Meet Frankie Tortora: graphic designer, mother and founder of Doing It For The Kids
Why You Should Know Her
Outside of her day job, graphic designer Frankie is the cheerleader of freelance and self employed parents, championing their successes and struggles through Doing It For The Kids (DIFTK) an online space for freelance parents to share stories, skills and support. The site – and the DIFTK social media channels – are a fantastic resource for anyone trying to balance freelance or self employed work and parenting.
From the fantastic #patonthebackclub – sending out a monthly support package to randomly chosen DIFTK “employee” (aka anyone who responds to the social media post), to being a port of call for any freelancer with questions or looking for collaborations, the DIFTK community is hugely supportive. Frankie’s energy, encouragement and realism is inspiring and refreshing. If you’re in need of some and are a freelance parent yourself, head on over and join the conversation!
Hi Frankie! Where are you based and what you do?
Hi! I’m a freelance graphic designer living and working in North London. I primarily work in print design with clients within the arts, media and charitable sectors. I’m just a little bit in love with colour and like to think that I bring a creative and fun solution to my client’s communicative conundrums.
How long have you been freelance?
This is my sixth year of trading. I used to have a PAYE job in project management/arts administration but retrained as a designer in 2011. I basically had a bit of a quarter-life crisis where I realised that I was on a career path working to facilitate lots of other people’s creativity, and that what I actually wanted to be doing was earning money being creative myself. So, I went to night school where I did a portfolio course in graphic design and then — for reasons I won’t bore you with — I was ‘lucky’ to be offered redundancy pretty much as I finished my year of training. That small pot of money allowed me to give full-time freelancing a go. I said I’d give it 6 months max and if it didn’t work out I’d apply for a salaried job, but here I am, still self-employed!
What does an average day look like?
As a freelancer and mum to a two-and-a-bit-year-old, each day of the week tends to look a little different (yet strangely the same…). The first half of my week is when I concentrate on work, and then from Thursday onwards I shift into full-on mum mode.
On the days that my son is at nursery, I’m at my desk in my little home office solidly working from 8am to 5.30pm, basically cramming in as much work as physically possible and surviving on pasta-pesto three days on the trot. And on the days I’m on parent duty, my son and I will mainly be found on the platform at our local London underground station watching the trains go by (I wish I was kidding – the boy is obsessed with trains). I also work most nights and often at weekends to keep projects ticking over in that second half of the week. Thankfully a huge proportion of my clients are parents to small kids too so totally understand my sometimes unpredictable hours.
What are the best bits about what you do, and what do you find the most challenging?
I think my favourite thing about my job is how quickly I can bring a project to life — how I can have a pretty drab looking word document at the beginning of the day and by lunchtime, have produced something really fun and engaging. I find that instant gratification element of the shorter-term projects I do really, really satisfying. And my biggest challenge is probably trying to fit in as much work as I can — often too much work! — in the few child-free hours I have each week. As any freelance parent will tell you, time is my ultimate nemesis.
How do you find the work/life balance?
I actually think overall my ‘work/life balance’ is pretty good. I essentially work 3 out of 5 days each week which feels like the right amount for me. Having said that, I do often struggle to fit in all my work within those three days and end up spending a lot of time in my office in the evenings and at weekends which isn’t ideal. I’m trying to adjust how I work so that I can make space for more downtime and time with my husband etc.
What impact has becoming a mother had on how you view work?
Ironically, since having a kid, my work is more important to me than ever. I mean, I’ve always been driven and enjoyed what I do but I didn’t really realise how important my work was to me, and to my sense of self, until I had a kid (I guess, in a way, until I was on maternity leave and had the ‘luxury’ of work taken away from me). And I don’t know if it’s because I’m self-employed and therefore I am inherently a part of my business, but so much of my identity is tied up with my work. Despite the exhaustion and the challenges that come with working for yourself and raising children, the thought of having to stop work completely due to childcare costs for instance makes me feel bereft!
Tell us about Doing It For The Kids – how did it come about?
Doing It For The Kids is my passion project that I run alongside my day job as a graphic designer. It’s about bringing together a community of like-minded freelance and self-employed parents for mutual support — emotionally, personally, professionally. I set it up because when I was pregnant and on maternity leave with a newborn, I was meeting a lot of other parents but very rarely anybody that was in a similar work/life situation to me i.e. living solely on my Maternity Allowance, afraid of taking too much ‘time off’ in case I lost all my clients, unsure of what (if any) childcare would fit my unpredictable hours and income etc.
my number one goal for DIFTK is about making sure freelance parents know that they are not alone, that they’re doing a great job
Why was it so important for you to create that space?
Working for yourself can be hugely isolating – as can having children – so my number one goal for DIFTK is about making sure freelance parents know that they are not alone (as a freelancer and as a parent), that they’re doing a great job (as a freelancer and as a parent) and that there are loads of other parents out there coping with the exact same challenges that come with working for yourself. I know I could have really benefitted from something like it when I was preparing for my son’s arrival and when I was working things out work-wise on mat leave, so I just had to set something up.
What are your aims for DIFTK?
To be honest with you, I don’t really know. The project started off as a solution to my not-meeting-other-freelance-parents problem and, on a really selfish level, running DIFTK has already gone huge steps towards solving that. I’ve met so many interesting people and made so many new friends. It sounds a bit over the top but and in a lot of ways it’s totally transformed my life. Also, because it’s very much a collaborative project, what it does is always changing and shifting according to the conversations I’m having, and the feedback I’m getting so my long term goals are a bit… fluid! I do know that I want to organise some real-life, face-to-face events to bring the community together offline. I also know I want to create ways for parents to more easily connect with people local to them. Beyond that – who knows!
How easy do you find it to stay motivated work-wise? Do you have any tips?
I’ve always been the sort to only really get going on a project until the pressure is ON. It’s not a great trait or one I’d recommend. Having said that, since I’ve had a kid, time is almost always tight so I am definitely more motivated and productive than I ever used to be. So, maybe the ultimate productivity hack is… have a kid?! (Yeah, don’t listen to me. Ignore that advice).
What advice would you give to anyone considering going freelance?
SAVE FOR YOUR CLASS 4 NATIONAL INSURANCE CONTRIBUTIONS (no, I don’t know what it’s for either) and be prepared to become every part of your business or — if not — be prepared to pay to outsource it. And beyond that, I tend to work from the Anthony Burrill school of freelancing and believe that as long as you “work hard and be nice to people”, you shouldn’t go too far wrong.
What other women (or woman) inspires you?
It sounds like total cheese but pretty much every woman I meet inspires me in some way or another. It’s tough being a woman right now — and it’s definitely tough being a mother right now. The expectations on our shoulders are HUGE. I am forever amazed by all the women I meet just bossing life, in all sorts of different ways.
You can see more of Frankie’s work on her website.