Fearless Freelancer: Roberta Montorfano

We caught up with the free-spirited Roberta Montoforno from her studio Betta Design to talk about her experience as a freelance textile designer. Find out why she believes it's always better to fail but try instead of sitting there waiting for the right moment.

We all have a beginning, what was your first ever job? 
Guess what? My first job was at a pizzeria restaurant when I was 17 years old. It was run by an amazing friend from Morocco who became my guru (they actually have the best pizza in the world). He left his country when he was a little boy by himself and he taught me the most amazing lessons about life. How to stay positive and how to believe in yourself. You can make anything happen if you believe and if you can stay humble. 

When did you start freelancing?
I started freelancing over 3 years ago but I have been a textile designer since 2007. Freelancing is the perfect balance between designing and freedom: as a designer you need freedom to design anytime you feel inspired and freelancing gives you the possibility of being flexible.

Was there a defining moment that made you start freelancing?
I think it just happened when I quit my job working for a textile company in sydney. A previous employer asked me to help them with some designs and graphics. I loved it. I realised that I could do it.

What job were you doing before you started freelancing?
I was working for a textile company but I was mainly in sales, meeting clients and showing them textiles and prints. I loved the experience but I felt I needed to express my creativity more. It was a great working experience that led me to do what I am doing right now.

How did you prepare yourself to move into freelancing?
It's a very hard question because how do you know when you are ready to do something? I just tried and told myself that I didn't have anything to lose. I believed that I had to do what I love, but for myself without working for anyone. Of course it was challenging not to have a regular income at the beginning, but now when I look back I am glad that I tried.

What was the biggest fear or challenge for you becoming a freelancer? 
The biggest fear is not to earn enough money. You think about the regular expenses everyday. Questions filling your mind like "How am I going to pay for rent?", "What if no one contacts me for months and I run out of money", "What if I am wasting my time?" but then I also thought that I was ready to earn less money but get the satisfaction of doing something on my own which is priceless. At the beginning it is hard but it takes time, and if you work hard and you are talented you will see the results. It just takes patience.

In the beginning, how did you attract your first good clients?
I attracted my clients by promoting my work, calling, talking to people without being scared of failing or competition. I found that they key was to be as much spontaneous as possible. I was just telling everyone my story and how much I believed in what I was doing and my best and regular customers could see my passion and supported me since the beginning. To see how proud of me they are now by seeing me growing makes me very happy.

What does a typical day look like for you?
I wake up in the morning, I am usually very slow and I like to take my time for myself: I do some yoga, meditation or walk, and then after breakfast I am ready to start working. If I have meetings I could be out all day with clients. Otherwise I focus on designing and it's not surprising I get very addicted and I rarely stop creating until late afternoon when I force myself to have a break, walk down to the beach and take some photos or just enjoy the nature. Very often I get inspiration at night so sometimes I just do some work after dinner or at night depending on what I am working on.

What do you love most about your job?
The satisfaction of seeing a print that I have designed around the streets or on the internet is beyond description. When my customers really appreciate my hard work and I feel like I am doing this for good reason and I am contributing to something that people like.

Who are your biggest role models or influences that have impacted your career?
My father is the biggest model of my life. He started his business when he was 18 and has always been successful even though sometimes it's hard. He taught me that everything can happen if you want it. He helped me to believe in myself and look at the bigger picture and seeing him proud of me today makes me very happy. I also worked with a lot of people in the last 3 years that contributed so much to who I am now and I will be always very grateful to them.

If you weren't afraid and had no limits, what would you do?
Ohhhh! Where should I start? I have a million projects in my mind that I will try my best in the future to realise. Right now I am travelling the world exploring the art, crafts and textiles of each country and I am freelancing at the same time, which is my dream coming true. 
If I really didn't have no limits and no fears, I will keep doing what I am doing just trying to involve more people and collaborating with artists around the world. I met so many incredible and talented artists that don't have the same opportunity we have in our countries. I would love to help them continue doing what they love and use their amazing skills to have a better life. I hope this won't be just a dream.

Tell us something we may not know about you already?
Did I tell you that I am obsessed with pizza?

What's next for you and your business?  
I would love to keep creating and collaborating with different artists to grow together and learn about each other. I would also love to participate to international textile trade fairs.

Any words of wisdom for new freelancers or those thinking of taking the leap?
Believe in yourself, don't kill your dream just because you need a safe life and regular income. Just try, it's always better to fail but try instead of sitting there and wait for the 'right' moment.

Where can people go to find our more and work with you?
View Roberta's profile here.