Thoughts by MIXTURA co-founder and illustrator @hso.art.
Since we set up our design and illustration studio MIXTURA in Dubai last year, there's been a lot of big and small lessons we learnt and are learning from how to create better work to how to speak to clients, stand our ground, work together as business partners (and a couple) and how to reach new audiences. Following our post on tips while on-the-rise by Cesar, this post is a continuation with 5 tips from MIXTURA co-founder and illustrator Hanna Orlowski. By sharing our insights while we are still trying to make it (rather than when we reach a peak), we hope to share as we go and allow some insight into the smaller details that tend to be forgotten once you're all set up.
TIP 1. The more you do the more you get
This sounds super obvious. But many of us (we were one of them) don't expect how much really happens when you just go for it and do as much as you can for one goal. The more time you put in, the longer you stick to it, the more you show what you're doing, the more and the faster people will see you, opportunities will come and unexpected collaborations will pop up. This doesn't have to be major or groundbreaking stuff – recently I spoke to a friend who put up her first few drawings and boom someone wanted to put her illustrations on shirts. The trick is just to keep doing something, stick to it and show it and eventually your seed will grow into a tree.
TIP 2. Presenting your work well can drastically change who hires you and how you much can charge
Again, it sounds kind of obvious but presenting your work well can make all the difference. To get your dream clients and charge more and feel like you're worth the price for your clients, you can: A. Present your work well on your website and Behance through well-chosen mock ups and extending your projects to become all-encompassing branding work rather than 'just' a logo B. Make sure your every interaction with your client is branded. This means sending all your drawings in a presentation (ideally with mock-ups of how they will look on the product in the end), sending a well-designed initial proposal and even sending your invoices on-brand. C. Photograph your work well for Instagram. For better interaction include some humans (even if it's just a hand once in a while), only photograph in the daytime and without harsh shadows and use coloured paper or fun surfaces like concrete or wood for a nice background.
3. Business partners don't have to work on EVERYTHING together
This might have been even harder for us as a married couple but could also apply to business partners who are friends or former colleagues. In the beginning, I thought we can't have a studio together if we're not collaborating on all our projects. Turns out I was SO wrong. With our very different styles, all our design and illustration collaborations in the beginning ended up being so stressful and exhausting – we didn't agree on anything and ended up fighting over every line put on the paper in front of us! Until we realized you can collaborate without working on the same thing. Much like in a company we learnt to delegate, sometimes whole projects and sometimes different aspects of a project. We still brainstorm together, decide what to tell clients together and look at each other's work but most of the time we have separate clients and if we have joint clients, I usually end up taking over hand-drawn aspects while Cesar does the digital parts. Since we realized this, we've been more productive and manage to feed off each other's creativity in a much more positive way!
4. Stay focused on the boring and the fun – prioritize 1 creative and 1 admin thing a day
The curse of every freelance artist is all the admin that comes with it. The content creation, marketing, talking to clients, finances, website updates and sooo much more. During quarantine this year, we finally figured out how to get a handle of things and keep things balanced. We decided to each do one admin and one creative thing a day and instead of choosing ourselves, we told each other what we thought was the most important from our loong list of stuff. Now even our chalk board is split into 'admin' and 'art stuff', giving us something small and annoying and something fun to do each day. Keeping it at one thing a day also finally helped us to actually accomplish what we set out to do and to prioritize.
5. Don't do free shit and if you don't get money get payment in other ways
In the beginning most clients tend to be friends and family. Then friends of friends. Then other small artists and entrepreneurs who have no budget like you. But at some point you have to draw a line and stop accepting work if it's free. Once you say no, you'll be surprised how many people are actually willing to pay for your work (including friends!) and hopefully your bar will keep rising and slowly you'll be able to work less hours for more money and really enjoy your projects. But if you find yourself doing work for someone who can't afford your budget anyway, there are other ways: you can charge smaller clients in installments or find other ways in which they can slowly pay you off. And that shouldn't be 'exposure'! Some ideas include a percentage cut of each product sold with your logo, an amount paid for each visitor that goes to the new site you built, a cut of profits from projects pulled after you re-branded and and and. You can get as creative as you want – as long as you get paid your full amount somehow. (For more info on this check out thefutur on YouTube).
I hope these tips help you out – stay tuned on our blog for more on-the-rise advice and experiences for designers and illustrators opening a studio or art business in Dubai or elsewhere and subscribe to our newsletter for updates!