16th June 2016
A constantly changing workspace
I’m fortunate that my work can take me to a range of locations, therefore sometimes my workspace is everything I bring with me and anywhere I can settle, including aeroplanes. When I’m not hopping between locations, one of my favourite places is my local coffee shop (yes, let the East London/modern freelance stereotype unfold). I find not having the distractions of my normal office admin helpful to focus and just crack on.
A clear desk = a clear head
However, more often than not I’m working in my home office, staring at a retouching monitor. In this workspace, tidiness seems to be king for me; a clear space means a clear head. Working up to a big shoot I can sometimes feel I’m juggling 101 things, from sourcing locations, sprawling ideas, working out my insurance liabilities, checking equipment, prepping assistants….oh and still making sure those receipts are being filed – thank the gods for cloud-based accounting these days!
But when I take a moment to clear my space, organise it, and have it back to just the way I like it, the mountain of jobs seem completely manageable.
Keeping sane amidst a changing schedule
As a photographer I really don’t have a typical working day. When I’m not physically on set and shooting I’m either in pre-production, post-production, marketing or general admin mode. However, I do try my best to keep to a regular schedule and perhaps most importantly, exercise. If I’m losing the plot, it’s probably because I haven’t left the office to get the blood pumping and to relieve/rejuvenate my frazzled brain.
My current favourite motto is “…If in doubt (insert-exercise-of-choice-here) it out…”.
I’m a pool lover (luckily my local is the London Olympic one) and it opens at 6am which means I can be up, swim, meditate (the Headspace app has been a little dream find) and be back at my desk before the business day kicks off. Other days I might start work around 5.30/6am and try to sneak a midday run in later. I revel in the fact no-one can call or email at that time and the city almost feels like it’s still sleeping, you can get so much done.
Planning, planning, planning
As I mentioned, clarity is key for me in a good workspace and last year I invested in a wall calendar for the whole year. This might sound pretty uninspiring and I’m probably late to the stationery party, but it has been a great tool for me.
Perhaps because I’ve always been freelance I’ve simply adapted/accepted the fact that work can sometimes be so last minute or unknown that working week-by-week or month-by-month seemed fine. However, seeing the year laid out meant a) I could make an effort to plan more personal time – I am a tyrant of a boss and still working on that; and b) I could see how the whole year was doing in one glance. It’s sometimes handy to have a quick visual record of how much time I spend in pre/post production vs. shoot days etc. It sounds incredibly mundane, but for me it may have been a mini game-changer.
Striking the perfect balance
Ideally I would have two work spaces, one at home for when needs must or family ties require it and one in a shared office space to enjoy the community of other creative professionals. At the moment The Hoxby Collective brings that sense of community to wherever I may be. I was working in New York recently and it was fun to check in to Slack and see what was going on.
In short when picking a work space – if you’re lucky enough to have the choice like the Hoxbies do – I think it’s important to discover what helps you be your most productive self. Is it a great coffee shop where you can be fed and watered whilst you lose yourself in a few hours of amazingly focused work? Or is it a co-working space where you don’t feel like you’re going mad on your own, along with it giving you a clear division between work and home life?
Taking time out for inspiration
For real inspiration I love a day spent either in the city, gallery-wandering and scanning through books shops, magazines and films seeing what people have been creating out there, or even just hopping on a train and leaving the hustle and bustle. Meeting up with other creatives, discussing potential shoot ideas perhaps, or simply stepping out of what can seem like an isolated freelance box is crucial. This is where the Hoxby Collective has been a rather lovely addition to my working world.