Photo by Gray Malin

Photo by Gray Malin

This article was originally published on SUITCASE Magazine.

One of the main joys of being self-employed is that – provided I have my laptop, a strong cup of coffee and a speedy wi-fi connection to hand – I can get my work done from wherever I choose. Case in point: when I was working on Women Who (the platform for creative working women I set up in 2016) I impulsively took a trip to Provence a few days before its launch, safe in the knowledge that I could get most of what I needed done without actually needing to be in London, where I’m based. It’s a similar story with the modern career guide I’ve recently written, Little Black Book: A Toolkit For Working Women, which I eked out in coffee shops and libraries around the world. As I was writing it, I had in mind the many ambitious and entrepreneurial women I know who – like me – are increasingly drawn to careers they can make work from (pretty much) any corner of the globe.

So far so good – but it’s important to remember that combining work and travel does come with its fair share of challenges – making it work requires a bit of upfront planning if you want to stay organised (and sane). With that in mind, here are some practical tips on how to stay productive when you’re on the go.



  • First things first – make sure you’ve got a decent data roaming plan in place. Without one, you’ll be at the mercy of unreliable wi-fi hotspots – or worse, end up being stung with an eye-watering bill for the sake of a few emails and tweets. Three’s Feel at Home tariff is great for UK-dwellers, whilst T-Mobile provides a similarly affordable data plan for US-based frequent flyers.
  • Consider investing in an iPad and keyboard combo instead of lugging a heavy laptop around with you for the duration of your trip. Downsizing to a tablet can take a little getting used to at first, but you’ll quickly realise you can get just as much done as you would on a laptop, and lighten your load in the process.
  • Check the small print on your travel insurance to make sure it covers any expensive equipment you’ll be taking with you, and that the excess on them isn’t ridiculously high. If you’re travelling on the company dime you’re (probably) covered anyway, but otherwise make sure that loss, theft or accidental damage – all of which are far more likely to happen when you’re in transit – don’t end up spoiling your trip.




    • Clothing wise, stick to clothes made from fabrics that won’t wrinkle easily – so cashmere and wool during the winter, and jersey and polyester-blend cottons when the weather warms up. One-pieces in particular are your friend when travelling as they mean less time spent planning outfits or trying to co-ordinate separates, so opt for jumpsuits and dresses if you can.
    • Being smart about your luggage situation can make all the difference, so keep things straightforward and stick to the following three items:
      • A suitcase (duh). Opt for a 4-wheeled model for maximum ease, ideally in a carry-on size.
      • A work bag for day-to-day use. This should be large enough to carry your laptop and notebooks around town, and sturdy enough not to fall apart on you mid-trip.
      • A small pouch (or two) for storing the important stuff: passports, travel documents, ear plugs, phone chargers – basically anything you’ll repeatedly be reaching for whilst en route, and don’t want hidden in the depths of your luggage.
    • If you can bear to travel with carry-on luggage only, do so – you’ll be glad of it when you’ve just landed and get to skip baggage reclaim purgatory, especially if you’re heading straight to a meeting. Turning up sweaty and dishevelled because you’ve been wrestling a 30kg suitcase from airport to Uber is not a good look. On that note – if you are getting off a long flight and heading straight to work, make sure you pack a toothbrush, mini toothpaste and spare top near the top of your hand luggage, so you can freshen up quickly before landing.



    • As much as possible, try to maintain some semblance of the routine you usually adhere to at home. If (for example) Wednesdays are usually your designated day for sorting out your finances, make that a priority when you’re away for work too. Sticking to your regular routine will make trips away feel much less disruptive, and you’ll spend less time scrambling to catch up once you’re back in the office.
    • Make use of any communal lobby areas in your hotel to work from (or if you’re AirBnb-ing it, find a local coffee spot you can decamp to for a few hours). Staying cooped up in your room your entire trip can make for a fairly claustrophobic experience, which isn’t exactly conducive to productivity – plus, the chance to absorb the local atmosphere is one of the perks of getting to travel for work, so get outside and soak it up!
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    When it comes to career guidance, there’s certainly no shortage of books on the subject on offer. Rummage through the ‘careers’ section of any bookstore, and you’ll undoubtedly be confronted by an array of workplace manifestos urging you to ‘lean in’ and simply ‘think yourself rich’, perched next to volumes promising a 4-hour week, whilst exhorting you to ‘fail better’.

    As a young woman trying to make my way in a creative field (advertising), I quickly found that these sorts of books contained little in the way of guidance for those who, like me, were just starting out – and crucially, they made few allowances for anyone whose definition of success didn’t align with their rather corporate narrative of corner offices and company credit cards. Nothing I found reflected the workplaces I was encountering, or career choices I was being faced with.

    So, with Little Black Book: A Toolkit For Working Women, I set out to create something entirely different – specifically, a modern career guide that actually reflects the way workplaces are evolving, and could speak to a generation of women who are shunning traditional career paths, and rewriting the rules of the workplace as they do so. According to the Financial Times, 80% of the newly self-employed during the last UK recession were women, and nowhere more so than within the creative industries. But scan the bookshelves – or indeed the Internet – and you’ll find little to reflect this cultural and economic shift. There’s not much in the way of practical guidance for the generation of fiercely ambitious, entrepreneurial and creative women that I’m part of. So I decided to change that.

    Unusually for a book of its sort, Little Black Book is devoid of personal commentary, which was a very deliberate decision. Most career guides tend to be full of commentary about the writer’s own lives and experiences, but more often than not those anecdotes pertain to a very specific set of circumstances and reading them can feel a bit like sifting for treasure, as you look for the pearls of wisdom directly relevant to your own experience. To be clear, my personal experiences are definitely still nestled within the pages of the book (trust me), but ultimately, Little Black Book isn’t about me – it’s about you, the reader. Containing only practical advice from start to finish, over the course of 128 short pages I cover everything creative women need to build successful and fulfilling self-made careers in the 21st century: from how to build a killer personal brand to negotiating payrises, via a crash course in networking like a pro, and tips for overcoming creative block.

    How do I know it’ll connect? Simple – this is the book I wish I’d been given five years ago, and I’ve filled it with the things I wish I’d known when I was starting out: lessons I learned the hard way, and which I’m desperately hoping other women won’t have to. Then there’s everything I’ve learned from Women Who, the platform I created to support and inspire creative working women, which has mushroomed into a community encompassing thousands of women around the world. And of course, there’s the fact that Little Black Book features contributions from a host of trailblazing creative women sharing insights on how they approach their work, including acclaimed author Chimamanda Ngozi Adchie, Refinery29 cofounder Piera Gelardi, and The Gentlewoman’s Editor-in-Chief Penny Martin (to name just a few). My goal is for this compendium of essential wisdom and hard-won career insights to become an indispensable companion to women everywhere – because being a working woman is hard enough without going it alone.


    This article was originally published on Indie Thinking.


    Two of the most important areas to get right when you’re starting a business are the legal and accounting side of things, but knowing where to start can be pretty tricky – so I was delighted to host a Taking Care of Business masterclass at Vice UK’s London office a few weeks ago. Something of a ‘business 101 for creatives’, we were joined by experienced accountant Kate Levy (Head of Creative Businesses at Wilson Wright LLP) and intellectual property lawyer Amanda McDowall (Trademark Attorney at Olswang LLP), who each gave presentations on how to make sure your business is set up for success from the get-go, before hosting private one-on-one advice sessions. We covered everything from the importance of protecting your brand through trademarking (and how to do that), to how to put the right structures in place to make sure your business is ‘investor-friendly’, and of course, how to keep HMRC happy.

    Huge thanks to my old stomping ground Vice UK for hosting us, and to Kate and Amanda for sharing their expertise with us. A heads-up for those of you who weren’t able to join us: I cover the basics of how to protect your creative work, and managing your finances extensively in Little Black Book: A Toolkit For Working Women, which you can pre-order here. In the meantime, I’ve summarised a few of their top tips below. Enjoy!

    Boring but necessary disclaimer: these notes have been summarised to the best of my ability, and were correct as of March 21st. They are meant to give general guidance of the various legal and financial mechanisms referred to therein, and do not constitute formal legal or accounting advice either from myself, or from Kate Levy and Amanda McDowall. If in doubt – speak to a professional!



    Choosing a trademark…

    When choosing a brand name, make sure you pick something unique and interesting that one that no-one else has used before - You could even make it up! Don’t pick something that is descriptive of the goods or services to which the trademark relates. In laywoman's terms, that means if you're a sofa seller, don't expect to be able to trademark something like ''

    Do your research to make sure that there’s no-one else (ideally at all, but certainly within the same territory as you) using a similar trademark, that might be deemed as confusing to potential consumers. As a first step, you should conduct a search via the IPO (UK) and EUIPO (EU) trademark databases, as well as conducting a general Internet and social media search for anyone already operating under the name under an unregistered right.


    If you’re on a budget…

    It is possible to file a trademark yourself within the UK without assistance from a lawyer (the USA is a totally different kettle of fish..) and both the IPO/EUIPO offices offer a wealth of free information and guidance on their websites. The British Library Business and IP Centre also has a (very helpful!) resident IP expert who can give you pointers. If in doubt however – get a lawyer to do the application for you.


    On commissioning work…

    If you commission someone to do creative work on your behalf, there is no legal presumption that you automatically own the copyright to the work they create – even if you pay them – unless you have an ‘assignment’ (i.e. buy the rights from the person in question) and including wording to the effect of “I hereby assign…” as part of your contract. This is especially relevant if, for example, you’re getting a friend to do some work for you as a favour.

    FYI – a license isn’t an assignment. It’s just a permission to use, which means you don’t own the work in question.


    If you’re employed by someone else…

    The presumption is that your employer owns the work you create ‘in the course of employment’. So if, for example, you work for a magazine and blog in your spare time – you need to make sure those two outputs are clearly delineated, and there’s no way that it could be assumed the magazine you work for owns the copyright to your blog content. Got it?



    Do I need a separate bank account for my business?



    Which bank is the best?

    High street banks are all pretty similar, so go to the bank you already hold personal accounts with – they’ll already have all your details on file, which will speed up the account opening process.


    Should I form a limited company?

    A complicated question! Generally if your main reason for setting up a company is the perceived tax advantage, setting up as limited company isn’t really worth it in light recent changes to the tax system by the government. Any tax savings you do make will, in most cases, be wiped out by the accountancy fees required to fulfil your obligations as a company director. That’s the short answer.

    Having said that, there are other reasons you might want to consider forming a limited company, including the benefits of separating your personal assets, interests – and liabilities – from those of your company. Not to mention that being a limited company adds an air of professionalism when working with other companies and clients.


    How do I pay myself, and how much do I pay myself?

    As long as you leave enough money in your account to pay your tax bill, you can take the rest of it. How do you do that? You transfer the money from your business account to your personal account. Easy!


    What taxes will I be liable for?

    If you decide to operate as a sole trader, you’re liable for income tax on the profits of your business. For the unaware: profits = revenue – business expenses.

    If you have a company, the company pays corporation tax, which is a flat 20% on company profits. What’s left over after company tax has been paid is called ‘company reserves’ and if you send those company reserves to yourself as a shareholder/director (i.e. draw a salary), you may well have to pay income tax on that as well.


    How do I pay other people who work for me?

    If the person in question is an employee (as defined by the rules issued by HMRC), they’ll need to be paid under PAYE, and you’ll need to set up a payroll scheme with HMRC. If they’re self-employed, they simply invoice you an agreed fee, and are responsible for their own tax and NI contributions.


    Do I need to register for VAT?

    If you have sales or turnover of £83,000 or more, you have to register for VAT under the law. Even if your sales fall below that threshold, if you’re a small creative business, there may still be some financial benefits to registering under the flat rate VAT scheme – ask your accountant to find out if those apply to you.


    What paperwork do I need to keep?

    By law you need to keep records – i.e. receipts, proof of your expenses, sales etc. for 6 years.


    Is there software I can use to make my life easier?

    Yes! Xero, Sage or Quickbooks. Xero is pretty user-friendly for those unfamiliar with book-keeping.


    Can an accountant help me raise finance?

    Again, yes! Get in touch with Kate if that’s something you’re interested in.

    Spring Flowers

    Blossoms blooming, sun shining, and finally being able to ditch the heavy jumpers and ankle boots – there’s a reason why spring is my favourite season of them all. If the warmer weather and longer days have given you a fresh burst of energy, why not channel some of that energy into spring cleaning your life, and set yourself up for a new phase of mental clarity and productive working?

    Read on for some easy ways to streamline your life inside and outside of the office.



    Pay attention to the environments you’re in, and the spaces you create.




    It’s no secret that the human brain responds well to aesthetically pleasing visuals - if your surroundings are looking tired or drab, that’s bound to have an impact on your day-to-day mood. To refocus your aesthetic in a way that's conducive to clarity, try creating a moodboard full of the sorts of visuals that reflect the vibe you want to recreate in your everyday life. If you're pressed for time (or space) then Pinterest is obviously perfect for creating virtual moodboards, but if you can, hang up a corkboard somewhere you’ll see it every day for maximum impact. Then get creative!



    I'm all about the easy wins, and I guarantee you tidying up your desk is a quick and easy task with a disproportionately powerful gains when it comes to improving your mental clarity. That giant stack of papers you haven’t picked up in months? Go through it right now, filing the important things, and chucking the rest (preferably in a recycling bin). Feel better? Thought so.



    At this time of year everything’s in bloom, and there’s no reason why your indoor spaces shouldn’t be too. Add some greenery to your work and living spaces to give them – and you – an instant boost: snake plants, bromeliads, and rubber plants are all aesthetically pleasing choices that also thrive indoors. Or (if you’re feeling fancy) treat yourself to some fresh flowers for your desktop once a week – I’m currently obsessed with ranunculus blooms, pictured above.



    If you dress like a slob, you’ll feel like one too – and that way unproductivity lies, so treat yourself to one or two key pieces to refresh your look for the months ahead. Never underestimate the power of the clothes you wear on a day-to-day basis to impact your mindset, and the way you feel about your work.



    The most important piece of the puzzle.




    Why not check in with the New Year’s resolutions you made back in January, to remind yourself of the goals you’ve set yourself for 2017 and renew your efforts on any you’ve let slip by the wayside? Here’s a reminder of how to set yourself up for success when it comes to making (and keeping) resolutions.



    With the warmer weather and longer days, now’s the perfect time to take your workout outdoors, so swap the fluorescent gym lights for fresh air and sunshine for an instant mood boost. Why not keep things interesting by taking up a sport instead of exercising solo – join a local netball or football team, and enjoy the added bonus of keeping your mind stimulated at the same time as getting fit.



    Warmer weather also means lighter, fresher meals, so try to incorporate more fresh fruit and vegetables into your diet to keep your energy levels up. Chef and food writer Anna Jones is an excellent source of delicious veg-based recipes that steer clear of Ottolenghi-esque levels of complication.



    Get your affairs in order.




    If you’re self-employed, now's the time to assess your clients and projects carefully to determine which ones are the money-makers - and which ones are the money pits.Which clients, projects, or strategies are profitable, and which ones require you to spend more time on them than really makes sense? Examine and evaluate where you’ve been expending your energies thus far this year, and think about what you need to do more – and less – of to grow your income as the year progresses.



    There’s a lot of talk about the benefits of ‘digital detoxing’ these days – but how do you actually do that? Start by unfollowing any social media accounts that don’t actually add any value to your life (you know the ones), and unsubscribing from all those newsletters and email alerts you don’t even remember signing up for – Unroll.Me is hands-down the quickest and easiest way out there to streamline your inbox.



    Review your bank statement for subscriptions or accounts you’d forgotten you’re signed up for. Chances are there’ll be at least one or two you never actually use, which means you can make some easy savings with minimal effort.


    Happy spring cleaning!


    To celebrate International Women’s Day last Wednesday, Women Who teamed up with multi-talented artist and print designer Kelly Anna to host a Women’s Day Party at Mother London – and what a night it was. 170 (!) of London’s creative women descended on Redchurch St (just a stone’s throw from where we hosted our launch event) for an evening of crafts, cocktails, and bonding over our mutual inability to colour within the lines (or was that just me?). It was the perfect way to spend International Women’s Day, and a reminder of the magic that happens when you get a bunch of women – and a couple of drinks – in a room together.

    Huge thanks to all of the wonderful people who made it possible, including cocktail maestro Missy Flynn and the crew from Rita’s Dining, who whipped up those delicious Tanqueray-based cocktails using Jamu Kitchen’s zingy tonics; Zezi Ifore and Kim and Pia for the tunes; Winsor and Newton for all those marker pens; Blackwater Studios for the tshirts; and NikeWomen for those gorgeous (Kelly Anna-designed) tote bags!

    And finally - given that the cocktails were such a hit, Missy has very kindly provided us with the recipe for both (below) - so you can recreate them in the comfort of your own home.. I'll drink to that!

    The Photos


    (Click to enlarge)


    The Cocktails



    • Pour out your gin (we used Tanqueray No.10) into a jug and quick-infuse with dried hibiscus flowers - available online, or at plenty of Caribbean grocers as 'sorrel'. The alcohol will absorb the colour and flavour within 5-7 minutes, so don't worry about doing this too far in advance.

    • Strain off the flowers, squeezing out any excess liquid - you can keep these gin-soaked flowers to use as a garnish. The gin can be used immediately, or saved in the fridge until you need it.
    • Pour your preferred measure of gin into a glass filled with ice.
    • Add a good quality tonic water (e.g. Schweppes).
    • Garnish with a slice of lemon and some edible flowers - or the hibiscus flowers you used to infuse the gin.




    • Pour a 25ml measure of Tanqueray No.10 into a glass filled with ice.
    • Add 25ml of Jamu (we got ours from Jamu Kitchen, but you can make your own at home!) 
    • Top up with good quality ginger ale (e.g. Fever Tree) - nothing too sweet, and not ginger beer as that will overpower the other flavours.
    • Garnish with a sprig of mint.


    To keep your custom Women Who x Kelly Anna t-shirts looking fresh...

    • Hand-wash only (I know)
    • Don't iron the print directly
    • No tumble dryers

    Over and out!


    A few weeks ago, Women Who brought together three women who are shaping the face of design in London (and beyond!) for a design-focused panel discussion in the Ace Hotel’s gorgeous 100 Room. Covering everything from the importance of good mentors to how to self-promote effectively, our panellists Camille Walala, Sarah Boris and Jenny Brewer shared a tonne of insightful advice on how to build a successful creative career.

    As always – I’ve recapped a few of the highlights for those who couldn’t join us below, alongside a couple of photos of our panellists in action – enjoy!



    [SARAH] There are definitely moments when work can feel a bit repetitive, so when I feel that coming on I take a step back and try to do something super-new, or I reach out to people I’ve always wanted to work with, as a way of injecting something new into my life.



    [JENNY] Sometimes standing your ground and saying ‘no’ can earn you more respect. My top tip is to use your integrity as an anchor and to really know what you want – don’t be afraid to say no.



    [SARAH] Pick your battles and be patient. You need to be willing to educate your clients about the best way of doing things – and also remember that they’ve come to you because you’re an expert in your field.



    [CAMILLE] Instagram works really well for me because I’m really visual, and I love taking photos. I use it sort of as a visual diary of my day, but I am still ‘selling myself’ on Instagram – I don’t have pictures of myself drinking with my friends, for instance. It’s mostly pictures of work or related things. I always try to link my social media to what I’m trying to say about myself, like a brand. The great thing about social media is you can really sell yourself, whereas before you needed an agent to get your name out there.



    [JENNY] I’ve worked under two amazing female editors who’ve taught me that you don’t necessarily have to be this bolshy, loud person in order to be assertive and get your point across.



    [JENNY] Clarity. A very simple idea, carried through with a clear message and purpose. You can always tell when there’ve been too many cooks. It’s all about simplicity –  the great rebrands we see at It’s Nice That have all used very simple ideas, colours and shapes, and there’s a purpose for every element – nothing’s just for show.



    [JENNY] When writing about your work and yourself [e.g. for your personal website, or when pitching media outlets], think of what you’re writing as something you’d read in a newspaper. In the top paragraph a news story will tell you the who, what, when, and why, so consider that when writing about a project, or a biography about yourself.  When you’re emailing someone, apply the same principle – don’t write 500 words about the concept of a project, without clearly explaining what it actually is! Don’t be cryptic. You’d be surprised at how many personal websites fail to include vital information about who the person is, where they’ve studied, where they’re from, and what their inspirations are – that’s all really key information. Editors often don’t have the time to dig deep and find the answers, so you need to get all the facts in there as clearly as possible. Also: have plenty of high-quality, large images of your work on your website.



    [JENNY] It can be a really valuable way of connecting with bigger brands and clients – a lot of them don’t have the time, resources, or energy to spend ages finding new talent, so an agent can be a great connector.



    [SARAH] I started telling people I was leaving soon, and that if they had anything coming up to let me know – and they did! My network came in really handy, and I think that shows the importance of networking. It’s also important not to be shy about telling people what you’re doing. I get a lot of my projects through word-of-mouth.