From Employee to Freelancer – Elly Jahnz

Having built a really successful career and strong reputation as an illustrator, Elly Jahnz took the decision to branch out on her own.

Elly Jahnz - From Employee to Freelancer

Elly Jahnz has built a really successful career and strong reputation as an illustrator and designer down here in Cornwall – and beyond. But after years spent at a leading Cornish fashion brand, she’s now branched out on her own. She’s been tapping into Breakthrough’s start-up support to help ensure she’s making the most of her opportunities and her business plan is picture perfect. She’s agreed to tell us a bit more about her journey from employee to freelancer and why it was hassle-free to access our support.

Tell us about your business:
Elly JahnzI am an illustrator and designer based in Falmouth. I specialise in working with lifestyle & fashion brands, both locally and nationwide to help them develop their product offerings, creating beautiful branding, bespoke packaging and designing labels & swing tags. I also provide bright and bold illustrations for a variety of clients – in my year in business I’ve worked on projects as varied as creating illustrated maps, doing an illustrated history of watch design, gig posters and recently the front cover of the Truro guide.

Why did you decide to go freelance?
Prior to freelancing, I spent the last seven years working for Cornish fashion brand Seasalt as a Graphic Designer. While I was there I worked closely with the Creative Director to develop the packaging, labels & trims for each season, and also created many illustrations for their tea towels & jute bags (and many more things!). I’d always wanted to run my own business, and when an opportunity arose to do a bit of travelling in March 2016, it seemed like the perfect time to set up on my own. I’ve got a great experience of working within a fast-growing, multi-channel retailer, both as a designer and also on the production side of things, as I was responsible for managing the on-time, on budget development & production of my work with factories around the world. This experience has set me up to offer a great service to new clients and I’m excited to help new and established brands get their most out of their products.

How does life as a freelancer compare to a job in-house?
Ellz JahnzWhile I do miss the hustle and bustle of a busy office, I really relish the ability to set my own schedule and all the flexibility that running a freelance operation brings. I have a good network of other freelancers who I team up with to tackle bigger projects, or just meet for a cup of tea on the beach.

What was the reason you decided to bite the bullet and get in touch with Breakthrough?
When I was a graduate, I was on the original Unlocking Cornish Potential programme, so I was aware of the services Breakthrough offered. It’s a fantastic package of support, and it’s amazing that it is free and easy to access. Running a successful business is more than just doing my design work well, so it made sense to use a service that can help fill any gaps in my knowledge.

How would you describe Breakthrough?
A powerhouse of information for start-up businesses!

What is the best bit about the support you’ve received?
I think the most invaluable bit of support has been access to the Business Development Managers. These guys really know their stuff, and they have such great links with other business and providers which helps immensely. Cornwall is a unique place to do business so that local network that the BDMs provide is incredibly useful.

What did you do or change as a result of our support?
Packaging LeatherIt has made me realise that there are two parts to my business – my illustration and the more design-led work for brands and businesses. I’m in the process of setting up another website in addition to ( – although it isn’t live yet) to promote my work with brands in a more business-led light which I think will be a really positive step.

Do you have any specific examples of how we made a positive impact on you and your business?
I was lucky enough to be shortlisted for the 2017 Prize for Illustration earlier this year and you gave me some great press around that which drove a lot of traffic to my site. Also, as a result of the SEO section of the Breakthrough workshop, I was able to optimise my site which had an instant benefit. Also all of the on-going advice about finance, insurances etc has been really helpful.

What are your plans for the future?
So in the next few months, I should be launching my new website and I’m hoping to take a few trips to shows to meet with new brands and buyers. In the day to day side of things, I have a few exciting illustration projects in the pipeline as well as heading up to London for the Private View of the 2017 Prize for Illustration at the London Transport Museum. Exciting stuff!

If you are thinking about starting a business or are running a business for less than 12 months, why not get in touch and talk to us about your idea. The next two-day ERDF fully funded Breakthrough workshop will take place at the Health & Well-Being Innovation Centre on the 4th and 5th May 2017.

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