Cheri created the name for this blog series, Imagine All The People, via a call for help on my Instagram as I had hit a creative block! We met in the staff room at BIMM London, where we are both university lecturers. Here is our conversation about her experience as a creative.
Can you describe what you do?
I’m a writer, broadcaster and unashamed pop fan. When I’m not writing features for print and online magazines, I help small businesses and not-for-profits with their digital marketing efforts.
What is creative about your work?
As I’m self-employed, most of what I do is creative. I have the huge luxury to choose the clients I work with and I’ve been lucky to collaborate with some really exciting brands from award-winning podcast production to bespoke sound design studios. My background is in not-for-profit marketing, leading digital teams across the sector for nearly a decade. I still work regularly with charities and am always delighted when they’re open to new ideas and innovations, so that keeps it very creative as well. But my heart lies with music. I played in a band for many years and that experience and guitar gear nous definitely pops up in my feature writing. Whenever I’m pitching, it’s always artists that I’m excited about so there’s a real creative steer there. I also try hard to write for a lot of independents in a bid to support my fellow creatives – that (very meta) connectivity of being creative with other creatives is super exciting for me.
What is the biggest challenge you face?
Probably money and negotiation tactics. From the marketing side of it, I’m very lucky that I studied in that field for so long which means my experience commands a solid day rate. The feature writing side is a lot lower but that’s the decision I made when I went self-employed and I always knew that there would be that balance. The more I read about other journalists though, the more I’m comforted to hear about other people doing what I’m doing. For a lot of writers and creatives that isn’t their mainstream of income. I’ve had a lot of toing and froing in the past where I’ve felt I wasn’t doing enough and my days were skewed towards marketing, more than it was to music journalism. There have been instances where I have been conflicted about wanting to write for a publication and them not having the budget. But I don’t want to fund a system like that for other freelancers to come in to where they don’t get any money, it’s just not sustainable. Even if the fee is modest, it’s recognition that you have delivered a service. Although the rates aren’t going to be the same as they would be in a corporate world, I do think there needs to be some exchange and it’s not enough to say ‘it’s for your portfolio’, because nowadays you could easily go and do that yourself.
With your consulting clients, how have you come to set your rates?
A wise friend told me to list out all of your outgoings and then add around 30% to that, so I worked kind of backwards from there. There are a lot of pay grades from agencies (a site called Major Players is well-worth a reference) where you can literally find your job role and I’ll often go with that as a basic bench mark. With some clients, it’s a bit lower and others a bit higher. Two years in, I am coming to that point where I need to reassess my fees and that’s trickier because if it’s a new client, then great – that’s my ongoing rate, but going back to someone I already negotiated with at the start is a lot harder.
How do you top up your creative cup?
100% live music (probably the thing I’m missing most, apart from my friends and family). It’s one of the most exhilarating experiences especially if I’ve written or am hoping to write about the artist. Festivals*, in particular, are a real moment of bliss for me - being outside in nature, pint in hand gazing at a sun drenched stage.
Is there anything you’d recommend people to listen to or read, to spark creativity?
Music fans should absolutely pick up a copy of Sleater Kinney guitarist Carrie Brownstein’s book ‘Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl’ which is a real education in the 90s riot grrrl scene. It’s such a moving memoir of women’s strength and decade-spanning friendships. Anna Codrea-Rado is also my go-to writing resource. Her ‘Professional Freelancer’ newsletter is a hive of helpful resources and pointers for anyone thinking about going self-employed.
What is your most used software or app for the work that you do?
Probably (really boringly) voice memos! I have to think on my feet with what I’m using to record in certain scenarios; multiple band members vs international dialling codes. I’m also a proud owner of a wee Troex voice recorder which is super helpful for remote recording.
You can find out more about Cheri and her work on her website // cheriamour.co.uk