How To Create Your Circle As A Freelancer

Published 26th Oct 2023 by Sian Jones

For some, becoming a freelance hairdresser can be a much needed step towards independence and creative expression for those who choose to go it alone, however there's a lot to be said for finding your circle as a freelancer once you've left behind the support of a salon team. HJ spoke to International Colour Educator & Expert, Carolyn Newman, Independent Colourist & L’Oréal Professionnel Global Artist, Harriet Stokes and Global Colour Ambassador, Davines, Ashleigh Hodges who have found friendship through their work.

How long have you all known each other? 

Harriet: I first met Ashleigh in 2014 when I was in the final of a Matrix competition called Destination Fame and Ashleigh was modelling for her partner, Matt. Matt and I went on to win and spent the next year working on different projects together which meant Ash was around at industry events and over the years we would always chat. Our friendship really blossomed when I first went freelance and we worked alongside each other at Hunter Collective. Carolyn and I first met when she did a training day over seven years ago in Not Another Salon; I was 21 years old at the time and had only just moved to London. 

Carolyn: I had known Ashleigh from a distance through the Fellowship at events over the years, but I got to know her after I to join the Hairdotcom Art Team. I met Harriet in 2016 when she was a student on one of the first courses I presented when I set up my Colour and Education company, and we have always kept in contact since then.

Ashleigh: I’ve known both Harriet and Carolyn for most of my career. Harriet and I first met very early on in our journey, before the two of us moved to London and were just two girls trying to push our way to the top. Carolyn is a legend and I looked up to her so much when I was starting out. The two of us first met when we were filming for the hairdressers charity and as they say, the rest is history, I’ve loved her ever since. Carolyn became integral to our art team Hairdotcom and Harriet joined us in 2020, and I loved having my girls with me on it.

What is special about your friendship?

Harriet: I can go to them both for anything and I know they will be there to support me. Professionally or personally. Professionally we have always had respect for each other and have always been each other’s biggest cheerleaders and that’s blossomed into an amazing friendship.

Carolyn: They are such lovely, fun girls and we all have similar values and a very special friendship. I am so proud of what Ashleigh and Harriet are achieving now, and love supporting them teaching and travelling. It's like they are living the work-life I had at their age so I am now reliving it through them. I am their biggest cheerleader.

Ashleigh: Sometimes we're really busy and don’t speak properly for a few months, but we always try to check in and somehow just know when one of us needs support. For me, having two strong women to talk to that truly understand what I’m doing and what I'm going through with work is invaluable.

How important is it to find your support network as a freelancer?

Harriet: Being freelance means that you aren’t part of a conventional team so it’s so important to find people who are on the same page as you. The support I’ve had from other freelancers has been incredible. I had no idea what I was doing when I first went self-employed, but both Ash and Carolyn guided me and gave me invaluable advice.

Carolyn: Hairdressers are very social, so it can be lonely working on your own and being freelance. You often need to talk things through and get advice. There are certain people that I can share my concerns, successes, and failures with, and Ashleigh and Harriet are always there for me. We now regularly meet for long lunches where we don’t just talk about work and our careers, we talk about life too.

Ashleigh: Life is lonely at the best of times, but when you aren’t in a salon with a team around you five days a week it can feel even more isolating. I think with anything in life you need a community to lift you up, and when you’re doing something as courageous as going it alone and starting a business you need your people around you.

Is it something you'd considered before you became a freelancer? 

Harriet: I knew I’d be giving up the salon team 'vibe' to be freelance and I was prepared to be working and making big decisions alone, but I didn’t realise how supported I’d actually be. I actually feel like I’m still part of a team, especially working in a co-working space alongside other freelancers.

Carolyn: Networking is important to ensure you can stay in tune with others who do a similar job so I have always actively done that. I think due to Whatsapp groups and social media, freelancers are networking more than ever and reaching out when they need support.

Ashleigh: It was definitely something I hadn’t considered when I first went freelance, nor was it something I actively tried to get. As time passed people come into your orbit and the right ones stay to support you and you support them. Now it’s invaluable to me.

Has it also benefitted you career-wise?

Harriet: I’ve had some of the best opportunities come to me through my freelance network. A huge one was becoming part of the Hairdotcom art team alongside Ashleigh and Carolyn.

Carolyn: Yes as we spur each other on and give each other honest advice too. We are all colourists and that’s our strongest skill set, but we all wanted to improve our styling skills. We recently hired another freelancer, Ky Wilson, to teach us key modern styling and it was so wonderful to train and share together.

Ashleigh: I think support no matter what that looks like benefits your career. I love having lunches with Carolyn and Harriet where we discuss what we are all up to, ideas and inspirations. Naturally you give each other advice, and how is advice from two of the most incredible women in our industry not going to benefit my career? It's priceless. 

Just gone freelance, or thinking about a career change? Check out these networking tips for freelancers.

Sian Jones

Sian Jones

Published 26th Oct 2023

Sian is Deputy Editor on HJ and supports Editor, Charlotte, in the delivery of content for the HJ print magazine, website and social media, she is also Editor of Modern Barber magazine. Sian has over ten years’ experience writing for print publications covering Youth & Children, TV & Entertainment and Lifestyle. She graduated with a degree in journalism, and whilst studying was nominated for the Guardian Digital Journalist of the Year award in 2011.

Have all the latest news delivered to your inbox

You must be a member to save and like images from the gallery.