Monthly Archives

December 2016

In Lists on
December 29, 2016

Stop Doubting, Start Doing


And seven other thoughts for 2017…


I love a new year.


New plans. A new mindset. A fresh canvas.


But I’m not a fan of resolutions. I think it’s something to do with the pressure. (Because as if any of us need any more of that?). Instead, I believe in thoughts to guide me throughout the year ahead. Call them commandments, if you will. Here are eight of mine.


1. Stop doubting, start doing

Fortune favours those who take action. Stop overestimating the competition and underestimating yourself. You have one life. How do you want to spend it? Doubting or doing?


2. Accept that it’s important to make mistakes

Fail, fail and fail better. The person who doesn’t make mistakes is unlikely to make anything. Embrace the mess and learn from it. There’s always mess in any kind of ‘success’.


3. Practice patience

The Internet has made us all too used to instant gratification. The reality is, there are no shortcuts to anywhere worth going. Put in the work, day by day, and be patient.


4. Be mindful about money

It’s ok to want to make money. Hell, it’s ok to love money. But it’s not ok to do things you hate, for prolonged periods of time, just for the money. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone. Be kind to yourself.


5. Write not what you know, but what you want

The same goes for any kind of creating. “Draw the art you want to see. Start the business you want to run. Write the books you want to read. Do the work you want to see done.” — Austin Kleon. Preach.


6. Chase your curiosity

2017, for me, is about learning. Follow your interests, be interested and stay curious, always.


7. Remove yourself from the world when you need to

Lose yourself in a cocoon of books and art and music and TV shows and movies and guilty pleasures. Escaping every now and again is essential.


8. Believing in yourself isn’t crazy. It’s mandatory. 


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In Essays on
December 26, 2016

Why Friendship Breakups Can Be a Good Thing

Friendship break-up | Friends | Life advice | Self-help

I’m sat in my childhood bedroom.


With the four-poster bed I begged for when I was 15, and a wardrobe filled with hidden love letters and hazy polaroids, it’s a museum of my past.


It’s a symbol of love lost, friendships forgotten and unfulfilled plans.


It’s where I plotted a romanticised move to London, and retreated to when it felt like the city didn’t love me back.


It’s where I fell in love with my first boyfriend, and recovered from the subsequent heartbreak.


But, above all, it’s the setting of countless memories with my school friends. 


We’d stay on mattresses on the floor until the early hours, bitching about our classmates, stalking boys on MySpace and imagining what our futures would look like.


While plans change, our hopes and dreams always had one consistent: each other.


Here, we grew up together. 


But while so many of the memories we shared are still here, they are not.


It’s the classic coming-of-age story. We moved to separate parts of the country for university, and while they stayed together for group trips and birthday get-togethers, I did not. I was so fixated on building my new life that, in the process, I left my old one behind.


Life happened. Time happened. And the end of our friendship somehow, naturally, happened.


As such, I won’t attend any of the weddings I once thought I’d be a bridesmaid at. I’m off the Christmas card list. Unfriended on Facebook and now just another face in an anonymous crowd.


And, weirdly, I’m at peace with that. 

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In Guest Posts on
December 22, 2016

Why I Quit My Six-Figure Job to Be an Artist

So many of us dream of having a six-figure salary. Lots of money is #goals, right? But what happens when you get there, and it’s still not enough? That’s exactly what happened to Laura McGuigan.

Here’s the story of how (and why!) she quit her six-figure job to follow her lifelong passion for art.


Hi, Laura! I am seriously inspired by your story. Can you tell us a bit more about your background and what made you originally get into design?

Hey Bianca, sure thing! I’ve been a designer for the last ten years professionally, starting in graphic design and moving into interactive design and user experience. I worked in house and at small design agencies helping clients communicate their messages digitally, before taking the leap into the startup world. I was the first designer and fourth employee at my last company and built out the design practice, philosophy and the team there.


By the time I left, I held the position of VP, Design, sitting on the executive team of a 90 person company. I have always been a creative and hands out individual; spent all my life drawing, painting, creating. I enjoyed and excelled at classes in school that allowed me that opportunity. While painting and sculpture in high school were super fun, it was a Graphic Design class and a vocational technology school program in Design and Press Production that led me to pursue design over art; I thought I’d be able to still create art in an abstract sense and make better money than being an artist.


After 10 years of building a career on design and never really feeling satisfied, I determined my happiness was more important than the money and left to focus on being my own boss, and pursuing my art.


Your career trajectory is impressive – you worked your way up to hold senior, six- figure positions in design. What is some of the best career advice you ever received?

While there was no specific quote, what became increasingly clear as I worked up in my career was that listening to your gut is underrated. You form opinions around situations based on past experiences, and to me, following that instinct is critical. Unfortunately, in the ‘business world’ you see that not followed as much, and I found myself drawn towards opportunities and experiences that allowed for that instinctual reaction to take precedence.

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In Essays on
December 20, 2016

Finding Magic in The Mundane


The day after I was invited to 10 Downing Street, I found myself back at work in a cold office in Oxford.

 I wasn’t greeted by a homecoming of excited faces, dying to hear how it went.


All that awaited me was a pile of work that had built up while I was away.

I had that same “anti-climax” feeling after a life-changing trip to Cape Town, when I spent hours sorting out the council tax for my new flat.

Or when I was published in a magazine for the first time, and bought a copy up before walking in the pouring rain to a dreaded day job.

Up down. Up down. Ebbs. Flows. Earthquakes. Tremors. Tidal waves. Ripples. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

I’ve spent so many years focusing on infrequent, fleeting moments. The Facebook-worthy happenings, the holidays, the shiny happy photos.

And where did that leave me?

Miserable, of course. And pretty unfulfilled. If my day-to-day life has been a movie, it would have been set to a chorus of “is that all there is?”

That is, until a few months ago, when I embarked on an experiment to try and change my mindset for the better.

Here’s what I learnt:

As I write this, I’m sat in a substandard cafe in a bleak North London suburb. I’ve been waiting three hours for my car to be serviced and can think of a million other ways I’d rather spend my Saturday morning.

And yet. And yet. And yet.

I have fresh water. The Wi-Fi is working (important) and I’m able to afford whatever mediocre cakes I fancy.

I can remember a time when that wasn’t always the case.

“We waste so many days waiting for the weekend. So many nights wanting morning. Our lust for future comfort is the biggest thief of life.” — Joshua Glenn Clark.


You don’t need to be part of a great romance to be in love with your life.

You don’t need to be doing exciting things to enjoy the every day.

You don’t even need to have an “exciting life”, by anyone’s standards.

As long as you’re actively finding ways to discover magic in the seemingly mundane things, that’s really all that matters.

Because the little moments count so much more than we think.

And, if you ask me, the real key to contentment is to be curious about everything.


Embrace dull conversations as a source of creativity. Approach your next meal like an enthusiastic child at dinnertime. Turn your next walk into an exploration of your local area. Think of your next commute as an opportunity to come up with ideas for a new project.


This world, our world, is full of seemingly ordinary things that are full of complex beauty and wonder.

Amazing, awe-inspiring and unexpected things really are all around you, if you’re willing to look a little closer. That feeling of enchantment can be found in your day-to-day life. So be present and pay attention to your surroundings.

Tilt your head up. Look up at the sky. Embrace the moon. Feel enchanted by the blue hues. Breathe and realise that you’re here and you’re alive.

The world in your mind is your masterpiece. It’s time to start curating it.


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In Lists on
December 18, 2016

How to Get the Freelance Work You’ve Always Wanted

Career | Work | Freelancing | Freelance | Career advice | Work advice | Work tips | Entrepreneur | Marketing | Freelance Writing | Design


I recently received this email from a smart and talented woman I met at a networking event:


Hi Bianca,
I really appreciated getting to chat with you at the DevelopHer event last week. I was impressed both by your accomplishments and composure.
Would love to hear a little more about how you started your blog (which is beautiful!) and set yourself up as a freelancer. I’m looking to start doing some freelance marketing work, but really don’t know where to start in terms of setting up or finding clients. Would just be great to hear a little about your journey in that regard. I know you’ve got a lot on, so if you’ve got a couple of resources that you could point me to, that would also be super helpful.
All the best,


Last month, I was approached by 17 prospective freelance clients. No pitching. No applying. Nada. But how did I get there? And is it possible for you, too? The short answer is YES, absolutely. The long answer is below.


Here’s all the advice I wish I had about freelancing when I was starting out.


Use freelance platforms to your advantage

I got my start on websites like People Per Hour and Upwork. Sure, they have a lot of poorly paid jobs on there, but trust me when I say it’s worth signing up for daily freelance job alerts from all three. Why? Because great jobs do come up, and you want to be the first to hear about them. Plus, many of the clients who I started with for £10 an hour are still with me today, but for much more. And we all have to start somewhere, right? 

Insider tip: it’s worth, in the beginning, pitching for multiple jobs on both PPH and Upwork to build up your profile. Start at a reasonable price and then, once your 5* reviews come rolling in within a couple of weeks, up your prices. Do this in regular cycles and you’ll soon be earning £££ you can be proud of.


Sign up to specialist recruitment agencies

A closed mouth doesn’t get fed. I built up my portfolio thanks to recruitment agencies that specialised in freelance creative contracts. The result? Big names like Selfridges, John Lewis and on my resume (before I had ANY real experience). If you’re in the UK, a few of my favourite recruitment agencies are Aspire, Major Players, Michael Page and Stopgap. And if you’re not? Look for similar agencies near you. 

Insider tip: These agencies often have freelance roles that are so fast and furious they don’t make it to their websites. To combat this, set up a meeting with their freelance recruiters to discuss the kind of work you’re looking for and they’ll then start calling you directly as and when. Yay!


Become a pro pitcher

The number one rule of pitching a new potential client? Make it about them, not you. Talk less about your skills, and more about solutions to their problem. Ask the question: “what’s your biggest problem right now?” and make sure you’re the answer. 


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In Guest Posts on
December 16, 2016

How LA Changed Me, a Skeptical Brit, for the Better


I always told myself I wasn’t the kind of person who travelled.

It was difficult and stressful and unsafe and… the money. I’ll be honest: I found the idea a little scary. 

Where would I even visit?

I was single, I didn’t need to “find myself”; I’ve known since age 14 what I wanted to do, and that was be a novelist (I’d been writing, editing, trashing and rewriting every week of my life since). 

In fact, I’d been working on a novel for three years – writing from a laptop on the back seats of buses, leeching the wifi in cafes, and somehow fitting another 1000 page first draft into that time. First drafting was a joy, but editing was torturous; I realised I needed a final push, and a block of time off from my day job to finish it properly. 

But where?

After some persuasion and eventual planning, I booked a flight to Los Angeles. I’d swap British autumn for West Coast sunshine and, fuck it; allow myself two months working on my novel. 

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In Lists on
December 11, 2016

7 Career Books Everyone Should Read

Career books | Career advice | Work | Success | Motivation | Inspiration | Women | Female empowerment

I recently went to a career workshop. Just as my mind started wandering a million miles away, we were asked this question: “you spend so much time focusing on your everyday tasks at work. But how much time do you spend managing your career?” I’ve been thinking about it ever since. Eventually I concluded that there’s no better gift (for a friend or, you know, yourself) than an inspiring career book or six. I’ve rounded up seven of the very best. And no, you won’t find Lean In or Thrive on this list. Promise.

PS if you’re broke this month, try listening to one of these books via a free 30-day Audible trial. It costs nothing (by nothing, I mean nothing!) and you cancel whenever you like. Result!.

Leave Your Mark: Land your dream job. Kill it in your career. Rock social media.

Can I be honest? When I first saw the cover for Leave Your Mark I initially dismissed it as a fashion-focused book, but it’s BRILLIANT. Aliza Licht, the mastermind behind the wildly popular DKNY PR Girl Twitter persona, spoils readers with a multitude of actionable tips you can put into practice today, no matter what stage of your career you’re at. Effective communication, building a personal brand, the key to an unrivalled resume… Aliza has got you covered. It’s more than an advice book. It’s a mentorship in a few hundred pages.


Mistakes I Made at Work: 25 Influential Women Reflect on What They Got Out of Getting It Wrong

If you’re bored of theory, strategy and business talk, Mistakes I Made At Work is for you. The book is made up of 25 candid, relatable essays by accomplished women such as Cheryl Strayed, Kim Gordon and Anna Holmes, who share their career screw-ups, regrets and lessons learned. My favourite? Dr. Danielle Ofri, an associate professor at New York University’s School of Medicine, who writes about the time she almost killed a patient. But, really, they’re all great and totally worth reading.


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In Lists on
December 11, 2016

10 Things You Can Do For Your Mental Health

Mental health | Wellbeing | Mind | Self care | Love | Health | Live well | Wellbeing


I was 18 when I went to therapy for the first time.

I would discreetly get the bus to a discreet part of East London and visit a discreet house. Discreet, discreet, discreet.

With my new shiny London life and shiny friends and shiny internships, I didn’t fit the stereotype of someone struggling with their mental health. But, underneath my Facebook highlight reel of fun parties and fashion shoots, I had depression. 

My story is like many you have heard before.

By now, we all know we need to eat plenty of kale and drink plenty of smoothies.

But when it comes to your mental wellbeing, how often are you checking in with yourself? Really?


My mental wellbeing is my life’s work. Keeping a healthy state of mind is an everyday, slow and conscious process. Some days I’m ahead, and others I’m behind. I know that now. I know it’s ok to feel terrible and make no apologies about it. But I also understand the process, too, and I realise that, with time, sadness and emptiness lessens and softens.


My mind and I will forever be getting to know each other. And, like any relationship, we won’t always be perfectly in sync. We’ll argue, have fights, have glorious moments and everything in-between.

Successful relationships take work. Your relationship with your mind is no exception.  

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In Guest Posts on
December 9, 2016

What Winning Taught Me About Losing


Reluctant winner Agnes Bookbinder shares what happened when she unexpectedly won a writing contest. Spoiler alert: it’s not what you’d expect. 


Everybody wants to win. To be called a “loser” is an insult. Even though we teach children good sportsmanship when they are young, those lessons get lost as people grow older. I’m not sure why –probably a combination of fear and ego, like everything else that goes wonky in the world. When you tie a person’s sense of who they are and their ability to earn a livelihood to winning, there’s bound to be a little stress involved, and so everybody wants to win.


But I’m not everybody.


Now, I don’t mind winning. I recently got to experience winning a writing competition for the first time (the First Worldwide Flash Fiction Competition) after years of rejections and silence. I appreciate that people took time out of their busy schedules to judge the contest. I appreciate that the story I wrote connected with those judges. I appreciate that it came with a cash prize –they paid me to do something that I love, that I would do and have done for years for free! But there is a part of me that has no idea what to do with the feeling of winning. I knew exactly what to do with the cash prize… but the rest?


I’m more comfortable as a loser. I’ve done it so often, it’s second nature.

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In Essays on
December 6, 2016

A Letter to First-Generation Immigrants Everywhere

Immigration | Open letter | Writer | Identity


Note: this letter was originally written for my cousin, a first-generation immigrant who was born the same week the UK voted to leave the EU. In light of recent events, I’ve decided to publish it for all first-generation immigrants, everywhere.


To my dear cousin,


I spent years hating the fact I was Brazilian. Growing up, as a first-generation immigrant in a white suburban town, I was embarrassed. At a time when all you want to do is fit in, I was unmistakably different. So I wasted my youth wanting to be lighter, whiter, blonder… the same.


When my mother spoke in Brazilian Portuguese, I would tell her to stop. I was ashamed of where I came from because my peers were properly “British”. Today, that shame is the thing I regret the most.


I may have been a child then, but I’m an adult now and this is what I know for sure: my differences, our differences, are the best things about us.


The colour of our skin, the texture of our hair and the sound of our language tells a story so intricately woven with bravery, hard work and wonder.


You see, we’re the descendants of slaves. We don’t give up. When life gets hard, which it will, we keep going. In the face of adversity, we get better.

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