In this episode, Legislate meets Christina Banjo, founder of Always Create, a community and platform for freelance creatives. Christina shares how Always Create is supporting freelance creatives and how consultancy contracts are key for growing a freelance business.
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Charles Brecque: Welcome to the Legislate podcast, a place to learn about the latest insights and trends in property technology, business building, and contract drafting. Today, I'm excited to welcome Christina Banjo on the show. Christina is the founder of Always Create a community and platform that provides support for freelance creatives. Christina, welcome. Would you like to share a bit of background about yourself and Always Create?
Christina Banjo: So thank you Charles, for inviting me to the podcast. My name is Christina and I am the founder of Always Create. And like Charles said, it's a platform for freelance creatives and we started the community and platform back in 2019. I saw that there was a need for a community for freelancers given that the common trend in society is that more people are basically going it alone, leaving their nine to fives and pursuing their own career and own freedom through freelancing. So I was also freelancing myself. I started off freelancing as a designer in fashion, and then subsequently I created, Always Create out of the kind of lack of community and bringing people together and not finding the right people to help you along my career journey.
So that's how everything started in a nutshell. And now we have 600 freelance members in our community. And here we are growing from strength to strength.
Charles Brecque: That's really exciting and are those 600 freelance creatives based in the UK or all over the world?
Christina Banjo: Yeah. So our freelancers are mostly based in the UK and we also have freelancers in Europe and America, but the majority of our freelancers are based in the UK and in London.
Charles Brecque: Great. And since launching in 2019, what's been your favourite moment so far?
Christina Banjo: The favourite moment, there's been so many moments. I think it was our first launch event. Which started in January, 2019. And we did a six week back to back event called network and grow. And that was the beginning and start of what we have today as a community.
Back then, it was not the pandemic so we had events in person. And it was really nice just to build that foundation in the beginning and basically get to know everybody in the community that we have now. So it was a really good and successful event. We had guest speakers. One of the best times was at the beginning, but I think as of recent I just think there's opportunities that can happen. We managed to help freelancers get more projects, more work and more opportunities. And that's been also another blessing that has come along the way as a result of building the community. Yeah. So that's another, let's say plus.
Charles Brecque: Well done and happy three year anniversary!
Christina Banjo: Thank you.
Charles Brecque: Now it's been three years. What do you wish you had known before starting Always Create?
Christina Banjo: I think the major thing is that you're not going to grow as quickly as you think, or even if you do grow quickly, you also need to be consistent and plan very well.
So basically any idea you think, scale it back because it might not always happen the way it's acting, how you think it's going to happen. So be prepared to manage your expectations. You can't always control what happens, but you can put your best foot forward every day and plan.
Charles Brecque: That’s a great piece of advice and something I struggle with everyday!
Christina Banjo: It's very hard for entrepreneurs to manage expectations versus reality!
Charles Brecque: yeah, exactly. And so what's the big picture vision for the next three, five, 10 years?
Christina Banjo: Oh, okay. So I think for us, we want to be the number one UK platform for creative freelancers in the UK. I think that will be a major achievement and a goal. We know that freelancing is growing as a career choice and profession. And also, a lot of people that just graduated from uni are choosing that as a route, rather than going straight into the nine to five route. So we want to be there to support all the freelancers that are basically choosing this route.
Because there isn't really any formal education on how to do this, so we want to provide more courses. More opportunities, more knowledge on basically how to run a business and make a success of it. But yeah, that will be a big goal. And then obviously expand internationally to Europe, America.
Charles Brecque: Exciting. And when you say supporting these new freelancers, if I'm a freelancer joining your platform, what type of support can I expect from you?
Christina Banjo: Yeah, so at the moment, and at the start, we had a lot of in-person events. We're going to start up in-person and online events where basically a freelancer would get the opportunity to work on an aspect of their business or any aspect that they're struggling with.
So we usually have topical events based on how to market yourself better, how to brand yourself, how to work on the finance side of a business. How to find your next client. Those are the events we have. We also have a database. So everybody that signs up. Basically you get put into a database of any opportunities that companies and agencies or brands come to you with, then I can basically sift through and recommend you to, for job opportunities and project opportunities, which is really good.
And again, we are improving some aspects of our networking and how our members communicate with each other. So that's something we're looking into for 2022, having an online group platform where you can communicate and connect with other creatives and freelancers. Yeah that's us in a nutshell.
Charles Brecque: It seems like a no brainer for any freelancer to join! And being an entrepreneur I imagine you interact with quite a few contracts. So what are the most common contracts you interact with on a daily basis?
Christina Banjo: Yeah. So I think the main contract for every freelancer is a consulting agreement or freelancer agreement.
And I feel like this is so necessary for every client that you bring on board. Regardless, if you feel you've known them before, somebody your friend knows, you always have to have a contract in place. Trust me, I've tried that route and it never ends up well. So a consulting agreement whereby you can make sure that the work that you provide for the client is protected as well as your time in writing.
And then also anything like, for instance, if the person doesn't like what you've designed or the logo design, for instance, then there's a remedy to put in place to understand how much you should get versus how much he should keep. So yeah, I think a consulting agreement is the first agreement that I think is the most important one for now.
Charles Brecque: Yeah, I think putting things on paper is essential for setting expectations and just avoiding surprises because that's really what contracts are for. It's all about managing expectations, managing risk, when things go wrong and managing responsibility. And you mentioned that not using a contract didn't go well. And obviously using a contract is the right way to do things. When creating contracts and having the negotiations, are there any key clauses or patterns or areas of friction that you've encountered and how did you overcome them?
Christina Banjo: Yeah, I think the main thing is project creep. So for instance, if you said to a client that the work that you're doing is going to take 30 days, and for instance, you've charged based on 30 days, then what happens when the client is maybe being a bit difficult and then they're not really meeting the expectations you've set then basically what happens after that is really important because. If you, for instance, carry on working for another 30 days and with the same pay, then obviously that will leave you basically working for two months and only one of the months that you really got paid. So that kind of needs to be put in the contract to avoid conflict.
And also like for us, if you turned around and asked the client for more money, even if you didn't prior to it agree on the contract before then obviously that can lead to issues because they will basically go based on what you say. They don't care. So you have to put that in writing.
Also another area is what happens if the client doesn't like your work is very possible. That sounds crazy, but it's true. It happens all the time. What do you do if you've tried your best, you've given it your best shot, but the client is a bit fussy and they don't like what you've produced, what happens then?
Are you still going to be paid for the time that you've put in, the hours that you've put in up until this point? This is about having those agreements in before you start the project and also vetting your clients.
Charles Brecque: Yes. And I guess in a creative world. It must be quite difficult to introduce objective criteria to help the client decide that you've done a good job or that they like your work. So I can imagine in the creative industry, it must be quite a challenge.
Christina Banjo: Yeah. It's quite a challenge. But I think the best way to even avoid this in the first place is also to have key questions that you ask the client to determine why they are choosing to work with you. And what their desired result will be, to make sure you're on the same page. Where it gets a bit tricky is when the client starts saying, can I start doing the work myself then? Okay, this is the wrong direction and wheel it back in.
Charles Brecque: Keeping the client engaged and ensuring that you're on the same path.
Christina Banjo: Yeah, definitely.
Charles Brecque: Great. So Christina, I'm conscious, we've already taken a lot of your time. So I'm going to ask you the closing question we ask all our guests, if you're being sent a contract to sign today, what would impress you?
Christina Banjo: I'm here for the money. So I think what would impress me is a 1 million pound contract I don't know what I would be signing for or what it would own, but. Okay. Yeah. This is a great example. So someone gives me a million pounds for my ideas. Yeah, that will be in the contract and I'll give you my ideas, but that's about it.
Charles Brecque: I'm sure you will get that million pound contracts sooner or later! And of course it will be a legislate contract!
Christina Banjo: Yeah, hopefully. Yeah.
Charles Brecque: Thank you very much, Christina, for being on the show and sharing your background in the freelance world where I think the support that you're bringing is really valuable.
Best of luck growing Always Create, and hopefully we can bring you back on the show after you get your million pound contract!
Christina Banjo: Thank you so much. And take care everyone. Thanks for listening.