By Sarah Hamilton
As you know Just a Card is run by a team of seven volunteer artists, designers and creative business owners. I’d run the campaign single-handed for some time and people were loving it, yet I was run ragged doing everything myself - you can’t imagine how much ‘behind the scenes’ work goes on. I then had a lightbulb moment – perhaps some of the amazing people so passionate about the message of supporting artists and independent businesses might consider donating some time to helping spread the word. I tweeted a call out and imagine my surprise when over 60 people responded – in under a day! Every single person who retweets us, shares our FB posts or Likes us on Instagram is part of our wider team – and this is what this campaign is about. There are however seven of us who coordinate this and we thought you’d like to meet the team. If you’ve been featured on our blog you’ll have met Kate Marsden, our blogger in chief and all round V.I.P. We’re incredibly grateful for the hours of work Kate puts in – she’s a marvel and we value her hard work and commitment hugely…. So we thought we’d turn the tables and find out more about Kate…..
Kate, can you talk us through all the fantastic things you do for the Just a Card campaign?
My main role in the Just A Card team is writing this here blog. I liaise with the people we’re featuring (and coordinate any guest posts), put together the schedule, then edit and put the actual posts together. I also run the Instagram account which I mostly use for the purpose of promoting the blog posts, but I think there’s potential to do more with that.
We’re so lucky to have you putting the blog together for Just a Card. But you also write for other blogs as well, I think?
What else do you do when you’re not blogging for Just a Card?
All manner of things, mostly related to my business - I’m a textile designer and illustrator. I’ve recently launched a new collection of fabrics, notebooks and accessories, which is always quite an undertaking, and I’ve also been working on commissioned illustration and licensing jobs.
Alongside this I’ve just started running the Instagram account for a new local artists’ open studios event we have coming up in Carshalton in the summer, so you can expect to hear me harping on about that over the coming months!
I do all this around school hours as I have a son who’s just coming up to 7 years old (so SATS to get through this summer too – eeek!).
Have you been working for yourself for a long time?
Just over 3 years. Things didn’t go too well when I returned to work after maternity leave, and after nearly 3 years back I finally took the plunge and started working for myself on what had been a hobby business.
And is there anything you’ve learned during the last three years that might help other designer/makers who are just starting out?
You need to be tenacious. Make sure you have some savings or something to fall back on, then work really really hard and don’t give up. The temptation to give up is often very strong. I only need a couple of bad weeks and I’m thinking about applying for “real” jobs. Ask the Just A Card team...
The people who are successful are successful because they didn’t give up – and you very rarely see the years (someone said it takes 10 of them!) of hard graft, Tesco Value beans, and blood, sweat and tears that have gone into that success.
Oh, and if something really isn’t working, don’t be afraid to change it, and mix things up every now and then.
So, what’s next for Made By Mrs M? Do you have fabulous plans for the next few years?
I’m keen to teach more workshops, take on more commission work and license my designs more often. In a dream scenario, I’d license my fabrics to one of the large fabric houses, license surface pattern designs for a variety of products, and continue with what I do now.
I like to have the personal touch of a small Etsy shop, and to do fairs and markets, but on their own they don’t pay the bills. I’m aiming to grow my business at a rate which will allow me to expand fairly quickly when I’m no longer relied upon for the school run!
You must be incredibly busy! How do you find the time to fit everything in?
Ha! I don’t know… I do often look at people who are managing to engage intelligently in Twitter networking hours at 10pm and wonder how on earth they manage that – I tend to be absolutely knackered in the evenings, so try to do the more mentally taxing stuff during the day if I can.
I work on social media in bursts (mostly Twitter and Instagram)– so when I get up/before the school run, while cooking dinner, and in the evening, are the main times, with 5 minute bursts throughout the day. I’m quite good at being disciplined while working from home and not getting too distracted by other stuff, and I think that helps enormously. I used to work from home quite often in my old day job so I’m used to it, oh and constantly clock watching for the school run keeps me focused!
And do you have a dedicated work space at home?
I work from two rooms. I’d love to have a studio elsewhere, but at the moment this works well as it enables me to make the best of the time I have, and allows me to keep working once my son’s in bed.
I have a small studio space/stock room and a separate study in the box room (which I share with Mr M so sometimes I have to manage without computer access – not always a bad thing!). I don’t have a computer in my studio so I tend to spend a lot of time in the study, moving into the studio for making, packing orders etc. I’m hoping to save up for a laptop though this year so I can be a little more flexible.
So, what was it about the Just a Card campaign which made you want to volunteer to help?
I’d been following the campaign since the start and already knew you. I could see there was a need for such a campaign from first-hand experience. Many of my friends and acquaintances didn’t appreciate the cumulative value of small sales, or the value of simply sharing people’s work - and how both things can really help support tiny businesses. So I figured that if my friends didn’t know this - even though they knew that I was trying to build a business myself - then plenty of others needed to be told too.
When you put out the call for help on Twitter I replied straight away. At that point I didn’t have a lot of work on, so I had capacity to spend some time getting the blog up and running!
I love being part of the team! An unexpected side effect has been the camaraderie between the team members, which is so helpful when you work by yourself at home most of the time. I hadn’t expected this and now feel as though I have a little support network should I need it.
Many people reading this will be wondering how they can be featured on the Just a Card blog. Is there anything in particular that you look out for? How do you choose who to feature?
I’m always on the lookout for something a bit different, quirky or fun. I feature people who support the campaign, share and retweet our message etc. One thing that really makes someone stand out though is good, clear photos (there are some great photography tips in this guest post from Emily Quinton) – The posts with the best images get the most traffic and benefit those featured the most!
Thank you Kate for such an insightful interview, and for everything you do for Designer/Makers and Independent shops, by working so hard on this blog and campaign. Huge round of applause - make sure you follow Kate on Instagram and Twitter and support her work too. We're huge fans here at Just a Card HQ!
Speaking of following - we're really trying to build our presence on Instagram so please make sure you're following Just A Card on there. We'd love lots of followers and generous sprinklings of likes.
Thank you wonderful Kate - Thank You wonderful Just a Card supporters!