Getting to know - Stephanie Okane

Tell us a bit about yourself, what's your background?

I specialize in branding. I studied at both Youbee and Massey after taking a gap year before I officially entered the industry.  I’m based in Wellington and have worked in two (I would call very small/boutique) design studios in the city before I went out on my own. I’m from Wellington and have firm roots here, so while many of my peers jumped the ditch and chased opportunities at larger cities and abroad, I’ve stuck to the area where I’m from. I think this is something that makes my story a little unique. 

Tell us about your journey as a freelancer.

I’ve always freelanced on the side while at my other jobs and while studying. I see everything as an opportunity and have only recently learnt the power of the word ‘no’. The moonlighting, while it was slow and painful, ment that I’d already stumbled through some of the basic ‘business stuff’ that comes with self generated income and made my transition into full-time freelance easier. The pandemic made me realize how fickle our industry can be and I guess I lost that comfortable sense of security that usually comes with a 9-5 full time job. I also had grown out of the studio where I was, felt restless and was looking for another opportunity to sink into, but was uninspired by what Wellington had to offer. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to go at it alone so even though there was global pandemic unfolding, I decided if not now then when and left my job, to plunge into full time freelance about 1 and a half years ago. 

What is the personal or freelance project you are most proud of? Why?

Definitely Gaia. I’d always wanted to transition into packaging and put my illustrative capabilities to use in a commercial context. I’m also trying to move away from the more ‘corporate stuff’ that I’ve gathered in my portfolio from past studio work. Gaia my a perfect synergy of all the things I love bundled into one project.

Source: Mission The Gaia Project

What would you say is the most rewarding part of being a freelancer?

I’m a mum so without a doubt having the autonomy around how I spend my time has been huge! There are also so many other benefits …avoiding long commutes, enjoying the comforts of home, defining my own version of ‘success’, chasing projects that I’m super passionate about, the satisfaction of making my own money and not having to rely on painful salary negotiations to get fair remuneration for the work that you’re putting in. I have so much to say around this. I think women typically have a harder time excelling in this world due to so many factors. At least when you’re working for yourself, it feels like you’ve in a way taken back control. 

What is the most challenging part of running a freelancing business?

100% the sense of isolation and managing mental health. Not having a team to surround you with support and act as a sounding board is so tough. It really can be a lonely place.  

What has worked best for you when it comes to finding new clients?

Building relationships is everything. People buy from people. The more you can communicate with someone and show that you have their best interest at heart and listen intently to them, the more trust is built. I truly believe that business is ultimately about trust at the end of the day. 

What advice would you give anyone wanting to start freelancing?

Sometimes you need to see something through in order to know whether or not it’s a bad idea. I’d say listen to your intuition and lean into vulnerability and remember that failure is all part of the process. For me this is something I didn’t want to be left regretting that I’d never done.  

How can we learn more about you and your work?

My personal portfolio:

My studio’s Instagram account:

My illustration work: .