They say you should never meet your heroes, but they don’t say anything about emailing them.

In the past, I’ve been hesitant about reaching out, because I thought it was pointless – no one would want to hear from me. But over the past few months I’ve been reaching out more and more and I’ve received so many positive responses.

So, I’m here to say if there’s someone you want to work with or get advice from, just reach out. What’s the worst that can happen?

I’ve reached out to bloggers, designers, colleagues, and companies. While I haven’t gotten to work with all of the 90% of the responses have been positive, and, I’m not sure if it’s some sort of karma, I’ve had more people reaching out to me in return. I think that goes to show that people are just people at the end of the day, and if you’re sending good vibes to good people you’re going to get lovely responses.

What changed my approach? First, I realised there were so many things I wanted to do that I couldn’t do on my own. Second, I remembered how easy it was to reach out when I was working at the student paper or when I was in my PR placement. Third, I realised I hadn’t actually ever had the bad response that I was imagining. As ever, so much of what I was anxious about was all in my head.

If like me, there are things you want to do but you need some help or advice I would really recommend just sending that email, or that DM (or letter, I have sent physical post before). People have contact information on their sites for a reason, and I can tell you from first-hand experience that receiving an unexpected email can make someone’s day or offer just a bit of a refreshing change from the same old work stuff.

Here are a few of my top tips for reaching out. They’re pretty simple and obvious but they’re definitely worth thinking about before you fire up Gmail.

BE FRIENDLY

It never hurts to be nice. You’re reaching out to someone, probably because you like what they do, so show it. You don’t need to gush but it does pay to be positive. People are more likely to engage with people who are already engaged with what they’re doing, it shows you have similar values, tastes and interests. Also, no one wants to receive a really glum or mean email.

PUT SOME EFFORT IN

If you’re going to contact someone out of the blue, please please please don’t just ask them something you could have googled yourself. It’s lazy, and rude, and more likely than not you’re not going to get a response. If you want to work with them make sure you’ve put some thought into your proposal and that it makes sense you’re asking them to do this specific thing. Do your research, and know your stuff. If you just wanna be friends, don’t be a stalker but be a little bit more specific than hey I like your blog let’s hang out, build a conversation like you would in person.

GIVE EXAMPLES

If you’re looking to work with someone I’d suggest giving a few examples of your work, because when you’re the one reaching out the other person probably doesn’t know what you do. When I do this it’s usually in the form of a few links to appropriate posts or similar pieces of work I’ve done in the past. Where it’s a new venture for me, I will sometimes put together a couple of bespoke examples to help bring my pitch to life. For example, when I emailed Lizzie Hadfield, I made a few rough test images to give her an idea of the kind of thing I’m talking about. These examples change completely depending who I’m contacting and in what capacity.

WRITE SOMETHING YOU WOULD WANT TO READ

The best advice I can give is to write an email you’d like to receive. That probably means something that’s more than just one line but isn’t a 5,000 word essay. It also means something in a friendly tone that’s pretty engaging. You don’t have to spend weeks drafting and redrafting it either. It’s just an email or a DM. No one, unless you’re applying to be a copy editor, is going to be offended or think less of you because of that one stupid typo – I promise.

DON’T BE PUT OFF

I know I said at the top of this that I usually get great responses from reaching out, but don’t be disheartened if you don’t straight away, or every time. People are busy. People are sometimes rubbish at answering their emails. People might not always want to work with you. It’s okay. It happens. It doesn’t reflect badly on you. You haven’t lost anything. Putting yourself out there can be scary, and being rejected/ignored isn’t fun but it’s okay. Don’t lose heart, learn from it and keep putting yourself out there.

So, expect to see more collaborations on this blog and if there’s ever anything you want to ask me or work together on please do get in touch!

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I have done my fair few internships from art fairs, to magazines, to advertising, to design and beyond. I spent the summers of my youth trying to work out what I wanted to do next, and while I still don’t have an answer, I have learned a lot along the way about myself, about work, and about how to get the most out of an internship.

These are the key pieces of advice I would give to anyone preparing for a summer of going “Hi, I’m the new intern”.

BEFORE

DON’T WORK FOR FREE IF YOU CAN’T AFFORD TO

I’m a big believer in the idea that if you’re adding value to someone’s business you should be paid for it. And if you’re interning you should be adding value, not making tea. So, go for internships where you’re going to be paid. If you can’t find any, look for other ways to get experience – start doing the work for yourself, create your own projects. Not only will this give you hands on experience, being a self-starter who’s passionate enough to just go it alone will translate so well on job applications. As a very last resort, if you really want to get into an office and the only way to do is an unpaid internship, and you’ve asked if you can be paid and they’ve said no, please please please make sure it’s the most economical situation for you. Look for work near places you can stay cheaply, with parents or friends or in your own uni accommodation. Only work for a few days a week to allow you to do a paying job. You should never have to go into debt to work for someone.

BE DISCERNING

You don’t have to apply for all of the internships, you don’t have to apply for any at all if you don’t want to. I’ve always found it’s much better to apply to a selected list of places I actually love, and spending more and effort time on the applications rather than applying to loads and rushing them all.

TAKE A RISK

Interning is the time when you can go a bit wild in what you apply for. If there’s something out of your comfort zone, or your current trajectory but you really want to know more about it – apply! There is absolutely no harm in giving it a go. If you get it, you have the opportunity to know whether or not you like it, rather than regretting never knowing.

REACH OUT

This is something I learned when I was applying for jobs rather than when I was interning, but I wish I had thought about it before. If there’s a company who you really want to work for, write to them. Send them a CV, and a cover letter, and make it something they want to read. I sent out a couple of bespoke creative pieces and letters to companies I really loved and I heard back from them all, and most offered me work experience. While that wasn’t what I was after at the time, I wish I had done it when I was looking for internships.

DURING

GET INVOLVED

Say yes to absolutely every opportunity you’re offered. The more you say yes to, the more you have chance to do and the more you will learn. That means going for lunch with people and getting involved in the social scene as much as it does saying yes to working on anything and everything.

ASK QUESTIONS

This might be obvious, but you can never say it too much. Ask all of the questions. That means ask what something means when you don’t understand. Ask why you’re doing something a certain way if you don’t know. Ask what the next steps of what you’re working on will be. Ask how people do things. Ask what people would want to do with a project if money and time were no object. Ask what advice people would give to their younger self. Ask. Ask. Ask. Oh, and ask where the toilets are.

SET UP MEETINGS WITH EVERYONE

Some companies will do this automatically, but if they don’t, you should set up meetings with as many (senior) members of staff as you can. Then pick their brains about the business, their career path, the industry, the future and collate all of that information. You can learn so much if you take the time and make the effort just to speak to people, they really are where the value is.

ADD SOMETHING EXTRA TO EVERYTHING YOU DO

I was told to do this on my first grad rotation, and it has stood me in such good stead. Add something of yourself, or some added value to whatever you’re doing. That could be anything from adding your own recommendations to a piece of research, to adding summaries at the start of long documents, to pulling out next steps from meeting notes, to seeing there’s a problem in a process and offering a solution. If you add a little bit extra to everything you’re asked to do, you’ll be valued and you’ll be remembered

BE HEARD

I am particularly bad at this still, but make sure you speak up in meetings. You are important, and the things you have to say deserve to be heard. If, like me, you find doing that really intimidating, prepare for meetings by writing down your thoughts and doing a bit of extra research (if you can come armed with numbers always do) on the topic that way you have ideas before you go in.

WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN

This one has two parts. First, write everything down when you’re working. Hear a term you don’t understand? Write it down and ask about it later or google it. Given a task? Write it down so then you know what you’re doing in 3 hours time. Sitting in on a meeting? Write down what happened, it gives you notes to refer to next time and means you can share action points and be more helpful. You get the idea.

Second, write down everything you do and everything you feel about the job as you go. If you’re using your internship to work out if you like a career, this will be absolutely invaluable in the future. It’s easy to look back on things with rose tinted glasses, or to focus on that one thing that went wrong on your last day rather than the overall experience. Having those records to refer to will help give you a truer picture of how you felt when you were actually doing it. Plus, having a record of everything you did and learned is so useful when you’re applying for more jobs and you need to give examples in interviews or on application forms.

AFTER

STAY IN TOUCH

One of the key pieces of advice I have is to stay in touch with the people you worked with, especially if you’re planning on getting into their industry but even if you’re not. The people I’ve met while I’ve been interning have given me career advice, specific tips and tricks and helped me when I was in need of information on another sector. As long as you don’t just pester them, and you give something back whether that’s buying them a coffee when you meet, or offering to help future interns, or sharing your new found wisdom, they are more likely than not going to be happy to help – plus who doesn’t love feeling like they’re wise and admired?

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The hard part of creativity isn’t starting, or finding an idea, the hard part of creativity is keeping going.

You have to keep going when you’re in the middle, when it’s no longer exciting, when it still doesn’t work how you want it to but that fresh shiny newness has gone. You have to keep going after you’ve had the rush of an idea, and then the low of it not going how you thought it would. You have to keep going after that low, even though you know you might end up there again. You have to keep going even if you don’t think you’re getting any better.

No one wants to talk about the middle bit. No one wants to show anyone else the middle bit. No one wants to see the middle bit.

 No one likes that bit of creativity. It’s ugly and it’s hard. It’s the source of frustration, of anxiety, of the heavy sobbing tears.

 It’s easy to forget it exists. You scroll through Instagram, Behance, Etsy, through life and you see something enviable. You see a snapshot of something and not the story behind it. You can scroll and scroll and scroll and think that everyone else has skated over the middle bit and found a short cut to the good stuff.

 They didn’t. The middle did happen, it might even still be happening.

 It’s also really important. The middle is where you get the value. Without the middle, without having to preserve it’s too easy, it’s so easy it isn’t an achievement. If anything is worth doing it’s worth that work, it’s worth the ugly and the hard, and, yes, even all of those break downs.

 The only way to work through the hard stuff is to do the work. I wish there was an easier, prettier, more saleable answer, but there isn’t. You just have to keep working with the hope that some way into the work you can stop and look back at where you started and see the growth. You know what, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m learning to fall in love with the hard middle bit even though it hurts.

 So, this is for you, anyone who’s stuck in the middle, who doesn’t feel like it’s going anywhere. Keep going. Keeping going is the only way to get somewhere, and you will. Even if you can’t see it yet, you’re already on your way.

 It will be worth it and you’re not alone.

 As Billy Ocean taught us all: when the going gets tough, the tough get going.

 So, get going because even if being creative is tough, you’re tougher.

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London is expensive. There is no escaping it. Rent, even if you’re living in shoe box, is ridiculous. Pretty much everything is ridiculous.

These are the things I’ve been doing over the last few months to try and take the edge off, and avoid having to sell a vital organ to stay in the city.

MEAL PREP

This one is obvious but huge. You can save so much money by making your own food, in bulk where possible, ahead of time. I usually end up spending less than the price of one meal our work canteen for a whole weeks’ worth of lunches. If you’re just cooking for yourself, you should still cook more than one meals worth of food at once. I have the same dinner two days in a row and then normally freeze another 2 portions, as a little gift to my future self. It doesn’t have to take long I spend about 2 hours on a Sunday evening and I cook all of my food for the rest of the week, and honestly, it is such a fun 2 hours.

OPTIMISE YOUR TRAVEL COSTS

This one sounds quite vague but it kind of is because it depends on how you travel. The cheapest option is obviously to get everywhere under your own steam. While I’d love to be someone who cycles to work every day I’m just not brave enough, kudos to you if you are! If there’s a good bus route near you and you’re willing to have a relatively slow commute, taking the bus is way cheaper than the tube, especially if you have to travel in rush hour. Plus, it means you get to see daylight! Then, up on the price scale again, you have the tube. This is where it’s really down to how you travel. If you travel at peak times 5 days a week, every week then you’re probably better off getting a monthly pass, or a yearly one if you’re always in the city. But if you don’t you really have to weigh up exactly how much you’re travelling. Give a few options a test run and see which is actually cheapest. Oh and just don’t get taxis – there is almost no need and they are so pricey.

BE AN EARLY BIRD

Almost all London events have early bird tickets, so try and plan ahead and buy tickets early to save money.

BUT BUY DAY TICKETS

This one is the exact opposite of being an early bird, but it works just as well, if not better, if you want to go to the theatre. Most shows have tickets to sell on the day of the show at a reduced price, I’ve sat front row at a show for £15. Plus, a few even do super cheap tickets for under 25s, like MatildaThe Book of Mormon holds a ticket lottery every day for the opportunity to buy £20 tickets, and a weekly draw via Twitter.

EMAIL SUBSCRIPTIONS

Signing up to mailing lists either for brands you shop with or services like BookaTable or OpenTable which often send you discount codes. I would suggest signing up with a new email address just for subscriptions that way you keep them all together, they don’t clog up your inbox, and you avoid the temptation of seeing them all the time, which normally just leads to you buying more. It’s also worth checking sites like Time Out Offers and Style Barista which lists all of London’s sample sales every month.

BUY CONSCIOUSLY

I feel like we should just buy consciously regardless of money, but it’s definitely something that should be a part of your money saving plan too. It’s about not just buying for the sake of buying, but only making a purchase when you actually need something and it will add value to your life. I’ve personally found the method of writing anything I think about purchasing down and then coming back to it a month later (unless it’s an emergency) to see if I still think it will add something to my life. There have been so many things I’ve forgotten about after 2 weeks, it’s been so eye opening. This guide to shopping like a minimalist from The Private Life of a Girl is really great and super simple – it’s just 5 questions to ask yourself before you buy something.

FREE STUFF

Just as there’s loads of super expensive things you can do in London, there might be just as many free things. There are so many free museums, galleries, and sights that I wouldn’t even attempt to list them here. There are also free workouts like the Park Run, or Sweaty Betty’s free yoga classes. You can also see loads of live music in bars, comedy and TV recordings (TV Recordings / BBC TV and radio / Applause Store / SRO Audiences) for free. You just need to have a good google. I’d recommend checking out Curious London’s guide to the city for some inspiration. That said I think my absolute favourite free thing to do in the city is just to go for a walk and explore.

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One of the most obvious yet overlooked aspects of productivity is file organisation. If you can’t find your work, how on earth are you going to get on with it? If you wouldn’t have a pile of unlabelled, unfiled papers spread out over your desk, why would you have all your files saved willy-nilly to your desktop?

Organising your files isn’t as simple as creating a couple of random folders and being done with it though. It takes a bit of thought, and some conscious effort. So, I thought I would share all the things I’ve learned through the years and a big recent audit of my digital files.

WORK IT OUT ON PAPER

I think I say this in absolutely every organisation/how to post I write, but you need to have a plan. I recently decided to have a reorganise of my filing system. Now that I’ve been working and blogging for over 6 months, and not writing essays for over a year, I felt like it was well overdue. Instead of rushing in an just creating folders I sat down and worked out the kinds of files I create most and how best to divide them. I created the hierarchy you can see above based on how I actually work and live. The main things I do on my laptop are blog work and design work, so they along with a life admin folder, are my top-level folders. When it comes to blogging I work by time rather than by topic, so I went with monthly folders as well as a folder for things that I use all the time. With design work, I think of my projects in terms of clients rather than projects so that’s how I subdivided those folders. I also created shortcuts to the documents I use the most, for example my blog plan and my budget doc so they’re always on hand.

LABEL PROPERLY

While you should be able to find everything you need without searching for it, give files the name you would search if you were looking for it. No body searches for ‘Untitled 6 FINAL’, and no one remembers what it refers to in 6 weeks.  Folders and files should have clear short titles. Working as a designer there’s absolutely no way to avoid doing multiple versions of the same design, because you know clients have opinions. Personally, the system I use for client files is their name, then the name of what I’m working on, then letters for options, and v1 etc. for redesigns and edits. I only label something as “Final” when it’s got client approval and has been sent off.

ARCHIVE

If you’re creating a lot of material, you need archive folders. I write 3 blog posts a week, each of which has 2-3 graphics to go with it as well as extra social media images, if I didn’t archive my work there is no way I would ever find anything. I archive each month of blog posts as it passes. I don’t archive individual posts as I found it took too much time and I didn’t stay on top of it, instead I rely on my blog schedule document where I tick off all the posts which I’ve queued. I also archive all my design projects after 3 months. I leave a little bit of a gap after finishing a project before archiving it in case I’m needed to do any tweaks, and I don’t really delete any design projects because I’ve had to dig up old design elements for future projects or for portfolio type stuff so often.

BACK IT UP

I’m a firm believer in “it doesn’t exist unless it’s saved in 3 places”. Whether you like saving to cloud services, duplicating manually to external hard drives or using something like Time Capsule, just make sure you remember to back up everything!

USE A CLOUD

Cloud services are so useful, and they’re something you should really take advantage of. First, shared folders are so useful for client work. They allow you to have one central repository of files, and it means things don’t get lost in email chains. Pretty much every client I work with gets their own folder which is roughly divided into projects, then ongoing, archive, briefs/research. This is the drive I have synced to my laptop because it’s the one I use most. Secondly, co-working/creating is so easy with them. Finally, they’re so useful for having an extra back up. For example, I have a separate Google Drive just for backups of photos. I’m mainly a Google Drive person, but I feel like the same rules apply if you prefer Dropbox or even iCloud.

HAVE REGULAR CLEAR OUTS

This reorganisation was a really great excuse for me to have a clear out of my folders, and who doesn’t love a good clear out. It’s so easy to hoard digitally, because you don’t notice the files piling up. Make sure you archive stuff relatively frequently so that you don’t have to wade through files you aren’t using or don’t need anymore. I’ve set a monthly reminder to go through my laptop to, hopefully, get me to keep on top of it all.

 

THINGS TO REMEMBER:

KEEP IT SIMPLE

You don’t need loads of folders, just enough to separate your files into manageable chunks.

DON’T SAVIT IT TO THE DESKTOP

Unless you really, truly have to (and you probably don’t have to), don’t save things to your desktop. It’s messy, it slows your computer down and it’s just plain silly.

 

How do you organise your files? Do you have any organisation top tips?

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