Taking A Dive into the Lives of Three Independent Creatives
The rise of the gig economy has been a global epidemic over recent years with ride sharing, renting out extra rooms, or even running errands for someone - all of this made possible by apps like Uber or Grab, GoGet, and Airbnb. According to the Employees Provident Fund Chairman, Tan Sri Samsudin Osman, “about 20-30% of the global workforce is pursuing freelance opportunities. In Malaysia, the growth of the gig economy has increased by 31%”. I had the opportunity to speak with three highly talented and driven women who are actively in the freelance economy, to shed some light on the triumphs, challenges, and limitations of what it means to be an independent creative, especially in our local fashion industry.
A stylist, a photographer, and a textile designer all share the same sentiment when it comes to creating freely and independently - flexible hours, creative ownership, travel, and the connections you make along the way. Haida Yusuf-Yeomans, Amani Azlin, and Shan Shan Lim shares their experiences in their respective fields and what it means to be your own boss.
For most, diving into creative freelance projects full-time is not an easy leap to make. Haida Yusuf-Yeomans, fashion stylist, spent four years working in conceptual magazine editorials to truly understand the ins-and-outs of styling for print media. However, in order to obtain more creative autonomy, she decided it was time to call the shots. “For me, it was about knowing when to quit, if you feel like you are no longer learning anything new or if you feel like your creative authority is restricted. I felt like I would benefit more for myself, if I allow myself to branch out and experiment with what I could deliver” says, Yusuf-Yeomans.
Shan Shan Lim, multidisciplinary artist and recent collaborator for D.D. Collective, comments, “I have been able to find other artists whom I respect greatly via social media. I seem to stumble upon someone new every day. Instagram serves as an endless dialogue between artists from all over the globe. On top of that, most of my clients initially reached out to me through social media.”
Amani Azlin, has photographed for notable local fashion labels like Thavia, Ana Abu, and Shals. Her Instagram feed is elegantly curated, and she shares why that is so crucial in today’s saturated freelance environment. “It’s very important to brand yourself using your social media from the type of work you do, to the type of person you are. Some clients would return to work with you simply, because they enjoy working with you and I think Instagram is a great tool to showcase that.”
PHOTOGRAPHED BY AMANI AZLIN
However, all three women also expressed their frustrations and concerns in finding consistent work, building the right relationships with clients, and the lack of employee protection rights. There was a common echo in regards to freelancers being undervalued for their input and experiences, and instead being used as hired hands. “Ideas are expensive. And work with your creatives, it is a collaboration between us, not someone for you to simply boss around” says, Azlin. Yusuf-Yeomans adds, “We are not protected and there are no legal guidelines to help us in carrying out our business and thus, creating a very unstable environment - in some cases, manipulation of fee charges, and undermining creative work. Until this is sorted, or we receive representation from a union or association, we will be left in limbo in the future onwards”.
fashion stylE BY Haida Yusof
multidisciplinary arT by SHAN SHAN LIM
Independent creatives play a crucial part in shaping the current industry and the direction it is heading. We need to realize the potential in independent artists and to recognize them as prominent players in this industry. A change in perspective needs to happen in order to propel our fashion industry forward - a support in the education of the arts and entertainment, and a resilient encouragement for new generations to come.