Catching up with Nisha Haq


IPSE’s Tristan Grove talks to 2017 Aspire Freelancer of the Year Nisha Haq about why she’s decided to become a full-time freelancer.  

One and a half months on, how do you feel about winning the Aspire Freelancer of the Year Award?

It still feels pretty surreal to be named one of ‘Britain’s best freelancers’. And when I’ve caught up with clients and family since – and they’ve congratulated me on winning – it’s taken me right back to the award ceremony and that flabbergasted feeling when they read my name out.

At the moment, the award is still looking cool on my desk (I love the design!), and it acts as a constant confidence boost. It makes me want to strive to be the best freelancer I can be.

How has winning the Aspire Freelancer Year of the Award changed things for you?

The biggest change has been developing an optimistic outlook and just believing in myself more than before. It’s also helped me gain more clients and commissions, which is fantastic!

I think before, the stress and workload from effectively doing two full-time jobs – often for 80-plus hours a week – made it difficult for me to focus and see clearly where I wanted to take my business. Now, with more confidence and more time to think, that’s starting to change.

What’s prompted your decision to become a full-time freelancer?

Well, it was a rollercoaster of a year juggling full-time work and freelancing, but winning the award gave me the confidence boost to become a full-time freelancer at the end of July. I’d thought about going part-time first, but I soon realised what I really wanted was to dedicate my full attention to making my business grow and succeed.

One of my biggest concerns was finance, and whether I would be able to cope with the sudden change of income. But I’d been putting away savings from my full-time job for a while, and I’d been re-investing my freelancing profits straight back in my business. So when I won the Aspire award, the prize money came at just the right time – it was the little bit of extra encouragement I needed to take the plunge and go full-time.  

What are you going to do with your extra time now?

It’s great to be able to do more social activities and not feel guilty about not working. I’ve actually been able to see my family for a change! It’s also given me the chance to step back a bit from the day-to-day running of my business and look more at the bigger picture and where I can improve.

One thing I’m going to do is invest some of the prize money in specialized photography CRM software. I’m going to upgrade the rest of my equipment too – with a new camera lens, for example.

Working full-time on my business has also allowed me to give a lot more to my clients. For one thing, I’m now able to do work for them during weekday hours! I can also be more flexible, have more meetings, turn work around more quickly, and I’m just in general a newly refreshed, energized and happier businesswoman and photographer!

Have you found adjusting to a new routine difficult?

It’s been pretty tough getting used to the new routine. I think one of the most difficult things has been not having the traditional office setting, with all my colleagues around me. Working alone has definitely been quite challenging, but I’ve made home-working and having my housemates as my colleagues my new normal.

On the other hand, not having a morning commute is definitely a positive! Not being a night owl and just working during the day is brilliant too. I feel that in a few months, I’ll have settled fully into my new routine.

What are your plans for the future?

For one thing, I’d like to start offering new services like boudoir photography, which is getting very popular in the UK. I’m also going to start incorporating my design experience into my work and doing more styled fashion and beauty shoots.

I have a real passion for supporting upcoming small businesses and freelancers, so as well as working with more freelancers in the industry, I’m also going to start offering more work experience and mentoring opportunities to new graduates and other young people.

What advice do you have for someone trying to build up their business and go full-time with it like you?

Every person and business is unique, so it’s important to find the pace that’s right for you. There’s no right or wrong way to go full-time as a freelancer, so whatever you do, don’t just choose to go full-time because of pressure from your industry or peers: do what feels right for you.  

Personally, I’ve been running my business for two years, but I’d been refining my photography and building up my portfolio for five or six years before that.

It’s hard to tell when you should go full-time, but a good place to start is weighing up your work/life balance, looking at your finances and making sure you have a buffer to last you at least a few months. Most of all though, don’t let go of your passion. There’ll be times when it’s really tough, but having the grit to get through that is what will make you succeed. 

Meet the author

TG photo.jpg
Tristan Grove

Head of Communications and Policy Engagement