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Otegha Uwagba on Aiming for Value

STORY BY RACHEL SCHWARTZMANN – SHOP THE LITTLE BLACK BOOK –  PHOTOS BY Lisa Müller for The Style Line

“I think for people who do creative work for a living,

there’s always that eternal dilemma of how to find the balance between starving artist and corporate shill because doing the creative work you think is valuable and worthwhile very often isn’t compatible with making a decent living,” says our featured interviewee, Otegha Uwagba. “I like to think Little Black Book can play a role in helping creative women find that balance, by offering practical advice on how to make creative work pay.” Case in point, today’s story with Otegha, a London-based writer, brand strategist, and the newly-minted author of Little Black Book which provides authentic and actionable career advice for women everywhere.

For Otegha, the journey to empower women professionally stems from her initial work as the founder of Women Who; a community-driven platform that supports and connects women creatives. Through toolkits, interviews, and events, Otegha has not only been able to amass a likeminded group of innovators but cultivate a movement for those looking for guidance in making their creative ideas a reality. In fact, the idea of doing what one “loves” simply isn’t enough for Otegha, and she contends that letting value lead one’s ambitions is a (bigger) step in the right direction.

Speaking more to that idea, we were excited to have a chance to learn more from Otegha who kindly invited us for a quick coffee at London’s beloved coffee-shop, Grind. There, we chatted more about her unique point of view, past professional experiences, and how personal style plays a role in her many endeavors. Discover our full conversation below, featuring exclusive photos captured by Lisa Müller for The Style Line.

I’m a freelance writer, brand consultant and the

founder of Women Who, which is a platform I set up last year to connect and support creative working women. I tend to split my time evenly (more or less) between those three areas, and I think each discipline – writing, strategizing, and connecting – plays to different strengths of mine, so it works pretty well! Outside of work, I’d probably define myself as a feminist first – I don’t think there’s anything that defines me as much as my belief in the power of, and love for, other women. I love reading, eating good food, and going to galleries and museums. Keeping my brain nourished, in every sense of the word, is really important to me.

As a writer and published author, what role do you think the art of writing plays in the digital age and how would you say it helps women stay more creative?

I think the best kind of writing gives voice to a thought, emotion, or feeling that a lot of people can relate to (but often have difficulty expressing). That’s what I think really connects, and I do think being able to share that online with potentially millions of people at the click of a button is such a brilliant thing.

Talk to us about the process of writing Little Black Book. What has been the most unexpected discovery you’ve made throughout this process? Would you say there’s a synergy in your writing style as it relates to your personal style?

The most unexpected discovery I made whilst writing Little Black Book was how much I actually knew! I think I surprised myself with how quickly I was able to write the first draft and get my ideas down on paper (although editing was a different process entirely). It was very much a brain download of all of the experiences I’ve had since I started working, so even though it’s written in a fairly neutral tone with no overt references to my life or work, my experiences are very much wrapped up in the book. I deliberately made it quite sparse and straight to the point – all too often career guides are full of anecdotes that don’t really relate to your own life, so I really wanted to avoid that. All killer, no filler was my motto when writing that. Funnily enough, my personal style is similarly minimal. I don’t like fussy embellishments or frills or anything like that. I dress quite simply – lots of neutrals and monochrome, and I prefer an interesting shape or silhouette to patterns or anything too busy.

Why do you think a city like London is the perfect place to have these conversations and build the Women Who community? 

London is the perfect place for a community like Women Who to take shape – there’s such an entrepreneurial, creative spirit here, which is very much a part of the Women Who DNA. But at the same time, there are a lot of challenges to figure out, especially when it comes to anything money-related (given how expensive a city it is), which is why Women Who came about in the first place – as a way of helping working women figure out how they can achieve professional fulfilment on their own terms.

With the above question in mind, how would you complete this sentence: Women Who__ 

Women Who is for strivers – women who are striving for more. I think that’s the common thread amongst all the women I’ve met through Women Who, and it’s incredibly energizing to be around.

What is one question you wish people asked you more often?

“What are your rates?”. I’m a freelance writer, brand consultant, and occasional speaker, and the sheer number of people who assume that I’ll happily work for free never fails to amaze – or irk – me. I often have to inform people who reach out to me that er, I expect to be paid for my time, and it would be so fetch if more people were proactive in asking what my time does cost, as opposed to assuming it’s free.

How do you think creativity contributes to some of the world’s bigger conversations and what role do you hope Little Black Book plays in this?

I think for people who do creative work for a living, there’s always that eternal dilemma of how to find the balance between starving artist and corporate shill because doing the creative work you think is valuable and worthwhile very often isn’t compatible with making a decent living. I like to think Little Black Book can play a role in helping creative women find that balance, by offering practical advice on how to make creative work pay.

How would you advise the next generation to leave an imprint in the world, simply by doing what they love?

I’m not sure I agree with the ‘do what you love’ line of thinking! It’s a really nice sentiment, but just not that practical in a lot of situations, and I think it can lead to a lot of guilt if you’re not in a position to just ‘do what you love’ 24/7, which even very successful creatives aren’t. I do think that if you always endeavor to do the thing that you think is of genuine value to yourself and to others – whether creatively, professionally or socially – you can’t go wrong. For me, the politically explosive events of the past few years have highlighted how important values are in a world that increasingly seems to be run by people who are devoid of any… so that’s what I’d advise. Aim for value.

“I think the best kind of writing gives voice to a thought, emotion, or feeling that a lot of people can relate to (but often have difficulty expressing). That’s what I think really connects…”