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How I Got My Job - Olivia Newstead

How I Got My Job - Olivia Newstead

Part two in our series ‘Fleur and Arbor Careers’ sheds light on the professional journeys of women working in the arts and cultural sector, as told in their own words…


Choosing to quit your full time 9-5 job and start a freelance career is how many people get started in the world of self employment, however that wasn’t the way I started mine. I could be called a typical millennial as I am what would be termed a multi-hyphenate, I still struggle to define what I do for work as I do more than one thing on a weekly basis. I am a photographer, photographers assistant, stylist, digital marketeer, admin assistant and content creator. As a result of not doing one job I am very adaptable and have built up a varied skill set which I feel is an asset and makes me unique.

My weeks are never the same which is something I relish and find exhilarating. The plus side in the world of freelance is that you can get to do something creative and it’s what you love. Getting to work with great clients, meeting new people and making new connections. I always feel like I'm contributing towards something when I work which gives me a sense of job satisfaction, especially seeing a good campaign or the culmination of a project. The negative side are the insecurities that comes with the irregularity of work. Over the years I have learnt to hold out until the next job comes up.  

Behind the scenes on a Christmas shoot for  Waitrose

Behind the scenes on a Christmas shoot for Waitrose


How it all started….

I graduated in 2013 from University for the Creative Arts, Farnham where I studied photography alongside Jasmine. I gained experience in my summer holidays working in the photography industry doing work experience with my cousin who is a paparazzi and also interning at a photographic library. Upon graduation I hadn’t really got any solid ideas for any area I wanted to pursue in particular. I was offered the opportunity to work with a food photographer. At first I was unsure as I wasn’t feeling very confident about my photography career after I graduated but I took the plunge and accepted the job. It was one of the best decisions I made and started me on my journey towards my love of food and still life photography. Alongside this job I had a multitude of short term contract jobs which helped to keep me afloat, it was after this that I started working part time at TopFoto a photographic library.

I continued to pursue food photography so I reached out to photographers on Instagram or online and see if they would take me on as an assistant. At first it seemed impossible I was getting rejection after rejection. I stuck it out and kept emailing and eventually I was asked to assist on a two day cookbook shoot. I couldn’t have been more excited, or nervous! It was a great shoot with an amazing photographer and team and after that I thought the other assisting opportunities would roll in. However that wasn’t immediately the case as you still have to continue to contact your network of people in the business and for me that has led to word of mouth recommendations and production work in the photography industry.

Selfie on set at a sunset rooftop shoot in London with amazing photographer  Emma Croman

Selfie on set at a sunset rooftop shoot in London with amazing photographer Emma Croman

Working for free…

I am very lucky that my parents are self employed so I have always seen two great role models knowing how they manage their respective businesses and what makes them thrive. However at the very beginning of my journey into the working world I was very keen but lacking in practical experience. This led to taking several internships and jobs that were unpaid. The unglamorous side to freelance are the practicalities of living and having a sustainable wage which has meant that alongside my freelance career there have been many jobs I have taken to fill the gaps when the work hasn’t come in. I would love to live in a world where everyone gets paid fairly however many businesses cut costs and when flexible working options are becoming more and more popular and whilst freelancing can often seem like the perfect career many companies and startups just don’t have the budget to pay for the creative work. To take some positives from these experiences it has made me more resilient and with each new project I have gained both experience and confidence.

Behind the scenes: a quick snap on set with  Space NK

Behind the scenes: a quick snap on set with Space NK

Career highs…

Looking back on my experiences through my assisting work there have been some exciting projects I have worked on several cookbooks, ad campaigns and assisted on a commercial shoot doing the stills. Reaching out to new people for work is something I enjoy doing and it takes time to build up a contact base. I love meeting new people and talking to people so that is all part of the job. Some perks of the job are also taking home surplus food and other goodies that would otherwise go to waste! I have learnt new skills and am very excited when new projects come up.

Shoot loot! Coming home with a wonderful bunch from working with  Bloom and Wild

Shoot loot! Coming home with a wonderful bunch from working with Bloom and Wild

Career lows…

How did I turn this into a consistent full time career? The answer is I still haven't. I still have a part time job, because I need some financial stability. I am still 100% freelance but sometimes I feel like a fraud explaining what I do, as I do administration and marketing jobs alongside the more creative stuff. Chasing payments, not fully knowing when the next job comes in, how to be patient and having to do your own tax return - these are the parts of being a freelancer no one teaches you.

On set photographing Verde London’s new campaign photos

On set photographing Verde London’s new campaign photos

The honest truth…

I’ve learnt a lot along the way, sticking to doing what I love. Keeping an open mind is important I have had some amazing opportunities because I have said yes to them. Self growth comes as everyday brings challenges. Having a great network of friends in the freelance community is important. I’m in the process of redefining what success means to me because I haven’t had a “traditional career” so far. But at the end of the day I know that I am passionate about what I do which is why I still do it.

Follow Olivia on Instagram @olivianewstead

How I Got My Job - Suzie Plumb

How I Got My Job - Suzie Plumb

How I Got My Job - Jasmine Farram

How I Got My Job - Jasmine Farram