently on a job without the support of an agency.

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

I wish someone had given me a crash course in planning, time management, budgets, proposals….

How has YJ helped you as a freelancer?

Having a profile to attract agencies and ensuring you get paid on time is a huge plus so thank you YJ!

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

Most recently, helping small business’ and start-ups following Covid has been most rewarding.

Helping small business during lockdown, Sophie rebranded YogaBox.

Over the last ten years I’d say working on BBC Earth 'Life Is’ brand campaign when I was Designer at The Brooklyn Brothers back in 2010.

BBC Life Is logo
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to become a Senior Designer?

Work hard but learn when it’s time to down-tools. Balance is so important so you don’t burn out or start to resent what you do. And don’t be a dick. In the words of Anthony Burrill, just do good work and be nice to people.

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

I believe talent and personality go hand in hand. You can be the most experienced and talented designer but if you are a complete nightmare to work with then you won’t get invited back. Thankfully I have built up some incredible relationships with creative teams, agencies and clients over the years that you should feel confident I can produce the work to a level that more than meets the brief whilst getting along with whoever I work with.

Sophie is an absolute dream to work with. She has a lovely manner, but more importantly (as far as you’re probably concerned) she’s a fantastic all round designer. In particular, she understands the importance of hierarchy in communication design – a skill that’s not as common in designers as you’d think. I’ve worked with Sophie on a number of occasions now and she always delivers loads of amazing options, each one well-considered. I have no trouble recommending her to any prospective employer.
Peter Robertson, ECD International: Mother

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Meet Sophie

Sophie O’Connor is an Award Winning freelance senior designer with a proven record of delivering creative design solutions. With over twelve years’ industry experience working with some of the most successful advertising and design agencies in London, she is more than capable of transferring her skills across a wide variety of jobs; from print design and art direction to brand identity and digital design.

Sophie has worked at some of the world's leading design and advertising agencies, on some of the biggest brands and has even designed a font for the BBC!

I believe talent and personality go hand in hand. You can be the most experienced and talented designer but if you are a complete nightmare to work with then you won’t get invited back. Thankfully I have built up some incredible relationships with creative teams, agencies and clients over the years that you should feel confident I can produce the work to a level that more than meets the brief whilst getting along with whoever I work with.

Sophie O'Connor, Freelance Senior Designer
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