Name: Francesca Tortora (but you can call me Frankie)
What do you do? How would you describe your working life?
I’m a freelance graphic designer working with all sorts of clients across the arts, media and charitable sectors — I tend to work with people that like a bit of colour and fun in their communications! I used to be based out of an amazing co-working space in London Bridge alongside a bunch of other creative freelancers and small businesses, but since I was about 5 months pregnant with my son I have worked from home in our flat above a shop in leafy North London. I found both the experience of working for myself from home and becoming a mother to be hugely isolating so I had the idea of trying to create a digital community of parents who also work for themselves to support, encourage and reassure one another. A couple of years later (amazing how kids can delay your plans!) and I have now launched exactly that — Doing It For The Kids is up and running!
Did you show any early signs as a child that indicated that you would end up where you are today?
The most common anecdote that comes up at family dinners is me relentlessly singing ‘Tomorrow’ from Annie in a horrendous American accent in the back of the car, on all car journeys, ever, no matter how long (sorry mum!). I did end up studying music at university though so clearly there’s a link there and I still enjoy singing and playing music but I’m inherently quite an anxious person and putting myself ‘out there’ as a performer never sat well with me. I’m a very organised person so worked in project management roles for a bit, but creating stuff is clearly in my blood. I retrained as a graphic designer 5 years ago and haven’t looked back since.
Describe your morning routine
Husband and I are awoken by our 18-month-old son shouting things from his cot along the lines of “ooooooh…”, “WOOOW”, “whaaaasssdat?!” We both roll over pretending to be asleep. Eventually one of us caves (usually Rob these days). I stay in bed for as long as physically possible. The boy is given toast. He climbs into bed with toast. Manages to deposit crumbs everywhere, smear jam on my face… Eventually I get up. Put on my ‘uniform’ — super soft sweatshirt, jeans, bobble hat. If I’m feeling adventurous, I may put some concealer on over my eye bags, usually only if it’s a nursery day and I therefore have to leave the house. In either case, it’s straight on over to the kettle for the first of many cups of tea…
Where do you get your ideas/inspiration from and when do they arrive?
Graphics work tends to be quite fast-paced with often demanding deadlines so one of the biggest challenges is having to be creative under time constraints — a lot of the time I have to work to get ideas down on paper, rather than wait for the ideas to arrive! I used to really struggle with that but you do get better at it with time. I tend to be quite methodical and use techniques to get my brain going. Things like free association where I just write phrases and/or sketches around key words or ideas and see what happens. I also spend a lot of time on Pinterest looking at photography, existing work, other people’s projects and designs to get my creative juices er… juicing. But sometimes ideas do arrive in the more predictable places — on the loo, in the bath, as I’m falling asleep and I think “I really don’t need to write that down, I’ll definitely remember it tomorrow… zzzzzzzz”
When motivation wavers, how do you get back on track?
If I’m really struggling to get motivated then I tend to have actual, verbalised pep talks with myself! Because I work completely on my own and rarely interact with actual adult humans during the working week, talking to myself is one of the few ways I can kick myself back into gear. I also have a habit of striving for ‘the best’ idea that I can come up with and pushing myself way too hard, not eating properly, generally getting into a bit of a faff and then losing focus on what the hell it is I’m actually doing. So I try to identify when that is happening and make myself step away from my computer — go and have some lunch, or pop to the shops — and often that’s enough to get me back on track. And when there’s a hard deadline (which most of the time there is), that’s motivation enough. I have to create something within the time I’ve got. The pressure helps to get things going!
What is the best thing about your job/lifestyle?
I’m at a stage now where I can pick and choose which projects I take on which is amazing so I now work on stuff that I tend to have a real interest in. Not many people can say that about their work, so for that I am hugely thankful. And as isolating as being at home all the time is, I do absolutely love that I don’t have to commute. As I mentioned earlier, I’m quite an anxious person so me, public transport and having to be somewhere at a specific time etc. just don’t mix. So I love being able to work in my own space, on my own terms.
If you could do something else for the day — what would you do?
I’d love to do something where I use my hands more, something really practical like carpentry or upholstery.
How do you overcome any challenges in your working life?
Plenty of tea. Stepping away from the project / situation / computer if time allows. And usually venting to my husband over a beer at dinner.
How do you celebrate your successes?
I very rarely have any disposable income — particularly after having my son — so if I’ve really nailed a project, or worked particularly hard then I’ll treat myself to something. A piece of clothing, a new print for my office walls or something for the flat.
Do you have any tools/resources or rituals that you couldn’t live without?
Pinterest is amazing for visual references and inspiration so a real must for me. Beyond that I just need a pen and paper and plenty of tea.
Which books from your bookcase would you recommend?
I’m not much of a reader, never have been. So I’d probably pull out a magazine or two for your delectation — Wired, Frankie Mag, Lionheart.
What are your daily essentials to make you feel ready?
Tea. Bobble hat. More tea. Did I mention I like tea?
What advice would you give your teenage self?
Don’t be so hard on yourself. Don’t let people walk all over you. Don’t be afraid to cut toxic people out of your life.
Where would you like to be in 5 year’s time?
In a world where I get more sleep, have more time to myself and am not living quite so hand-to-mouth.
Big thanks to Frankie. Find out more about Doing It For The Kids here or hire her as a graphic designer here