Faye Dawson photograph by Anete Lusina
Leeds lass Faye Dawson has enjoyed a varied career with the focus on creativity, from performing herself (get her a drink and ask for the Boadicea story) to PR Manager of Leeds Grand Theatre and City Varieties Music Hall. Two years ago she took the leap into freelance. She is now the proud and fearless director of Faye Dawson PR.
Faye Dawson is our first @thenailbar interviewee. She’s gone it alone and is succeeding. Strong female role models are always the better when they’re just normal people, one of us.
Welcome Faye, so let’s begin by discussing your work. How did you arrive at where you are now?
“Thanks for the introduction, I can honestly say that it’s not usual for me to be called normal! Four years ago the suggestion of working for myself would’ve been ridiculous. I like being in a team and didn’t think I’d want to move to freelance. However, I do to live by the philosophy of never say never.
“I worked at the Grand for six years and loved that job. My role was promoting artists and shows coming to us and there’s only so much variety in that. It began to feel very regular. This was the beginning of thinking perhaps I needed to shift myself and do something else. Boredom does not figure in my vocabulary, I’m a full on doing something person.
“My husband really encouraged me to do it. Obviously I worried like everyone, about income and pension et cetera. I finally decided to convert the spare room into an office. I got a laptop, logged onto HMRC that was it! I didn’t have savings, in an ideal world a few month’s salary would be a good thing to have but ultimately sometimes you have to just go for it.
So how has business been?
“Business is good, it’s been a very busy autumn focused around three main projects. Two years of being Faye Dawson PR has gone very fast. I’ve made some recent changes within my business. I think it’s natural to make adjustments both within your work practice and mentally when you set up on your own. It’s quite an organic process. Things you learn when you are self-employed; everything is down to you, from printer ink to tax returns! The reality of self-employment is, you love it when you are flying high and it is amazing. The highs are fabulous but the lows are dreadful – quite shocking! I hear this from every person I speak to about freelance, so at least I know we’re not alone!”
So what are the good parts of being freelance?
“I love that I get to choose, to decide which projects and work I want to become involved in. My honesty is a massive part of my brand along with my straightforwardness and I am not just going to do something if someone wants me to, it has to be right. It has to sit right with me, then I can throw myself fully into it.”
Given how you describe being freelance who gives you emotional and pragmatic support?
“My husband, he’s very good and the rest of my family. I’ve got great support from family and friends. I like to get positive feedback from my clients (of course who doesn’t?) it’s really important for my mental health and for my business as well. When things are challenging I can rally myself. I can say to myself – no come on, you know what you’re doing. But then there are obviously the times when you feel upset like we all do, where we have self-doubt. On my first Christmas I was going to apply to be an Amazon driver!”
So this far in, what advice do you have for people considering freelance?
“It is difficult sometimes to work out your workday, as in how many hours you work, because you want to say yes to everything. You know that if you do that and you don’t give yourself any rest time, or thinking time you aren’t going to be successful. So there’s a lot to learn about balance and learning about yourself. Like you, I have a business that is literally centred around my personality. There can be a lot of self- reflection when you work for yourself which is good but you need to keep it balanced. Sometimes it’s possible to feel that you’ve worked very hard and not got very far. Often it is other people reflecting on us who are the ones who can tell us how much we’ve actually achieved. I’d also say get subscriptions to newsletters, use professional forums- it’s a really good way of networking and getting advice and learning about how freelancers work. It’s good to have an office with a door that you can shut as people and pets will come and disturb you. Also I can shut the door on it for some closure and work-life balance, which isn’t always easy to achieve.”
This balance is hard for so many of us, what is your self -care routine?
“If I’m working from my office then a walk at lunchtime so I get out and get some fresh air. I try to do stretches every day and I’ve recently taken up running, something I never thought I’d do but am really enjoying. I absolutely love a deep massage, so I try to get one every month.”
What’s your beauty routine and level of interests in products?
“I don’t have a massive beauty routine. I do love a red lip. Though recently I’ve felt that my skin tone has changed and red colours I loved now seem to be orange. My signature look has included red lipstick all my life so I’m struggling a bit with this. However I am veering towards a dark fuchsia which is working well so far. Think this could be the start of some little hormonal thing here!
“I used to be obsessed with products and make up until I started working from home and that is something I need to address! I’d like to get back into trying things again, I do love the thrill of finding a great new product!”
What’s on your reading list?
“I’ve always been an avid reader but a few years back this tailed off. I’m picking up again now as it’s so important. I’ve stopped reading feminist literature at night as it just makes me angry! I’ve read a non-fiction book recently I really enjoyed, I’ll lend it to you, it’s by a journalist and she charts her use of self-help books for a year. (“Help Me!” by Marianne Power)”
Where are women heading in 2020, in this a good time for women?
“Is this a good time? Yes, fantastic! No, fucking awful! That’s how it feels at the moment from one day to the next. I think women are feeling a lot more empowered to speak out. Just in general I feel women are feeling more honest and open. Many women are being more supportive of each other and I actually think social media has helped with a lot of that. The flip side is the Trumps and others in the world who depress us with the gender stereotypes and everyday sexism, which social media’s also helped with. We should focus on those strong female voices online and supporting each other, that’s the way forward.”
Faye’s nails are a bit short as she likes a chew! I tidied her cuticles, relaxed her with a hand massage and recommended a cuticle oil (daily please Faye). She selected a cracking bold red.