Q & A… Life as a Creative
Rikesh Chauhan (RKZ – pronounced Ricks) is a musician, photographer and creative. In this Q&A, he discusses his experience working in social media, freelancing, plus tips for getting into the creative industry.
After leaving university, Rikesh spent his first couple of years as a freelance creative.
What was your experience of freelancing? Why did you eventually switch to full-time employment?
‘I would recommend freelancing, but only once you have some experience.
It’s hard to balance between the quiet times and when you have lots of work on. And that makes it difficult to do forward planning and budget for money coming in.
Working full-time for an employer is less stressful.’
What’s your top tip for freelancers?
‘Control your finances. I didn’t get financial advice, but I wish I had. I would probably have made a lot more money! Talk to someone who has done freelancing, who knows about self-assessment tax.
Keep tight control of your bookkeeping. Always keep receipts when you purchase things and find out what you can offset against tax. Your income is unpredictable, so it’s wise to keep a buffer. When you earn anything, put a percentage aside in accessible savings.’
What did you most enjoy about your job as a creative in social media?
‘It’s continuously exciting. The social media landscape is growing so quickly, there’s so much going on. Who knows what this space will look like 5 years from now?! It has never been monotonous and I don’t think it ever will be. Every day is different, you never get bored.‘
(The first time we caught up with Rikesh, he had been carving pumpkins for a Halloween event! His next jobs were pixel-pushing on Photoshop, and meeting clients to discuss concepts for Christmas campaigns.)
‘Social has its pros and cons. Yes, there’s online bullying and the problems that arise from the way you can share anything you want. But on the plus side, it’s pivotal to accessing news immediately, as in the case of emergencies and recent events. You find out things on social well before they hit the mainstream news. Also social has so much clout and power when people come together to discuss, share and want to do good.’
What are the toughest parts?
‘Time management is one of the biggest problems for creatives – you’re juggling many different clients with their own priorities.
And looking after people can be challenging. There’s only so much you can prepare for, and sometimes it can be hard to be rational. It’s important not to dwell on setbacks; as a creative, it’s very easy to take criticism to heart, but it’s all about how you use that and direct it in a positive way.’
What are your recommendations for getting into the creative industry?
‘Networking has been my whole reason for being able to do anything.
One of the best thing about my uni course was it was run by musicians.’ (Commercial Music, Westminster University) ‘There was a second game plan – yes educate, learn things, but also make friends with the tutors, because they’re going to come in handy. That proved really fruitful, and I’m still in touch with a lot of my tutors when it comes to music advice…that’s been so helpful.
And working in social media, you retain and acquire new clients through networking. Especially in a digital age, people like the human touch, they want to get involved with people face to face – I think that’s massively important for this generation. You have to network.
So speak to people in the creative field. They generally love meeting up, and will be flattered by the fact that you look up to them, aspire to be like them. It’s not as scary as you might think!’
Build a portfolio
‘Be proactive, use every opportunity.
It’s hard to stand out in a saturated market, but quality speaks for itself.
Instagram provides a great opportunity to have an online portfolio, and it can say a lot about your talents – art direction, composition, photography, video editing…it’s free and it’s easy.‘
Acquire new skillsets
‘If you’re not sure how to do something, just Google it. It’s easy to learn through online tutorials, YouTube etc. That’s how most creative got into things. Push yourself, just have the desire and determination to go and do it.’
‘Inevitably you’ll do some internships or jobs you don’t like. But even that gives an insight into what you do want to do. That’s especially important for creatives, because it’s a very loose area, covering so many fields.’
‘It’s easy to beat yourself up if you didn’t get a job, or produced work that wasn’t great. A bit of self-pity is fine, but then you have to let it go, and focus on the next thing and get the ball rolling again.
Be flexible, and open to lots of different challenges, you never know what opportunities might come knocking.’
And finally, what would you say to new graduates about to embark on this journey?
‘Just make the most of it – whatever you do, make sure you enjoy doing it. Don’t waste time doing things you don’t like.’
Thank you Rikesh 😄
Rikesh Chauhan (RKZ) is a musician, photographer, creative and also an ambassador for the award winning men’s health charity CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably)
Having studied Commercial Music at Westminster University, the multi-talented Rikesh has since branched out into other creative fields, including writing, filming videos, photography and most recently, men’s fashion design.
Collaborating with prominent designer Saran Kohli, they have designed a collection of suits that bridge the gap between East and West (Indian fabrics meet Savile Row tailoring). Their first creation was featured in Esquire’s Best Street Style from London Fashion Week! So watch this space!
But currently, Rikesh is still best known through his music – as RKZ, singer-songwriter, rapper and Spoken Word artist. His musical style has been described as ‘a fusion of alternative R&B, Neo-Soul and Hip Hop’. Check out the full video of his latest song ‘Notes’ here
To find out more about RKZ and for more of his music, visit his website – RKZUK.com
Find out more on freelancing