I first met Nikki Golesworthy in the late 1990's when I was the Product Manager for Card Connection Ltd commissioning illustrators to design greeting cards ; I always admired the way that Nikki managed to engineer her life to have each time off to travel and her versatility and cute characters.
© Nikki Golesworthy
When did you start your business and why? Did you plan how you started meticulously or was it almost accidental? Tell us your story of how you got started..
I became a freelance designer when I graduated from Polytechnic with a degree in Surface Decoration. There was a recession and very few jobs. I got a fab start-up studio with a fellow graduate and started trading under my own name for furnishing textiles and then the stationery markets. I also became a part-time surface pattern design lecturer at De Montfort University and freelanced for many card companies.
Did things take off immediately or has it been a slow burn?
Being a freelancer was a slow start. Initially I relied on the Enterprise Allowance which gave us a ‘pay’ each week.(oh yes Nikki - same here)) But slowly I began to make good contacts and get regular commissions. I also became a part time lecturer at the now De Montfort university. As the years have gone by I've remained a freelancer. I have also had a part time position as a Design Manager at a company that supplied Christmas cards to the charity markets - those little brochures that drop out of mags at Christmas every year. Great fun, until the art team all got made redundant and then they went bust! At one point I was also made redundant from uni - but I've been back teaching again there for the last 3yrs.
Freelancing has changed as companies have ceased trading or been bought out by the big boys. So you never get to sit back and relax as every time you start getting settled buyers change or companies change!
© Nikki Golesworthy
I have loved the fact that my ‘industry’ and my teaching at university have all been quieter for me in the summer. So I spent many years travelling, back packing every summer from May-Aug, seeing soooo many fab places,countries and people. I couldn’t have done that in a 9-5 job. My parents kindly emigrated to France 20yrs ago and so I have visited regularly. Since I have had kids (Amelie is 11 and Daniel 9) we have stayed with the grandparents every year. Now we live there for the summer months when school finishes and with broadband I can work and email clients and Dropbox work to my husband in our studio back in Leicester. Kids learn French, eat out, get lots of country living and it’s great. I am typing these answers from my studio at mum and dad’s right now on a quick 7 days away for some R&R!
In 2006 I branched out and set up a little company making wedding stationery too (www.wearetickledpink.co.uk) - a lovely change from lots of Christmas Cards all year long, and I like dealing directly with the public. Love creating for them, but again a slow-burn! We do make stationery for about 250 couples a year, my husband joined me running it 3 yrs ago- and loves his job, cutting, sticking, managing, accounts, singing along to BBC6 Music and working on Photoshop if I am busy.
© Nikki Golesworthy
I also set up a side-line so that I could ‘make’ (www.saveoursocks.co.uk ). Most of my other commissions now are created in Photoshop or Illustrator and my paints have dried up! So the second side-line is making Sock Toy kits. Great fun and I love ‘making'.
Do you do your business part time or full time?
I work full-time. I love the freedom of freelancing, but as you are constantly marketing for the next contract I am a bit rubbish at switching off. My husband joining me has been great, but it means we don't have a 'secure' income to support us, so I don't stop enough!
Do you intend to grow your business into something much bigger or are you happy with it as it is and why?
We need to be bigger for financial security, those mortgages and two kids don’t come cheap!
If this is your full time job do you mind saying what your approximate turnover is annually (before costs and expenses)?
This varies every year. That is the hardest to contend with. Some years my profit has been £20K others, it has been £6k. Some years we are flush, some we have survived with Tax Credits and living on a very tight budget, some we have been very happy. That has been the hardest part, not ever relaxing and being confident financially!
© Nikki Golesworthy
Where do you sell your work?
I sell my freelance work directly with card companies or via my lovely agent at Portfolio Select. I sell Tickled Pink via Etsy, Folksy, our website, our Facebook Business page, our Pinterest pages, eBay and Wedding Ideas Magazine and Wedding Fairs. We sell "Save Our Socks" via our website and Craft and Street Fairs. As Nikki Golesworthy - stationery designer I freelance in house in Bradford too, when they are super busy in Oct - April and have done for 8yrs now; firstly for TailorMade Designs who supply the ‘grocery market’ like Wilkinsons’, Tesco, Sainsbury and most of the rest! Currently I am working at Hallmark. I love finding my work in those shops on sale. I work on Mac designing and doing whatever is needed. It is great fun and improved my use of Illustrator no end. But it is seasonal and insecure and I chose to work long days there to cover my expenses - diesel/ hotel away etc!
Which of the selling methods that you use works best for you? Why do you think this is?
Ebay is brilliant for us. We have yet to dip our toes into NOTHs although they keep asking TickledPink to join them. I have to find the time to create a range for them!
Have you had publicity in national magazines? If so how did you approach them?
We get featured every month in Wedding Ideas Magazine and that works very well for us, I love meeting brides at Wedding Fairs and they recognise our work from spotting it in the mag. We have consultations with brides who have shown us their wedding scrapbooks and they have cut one of our pics out, sometimes without even reaslising it is us! I think the mag also gives us a bit more credibility as brides seem to realise were not just a hobbyist making some pin money!
© Nikki Golesworthy
Who do you think your typical customer is?
For Tickled Pink it's brides with a sense of personal style who want an invite that is a bit fun. We rarely get Bridezillas, just lovely couples who like our colourful designs.
Which aspect of your work do you enjoy the most?
I love creating, I can lose hours, wrapped up in making something, then suddenly realising my tummy is rumbling and I should take a break to eat- or go home!
Is there anything you would have done differently if you were starting your business today?
No, I have enjoyed the freedom my career has given me, the variety, time to travel and explore the world.
Are you someone who sets goals regularly or more are you more instinctive?
I love working to commission, love being asked to create something and getting wrapped up in it, but I do a lot of lists and goals!
Do you employ people part time to help with any aspect of your business? For example, bookkeeper, accountant, packers? If you do how did you find people who were the right fit for you?
No. Maybe my husband might fit the bill- he is cheap, but very good at what he does!
Could you describe where you work? Are you alone most of the day or with others? Do you feel that they way it is now is the best fit for you? Do you see that changing?
I worked from home for the first 4 months and hated it. I need to get out and see people and chat. So I have always ‘gone to work’ and had a studio. I have had my current studio for 14 yrs and it is above the shops overlooking Leicester High Street, massive space, Victorian so cold in winter, but I love it! I am there alone with my husband and Facebook for company! I love freelancing in-house though to meet other people as I have found my social circle has shrunk being just me and him all the time! Radio 4 keeps me company too. I have many friends who say they get people dropping in for coffee or being distracted by cleaning or getting the dinner ready when they work from home. Friends drop in for coffee to our studio in town too, but seem to realise it is still our work environment.
Do you have a mentor or people who you are able to discuss your business with? If not how do you find you best make decisions about your business?
I do belong to some wedding networks, they are useful, one secret group on Facebook has been a great way to meet other wedding suppliers, get advice and let off steam in private when needed as well as working together and sharing advice and contacts.
© Nikki Golesworthy
What is a typical day for you in your business as it is now? What would be a dream day for you – business or otherwise?
I love the variety of my days and weeks. A 10hr day is typical, but I love that I am never sure what work will come in each day. I can have my schedule for designing mapped out and a bride can ring in a panic as she has forgotten to sort invites or my agent will need a commission for the USA with a tight turnaround, so I am very flexible. When I have freelanced in-house for a solid week I do find myself missing the freedom of planning my own day and being tied to other people and their deadlines! I love the way a working day pans out and changes as the day progresses depending on emails from Brides in Australia or orders coming in where the bride needs a quick order processing or a sock kit has to be packed and sent off.
Anything else you want to add… tips or plans or ambitions or even special offers to my blog readers?
I have loved my career, loved the freedom to travel and do what I wanted. My major dislike, probably the financial insecurity. Freelancing is not a stable career path, my freelance friends and I often discuss that. But I enjoy what I do! My ambition is to work less, chill more, but that’s probably not in my nature- I often gets cards/books and even a t-shirt once – those ones about ‘if you need a job doing, give it to a busy woman’ I have never been one to sit back and relax!
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Finally please tell us where we can buy your work or find out more about you:
Thank you so much Nikki, you have a really interesting portfolio career that I can relate to!