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The realities of freelance life with Stuart Bache and Natasha Hughes of Books Covered

This week I have two of my former colleagues on my blog! Tash and Stu are two lovely individuals who fell in love in the office, then decided to change their entire lives together. They moved to the Midlands, where their families live, started up a (very successful) book design agency, got married and have now got a little one in the mix, too. They are the perfect candidates for this series, and I’m thrilled to have Stu here to share their story…

The realities of Freelance Life with book design agency Books Covered

What made you decide to take a freelance route with your career?

My wife (Natasha) and I felt we had reached a moment in our lives and careers that needed addressing, which was ‘How do we create a better balance and have more autonomy… and money?’

I had worked as a freelancer before – for about four or five years – and we worked on many projects at HarperCollins together, so we knew it was a good idea.

We moved out of London and back to the Midlands (so we didn’t need to worry about finding the money for our enormous rent), set up office in the spare room of our new flat, and started our new careers at Books Covered.

What elements make up your freelance income? 

One of the lessons I learned the first time round as a freelancer (and a little late in the game) was the need for a stable foundation, something which would bring with it a regular income. So we had a few meetings with a new indie publisher and signed a contract for one year’s worth of projects.

In fact, we were waiting for the final contract to arrive in my inbox before handing in our notice… it arrived a little later than planned and we were both overdosing on adrenaline.

We have had regular work with Harper Impulse and Bonnier Zaffre, which has been great.

The same year we started Books Covered, a client of mine, the author Mark Dawson, formed Self-Publishing Formula and launched his first ever course called ‘Advertising for Authors’. He asked us to be one of the many bonuses for those who signed up (a discount on our services), which really helped keep the work flowing.

In fact, not only are we still a bonus across all of their courses, but we collaborated on a cover design course together too. The course is different to the others in that it’s evergreen, which has added to our regular income.

Working with the indie author community has been a real eye-opener. They are some of the friendliest, supportive, hard-working, and forward-thinking people I’ve ever worked with.


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What is the best thing about being freelance?

Seeing my daughter every day, never (or almost never) missing those ‘first’ moments. It’s also important to see that our success is equal to the amount of work we put into the company; it’s hard, and the hours can be long, but it’s worth it when you’re writing those invoices.

What is the worst thing about being freelance?

There are moments where we both need to get out of the house, the long hours and deadlines can turn your stir crazy. Thankfully, we have a lot of National Trust parks near us and we’re at one of them at least three times a week.

How do you plan your finances for times when work is scarce (if that happens!)?

Our rule is to have at least three months salary and mortgage in the bank at any one time. Whenever the business account is within sniffing distance of £10k I panic a little. 

I’m thankful that we have yet to ask for a project from anyone, but I’m always aware that it could all stop suddenly. Brexit, for example, we’re already trying to protect ourselves from any issues that insanity may bring.

Is there anything you wish people knew about freelance life?

If you want it, and are prepared to work for it, you will have more freedom than you’ve ever had in any job before.

What are you working on now and what’s coming up for you next?

We’re working through our January projects – which is always hard after Christmas – and preparing for February. We’re have a few plans for the future, but they are mostly in the ideas stage.

Stuart Bache and Natasha Hughes make up Books Covered, a design agency creating market-leading book cover design and editorial content for independent authors, literary agents and publishers. 

Find out more about their design course with Self-Publishing Formula. Their book, The Author’s Guide to Cover Design, is available exclusively on Amazon in both ebook and paperback.

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The realities of freelance life with the team behind Books Covered design agency
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