Instagram Changed My Life - Writer & Photographer Sara Tasker
When Sara went on maternity leave it wasn't just her child that was born. A business was too.
Sara's story shows what can happen when you find and connect with your people, with your audience. Her Instagram followers have given her the ability to quit her 'day job' and follow her passion for photography and writing.
Her 'Me & Orla' brand continues to grow with big brands knocking. Now she uses her knowledge of instagram as another revenue stream: teaching, sharing, mentoring.
More from Sara
SPOILER: Don't click this link until you've listened to the episode... and if you have, well you'll know what it's about to be... ready? Go.
Who the hell is Steve Folland?
Steve's a freelancer helping businesses use and make video & audio content in much better ways. Find out more at stevefolland.com, track him down on Twitter @sfolland or lay a trail of cake and he'll eventually catch you up.
Transcription of Sara Tasker podcast interview - Being Freelance
Steve Folland: Hey, I'm Steve Folland. How you doing? Thanks for listening.
Steve Folland: Let's find out what it's like being freelance for photographer and writer Sara Tasker.
Sara Tasker: It's about knowing your worth and being prepared for them to walk away if they don't see the value in it. You have to say, "I'm going to be awesome for this job and you need me. And I'm worth this money." You have to believe it yourself before they will. It's really hard to say no. It's hard when it comes in your inbox and it's a great opportunity and you want to do it, you're really excited about doing it, then say yes and think, "It'll be fine. I'll find a way to do it." And then can't sleep for a week because I've got so much to do. It's really hard to say no but I'm getting better at it.
Steve Folland: Yes, how you doing? Hope you're well, hope everything's going good for you. If you want to find us online ... Maybe you found us on iTunes or whatever, we have a website as well. Beingfreelance.com where you can check out all of the previous guests and link through as well. If you hear a guest and you think, "Oh, how do I find up what they're up to? How do I even spell their name?" Easy to link through to their Twitter pages or Instagram accounts or YouTube channels or their websites or maybe some of the things that they talk about. Sometimes we put in useful links to other things that they talk about. Take a look, beingfreelance.com, and make sure you subscribe on whatever podcasting device you might use. And join us on Twitter at Being Freelance.
Steve Folland: Right now, though, let's go to Yorkshire and talk to freelance photographer and writer Sara Tasker. Hey Sara.
Sara Tasker: Hello.
Steve Folland: Hello. I like the fact that before we started speaking I asked you how you would define yourself and you kind of struggled.
Sara Tasker: Yeah.
Steve Folland: So this could be interesting finding out how you don't know what you do. How about we get started hearing about how you got started being freelance?
Sara Tasker: Yes and maybe that will answer some of that question. I was working for the NHS in speech therapy, completely different to what I do now. I was on maternity leave and started an Instagram account, like I think a lot of people do to fill the time, and really quickly gained a big following on there for my photography. I started to be approached to do some sponsored work and some brand work through that. Then I built a blog off the back of that which also became quite popular and then opened up more revenue sources. Then, from there, I've really turned that into a job where I now do photography for brands, I do photography for individuals, I write for a few magazines, I'm writing a book. I sell eCourses and I mentor people on Instagram on how they can turn their online business into something bigger. So there's lots of different revenue streams that don't fit into one neat job title.
Steve Folland: That's amazing though, really, when you sit back and think about it is that if you hadn't of started that Instagram account for something you were passionate about when you were on maternity leave …
Sara Tasker: Yeah.
Steve Folland: You wouldn't be doing this, right?
Sara Tasker: No. Instagram changed my life. How weird is that?
Steve Folland: It is, it's awesome. It gave you the opportunity to follow that passion, I presume a passion for photography.
Sara Tasker: Yeah.
Steve Folland: But also for the blog, had you been writing before though? Did you just suddenly find yourself ... ?
Sara Tasker: I'd always had a blog, a different blog that was a quiet affair and I think I say this somewhere on my blog that really I always identified myself more as a writer than a photographer. I felt confident about my writing, didn't feel all that confident about my photography, but I enjoyed it just as a hobby. So it was funny that all of a sudden I got this quite loud validation for my photography via all of these thousands of people on Instagram. Then I was like, "Oh, well maybe I'll see what they think about my writing as well and see what the results is.”
Steve Folland: Just to put this in perspective, how long ago was that?
Sara Tasker: Three years ago. My daughter's three-and-a-half. So, yeah, three-and-a-half years ago.
Steve Folland: Okay, so there's lots to dig into here because you mentioned multiple revenue sources.
Sara Tasker: Yeah.
Steve Folland: It started with brands approaching you about your Instagram account, right?
Sara Tasker: Yeah. So for anyone who doesn't know about that whole world, because it is a whole separate world, brands will pay high profile Instagram users to feature their products on their account. It's like a really organic way for people to come across the brand.
Steve Folland: How did you find, I don't know, negotiating that or dealing with that, if that was your first route in?
Sara Tasker: It's tricky. It's still tricky, and it's something I get a lot of questions about from other people who are entering that world because you have no idea what the going rate is for that. It's a really difficult thing to quantify, and nobody talks about it. It's not really an established industry with a union or something where you can go. So you're pitching blind these really professional PRs from big businesses and trying not to get fleeced.
Steve Folland: So what do you do? Do you just stand your ground or have you just set out upon what feels right to you?
Sara Tasker: Yeah, I think it's about what feels right. It's about knowing your worth and being prepared for them to walk away if they don't see the value in it. Because at first it feels like, someone ... It starts and they want to just send you maybe a free pair shoes in exchange for a picture. That feels like a great deal. You're like, "Well, I was doing this Instagram anyway for fun and now you want to give me free shoes." Win-win. But, actually, you can't pay the rent with free shoes. That's not a job, that's just a hobby. The time you need to put into building an Instagram account to the point when you can monetize it is not just the time it takes to take that picture of the shoes. It's the time you spent over the last two years, or whatever, being consistent, going online everyday, engaging with your community, building your standard of photography up. So, actually, it's not just about how long it takes you to take that picture and what that costs. It's about the whole cost of your experience and your knowledge and your audience.
Steve Folland: Hmm. And presumably there must be lots of brands that approach you that maybe you don't feel comfortable about?
Sara Tasker: Definitely. That was a learning curve. I said yes to a bikini once, and the bikini arrived and I thought, "I can't put a picture of me in my bikini on my Instagram," I'm not that kind of Instagrammer. So then what do you do? So, yeah, you have to know when to say no. The integrity of your voice and the respect and the belief of your audience is so important.
Steve Folland: When did it then start transitioning into you taking photos that weren't just for Instagram? So maybe you were taking photographs for other people that existed outside of your platform?
Sara Tasker: So that it was all came to me. It was things that just appeared in my inbox. At first it felt quite frightening. It felt outside of my ... I had a real problem calling myself a photographer or a writer. I used to say on all of my bios online, I would say, "Takes pictures and writes things about myself," instead of writer and photographer, because that seemed safer. But then I think it was the point where Canon contacted me and they wanted to send me to a festival to take some pictures for them, and I was a bit like, "Maybe I am a photographer. Maybe this is what it is to be a photographer."
Steve Folland: Wow. Did that then change again because then you're ... Well, you're becoming a freelance photographer.
Sara Tasker: Yeah. Yeah, and coming into it a really sideways way because I think most people build up as a freelance photographer. They build up their own clients and they do a lot of portraits and those sorts of things, that's where a lot of the work is. But I was sort of jumping straight into this promotional industry level. But I did have a lot of knowledge of things like styling and of lifestyle imagery and that sort of thing from my Instagram. I think that was why they were interested in me.
Steve Folland: Yeah, yeah. So it's not just about the ... It's like you can do the whole thing. In some circumstances, you might have a stylist on set and so on and so forth.
Sara Tasker: And an Art Director, exactly, and someone saying, "Well, we need a picture that suggests this to the audience," like a marketing person. So that's all included in what I do. I'm very good value for money, really.
Steve Folland: Let's talk about that a bit more. Does that mean you have to travel? Or you've mainly focused on local clients? I don't know.
Sara Tasker: It's all mainly U.K. based because I have a little girl, so I don't travel too far at the moment. But yeah, there's a lot of trips to London and various places.
Steve Folland: How do you find juggling that? The childcare and then suddenly having to be on the train to London for the day to take photos.
Sara Tasker: Yeah, that is probably the biggest tricky element of my job is just the childcare, because my husband, he works quite long hours, we don't have any family immediately around us where we live. So it's always lots of phone calls and arranging and trying to get someone to be here overnight to help him out.
Steve Folland: Yeah, and that feels like the biggest hurdle. Have you ever felt like you need to, I don't know, maybe not even take a job on because of that?
Sara Tasker: Yeah, definitely. And because she's little you have to prioritize, I want to be here for her, I want to see these years with her. But also I've launched a new business. My business is a baby and I need to be putting the time into that as well. And it's juggling these amazing opportunities that sometimes mean a compromise on one end or the other.
Sara Tasker: It's a funny thing, isn't it, because my husband is a modern man and we absolutely share everything and we share responsibility for our daughter, but because I was on maternity leave with her, it's always been my responsibility to make sure she's got childcare. So that falls on my to do list. It's like, "Okay, how do I sort out her childcare?" Sometimes I have to remember, actually there's two of us, and we can both sort the childcare out.
Steve Folland: When it comes to ... I know, like fitting everything in. So you've got your day ... What's she? Three-and-a-half, so maybe just off to nursery, that sort of thing or ... ?
Sara Tasker: Yeah.
Steve Folland: How do you go about planning out your day? This sounds like there must be a lot of variety.
Sara Tasker: Yeah. I find that really difficult because I can never really say that any week will be the same as the next. I have tried to block time in my diary and say, "This is my photography time, and this is my," I don't know, "writing time or my mentoring time," but it just changes so much, it never works.
Steve Folland: So what do you do? Just fly by the seat of your pants kind of a thing?
Sara Tasker: Yeah, pretty much. I use Asana ... Don't know if you've ever looked at Asana?
Steve Folland: Oh, yeah.
Sara Tasker: I use that to ... I put all my to do list tasks in it and it arranges them in priority order for me and I just tick them off. I just go through it ... It's almost like constantly fire fighting, but it's the only way I've found that really works and means I'm working everything into deadlines.
Steve Folland: Do you turn work down if you think you're too busy? Obviously, you might turn it down if you don't feel it fits you. But what about just because you're too busy?
Sara Tasker: I'm learning to do that. I'm not very good at doing that and I say yes and think, "It'll be fine. I'll find a way to do it." And then can't sleep for a week because I've got so much to do. It's hard, isn't it? It's hard when it comes in your inbox and it's a great opportunity and you want to do it, you're really excited about doing it, it's really hard to say no but I'm getting better at it.
Steve Folland: Yeah. It's a weird thing though, isn't it? When you're a parent you almost seem to find time you never knew you had before you were one-
Sara Tasker: Yes.
Steve Folland: If that makes sense?
Sara Tasker: Yes. That is so true. I think you become a bit of a superhero and you can just ... You don't know how you're doing it and I'm sure we'll all collapse when they get to 18 and never be able to do anything again. But, yeah.
Steve Folland: Personally, I find it sometimes hard to switch off the work when I know they need my attention, kind of thing.
Sara Tasker: Yes. Really hard. It's like if I'm playing with her I feel guilty because I'm not working, and if I'm working I feel guilty because I'm not playing with her. I can't seem to win. I said on Twitter the other day I think someone needs to launch a business where it's like a working space for freelancers but also a soft play place on the other side of the room where everyone can put all their children together and we can just get stuff done.
Steve Folland: That's a ... Don't, let's not say that on the air.
Sara Tasker: Yeah, yeah, don't broadcast that bit.
Steve Folland: Yeah, no, that's a good ... Once they're something like four or five and they can go off in the soft play without you needing to go in there.
Sara Tasker: Oh, I'm living for that day.
Steve Folland: Yeah, without you needing to do the thing where, "Oh, I forgot to bring socks. I'm sorry." "But, daddy, it's snowing outside." "I know. Careless of me. I can't go in there.”
Sara Tasker: Yeah, for anyone that doesn't have children, you're not allowed in soft play without socks, we should explain.
Steve Folland: Yeah. I hate the ones who then sell socks.
Sara Tasker: Oh, yes.
Steve Folland: That was our one way out.
Sara Tasker: And really extortionist socks as well so you are out of pocket as well.
Steve Folland: Yes. So what, we got your photography, we got brands paying you for Instagram. But you mentioned that you were coaching, I think. So coaching other people on Instagram.
Sara Tasker: Yeah. That is probably the biggest driver of traffic to my website is people who want to know how they can turn their Instagram into something. Either they're small businesses or they're creatives and they know it's a good way to reach their audience. Or maybe they're just people like I was, just doing it creatively but thinking like, "I want to be able to do this better." So, yes, we have coaching packages. I'm launching my first eCourse at the end of this month, and I have a little free ... Actually can I just plug my little free eBook that you can get if you sign up to any of my mailing lists on my website? You get a free eBook on how to make your Instagram better.
Steve Folland: Did that element of your business come about because somebody first approached you? Had you thought about it before then, if you see what I mean?
Sara Tasker: Yeah. The reason that came about was that I was working my NHS job, I'd gone back from my maternity leave. I was doing that part time and I was juggling all this other stuff that was getting busier and busier, and having to turn work down because I had commitments at the NHS. So I needed something that I knew would be almost like a guaranteed income every month because the other stuff was sporadic. Some months were very good and some months were very slow. That was why I launched the mentoring originally. I knew that there was interest, I'd had emails and then had a lot of questions. I had this big audience, and when you have a big audience you think you can probably sell to them in some way. If you've got the right products you know that there's people who are going to buy it. You're in a privileged position there.
Sara Tasker: Yeah, so I launched it just to be able to quit my job and it worked. Then I've enjoyed it so much I've kept it going.
Steve Folland: That's awesome. So yeah, it's that regular income stream. So you can sit back and, well, not relax but feel a bit more comfortable.
Sara Tasker: Exactly. And when I know I'm going to have a bit more time because I've got my head around the way the brand work ebbs and flows with the markets and budgets and stuff, so when I know it's going to be a quiet period I can schedule in more mentoring work because I'll have more time. Then when I know it's going to be really busy I can not sell any slots.
Steve Folland: Ah, because a lot of the industries you work with have certain times when they're launching new ranges or something like Christmas.
Sara Tasker: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, the run up to Christmas is really busy so then everybody doesn't spend at the end of summer because they're saving their budget for Christmas, et cetera.
Steve Folland: Did you find that tough when you first were discovering that pattern?
Sara Tasker: Yes, yes. There'd be a month when no exciting emails came in, and I'd be like, "Oh, I've lost it. It's gone. This whatever it was it's gone." It's only when you recognize the pattern repeatedly that you start to see that there really is a reason behind it.
Steve Folland: So you're about to launch your eCourse.
Sara Tasker: Yes.
Steve Folland: How have you found putting that together?
Sara Tasker: A challenge. It's such a huge project. Anyone that's done it will know. You can write on your to do, "Write eCourse," but you'll never get to cross that off because that is a huge project and I've really had to chunk it down into the tiniest bits to get through it. And it's still not completely finished, but I know exactly what's going in it. It's just not glossy and shiny as I want it to be just yet.
Steve Folland: Does that sit on an external platform that deals with the money side of it?
Sara Tasker: Yeah, I've gone with Teachable, which everybody seems to recommend.
Steve Folland: Oh, yeah.
Sara Tasker: So that literally ... That processes it for you, it takes payment for you, and all the software's there to make it really easy if you just set it up.
Steve Folland: Will it have a community attached to it or is it just, "There's the course. Off you go.”
Sara Tasker: I want a community, so I'm looking at Facebook groups and I'm looking at Forum. I can't quite decide. Everyone really hates Facebook, don't they? I really hate Facebook. So I don't want to send people there if they don't want to use it but then, on the other hand, it's really useful because you get the notifications. And if you're on Instagram then you've got a Facebook account anyway because it's the same company.
Steve Folland: It's funny that you say that because more and more people are like, "Ugh, Facebook." And yet, because everybody's on it, it makes it the easiest place to be and the groups notification-wise, as you say, it works.
Sara Tasker: Yeah, it works.
Steve Folland: But, yeah, interesting that we're all getting a bit sick.
Sara Tasker: Yeah, and it's interesting to see the vibes towards Instagram changing as it becomes more Facebook-y. That could be a whole separate topic though.
Steve Folland: That is, yeah. Because obviously a lot of what you do is linked to Instagram, does that make you aware of emerging platforms and trying them out to see? Are you aware what if Instagram tails off and I need to be doing something else?
Sara Tasker: Yeah, that's always a concern, really, because still a lot of my clients find me initially through Instagram. It's amazing how many business clients are browsing through Instagram to find people like me. It's kind of my live portfolio, and I do think if that goes, if that interest stops, where do I need to be? I need to be at the forefront of it so that I'm building up my audience there as well.
Steve Folland: Have you then been tempted ... Do you try out, be it Snapchat or God knows what the next thing is that I don't even know its name yet?
Sara Tasker: Yeah, I try. I try and stay abreast of it. What I really need is a teenage confidant who'll come and tell me, because they're the ones who know, aren't they? They know what the up-and-coming stuff really is.
Steve Folland: Yeah, yeah, yeah. That's totally true. If you'd have asked them a few years ago, they'd have said Snapchat.
Sara Tasker: Yeah.
Steve Folland: That probably isn't it today.
Sara Tasker: I thought that Snapchat was just for sexting. I really did, because why do the pictures disappear instantly, unless you're sending something you don't want someone to have? People would ask for my Snapchat and I'd be like, "Um, I don't really see you that way." Turns out they ... yeah. No, not what it's for.
Steve Folland: Actually it's a point though. Like with Instagram, they've recently replicated the Snapchat feel, whole stories, documenting it that way. So things which disappear after 24 hours. Is that something that you use?
Sara Tasker: Yeah, I do use it. I think I have to use it, don't I, because if I'm going to talk to other people about Instagram I need to know that inside out as well as everything else. I enjoy it. I enjoy stories on Instagram more than I enjoyed Snapchat. It seems to be used in a slightly different way and have a bit of a different community. But also, I already had this huge audience on Instagram so I never had ... On Snapchat, it was building that audience up over there. It's much easier for me to just share it with my existing audience.
Steve Folland: What sort of thing would you share on that? Because obviously the Instagram photos tend to be a lot more polished, arty type of thing.
Sara Tasker: Hmm. Yes.
Steve Folland: Whereas Instagram stories is much more authentic and raw.
Sara Tasker: Yeah.
Steve Folland: So how do you use it?
Sara Tasker: I always say, "Put the stuff that's pretty, but not pretty enough for your main gallery," on there. People still seem to be really motivated by it being quite visual content. I think that's to do with the audience on Instagram is that people are there because their primary motivation is visual content. So you can't just throw anything up. But just day-to-day stuff, I think that's what people want. They want a bit of a glimpse behind the scenes to be reminded that nobody's life is completely perfect like it might appear on Instagram.
Steve Folland: Yeah. And I guess it gives people a chance to get to know you, or if any freelancer listening was thinking of doing it, it gives you a chance to get to know you, to literally hear your voice, rather than just read it.
Sara Tasker: Yeah. I was talking with some friends about it actually and some said that there were people they really loved before who they now like less having seen them because they realize they've got nothing to say and they're not very interesting people. It can work both ways. It's a bit scary. But it is an opportunity as well, especially if you've got a creative process, I think sharing that and showing people what it is you do in your day-to-day is a real asset.
Steve Folland: Do you say things on there which are like giving, I don't know, say Instagram tips? Or is it more like documenting your day and if that includes a photo shoot, you put that in, but if it includes just building Lego then you put that in?
Sara Tasker: Yeah. More of the latter. I guess there's no reason that I wouldn't do the first and put some tips in there but because it's such temporary content I'm never even putting that much thought into it. You just throw it up, don't you? Whereas if I was going to do something that had value, like an Instagram tip, I'd probably want to make it more permanent for people.
Steve Folland: Yeah, that's true. So let's talk about permanent things, because you did the eBook as well.
Sara Tasker: Yeah.
Steve Folland: Had you been trying to get people to sign up to a mailing list before you did that?
Sara Tasker: No, that was to launch my mailing list.
Steve Folland: Ah, you're smart.
Sara Tasker: Yeah.
Steve Folland: Although now we can't discover the difference it made.
Sara Tasker: Yeah.
Steve Folland: Did you find it relatively easy, I guess, to grow a list?
Sara Tasker: Yeah, it was really easy. As soon as I launched that it had a buzz about it and people were tweeting about it and using the hashtag. I can't remember the stats, but I think I go something like a thousand sign-ups in the first couple of days.
Steve Folland: Wow. So you didn't have to go through that thing of thinking, "I'm only writing this newsletter for one person.”
Sara Tasker: No.
Steve Folland: That's good.
Sara Tasker: I never thought, that must be what it's like for some people. That's rubbish.
Steve Folland: Yeah. Yeah. But then did that bring its own pressure as to, "Right. Well, now I've got to write this newsletter. What's it going to have in it?" How did you then decide, and has it changed?
Sara Tasker: I think by that point I was used to that pressure of a big audience. The scary thing is though you know when you use MailChimp, I think everybody probably uses MailChimp, and it tells you to push the red button and send this thing out to all these people? I would sit there for 10 minutes looking at it thinking, "I'm not ready. I'm not ready to send it," because there's no editing. There's no bringing it back if you've made a horrible mistake. So now I send out ... My monthly newsletter is just a collection of hashtags that I think people should be using, that kind of seasonal or interesting, and that seems to be really popular.
Steve Folland: Yeah, so it's focused on the Instagram, helping people with Instagram side of it.
Sara Tasker: Yes, because that's what they signed up for if they got my eBook. I know that that's their main interest, and really, my mailing list purpose was to sell my Instagram products to them, whether that's mentoring or eCourses. Because if they want to follow my blog there's other options for them to just follow as a general reader.
Steve Folland: You mentioned earlier on that you find it hard juggling all the time and fitting the work in, even though you clearly do. Is there times when you think, "Oh, do you know I've got so much to do for this client, I can't get this newsletter out tonight," or, "I haven't done a blog post in two weeks." Or whatever it might be?
Sara Tasker: Definitely. And I think I fell into a trap for quite a few months in a row of that, because the blog stuff and the newsletters, that doesn't immediately pay. You don't see the rewards of that instantly, do you? You just have to trust that that is building your profile and that is reaching your audience in those ways. But the client work pays and it's a really clear I do this, I get that, so I spent quite a few months falling into that trap and just doing the client work and then realizing, actually, all my audience is ... I'm losing them, they're not coming every day anymore because there's nothing new to see. And they're the reason that I get the client work almost, so actually to keep that going is really important.
Steve Folland: Do you have to sort of be tough with yourself or schedule it in or ... ?
Sara Tasker: I think now that I've revisited that I'm really seeing how important it is. It's scared me a little bit into being quite tough with myself about it. I do prioritize my brand above anybody else’s.
Steve Folland: When you say you're a freelance writer, is that ... Are we simply talking about ... And I don't mean simply, I don't mean that in a rudely way, but are we simply talking about your blog or do you write in other ways that we haven't talked about yet?
Sara Tasker: Yes, so I write for a few magazines. I pitch to those magazines like Stylist and Standard Issue. And I write content for other people's websites as well sometimes for their blogs.
Steve Folland: Oh, cool. So how much time then goes into that, into that whole pitching and research and that process?
Sara Tasker: For me, I would love that to be a much bigger part of my time but it's not as lucrative as some of the other work. It's kind of a passion project, I think, for me so I do it when I've got the time, and when I've got the time I'll take it on and get in touch with some of my contacts and write some things. It's great for me and it builds my profile and it gets me in touch with a different audience. And there's also always that fear in the back of my head of like, "Well, what if this bubble bursts? What if everything changes and this kind of work dries up?" That feels like a much more concrete job. People will always want freelance writers. So I try to keep that ticking over but it's not as big a part of my day-to-day as I would like it to be.
Steve Folland: Hmm. Okay, so have we covered everything? We've got writer, we got the blog which brings an income as well, the Instagram, we've got courses, we've got mentorship-
Sara Tasker: I just got a book deal. I didn't tell you that.
Steve Folland: Whoa. Okay. Hold everything. How did that come about?
Sara Tasker: They found me through Instagram, the publishers, and contacted me directly. I'd had a few offers previously, actually, from previous books but they were never the right title. They wanted something very specific so I'd turn them down. But this one they just wanted me to do a book about my brand, about what I do. I went down and met with them in London and it looks like it's going to go ahead.
Steve Folland: Congratulations.
Sara Tasker: Thank you.
Steve Folland: Flippin' eck, though, it feels like a very big, grown-up, real thing, doesn't it? Do you know what I mean?
Sara Tasker: Yeah. Yeah.
Steve Folland: A book deal.
Sara Tasker: A book deal. It was the dream. Because I think so much of what I do, it's online and it's difficult to define to people. So the idea of having a book that makes me feel like I'll be official. I'll be able to give someone my book and be like, "This is what I do. It's all in here."
Steve Folland: Yeah, so it will be like a tutorial ... The story of your brand but also teaching people.
Sara Tasker: Yeah, so it's going to be, I think, sort of semi-lifestyle guide with lots of beautiful photography, kind of a coffee table photography kind of book, but about taking beautiful pictures and Instagramming your life, basically.
Steve Folland: In amongst all of these different revenue streams and when I look at your website and all the different beautiful buttons, we have all the different things that you do, there's a lot of business savviness in it and I'm just wondering whether you've done any courses or anything? Or whether you've felt it along the way or it just comes naturally? I don't know. You know? It's one thing to have a passion about something but then making it work business wise.
Sara Tasker: It's interesting that you spotted that, I don't know if everybody notices that. Partly I think it's just intuitive, I think I've got that kind of brain. But I did business studies at school, so I did [inaudible 00:28:45] A level, and I always say now I think that was the most useful subject I ever did at school. English, maths, whatever. I don't use any of that. But the business studies stuff, the marketing and the way of thinking about things, I found that really useful and I still use it all the time. And I've had a mentor, a creative blogging mentor as well who helps me think about things like the mailing list and the savvy ways to set them up.
Steve Folland: Ah, really? Is that somebody who you deliberately sought out or is it a friend relationship or you pay them, you know?
Sara Tasker: I sought her out. I came across her via her blog and was at a point, it was when I was still working but I was aware that there was potential to turn it into a business and I wanted to make sure I was doing stuff right, so I met up with her. Her name is Jen Carrington, so she's northern based if anybody's looking for someone up here.
Steve Folland: Do you think you could've done what you did without that kind of advice?
Sara Tasker: I think I'd probably still be doing what I do, absolutely. But there's this thing where you sort of need someone to talk stuff through with, isn't there? If you need someone to sound off and when you're self-employed you don't have that company around you necessarily of people who understand the business as well as you do and know what kind of decisions you're facing. So go and meet with her, it was just someone to talk to. Often I'd find I knew the answers myself but I couldn't reach that conclusion until I'd literally talked it through with somebody else who understood.
Steve Folland: Yeah, interesting. Is that an ongoing thing? Or was that at that point?
Sara Tasker: Well, we're friends now so now we meet for coffee and do it more informally.
Steve Folland: Ah, okay. Does she hold you accountable? As in you said you were going to do this and you haven’t?
Sara Tasker: No, she doesn't. I could do with somebody that does that. Someone that shouts at me if I don't. I think we're both okay at holding ourselves accountable, within reason.
Steve Folland: Yeah. I sometimes think that. I sometimes think, if there was just somebody saying, "Get on then and write that blog now. You said you were going to do it."
Sara Tasker: Yeah.
Steve Folland: Whereas, of course, I've got a client on my ass saying, "Where's the video?" Then I'm going, "Oh, right. I need to do that.”
Sara Tasker: Up until my daughter started nursery, so she just started about a month ago, I always worked from cafes and would take her to a child minder. Working from cafes was awesome because I had no choice but to work. There's nothing else you can do when you're in a café, really. You can check Twitter all day, I suppose, but other than that ... Now I work from home because she's at school and there's so much other stuff you can do when you're at home, it's awful for productivity.
Steve Folland: Interesting. Are you tempted to find somewhere else to go?
Sara Tasker: Yeah, I think I'm going to have to go back to cafes around here. But Yorkshire's not quite as up on their mobile working. People in cafes think it's a bit confusing for people around here still.
Steve Folland: Yeah, because you've got much more rural, right?
Sara Tasker: Yeah, yeah.
Steve Folland: Is that quite a recent thing or ... ?
Sara Tasker: So, yeah, we were in Manchester, which is about an hour away. Her child minder was still close to there so I was driving back towards Manchester way to take her to her child minder. So there's lots of urban cafes around there and that's a good working environment. There's lots of other people on laptops but out here it's much more tea rooms.
Steve Folland: Yeah. Presumably that ... I'm making a big assumption, but that sounds like a life choice of work life balance. Maybe you realised you could work from anywhere sort of thing, so why are you in the city centre, sort of.
Sara Tasker: Yeah, exactly. Definitely and just trying to slow down and enjoy life a bit more.
Steve Folland: Did it work?
Sara Tasker: No. No. Now I'm self-employed and I spend all my time working.
Steve Folland: But on stuff you love.
Sara Tasker: Yes.
Steve Folland: Yeah, yeah. No, it's very true. I find as well if you go to the café but you don't have your power cord …
Sara Tasker: Yes. Yes.
Steve Folland: Then you have to work even more efficiently because you can see ... And it comes to a point when you've then turned the wi-fi off just to eek out the battery just a little bit more.
Sara Tasker: Yeah. Then it dies and then you've lost that time advantage because you just give up.
Steve Folland: Yeah. Do you know, it'll be interesting to see ... You already seem to be doing so much, but what happens when your daughter then goes to school.
Sara Tasker: I'm counting down the days, in some respects, to that.
Steve Folland: Yeah.
Sara Tasker: Is that awful?
Steve Folland: You'll have all that time.
Sara Tasker: I can't wait. I'll probably just nap the whole time.
Steve Folland: What would you say you've learned most through this whole process? So the last three years and leaving your job and taking this on. Things which have worked or maybe things that haven’t.
Sara Tasker: I think the biggest lesson for me is about knowing your worth and really believing in yourself, and believing in what you do. Which sounds quite trite, I'm aware of that, but it was something I've always struggled with. I think my own self-esteem and my self belief. So when I first started pitching or when I first started trying quoting for things, that would come through and I'd be not really valuing myself, not really believing in myself. Of course, the other people in the other end of the email never did. It's only when you realize ... Actually, you have to say, "I'm going to be awesome for this job and you need me, and I'm worth this money," you have to believe it yourself before they will. That has really revolutionized how I think about myself and how I think about what I do, and it's made me a lot happier as a person.
Steve Folland: Ah, that's good. Yeah, so it's not just the financial side of it. It's the confidence.
Sara Tasker: Yeah. Exactly.
Steve Folland: Right. Now, I always do this thing where I ask for three facts about yourself, make two true, one a lie. Let me figure out the lie. What have you got for me?
Sara Tasker: Okay. You're going down, by the way. I'm going to win. Everything's a competition.
Steve Folland: Mighty talk.
Sara Tasker: Okay, so number one. I had a romantic liaison with Luke Skywalker from the Star Wars films.
Steve Folland: Yeah.
Sara Tasker: Number two, I was invited to a Spice Girl's birthday party. And, number three, I have appeared in a children's book.
Steve Folland: Oh, my goodness, these are good.
Sara Tasker: Thank you.
Steve Folland: You had a romantic liaison with Luke Skywalker.
Sara Tasker: Yeah.
Steve Folland: Okay, now, I don't know how old you are but ... Wow, age should show no boundaries, of course.
Sara Tasker: He's still around. Have you not seen The Force Awakens?
Steve Folland: No.
Sara Tasker: He's in it.
Steve Folland: So the original Luke Skywalker?
Sara Tasker: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Steve Folland: How did you meet the original Luke Skywalker? I don't even know his name. What's his..?
Sara Tasker: Mark Hamill.
Steve Folland: Of course. So you met Mark Hamill and were you helping him cross the road? Were you offering to carry his shopping? Like what's the ... ? He must be getting on. Surely. Go on.
Sara Tasker: Well, he's a silver fox. I should say he's married, and when I say a romantic liaison maybe I'm stretching the truth a little bit there. But I've got photos to prove it.
Steve Folland: You should be telling the Sun, not me. So hang on. So you're both married. When you say it's a romantic liaison ... Well, you had a selfie taken with him and he kissed you. You kissed him?
Sara Tasker: Well, we went on a series of dates. I'm going to have to link you up.
Steve Folland: What? Seriously? You were ... Okay, Spice Girl's birthday. Which Spice Girl's? I'm going to take a guess here. You're in Yorkshire, who might you have met? Mel B. You were invited to Mel B.'s birthday.
Sara Tasker: No, it was Geri Halliwell. Good guess.
Steve Folland: Did you go?
Sara Tasker: No, I didn't go. It was fancy dress.
Steve Folland: And that's the reason you didn't go? So is the opportunity to hang out with a, I don't know, A-list might be stretching it, but B-list you know ... ?
Sara Tasker: She's not very on brand for me.
Steve Folland: No, okay, you didn't have to put it all on the Instagram. You're at a Spice Girl's birthday party and you wouldn't go because you didn't want to dress as a what? What was the theme?
Sara Tasker: I don't think ... Maybe it was '80s? It wasn't a very defined theme.
Steve Folland: Okay. I'm not sure I believe you. But hang on, kid's book.
Sara Tasker: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Steve Folland: In what way were you in a kid's book?
Sara Tasker: I was a princess who lived in Venice in a book that a friend of mine illustrated.
Steve Folland: Oh, what? And they drew you?
Sara Tasker: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Steve Folland: Oh, amazing.
Sara Tasker: Yeah. I look really good in it as well. She did a good job of her.
Steve Folland: Okay. This is weird. I'm going to say that one's true, and I hope it is because that's lovely. And you'd rather that your child saw those pictures than Luke Skywalker's or the Spice Girl's. So let's say the kid's book is true. Luke Skywalker is so old. I don't think you went to Spice Girl's birthday party because I think if Geri Halliwell had a fancy dress party she would be more specific than just ‘80s-
Sara Tasker: Oh, damn it. I knew you got me there.
Steve Folland: I think she would-. Is that ... Is that the lie?
Sara Tasker: That's the lie.
Steve Folland: Yes.
Sara Tasker: I should explain the Luke Skywalker thing, I think. A little bit.
Steve Folland: Oh, I don't know. Leave it for court, unless you've already told your husband. No, no, go on-
Sara Tasker: Just go to Instagram and look for the profile "MeandLukeSkywalker". That's all one word. And it should explain things.
Steve Folland: Oh, my God, that just makes it even more intriguing. A whole Instagram account called “MeandLukeSkywalker"?
Sara Tasker: Yeah, yeah.
Steve Folland: Are you like some weird stalker?
Sara Tasker: Uh …
Steve Folland: You are. Oh, my God, this is brilliant.
Sara Tasker: No, no. He totally approves. It's fine.
Steve Folland: Of course he does. He's like in his 80s and you're all over him.
Sara Tasker: No. He's 65.
Steve Folland: Me and Luke Skywalker. Oh, my God. Me and Luke Skywalker. (laughs) Oh, my God. Okay, I'm not going to say anything more. I'm going to leave everybody ... I'm going to …
Sara Tasker: Come follow me, guys.
Steve Folland: Okay.
Sara Tasker: Do you see the ones with the trees on the second row?
Steve Folland: Yeah.
Sara Tasker: See?
Steve Folland: Wow. Wow. Okay, well, if he ever ends up on Graham Norton's couch, this is going to get pulled up…
Sara Tasker: That's what my friend said. That's what my friend said.
Steve Folland: Yeah. And I'm going to be going like, "I've spoken to her." These are brilliant. Okay, I'm not going to explain. I will let people go ... I will put a link, of course, in the show notes at beingfreelance.com. Although I imagine most of you have already taken your phone out and searched Instagram MeandLukeSkywalker. That's brilliant.
Steve Folland: Well, where do we go from there? Other than the fact, of course, though let's not forget I did win when you said I was going down.
Sara Tasker: Oh, I totally blew it with the theme. I should've had a theme.
Steve Folland: Yeah. Right, now, we may have already touched upon this but if you could tell your younger self one thing about being freelance, what would it be?
Sara Tasker: Yeah, I think it would be that thing we said before. Just that you can do it. It felt completely impossible to me. It fell outside of ... It was very much a thing other people did. And it happened to me sort of by accident. And now I'm so much happier. I think probably everybody says this, I could not imagine going back to a nine to five.
Steve Folland: Okay, of course beingfreelance.com is the website and we will link through to everything that Sara is up to and possibly, by the time you've heard this, she'll have invented something else as well. So, go take a look as well. Beingfreelance.com and go say hello to Sara.
Steve Folland: And yeah, thank you so much, and all the best being freelance.
Sara Tasker: Thank you very much.