What's more important than laying a solid ground work? Not much I'd say. Unfortunately I can't personally go back in time and lay a solid ground work for my own career but I can certainly help other aspiring illustrators and surface pattern designers by using what I've learnt along the way.
If you read my creative journey story in my previous post you heard that I had started my business in 2010 when the catering company I worked for went under. I naively decided to give running my own creative business a shot with out a plan what so ever. I just ran with it! Let it develop as I went and learned a lot from about 50 billion mistakes. (Ummm, not recommended!) I can't say I have any regrets as I truly believe that "failures" and "mistakes" are all learning opportunities and have made me a better business owner and creative person.
But! There is always that itch in my mind wondering how my career would have developed if I had the tools that are available today or had put in a little planning before starting my career. There are so many incredible resources online these days. An array of creative and business courses, memberships, ebooks and supportive Facebook Groups. I would have been all set!
So, I've made it my mission to help other aspiring illustrators and surface pattern designers on their journey's towards full time creative careers. In the over decade that I have been working with my creative business I've had countless experiences and learned from so many hiccups along the way. There are so many things I wish I had done differently at the beginning of my own career and I really don't want anyone to start off as frazzled as I did. As a first step to help other creatives I have created a helpful freebie PDF outlining the 5 building blocks for a sustainable full time career. You can get your copy signing up here!
Here are a couple of things I wish I had done differently:
Done some research. Any type of research. I wish I had looked at other creative people's careers and what they had been doing and considered the different paths I could take. I wish I had emailed a few creative professionals with questions. (I'm sure they would have been very kind and open about answering at least a couple questions. Too bad I was just too shy at this point.) I even wish I would have interned or worked at least a short while at some sort of creative small business or agency to get some insight into how things work and run. At the beginning of my career I felt so crippled by knowing nothing about running a business and felt so insecure about everything I did. "Am I doing this wrong?" "This can't be right" "What do I do now?"
Written out a plan. I didn't go to business school so I wasn't equipped to write a full on business plan but I wish I had sat now and at least mapped out a simple plan. Or set goals for myself. Or had some sort of intention or strategy behind the things I did in my business or not. Instead I just went with the flow and tried new things when I felt like it. I also gave up on projects before giving it a chance, claiming "I'm just not good at marketing or sales or drawing people etc etc."
Learned how to look at my finances. I've always been very frugal and have never had problems paying my bills or taxes but I had no clue how to really read the finances of my business. I wish I had learned how to calculate my profits properly and took the time to look at where my business was bringing in money. I could have then focused more on those things rather than waste my time and money. At one point my Etsy shop was almost loosing me money and I hadn't noticed because I hadn't properly looked at my numbers. Ugh!
Set up a schedule and system for myself and business. When I became my own boss and worked from home doing my own thing all day I had absolutely no structure in the beginning. I thought being a freelancer meant this type of freedom to watch tv while sketching in the middle of the day or read 5,000 blog posts for "inspiration" was working too. Now that I have two small children and have the luxury of maybe 2-3 hours a day to work I cringe at the thought of all the incredible hours and minutes I wasted. I could have been sooooo much more productive. This one really really bothers me.
But then fast forward 10 years and I'm still here working full time. My business looks completely different (thank goodness.) I feel so much more confident and proud of what I have achieved because of my journey. I feel incredibly proud to say that I have worked full time as an illustrator for a decade. I consider that major success! Many people don't get to experience this :) and I never take this freedom to be able to call my hobby my job for granted.
If you are now curious what I think 5 Building Blocks of a Full Time Creative Career are please sign up here...
Thanks so much for reading! I really hope that my resources will help you on your journey to building your creative career.