Make Nice: when creative women join forces there isn’t much they can’t accomplish (and other key lessons)

The amazing speakers at the 2017 Make Nice: Un – Conference for Creative Women.

Make Nice launched in 2016 and was born from the desire to push back against the “boys club” which exists within creative industries (most industries, let’s be honest) and show creative women they don’t have to be competitive to get ahead. Women can “make nice” and still be successful. In fact, when creative women join forces there isn’t much they can’t accomplish – a valuable lesson I took away from the conference.

The line-up of speakers showed promise – Ann Friedman, Stanislava Pinchuk (Miso), Becky Simpson, Leah Procko, Amrita Hepi, Anna Ross, Amy Nadaskay, Lex Hirst and Jess Scully – and I’m going to sound completely cliché when I say it really delivered on that promise. After an introduction from the inspiring Make Nice Founder and Director Ngaio Parr, it was straight into the first keynote.

Illustrator, designer and author Becky Simpson was the perfect way to kick off the day – incredibly talented, funny and completely relatable – what I loved most about her talk was that while she pursued her creative endeavour Chipper Things, she also had a full time job to help ends meet. So often creative women feel as if they have somehow failed if they’re not a successful freelancer but Simpson demonstrated that is simply not true.

Key points I took away:

  • Ideas last forever but inspiration does not.
  • Allow yourself to take baby steps – jumping from lily pad to lily pad.
  • Taking baby steps instead of huge leaps will sustain your work in the long run.
  • Slow progress is still progress.

Design Director at Round, Leah Procko, presented three things she has learnt throughout her career and each learning curve was elaborated upon with an anecdote from her work at Round. In particular, her frustrations with dealing with a slightly difficult client really resonated. She said that there were times when throwing it all in probably seemed like the easiest option but in the end, the result was so much more satisfying because of the long road to get there. Moral of the story – never give up.

Key points I took away:

  • Never give up – work hard and hustle.
  • There will always be that one client or person who makes you question your entire career – don’t listen to them.
  • Be nice AF – be nice to your team, to yourself.
  • Be empathetic to the end user – it’s not always all about design.
  • Be a great collaborator – never let your ideas be limited by your own ability – collaborate.
  • Drink your own kool – aid – have confidence in yourself.

Next up was what was classed as a Town Hall panel – named such because at any point a member of the audience could ask a question or make a comment. Titled I’ve started my thing, now what?, the panel involved Becky Simpson, Anna Ross, Amy Nadaskay and was moderated by the hilarious Jess Scully. The panel – and audience – were very open about the pressures and insecurities that affect them.

Key points I took away:

  • “This serves me now” – Becky Simpson
  • “Should is the most evil word on the planet” – Amy Nadaskay

The afternoon session kicked off with Roundtable Discussions. There were eleven amazing topics to choose from and choosing one was actually the most difficult decision of the day. Topics included Creative Leadership, How To Business, Pitching, Personal Finance, Confidence, Women Helping Women and Self Promotion, among others. I decided to go with Negotiating with Ann Friedman. Currently finding myself in a negotiating situation, it was amazing to hear from other attendees that I am not alone and my experience is not unique. Women are far less inclined to negotiate and are less likely to actually be given the opportunity to do so. Women constantly undervalue their worth and subsequently are paid significantly less than their male counterparts. Friedman was insightful and approachable in this session and while I wish I had the opportunity to go to others, I’m glad I chose this one.

The afternoon keynote speakers began with artist and tattooist Stanislava Pinchuk (Miso). Born in the Ukraine, Pinchuk is interested in the landscape in war torn areas and her incredibly intricate practice maps out these landscapes in large scale works. The artist is well regarded both nationally and internationally for her artistic practice but also maintains successful commercial collaborations with brands such as Chanel and Nike.

Key points I took away:

  • Be nimble – work as independently as possible.
  • Money is a cycle – invest it back where it will give you the most value.
  • Communicate outside your own industry.
  • Learn how to use the press.
  • Invent your own job for your own brain.
  • Braid your skills and interests together.
  • Hybrid role models and pass it on – be a role model for someone else.

Ann Friedman is a journalist, writer and co-host of the Call Your Girlfriend podcast. Based in Los Angeles, Friedman’s talk revolved around the five W’s – Who, What, When, Where and Why – and she delved into the questions she asks herself before she decides to take on any freelance work. It’s always comforting to hear that even incredibly talented writers who have been in the freelance game forever still find negotiating a fee uncomfortable.

Things I took away:

  • Work out the best way for you to negotiate – whether it’s via email, over the phone or in person.
  • If there is no wriggle room on a rate ask for non – monetary things like exposure on their social media channels, mention in their newsletter etc.
  • Never be afraid to ask for what you’re worth.

The last session of the day was another Town Hall discussion, this time focusing on Imposter syndrome and pressures to be perfect, with Stanislava Pinchuk, Ann Friedman, Leah Procko, Amrita Hepi and moderated by the amazing Lex Hirst. The realisation that these amazing and successful women experience imposter syndrome was a revelation and the group discussion around coping mechanisms was incredibly valuable.

Make Nice was an eye-opener. Not only were the speakers inspiring, but I learnt so much from the other women in the room. I left with this overwhelming feeling that as a woman in a creative industry, I am not alone in my challenges and fears – these women around me are my peers and my biggest advocates. One final gem to leave you with – fear is just perception, get perspective and just keep fighting.


Make Nice: Un – Conference for Creative Women was held on Saturday 23 September, 2017 in Sydney. More information can be found on their website http://www.make-nice.com.au/