19th December, 2018
Well, it's almost Christmas & what a very busy year I've had - hence this being the the first time I've had a chance to write any news since May! There's been lots of news, just no time to write about it.
I've been pretty much working flat out on commissions and just about managed to eak out a small amount of time to work on my own projects.
Many of the commissions I've been working on won't be published until 2019 so no sneak previews I'm afraid, but the one thing I can show is an upcoming range of new maps for my Etsy shop. I'm starting in my northern homelands...can you guess where this is?
Happy Christmas & best wishes for the New Year.
25th May, 2018
After many months of prevaricating due to illness, tight commission deadlines and the general busyness of having 3 children I've finally got my new Wholesale Catalogue finished and ready to send out. As anyone who has ever put one of these together you'll know the amount of blood, sweat & tears that goes into it and that's before you come to finding the appropriate busnesses to send it to and then lovingly crafting an introductory email to each and everyone.
I feel I've earned a couple of drinks this evening.
If you would like a copy of my latest Wholesale Catalogue and price list please contact me and I'll be delighted to send one.
In other news...if you are ever on the look out for a good cattery and live in the North Hampshire area then look no further than White Lane Cattery. It's set in beautiful countryside and your cats will have lots of birdlife to look at while they are very well cared for. I've even designed a little map so you can find it easily.
12th March, 2018
I can't believe it's March already. I've been busy, busy, busy since my last post and my family have been sick, sick, sick with various colds, flu etc hence the late Happy New Year post :)
The big news is that I've now completed my wonderful commission for the Balmoral Estate. Back in mid-November, on my birthday, I was contacted about designing a new illustrated visitor map to accompany the existing Balmoral Audio Tour - what a fantastic birthday surprise. A few weeks later I flew up for a snowy tour of the grounds & to take lots of pictures and notes (with accompanying husband - he was never going to let me visit the Highlands without him).
We then stayed in Ballater for an extra day to climb Lochnagar. I had forgotten just how totally amazing the Highlands are. The feeling of being miles from everywhere is wonderful. Last time we walked up Lochnagar was 17 years ago, Millenium New Year, we camped and it was blowing a gale - obviously we were younger and more wreckless :) This time the weather was perfect - very cold but still, sunny weather and the views were amazing.....and we stayed in a hotel.
These pictures don't really do the place justice.
Balmoral is well worth a visit I absolutely loved being shown around the grounds. It's such an interesting place & set in the most beautiful surroundings. If I could just persuade our 3 children that being outdoors & climbing up very big hills is fun I'd be straight back there.
12th November, 2017
To celebrate my upcoming birthday I'm offering a 10% discount on everything in my online shop. All Prints, Illustrated maps, cards and badges are eligible for the discount so what are you waiting for?
* Offer ends 18th November 2017 *
3rd November, 2017
Welcome to my Autumn news update – lovely autumn with all the beautiful colours and hearty food.
It’s been a busy time here recently…I’ve completed my new illustrated London Map, the fantastic Londonist Mapped book has been published and I’m looking forward to starting work on 2 new exciting commissions that I’ve got coming up, but I can’t share any news of those two just yet. Meanwhile November 1st marked the launch of my 2017 Christmas card …and I have a new furry muse in my office.
So here we go…
After a lot of stopping and starting due to commissions I finally completed my latest personal project – a funky and brightly coloured illustrated map of interesting places to see in Central London.
The map will be available to buy very soon as an A2 print - the perfect souvenir of any trip to London. In the meantime here is a preview of what you can expect and a little bit more information and pics here.
October saw the publishing of the wonderful Londonist Mapped book – the book is about London and everything that happens in it and includes some beautiful work by an eclectic mix of different illustrators.
There are some absolutely fantastic maps included in the book – a real eclectic mix ranging from Secrets of the Thames by Lucie Conoley to the more mathematical looking London's Longest Roads by Matt Lancashire. I’m very proud to say that one of my maps is also featured in the book – an illustrated map of Londons Lost Victorian buildings.
As it’s the start of November I feel I can allow myself to mention the ‘c’ word…Christmas. This year I've designed a bright red, retro Christmas card inspired by those kitsch 1950’s cards of old. This card is available while stocks last from my online shop.
Finally, I have a new small, cute furry muse in the shape of Hammy, my oldest daughter’s hamster. Hammy is currently residing in my office much to the glee of silky cat – believe it or not Hammy also snores, very quietly, but she definitely snores.
That’s it for now :)
18th October, 2017
I would never claim to be an expert on business, but as I’ve been working as an independent illustrator for a number of years now with some success I feel that I can offer a few insights into what and just as importantly what not to do when you're starting out as a freelance illustrator.
For the purpose of this blog post I’m going to assume that you already have your place to work/hardware/software/pens/paper/paints etc all ready. If you’re unsure of what you need and what you don’t need then you may want to check out my earlier post Starting out as a Freelance Illustrator - Part 1.
Have some Self-Belief.
I know that’s corny and probably very un-British of me but this really, really important. If you don’t believe you can do it, you’re going to have a difficult time convincing other people (i.e. clients) that you can do it too.
I hooted with derision when my husband first suggested I set up my own business as we had 3 children of 5 years and under. But I was hard-working, organised and had lots of skills I didn’t want to see going to waste and after a few months I realised that yes, not only could I set up my own business, but that I could also make a success of it too.
For starters you need to remove phrases such as ‘would be illustrator’ from your vocabulary, anything that implies you might not know what you’re doing. Obviously, I’m not suggesting that you should lie but you need to instil confidence in potential clients. Confidence that you are competent and able to fulfil their brief, on time & skilfully. ‘Would be illustrator’ doesn’t really cut the mustard does it ? – It makes me cringe every time I see it in people’s bios. You can have a great portfolio but if you don’t take yourself & your business seriously others probably won’t either.
If you’re promoting yourself as an illustrator then that’s what you are. No one else is going to believe that you are an illustrator if you sound like you’re not sure yourself.
Working freelance/independently whatever you call it means you are running your own business. Even if that business is only 1 person, you. Get used to the idea that you run a business and think like someone who runs a business. I don’t mean wear a 1980’s power suit and start smoking cigars but what I’m trying to say is take it seriously. Don’t go into setting up your own business in a half-cocked way. You need to get business cards printed, register yourself with HMRC (if you’re in the UK) or with whoever your countries tax body is.
Get yourself out there and get some Commissions.
The most obvious first step is to put together a portfolio and get it out there with your name attached to it. You don’t have to include all your work in your portfolio, it’s probably better if you don’t. But what you do need is an accessible – ie easy to use, professional looking & pleasant to look at portfolio which not only shows a consistent body of work of but also your contact details. You can also include a bit of information about yourself, how much is entirely up to you. Personally I like to keep it brief because I don’t think any potential client needs to know my innermost thoughts & feelings, even less my family background but I know there are plenty of people out there who like to share.
On your portfolio site it’s always a good idea to include a few links to other places where your work appears such as Behance, Pinterest, Instagram, other blogs, your shop, published work if you have one etc.
It goes without saying that client testimonials are a valuable asset to your website as it a client list when you eventually build one up. It will all help to not only sell you as a great illustrator, but as someone who is good to work with too.
When you put together your website – either by designing it yourself or using something like Squarespace you need to make your website as easy & intuitive to use as possible. Remember, the purpose of your website is to get your portfolio in front of potential clients as simply as possible. Making those potential clients click on lots of links before they even find your portfolio is not a good idea & trying to stand out by calling your portfolio page link something obtuse like ‘all my lovely things’ instead of ‘Portfolio’ may make a potential client pause just long enough not to click on the link. If you need anymore convincing there’s an excellent book on web design called ‘Don’t make me think’ by Steve Krug.
I know it’s great to be creative, but you really need to make it as easy as possible for people to see your work and commission you.
Website Management Basics
I’m not going to cover how to properly manage your website just now, I’ll leave that for a later date. But a top tip to be going on with would be to remember to name your image files & web pages properly so they can be ‘read’ by Google – eg instead of naming an image showing an illustrated bowl of spaghetti image1.jpeg call it illustrated_bowl_of_spagetti.jpeg then it will have a much better chance of appearing in that Google search that your potential client does for illustrated bowls of spaghetti.
Ditto naming a webpage page1.php isn’t going to result in it appearing in too many web searches either.
Promote Yourself -Now this is where it starts to get tricky.
Obviously your website if it is designed & coded well with all the correct tags, keywords etc will be your first & initially your most important method of self-promotion.
These days there are numerous social media websites - too many to mention I don’t need to list them all but Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest are a good place to start. I’m sure that you’re familiar with many more. Now let me be clear......I consider social media to be a necessary evil. As far as business is concerned there is no other way than social media to get your work out there in front of so many people so quickly.
** Even though I moan about social media I have to admit I use it lots and I’ve had some really fantastic commissions and sales from potential clients seeing my work over social media. **
There will be some types of social media that appeal more than other to you. I suggest you stick with the ones you like for starters and then dip your toes with the others when you feel you want to. My favourites are Twitter & Pinterest and I struggle to get excited about Instagram, largely I suspect because it’s very mobile based and if I’m away from my desk I don’t want to be staring a mini version of my monitor rather than spending time with family & friends. You may love Instagram – lots of people do & it’s a great way to get your work out there.
** Don’t forget to promote your successes on social media (& the successes of others). Recent completed commission, personal work, support for good causes it’s all a good way to get your name & work out there. **
It’s not all about Commissions
In between and alongside commissioned work I like to work on my own designs which I sell retail & wholesale...sometimes I like to take a break from drawing maps. This is a good way of trying out new styles/tools, making money and promoting your work as each completed piece for sale gives you a great opportunity to promote yourself online numerous time. You may even decide to put together a wholesale catalogue to send to retailers, but that really is a post for another day.
Stay away from Freelance/Job bidding Websites
There are probably people out there who will disagree with me about this, but I would strongly recommend staying away from any freelance job site. You know the ones I mean…I’m not going to name names, but the websites that encourage you to bid for work against every Tom, Dick or Harriet. They may seem like a good idea when you're starting out but freelance job websites are very bad news for professional illustrators & creatives in general as:
- they reduce fees to the lowest common denominator worse still they give the impression to potential clients that commission fees are lower than they actually are.
- your level of legal protection is shaky at best. Better to find a client who you can actually speak to and who will accept your own commission contract.
Join the Association of Illustrators
I don’t get a cut from the AOI, honest, but as well as a great place to market yourself I’ve found then to be helpful & supportive and invaluable for advice all sorts of things from agents to pricing and copyright law.
Sort Out your Paper Work
Make sure you have a contract ready to go. It doesn’t have to be a fancy, expensive one penned by a solicitor. The AOI have plenty of sample contracts that you can use.
Take Regular Breaks during the Day
It’s difficult when you’re busy and sometimes even more difficult if you’re not busy as you feel you should be beavering away looking for your next commission. But it’s really important to take regular breaks from your desk. No matter how much you enjoy being creative, it’s not physically or emotionally good for anyone to be sat drawing for hours on end. You'll end up with a bad back, a sore shoulder or worse still, a repetitive strain injury.
Remember to take time off at regular intervals to walk about, go for a walk, make a drink, sit outside and get some fresh air, visit a gallery or park, go shopping. Inspiration can be found anywhere.
That's it my list of how to go about setting up your own freelance creative business. It's my no means exhaustive, but I hope it will at least point you in the right direction and provide a few tips that hadn't crossed your mind before.