A day in the life of Zabby Allen
Yay, it's time for another 'Day in the life' and this month I'm super excited to be sharing what the average day at work is like for Zabby Allen, indie magazine editor and small business owner. So, without further ado, let's dive on in and find out what her average day is like....
Hi there, can you tell the Adventures & Tea Parties gang a little bit about yourself?
Hello! I'm Zabby Allen and I live in South East London. I always dread people asking me what I do because I do lots of things and I worry they'll get bored by the time I've finished explaining! Alongside making my own pins, patches, prints and things inspired by all the things that make me happiest, I work as an Illustrator's Agent and Editor. I spend two or three days a week working for Phosphor Art, getting work for the talented illustrators we represent, showing portfolios at agencies and keeping on top of our social media accounts. I also work for another agency, Artist Partners, one day a week doing social media scheduling and general admin/design jobs. Once a month I go down to Ramsgate where they're based, which is always a lovely treat for someone who works from home on their own. On Mondays I work on Girl Planet, a zine which goes in the Lucky Dip Club subscription boxes – this is what I'll focus on for the rest of the Day in the Life as it's what I'm working on today! I'm also the Crafts Editor of Caboodle Magazine. I get to pick a theme for each issue, commission the DIY tutorials, lay out the pages on inDesign and assist with the final photoshoot. Oh and I've just started doing some editing for The Happy Newspaper too! Once in a while I take on small design jobs like creating flyers and logos for clients and take on the odd pet portrait commission. It's safe to say I never get bored!
I trained in Book Arts at London College of Communication. I had no idea where it would take me, if anywhere, so it's been a huge shock to me that I've actually ended up doing something that's pretty relevant to my degree - we did lots of work on magazines and layout, so that's helped me a lot along the way.
How does your day start?
I try and get up between 6:30 and 7 every day. I've been attempting to keep things consistent recently, but getting up is ALWAYS a struggle for me – why is bed so much more comfortable when you have to get up?! At least 3 days a week I go for a run to wake myself up. It takes a lot of willpower not to talk myself out of going, but I always feel better after a run. My favourite place to go is South Norwood Country Park where you can spot pheasants, sparrowhawks, voles and lots of good doggos! You feel like you're in the depths of the countryside, rather than the depths of South East London!
I aim to sit down at my desk at around 8 with something vaguely healthy for breakfast and a big cup of tea. I use this time to answer emails about commissions etc and to pack any orders from the past couple of days. I love packaging up orders from my shop! I have to find time before and after “work” to do my own work, and recently I've been taking some more whole days for myself to get commissions and new designs drawn up.
At 9 I start my day job, usually with another cup of something. Editing for Girl Planet involves commissioning articles and artwork, chatting to Leona (who runs Lucky Dip Club) about future issues, editing copy and laying out each page on inDesign. Often I'll start the day with a Skype chat with Leona, which is always good for getting my brain in gear. I spend the first part of my day responding to emails and writing lists so I'm organised and know what I need to concentrate on for the rest of the day. We commission most of our articles and artwork from Lucky Dip Club subscribers, many of whom also run their own businesses. Leona always describes Girl Planet as being like a heartfelt high five from a friend and past articles have included subjects such as self care, start-up businesses, creativity, body image, Kickstarter campaigns and pets! We try and keep things fresh and personal and each issue is based on the theme of the box contents – last month's pins and socks featured some super cool sloths by Natelle Draws Stuff, so we focused on articles on self care and allowing yourself to slow down.
Do you have a lunch break?
I don't have a set lunch time, I just stop when my brain is getting a bit fuzzy. I find that I need to step away from the screen at some point to clear my head, so I try and get outside at lunch even if it's just walking to the post box or eating lunch in the garden. I really miss having our dog George (he was recently put to sleep sadly), as he was guaranteed to get me out of the house. Often I need to do a post office run though and there are lots of colourful street art in my area, so there's always something to look at on the journey. Lunch usually consists of leftovers from dinner the night before (my fave!), or a salad made from whatever we have in the fridge. Today was a random combination of salad, rice and some tomatoes from the garden. If the sun's not out sometimes I'll watch a YouTube video while I eat my lunch – TED talks, The Daily Show, NPR Tiny Desk Concerts and Kat, Rachel & Nikki's vlogs are all firm faves on my screen.
If I'm working on Girl Planet I'll usually spend my afternoons editing and laying out content using InDesign. It's a lot of fun to design the pages; we have such beautiful artwork to work with and sometimes we use Rainbow Vintage Home patterns as our backgrounds, so I always have something to swoon over. Sometimes I'll have an interview scheduled with one of our box collaborators. I won't give away who our current box collaborator is, but I interviewed her at 1pm and it was 10pm where she was. It's always fun chatting to the illustrators and designers Leona's commissioned to create artwork for the socks and pins, I feel like I really get to know them in the short time we talk.
At the end of the day I'll make sure that I have everything I need for next week, or if it's deadline day I'll WeTransfer the finished mag over to Leona for any last minute edits and a proofread. I only work on Girl Planet once a week, so I need to make sure I'm really organised and spot if there are any gaps in the issue so that I can email our contributors in enough time for them to respond.
When do you clock off?
I usually stop my freelance work at about 5:30pm or 6pm and then crack down on some of my own for an hour or two. I might write a blog post, send some more emails, design or order some new products for my shop or get my bullet journal in order.
At about half 7pm I usually stop work and go and sort out something for dinner. If it's something that needs a while in the oven I'll go back to work while it cooks. My boyfriend, Kurtis usually gets home from work at about 8:30pm and we'll eat dinner before watching something and having a fairly early night. Rock and roll! Sometimes one of my housemates will cook for me too and I can cram some extra work in, which is a big luxury!
Today it's a bank holiday and the sun was shining (lo and behold!), so we had a BBQ! I was in charge of sides, so I made a Greek salad, spicy rice, potato salad, halloumi skewers and some more garden toms! I might have got a bit carried away...
This evening it was the Game of Thrones finale and I'm 3 series behind the 3 guys I live with (you can imagine how fun that is!), so they shut themselves away to watch it while I attempted to crack on with some more work. My brain wasn't working properly, so I decided to do some reading instead at which point my brain started working overdrive and I had to keep stopping my book to write things down. Classic!
I tend to leave my studio in a bit of a mess at the end of the day – I find that tidying up in the morning always motivates me to get to work. Is that a good enough excuse?!
Do you work at the weekend?
I have made more of a conscious effort to give myself some proper time off at the weekends this year, so I don't get burnt out. Saying that though, if I'm at home I find it very hard not to do work, so I tend to split my weekends in two, spending one day working and one playing, or working in the mornings and going out in the afternoons/evenings. I try and use this time to do the calmer jobs – putting enamel pins on backing cards, stickering my envelopes, sending out interview questions for my blog... I'm also trying to give myself time to draw more, so that's a nice thing to do at the weekends.
If I'm not working then my favourite things to do at the weekend are going to a local food market or coffee shop or going for a walk somewhere in Kent. This weekend we have friends staying from Manchester, so we went to Maltby Street Market for gin and tasty food! I highly recommend it if you're in London at the weekend. I've been lucky enough to have some fun weekends away recently too. My boyfriend, Kurtis, works on film locations and was working up North for much of his last job, so I met him in Manchester and Lincoln at the weekends. My Mum lives in Dumfries, my Dad in Somerset and my Aunty in Cumbria so I have lots of opportunities to get out of London if I need to. It's been so much fun exploring more of the UK this year.
What do you love about your job and do you have future plans you can share?
I love the flexibility that my freelance work brings, it allows me to go on a little trip and get inspired if I need to and I'm lucky that I work with some very understanding people, who let me work around my random holidays. We're off to Lisbon and Porto next week and I'm so excited. It's always nerve-wracking taking time off and sacrificing wages, but I need a little trip now and again to refresh my brain and see some things outside of the confines of my studio and house. I do find it hard to make my brain switch off; there's always something to think about or do or somebody who needs something. I have to turn the email notifications off my phone and I leave it on mute most of the time, so I don't get distracted. I got to a point last year where I felt like I was ALWAYS working and it wasn't healthy, so I knew I needed to work on my self care!
I don't know how I'd cope trying to work a “normal” 9-5 job every day now, I really enjoy the variety my work brings and I think I need that to keep my brain working. Working for so many strong, motivated and talented women along the way has been really inspiring for me and I feel so lucky to be a part of the magic they've created. I would love to have some more time to build my own business, so at some point something's going to have to give I suppose! Next year I want to expand my product range and hopefully apply for a few markets, it's been a while since I did any trading in person and I used to really enjoy doing that back in the days my friends and I ran a vintage clothing stall. I'm also really excited to see Girl Planet grow and develop. Leona has brought together such a wonderful like-minded community of people with Lucky Dip Club and I know that she has big plans for the future of it too!
Thank you so much Zabby, it's wonderful hearing all about the behind-the-scenes of your amazing, creative world; keep up the incredible work and I can't wait to see where it takes you in the future!
I hope you've all enjoyed reading about Zabby's day and are now heading off to check out her fab site! You can also find Zabby on Instagram, Twitter and Etsy, so pop along and give them a like. If you'd also like to read more features, head over hereto discover what a day in the life is like for these incredible people.