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Taking the plunge to freelancing was definitely a good decision - Ian Gambier, SFA Finalist

How to be a freelance creative with Creative Director Ian Gambier
Ewa Magiera
Ewa Magiera
November 9, 2022
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We decided to ask Sweet FA Finalist and Creative Director Ian Gambier how he got into creative direction and what advice he would give to someone wanting to get into freelancing too.

How long had Ian been freelancing and what encouraged him to go freelance?

“I’ve been a Freelance Creative Director and Copywriter for 6 years now since I left my last full-time role in 2016. The world of freelance was always an idea that appealed to me in my early career.”  

Ian shared how freelance life was thrust upon him when his full-time position changed. 

“I didn't have the guts to take the plunge until my agency fell on tough times and I was offered a voluntary redundancy package that meant I would have a little bit of time to find my feet and gradually develop my client base. Looking back now, it was definitely the right decision and I'm tremendously happy with how things turned out.”

With the term ‘creative’ applying to a broad range of skills, we asked Ian to share his own interpretation of what a creative director does:

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
“Creative Direction is part craft, part people management, and part politics.”

Ian started his freelance career as a Copywriter before merging his creative skills and becoming a Creative Director: “Copywriting definitely accounts for the craft part, but I find myself developing a stronger eye for art direction having worked with some great design minds during my time at Meta, Magic Leap, and R/GA. As a Copywriter, you obsess about the target audience. But as a Creative Director, you obsess about the target audience, the creative team, and try to get the wider org pulling towards a shared goal so great work can be made.”

We then asked Ian what advice he’d give to those people looking to gain more creative experience or looking to step into a creative director role:

“Mentor Juniors. My Creative Partner and I were lucky enough to run the internship programme at my very first agency, and that was the ultimate crash course in creative direction. There is no shortage of Junior people who need mentorship. And mentoring people throughout your career flexes the right muscle so you're not completely hopeless at the 'people management' part of creative direction by the time the opportunity comes knocking at your door.”

One of Ian's creative projects, L.E.A.P Con

Being able to network as a freelancer is an essential part of running a business as you look to broaden your client pool as well as connect with like-minded freelancers. We asked Ian how he networks as a Creative Director and what social platforms he’d recommend freelancers try:

“Platforms like YunoJuno and LinkedIn definitely help. It's important to connect with people when you don't have a favour to ask.

So many people don't bother to expand their network until they need something, and that makes it really hard to foster long-term relationships.”

Ian also shared his own tip for building relationships with other freelancers that would work within any freelance industry; “Whenever I come across a great piece of work, I generally find out who made it and send an email to congratulate them. The industry is super small, so often your paths will cross again. Dishing out good karma pays dividends in the long run. And if you find yourself needing to assemble a creative team, you need a little black book full of talented people to pester.”

And finally, we asked Ian what project or client he was working with when he was nominated for the Creative Sweet FA 2022, but sadly it remains a mystery! “I have no idea but I'd like to say thank you to that special someone.”

If you need some general creative direction or want to work with Ian on a future project, why not book Ian here.

You can also find Ian networking on his LinkedIn and tweeting about football and being a new dad - and feel free to peruse his amazing portfolio!

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