Londoner, MASHer, freelance fashion editor, content strategist and creative consultant. And breathe. Navaz is 100% the OG when it comes to writing your own schedule and working for yourself – after all, she’s been doing it for over 13 years. Following six years as fashion director of UK’s CosmoGirl! Magazine, she embarked on a freelance writing and styling career, creating content for clients including Grazia, Glamour, Dazed, Sothebys.com, Matchesfashion.com, ASOS, H&M, Dior and Chanel. She also founded the pop culture meets fashion site Disneyrollergirl.net and co-founded boutique beauty brand consultancy, The Beauty Conversation.
Navaz is currently working on the follow up to her 2016 style book, ‘The New Garconne: How to be a Modern Gentlewoman’, which identified the new considered, slow fashion consumer who is now driving mainstream shopping behaviours. We talked to her about her freelance journey and not always fitting into a neat little box.
You went out on your own in 2007, before ‘freelancer’ was the buzzword it is today – did your friends think you were crazy?
Weirdly, no as I had been freelance before. This time round I was made redundant so I was quite chilled about being freelance and thought I’d better just get on with it. However I’m not sure I expected to still be freelance 13 years later. But with the post-Lehman’s recession, many more people joined the freelance pool and we saw the rise of the portfolio career, assisted of course by smart phones and social media to help us market ourselves. I had also started to write a blog a few months before, so was happy to get stuck into that and upskill. I unintentionally found myself at the forefront of the online media revolution by a combination of good timing and willingness to adapt.
What were some of the challenges you faced as an independent early on?
The main one was clients not understanding that I can do more than one thing. They like to label you as just ‘writer’, or ‘editor’, or ‘stylist’, rather than someone equally skilled in many areas. I had the same problem with agents. They couldn’t put me in a neat little box. Back then, freelancers really relied on agents, whereas now with LinkedIn, blogs and social media it’s much easier to network directly with prospective clients and commissioners.
Your beautiful personal project The New Garconne was quite an undertaking – did you ever feel overwhelmed and were there any learnings you could share from the journey?
It was an amazing learning experience all the way through. The biggest learning was persistence. The bulk of the book consists of interviews with incredible inspiring women. There was one who would just not return my emails. Or I would get so far and then she would go off radar. Finally she admitted she was happiest behind the scenes and was just not comfortable in the spotlight. And yet I wanted her because she was unassuming and understated. I somehow managed to beat her down and convince her because she loved the concept of the book and the woman who I was defining. And she gave me the perfect interview! The other learning, which doesn’t just apply to the book, is that if people like your idea enough they will find a way to make it happen. So despite any obstacles, I always try to push for ideas I love, even if think they might get refused. Overwhelmed? Yes, throughout the process, but you accept that that’s all part of the journey and try to break down your feelings and rationalise them.
You have wide-ranging skills, expertise and experience – do you find this makes ‘marketing’ yourself as a freelancer challenging?
The hard thing about having so much varied experience is whittling it down to one line. If I’m being introduced at a professional function I have to stop and think, wait, who am I talking to? Which hat am I wearing? So there is always a pause. I’ve learnt it’s best to highlight my main USP for that company or individual and then back that up with, ‘and i also do X, Y and Z.’ The good thing is that when you do get to have a chat with people, they’re usually really interested in the different facets and how they connect. And Gen Z is much more au fait with the idea of multiple revenue streams.
From a freelance lense, how have you seen your industry evolve over the past 13 years?
There are now so many more freelancers in the pool. I’m at the intersection of fashion, media, retail and digital and all of those industries have been disrupted. However, this means there are great opportunities if you know where to look for them and are forward thinking. The key is to make the effort to keep up to date with newness in your field.
I guess the speed of digital is the major change in media and content strategy. Every brand and retailer now has its own content channels, although that doesn’t mean everyone does content well. There are huge numbers of content and media freelancers but also a great deal of mediocrity. Everyone has access to the tools to create content but not everyone is skilled at having an authentic tone of voice and point of view.
What are 3 words that sum up working independently for you?
Flexibility. Variety. Spontaneity.