EVENT RECAP: A WOMEN'S DAY PARTY
 

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

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RECIPE 1 - PINK GIN AND TONIC

  • 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.

 

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RECIPE 2 - GIN, JAMU AND TONIC

  • 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.
 

Aftercare

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!

EVENT RECAP: THINKING ABOUT DESIGN
 

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, a couple of photos of our panellists in action below – enjoy!

 
REAL ARTISTS HAVE DAY JOBS
 

The reality of the modern creative economy is that it’s harder and harder to be a ‘full-time’ creative, and to make a living exclusively from whatever happens to be your chosen craft. A perfect storm of factors (including but not limited to: an increase in the cost of living, the arrival of the Internet, and a general devaluation of creative work) means that at least initially, you’ll likely have to balance pursuing your creative passions – the work that fulfils you and feels like the reason you get out of bed in the morning – with the work that actually pays the bills.

Whilst that might seem far from ideal, having to fit your creative work around your 9 - 5 doesn’t have to be a bad thing: for starters, it’ll force you to be far more efficient than if you had the perceived holy grail of 24/7 free time to dedicate to your craft. I can tell you from experience that having to balance a side project with a 9 - 5 makes you far more ruthless with your time and quicker with your decisions, both of which are invaluable skills to cultivate. Plus, there's the advantage of being able to experiment with different creative projects and goals whilst still having the safety net of a steady paycheck to keep you afloat. Having the breathing room to test the waters without jumping headfirst into self-employment, or putting pressure on your creative work to pay the bills straight away can be invaluable for the quality of your output.

Whether your goal is finding more time for creativity around your day job just for fun, or you’re trying to pivot your career to a point where your side hustle is your day job – here’s some useful guidance on how to balance the two.

 

DON’T SLACK OFF

Resist the urge to put in time on your personal projects whilst you’re on someone else’s clock. If every time your boss walks past your desk, you’re on the landing page of myhotidea.com, that’s not a good look (and no matter how discreet you think you’re being, your colleagues will notice). At best, it’s unprofessional – at worst you’re leaving yourself open to disciplinary action, or worse. Remember too that most contracts (particularly within the creative industries) tend to include a clause whereby anything created on work premises, or using work resources is by law the property of your employer. Your day job is presumably the part of your working life that pays the bills, so don’t do anything to jeopardise that.

 

GO PART TIME

Try to find out whether there’s scope for you to scale back to a 3 or 4 day week. That extra day or two could be the boost you need to make genuine headway on your personal projects, as you’ll spend less time ‘getting into the swing of things’ and picking up on where you left off. Of course, depending on your current salary and financial situation, the pay cut involved may or may not be feasible – but if you do go down this route, make sure the arrangement is mutually beneficial. That means (gently) enforcing the boundaries of your ‘off’ days with full-time colleagues, who might take a while to get used to your new routine. You don’t want to take a pay cut only to end up doing pretty much the same amount of work, but for less pay.

 

FIND A BUDDY

Ask around – are any of your creative friends also working on side projects? Finding a like-minded person to bounce ideas off or go to talks with (even if you’re not working together directly) can be hugely motivating.

 

SET SOME TARGETS

These could be anything from landing a new freelance client to getting your personal website up and running. Having some concrete goals and deadlines to aim towards will help give you a sense of direction, and keep you on track.

 

START EARLIER

Instead of returning home from a long day at the office to spend your evenings working, why not try clocking in a few hours before you go to work, whilst your brain is still fresh? Something that really worked for me in the run up to the launch of Women Who (when I also happened to be working a full-time freelance contract) was waking up early a couple of mornings a week, so I could squeeze in a few hours of work before heading to, um, work. To say that I’m not a morning person would be an understatement, so that definitely wasn’t easy at first – but realising how much I could accomplish before I’d even done my morning commute meant that the potential of those early starts quickly became pretty addictive. Plus, flipping my schedule also meant I still had my evenings free to wind down or see friends (as long as I was home by a reasonable hour), so I rarely felt as though I was sacrificing my personal life for work.

 

START SMALL

Don’t subject yourself to unnecessary pressure by setting overly ambitious goals – vowing to dedicate every single one of your evenings and weekends to your side project straight off the bat is pretty unrealistic, and commitments like that are only going to set you up for disappointment. Instead start small – aim to put in an hour or two a week, and gradually build up to a level that’s sustainable alongside all the other demands in your personal and professional life.

 

SCHEDULE IT IN

No matter when you decide to make extra time for your side hustle, schedule the time into your diary as you would any other meeting, and treat it with the same level of seriousness. Uphold the commitment as though it were an arrangement with a friend, or a meeting with your boss. Don’t schedule over it, don’t re-arrange it. Just do it.

 
YOUR DREAM CV
 
 
Diana Ross
 
 

 

“Instead of looking at the past, I put myself ahead twenty years and try to look at what I need to do now in order to get there then.”

– Diana Ross

 

If you’re in the market for career guidance, you could probably do a lot worse than following the advice of a hugely successful and award-winning music icon. I'm the first to admit that I don't have an awful lot in common with Diana Ross (I can't sing to save my life, for starters - and that hair!), but we do have something of a similar ethos when it comes to career philosophies. Like the Queen of Motown, I’m a big believer in having a ‘big picture’ career goal in mind, mainly because of how easy it is to get caught up in the day-to-day grind of working life, and unintentionally spend years working, but without actually making any tangible progress. It's why I religiously make New Year's resolutions at the start of each year - I find having a bigger picture goal in mind incredibly useful, in both my personal and professional life.

Which brings me to a useful thought exercise I discovered a while ago, whilst flicking through Gem Barton’s excellent book Don’t Get A Job Make A Job. A collection of case studies of designers, entrepreneurs and creatives who’ve forged new and interesting business models, coming across Ms Ross’s quote a few days ago reminded me of a passage by architect Jimenez Lai, below:

 

“My advice is: write a few “fake” CVs for versions of your future selves – craft them, let your ambition run wild, project a few futures. No-one is watching, and there is no sense in feeling ashamed about these fake futures. I promise you, as you print them out and hold your plural futures in your hands, you will gain a deep sense of clarity about what you want to do and what you do not care to do”.

 

If you’re struggling to find a sense of direction or career clarity, why not take 30 minutes this week to write yourself a dream future CV (or three)? As Lai suggests, be completely honest with yourself about your career goals, even the wildly aspirational ones that seem completely out of reach. Think about what you want to be doing and how you’d like to be working in 5 -10 years’ time (or as far ahead as you can reasonably imagine – personally I struggle to envision where I want to be in twenty years’ time à la Ms Ross, but 5 - 10 I can kind of manage).

 

Some useful questions to consider might be:

  • What skills do you want to be using most often?
  • What kind of environment do you want to be working in? Do you want to be working as part of (or leading) a team? Working in-house? Running a small business? Freelancing?
  • What kind of projects do you want to be working on? Big commercial briefs? Or smaller indie projects?
  • Where do you want to see your work being displayed or consumed? And by whom?
  • What do you want your average working day to look like? Think of this as a microcosm of how you spend your time)

Then work backwards, breaking your ‘big picture’ goal down into the individual steps you think might get you there – think about the skills you need to polish up on, knowledge or experience you need to gain, or the gaps in your network you need to fill.

 

As always, I find that committing your thoughts to paper is clarifying in a way just endlessly mulling them over rarely is - the first time I tried this exercise some months ago, I ended up surprising myself with a few latent ambitions I hadn’t really realised I was harbouring, and (importantly) identifying some of the changes I needed to make to my working life to help me achieve them. Hopefully you’ll find it does the same for you.

RESOLUTIONS FOR A BETTER YEAR
 

Every year, come hell or high water (or let’s be honest, hangover), I sit down at my desk on January 1st and make a list of resolutions for the year ahead. No matter how raucous the previous evening’s festivities, or alluring the thought of spending the rest of the day in bed, the half hour or so I spend properly thinking about what I want to achieve in the year ahead is a non-negotiable start to my year, and one that I’ve taken pretty seriously since I first started doing it about five years ago. For me, the symbolism of the first day of a brand new year is energising in a way few other things can match, and as someone with a lifelong passion for lists, I never feel truly ready to tackle the year ahead without first making what - to me - is the most important list of all.

There’s always something incredibly clarifying about the process – for starters, it forces me to confront all of the various goals that are floating around in my head (of which there are always quite a few!), and corral them into some semblance of a plan, retaining only the ones that I truly think will bring me fulfilment, and discarding everything else. In that way, my New Year's resolutions are something of a North Star, guiding my decisions as the year goes on. It’s also a valuable exercise, in that it encourages me to look back on the resolutions of years gone by (which is why I always use the same battered red Moleskine that I’ve now reserved exclusively for this purpose). Sometimes that means the warm glow of satisfaction at a year well spent, whilst others it’s been the burst of motivation I've needed, confronted with the reality of a whole year - or more - going by without me making so much as a dent on certain goals. Having just completed this ritual for the year ahead, I thought I'd share a few tips for making New Year's resolutions that actually stick, based on my learnings from years gone by.

 

WRITE THEM DOWN

Getting your resolutions down on paper gives you a clarity of thought that’s hard to achieve otherwise, and also gives you something to refer back to as the year progresses. If you like, go one step further and pin them up somewhere where you can see them on a regular basis, to remind you of the bigger picture when things are getting confusing.

 

SET SPECIFIC GOALS

This. Is. So. Important. Vaguely resolving to (for example) "get healthy" or "save money" isn't going to get you very far. To make resolutions that stick, you need to set easily quantifiable, measurable goals, and identify the specific actions that you’re going to take towards them.  For every resolution you make, you should ask yourself "how am I going to make this happen?". Write that down as well.

 

HAVE FUN WITH IT

I love making something of a ceremony out of making my resolutions – brewing a cup of tea, putting on some music and sitting down at my desk for an undisturbed spot of *deep thinking*. Make the process a pleasure not a chore, and your resolutions will embed themselves in your psyche for all the right reasons.

 

DON'T MAKE TOO MANY

This is a mistake I've made far too many times – setting myself an unrealistic number of targets for the year ahead. Word to the wise: don't. All that leads to is feeling overwhelmed, and not really knowing where to focus your energies. Keeping things concise is the key to success here, so pick a handful of the most important goals to focus on, and forget the rest.

 

TELL SOMEONE ABOUT THEM

Telling other people about your resolutions - be they your friends, family, or the guy who runs your local corner shop - is crucial. Having people checking in and encouraging you is important, both as a source of support and as a way of keeping you accountable.

 

…And in the spirit of said accountability – I thought I'd share my resolutions for 2017. I find it useful to think about my resolutions as falling under one of four different quadrants to make sure I'm keeping things balanced, with my 'core four' generally being Work, Money, Wellbeing, and Personal Development. Whilst not all of these resolutions are directly related to my work, I’m hoping in one way or another they’ll all have an impact on my working life and leave me feeling more inspired, relaxed and productive over the year ahead.

 

 
Otegha Uwagba Women Who

Work

GROWING WOMEN WHO

As I’ve mentioned in newsletters past my main goal for 2017 is all about making this community bigger and better, and finding new ways of connecting with creative women (particularly international members of the community – hold tight!) through more events, new resources, and more inspiration for your working life. That's as specific as I can get for now, but there's lots of great stuff in the pipeline - stay tuned.

 

IMPROVING MY DESIGN SKILLS

Whilst I have definitely have an appreciation for beautiful design, and a fairly decent eye for visuals, sadly my technical design skills are somewhat… lacking. I’ve been meaning to work on those for a while now, so late last year I signed up for a basic InDesign course that starts in a few weeks, and which I’m very excited about. (FYI, if you’re in the market for a new skill, now’s a great time to do it – most adult learning organisations have a new crop of courses starting in the next couple of weeks, so take advantage).

 

Money

GETTING MY FINANCES IN ORDER

I bang on about women and money a lot (and plan on doing that a lot more in the year to come, don't sweat it), because I truly believe economic empowerment is one of the most important things a woman can aspire to, and something that underpins pretty much every other aspect of our professional and personal lives. Transitioning to self-employment has made me think much more deeply about the need to have some kind of long-term financial game-plan, in lieu of a waiting trust fund, company pension, or even a consistent paycheck.

With that in mind, I’ve committed to taking a more long-term view of my finances - more specifically, by investing £50 a month (an amount I regularly fritter away on unnecessary lattes and wear-it-once ASOS purchases), somehow, somewhere. I’ve long been aware of the importance of investing, but listening to this episode of Gaby Dunn’s excellent Bad With Money podcast a few months ago was the push I finally needed. I'm certainly no Warren Buffet, but the idea that you need to be some kind of corporate tycoon investing big figures to make investment worthwhile is a total myth – when it comes to compound interest (which FYI, Einstein described as ‘the 8th wonder of the world’) every little counts, and for me £50 a month is an achievable but aspirational start.

  

Wellbeing

CUTTING DOWN ON SOCIAL MEDIA

In recent months I’ve read article after article about how detrimental social media can be to your emotional and mental health – which is nothing new, except I now find myself relating to said articles far more than ever before. I rarely feel happier, more relaxed or better about myself after a prolonged Instagram or Twitter lurk – instead I’m left with a creeping sense of panic at the idea that everyone I know (and let’s be honest, plenty of people I don’t know) is somehow cooler, better dressed, and more successful than me. Plus, there’s the added anxiety and guilt at having wasted so much time on something so acutely unproductive. Whilst I’m not suggesting a complete social media ban – I don’t know that there’s a more powerful tool for creatives to share their work and ideas in existence – I’ve resolved to be a little more restrained about my social media use this year, as a means of protecting my emotional wellbeing.

To be more specific I’m a) being more careful about what I’m consuming and exposing myself to on social media (which in practical terms has meant a mass unfollow of a swathe of FOMO-inducing accounts), and b) limiting my time spent online. An ingenious tip I recently read – and have already started putting into practice – is to log out of your social media accounts every time you use them. The extra couple of seconds it takes to log back in are often enough time to give you pause for thought and consider whether you really need to check Instagram/Twitter/Facebook, forcing you to break the automatic habit so many of us have of reaching for our phones and mindlessly scrolling.

 

Personal Development

READING MORE

Specifically, two books a month. This won't sound like much to most people (and once upon a time that wasn’t very much to me either), but it’s far more than I’ve managed to get through lately, and I’m pretty sure I can feel my brain atrophying as a result. I’ve vowed to make 2017 the year of my return to reading, by carrying a book in my bag/having one on my nightstand at all times, and wherever possible killing time by leafing through a book, instead of my current go-to of mindlessly checking social media.

 

Now that you've read mine - time to go make some of your own (and do feel free to share them with me)! Happy New Year.

 
2016: THE YEAR OF REALISING THINGS
 

Last month I half-jokingly tweeted about one of the most spot-on predictions about how this year would unfold having come from none other than Ms Kylie Jenner (stranger things...), and I obviously wasn’t the only one who found this fairly amusing - as the year has drawn to a close, the now infamous video clip of Ms Jenner’s unnervingly prescient prediction for 2016 has gained something of a second wind, and has been recirculated on social media in a slew of memes, GIFs and viral tweets. What was a fairly unremarkable pop culture moment even at the time probably wouldn’t have been worthy of resurrection were it not for the fact that – more so than any other year in recent memory – 2016 truly has felt like a year of ‘realising things’, of truths being uncovered, and of a whole host of momentous and life-changing events coming to fruition.

So, inspired by Kylie Jenner – something I never thought I'd write on this blog, but here we are – I’m sharing a few of the lessons I’ve learned over the past year... or to stretch this fairly laboured analogy to its logical conclusion, the Things I’ve Realised. Hopefully you'll find something here that will help make your working life that little bit easier, more productive, or fulfilling in 2017.

 

PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE

Albeit sadly not one that I naturally possess in abundance – but I’m working on that! Learning to be patient, and to be comfortable working to other people’s schedules is something I’ve had a crash course in this year, particularly since becoming self-employed and launching Women Who. I’ve had to train myself to become (moderately) comfortable with just… waiting. Waiting for people to respond to emails, for people to make decisions, to get paid… the list is endless. Twelve months ago, an email left unanswered for longer than a few hours would have been a source of real anxiety (and frustration) for me, which I think might be a hangover from having started my career in the world of advertising, where things tend to move at lightening speed. Becoming more cognisant of the competing demands on other people’s time is a quality I’ve learned to embrace this year, and something that I hope to improve on in 2017.

 

START SOMEWHERE

The best way to make things happen is by putting them out into the world, and to realise that there will never be a ‘perfect’ time or an ideal set of circumstances for you to launch that idea, business or project that’s been at the back of your mind since forever. If you’ve talked about an idea more than three times, it’s time to act on it.

 

NOTHING WILL WORK UNLESS YOU DO*

After a talk I gave about Women Who last week, a woman in the audience asked me whether I’d encountered any common traits amongst the women I’ve met and worked with over the past 6 months. I often think when people ask this question (or at least when I do!) it’s in the vague hope that there’s some sort of secret sauce or Da Vinci-esque code that once cracked, will turbo charge careers and put them on the road to riches – but the truth is there is literally no secret route to success, besides working really bloody hard. The main trait that the creative women I’ve met through Women Who have in common is simply that they’ve put in the hours – and not over a few days or weeks, but for months and years on end. When I think about how much work I’ve put into Women Who’s relatively modest achievements thus far, my mind boggles at the colossal amount of work that has clearly gone into the careers and businesses of the successful women that I either know or admire from afar. But, it’s also incredibly motivating – a reminder that real, sustained success doesn't happen as a result of stunting on Instagram. In order to succeed, you need to do the work.

 

*Especially if you're self-employed!

 

NOT EVERYONE’S GONNA CLAP FOR YOU

This one’s a quote from my mum, one of the wisest women I know. Whether it’s a failed job interview or a rejected pitch – if you do creative work, you’re going to hear ‘no’ a lot. Not everyone’s going to like, appreciate, or be into whatever it is you’re doing. And that’s okay – rejection or disinterest, in all of their frustrating and disappointing guises, are things all creative people have to deal with, no matter how successful they are. The important thing is not to dwell on that for too long (or to take it too personally), and to focus on reaching the people who are into what you’re doing. They’re out there.

 

TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS

Every single time I’ve gone against my gut instinct when it comes to decision-making, I’ve regretted it. Your intuition is a powerful thing – don’t ignore it, ever.

 

REMEMBER YOUR VALUES

If you always endeavour to do the thing that you think is of genuine value to yourself and to others – whether creatively, professionally or socially – you can’t go wrong. For me, the politically explosive events of 2016 have highlighted how important values are in a world that increasingly seems to be run by people who are devoid of any, and have reminded me of how indivisible wider social and political issues are from the day-to-day hustle of being a working woman.

 

That’s it from me! What are the important lessons 2016 has taught you?