Saying No

I received a phone call last week requesting a logo design. I’m usually excited about new projects, however this person expected the logo by Monday. They phoned me on Friday morning. I politely told them: no, it wasn’t possible for me to design a logo in two days. I usually need two to three weeks for logo design.

In the past I would have jumped at the opportunity for a new project, and would have bent over backwards to produce a logo on that ridiculous deadline. I have learned that clients who do not respect what you do, and do not respect the time it takes, are not worth it, financially or emotionally.

I have learned to say no to projects, and to let projects go. There is plenty of work to go around. I have learned to set boundaries for my own sanity. I only decide to take on projects that meet my criteria:

Respectable budget

Do-able timeline/deadline

I am excited about the work

It’s pretty easy for me to get excited about projects, because anytime I can get paid to be creative is awesome. So the more important questions for me are:

Does the client have a decent budget?

            Am I able to meet the deadline?

Sometimes I let the budget criteria slide a bit, because maybe it’s an awesome client or project that I can support, and I can get a really cool portfolio piece out of it. And, let’s be honest, sometimes any extra money I can get my hands on is good.





I recently bought a mug with “Hustle/Align” on it. “Hustle” is crossed out, and “Align” is underneath. This got me thinking about “hustle”; it is a popular term that implies always working hard and marketing yourself. Working on weekends and evenings, on top of your full time job. Doing this constantly can negatively affect your health; you will burn out. I think hustle is necessary, but only if done in balance with self care. Limiting which days and times you hustle is a good thing. For example, I limit my hustle time to two days a week, because I also work full time. I make sure to take at least one day off a week, as well as evenings off.

“Align” is also important. When marketing yourself, don’t market to everyone and think you can do any type of job. For example, when launching my business, I did graphic design as well as illustration. Recently I have cut out graphic design jobs (I only take them on if they come to me, and I am interested in the job). I focus my marketing efforts on illustration, as that is where I want to focus my work. Specifically, I focus on editorial illustration. I am aligning my work with my interests and skill set. This helps me feel fulfilled with my freelance work, and I enjoy doing more work outside of my full time job. Eventually I want to scale my full time job back to part time, and do illustration full time, but that is a long way away yet.

Thanks for reading!

Self-promo Mailer Spring 2019

I recently put together another self-promotional mailer to send to magazines and newspapers. I decided to make a pin/button this time, for my special add-in. I ordered it from Awesome Merchandise, and was really happy with how it turned out.


This is what I put in my mailer: postcard, Tarot card, business card and a pin. I did a bicycle/cyclist theme this time. I thought bicycles would go well for a spring theme.

I learned that sending buttons in the mail counts as an oversize mail, so the postage was more than I was expecting. Mental note for next time, maybe stick to flat items. I plan on doing two mailers this year, along with two e-mail blasts for my illustration marketing.

Winding Career Path of an Illustrator

Watched a YouTube video by Kendyll Hillegas about the career path of an illustrator. In it she talks about the different phases one goes through with types of clients. Your first clients will be friends and family, then will be local businesses, and then move up to international or big clients. There were other phases in-between these. She also mentions it might not be a linear path; not 1-2-3. One might skip a step or go through the phases out of order. My path was out of order and looks like this:

  1. Friends & family
  2. Local non-profit magazines (non-paying)
  3. International magazine (The Progressive – USA)
  4. National magazines – Broken Pencil, Monitor (Canadian)

Kendyll also mentions it is likely you will need a day job when you are beginning your career. Make sure it is a job that doesn’t suck your energy, as you need energy to be creative. Your job can be full time or part time, but you must be able to have the energy to work on projects in your off-time. This is one of the reasons I like my job at the art store – it is not energy-sucking and I can leave work at work. It is not too mentally or emotionally taxing.

I also like that I have the option of working four days a week, so I can devote more time to my illustration business. I work at my J-O-B four days a week, work at my business two days a week, and take one day off. Of course if I have a client project, I work in the evenings of my J-O-B days if I need to. Depending on the client deadline, I can usually fit the majority of client work into my two days delegated to business. I may do e-mailing or admin work in the evenings – stuff that is easier on the brain after a full day of J-O-B work. At this point in my illustration career, I don’t have a lot of regular freelance work, so this schedule works for me. I’m expecting as I get more work, I will have to scale back the J-O-B, or do more juggling.

Day in the Life


Tuesday January 8th

6:30 am Wake up and get ready. Why do I wake up so early on my day off?

7 am Write blog post

8 am Go to Max’s for coffee and cinnamon bun

8:15 am Admin work

9:00 Laundry

11:00 Go to Small Victory on Granville street. Get a breakfast sandwich and latte. Good food but no WiFi

12:15 Work on some ideas for postcard mailer, do some sketching.

1:00 Wander around Chapters

2:00 Go to Trees Organic Coffee in search of WiFi and write blog post

2:50 Head home and browse in shops on the way

4:30 Arrive home & do more admin stuff

5:00 Post blog post, and shortly after this will call it a day.

I don’t always work a whole lot on my freelance days; I think this day totals about half a day of actual work. I tend to work in short bursts with lots of breaks in-between, but this works for me.

Entrepreneurship & Drawing

Entrepreneurship and owning your own business is a lot like drawing and making art. It is constant trial and error. You are always evaluating and correcting your course or path.

When you draw, you make a mark, or shape, or series of marks on the page. Then you look at what you are trying to draw. You look back at your drawing and go, “Hmmm, this line or shape doesn’t look quite right.” So you erase the line and make another, improved mark. You repeat this process again and again, constantly correcting, until you feel the drawing is finished. By nature of the process, the artist is constantly adjusting and changing course.

The same is true in business. You try one marketing strategy. It doesn’t work as well as you had hoped. So you try something else. Your new strategy sort of works, so you adjust, and try to improve your strategy. You repeat this process again and again, constantly trying to improve your product or income.

I thought about this after making my goals for 2019. I evaluated my marketing from 2018, and tried to improve or change it. My physical mailer worked, so I am increasing the frequency this year. My Etsy shop is sort of working, but could be a lot better. So I am trying a physical space this year.

Evaluate and adjust.

2018 Review and Goals for 2019

December was a planning month for my business. I did an evaluation of 2018, what worked, what didn’t work. I split my business into three parts: Illustration, Gallery Work, and Products/Etsy Shop.

Illustration – Postcard mailer was successful. Got two repeat clients out of it. Financially was so-so, I broke even on my marketing costs. For 2019 I plan to increase my mailer frequency to at least twice a year for editorial clients. I also plan to send a mailer to book publishers in 2019.

I also did an evaluation of my marketing costs. I added up the numbers, and one postcard mailer costs roughly $300. This cost could be lower depending on what items I get printed. The coasters I made were the most expensive to print.

Marketing plan for Illustration – I plan to send out a postcard mailer in the first quarter and third quarter. I also plan to research book publishers, and develop a mailing list that I can mail a promo postcard to.

Gallery Work – My group show at Dundarave was well attended. Didn’t make any sales from the November show, but I did have sales from the gallery in the summer and fall. Overall, Dundarave has been good for me both developing as a printmaker, and selling my art.

There are three all member group shows at Dundarave in 2019. I also would like to work towards a solo show proposal for 2020. There is a printmaking residency in Milan, Italy that I plan to apply for. It is a month long residency, and they pay for your rent and also give you spending money for travel, food etc. I also plan on keeping an eye out for the Vancouver Art Gallery Art Rental program application.

Products/Etsy Shop – I have had lots of positive feedback for my blog, so that is encouraging, that people read it and enjoy it. I have had sales from sending product announcements via e-mail. So e-mail marketing for my shop has been successful. Also the notebook I designed was pretty popular, so I will definitely make more notebooks.

Pacific Market is a new Vancouver based artist shop that just opened in December. You can rent space for four weeks at a time. It’s in a good location (Broadway and Granville area) and priced reasonably. I plan to apply for space in the second quarter, and give it a go for four weeks. In 2019 I also plan to research licensing your artwork, as a way to earn passive income.

I also need to upgrade my computer and software in 2019, so that will be a big expense. I am planning to buy a MacBook Pro, this way my computer will be more portable, and I can do more work in coffee shops, which I really enjoy. My Photoshop is WAY out of date, and keeps crashing on me. So I worked backwards – to update Photoshop I need a new operating system. To update to a new operating system, my hardware is too old. So, new computer it is! My computer is pretty old anyway (8-ish years). Plus I think it would be nice to have a laptop, and be able to do more of my work in coffee shops.

So that’s what I have in the works for 2019! What are your goals for 2019?