2020. What. A. Year.
Pandemic, lockdowns, home learning, Black Lives Matter, the orange clown-baby president of hatred, so many face palm moments, political and social unrest. Slowing down, adapting, pivoting and so much change.
I know so many friends that reassessed their lives this year and made risky changes to increase their happiness and prioritize what was really important. Guess I did it two and a half years early! (Side note: Have you seen Pixar’s Soul? SO GOOD! If you remember the scene where the investment banker “wakes up” from his desk job and trashes the place - yeah that was pretty much me in my office job 2 years ago. BLOW! IT! UP! LIFE IS TOO SHORT TO BE UNHAPPY! 😂)
Ahem.. anyway back to my year in review..
Despite the pandemic I actually had a really good year professionally. I found my work started snowballing. All the effort I had been putting into building my portfolio up finally came to fruition this year. Clients started finding me on the internet and reaching out at random! It lead to a heap of new work and happy returning clients.
HIGHLIGHTS - WHAT WAS GREAT
• When the lockdown hit in March I was approached by Skillshare and offered a personal coach to help me make my first course. With work dried up I jumped at the opportunity and spent a month planning and filming “Watercolor Pet Portraits: Likeness, Composition and Costuming” It went live in May and completed one of my goals from last year - to make an online course! Check!
• I caught the attention of Adobe and they approached me to be on two livestream spots for Adobe Live. I got paid to paint a Pulp Fiction cat parody piece while chatting with the host VooDoo Val. Plus I got to add Adobe to my client list!
• My goal for 2020 was to make the same amount as I made at my office job. And… drumroll please… I made just shy of that! The power of the internet is amazing. The fact that I can make a solid living doing what I LOVE while still working at home, be my own boss and make time for family still blows my mind.
• Had my first 10K billing month! 😲😲😲🤯🤯🤯 Although that’s pretty damn impressive on paper, it all evens out and made up for months that were low in income.
• I parted ways with clients that no longer served the direction I wanted to take my business in, or didn’t value me. Less graphic design, more illustration.
• Realized how busy freelance can get, that I’m only one person and how wasting time with underpaid work isn’t worth it for me anymore. Set my own personal minimum rate for client projects. I’ve got 18 years professional creative experience, a fantastic client list and I should be valued for everything that I bring to the table. I am a lot easier to work with than a newbie since I know how to navigate the industry, have been on both sides as freelancer and hiring party and have a library of varied skills.
• Spray painted for the first time and loved it. A huge goldfish mural on two garage doors. I want to keep building my spray skills because it’s fun, physical, gets me off the computer, and it’s something new and challenging for me. I get really obsessed with conquering new skills that I enjoy - must be the Aries in me.
• Spray painted a four concrete slab barrier mural with Start - Street Art Toronto. It got installed along the Scarlett Road Cycle Track.
• Did my first out-of-town mural in Prince Edward County. It was an abstract feature wall for a new cafe called Hello Bonjour run by wonderful people Amanda and Nyden.
• Took on a HUGE kids book/brand project with so much potential. I’ve been working with a fantastic team of people to build it. It will be about a year of work on my end once we finally release it into the world next Spring. Can’t wait!
• Worked on Taco Bell Friendsgiving 2020 with Experiential Agency Cyrano Rox. I got to meld my lettering and illustration skills together and help them create a hand lettered logo, 3 full recipe card illustrations, 12 spot illustrations and a fridge gif invite. These were part of a food kit package sent out to their social team. My illustrations helped tie the whole package together and give it an autumn look, textured, homey modern-retro feel.
• Created an illustrated puzzle holiday gift for Genesys Capital that was really well received by their clients. “We totally love it and may make it an annual thing as we add new companies to our portfolio. We’ve had more thank you notes and comments on this gift than any other! Thank you Alana!” - Jen Williams, Director of Finance and Operations at Genesys Capital
• Learned to not let missed opportunities get to me. I pitched for a couple large jobs and didn’t get them, but I moved on and kept my mind on the work that I did have instead of brooding over the loss. It’s wasted energy to get upset over something you have no power to change.
• Still managed to enjoy my favorite season - Summer! Lots of local travel, pandemic-bubbling with another family, social distancing, beaches, camping, biking, swimming and seeing friends outdoors. Discovered you can still have fun during a pandemic, as long as you do it safely.
• I found that making self-promotion a daily priority really helped my business. Every day I spend the morning promoting on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, blogging, posting to portfolio sites and just getting the word out. I’d love to figure out new, untapped sources of self-promotion. Maybe experiment with Tik Tok or reaching out to design magazines?
LOWS - NOT SO HOT
• I had plans to increase my travel for Geeky Pet. To add more conventions to my schedule. Didn’t happen. I planned on taking the whole family to the Calgary Comic Con and show my kids the magnificent mountains of Banff - but all those plans got blown to bits. Spent $300 shipping a box of prints to Dallas and then back home that now sits unopened in my hallway. I have a whack of travel credit I have to keep track of. Online sales didn’t cover what I make attending comic cons but financially the year still turned out well.
• Having the kids at home really slowed down my work progress during the first lockdown. As much as I loved having them around I was wracked with mom-guilt if I just let them play video games all day and didn’t entertain them. I also had to acclimate to their online learning, and whether I had to be their teacher or if they could do things on their own. It was an uphill battle. Especially when my youngest chose to cry for 20 minutes instead of finishing an assignment that would have taken him two minutes. Eventually we figured out a routine of me working in the morning, them on screens, having fun with them in the afternoon (COVID swimming is the best! So much room to float) and then doing a bit more work in the evening.
• Really missing seeing my friends and family on a regular. Although zoom calls and distanced drop-ins happened, it’s still nothing compared to parties, random drop-ins and bbqs of the past. My Mom has been having a lot of health issues this year and I wish I could hug her safely.
GOALS - NEW for 2021 and 2020’s PAST
Here’s a look at my goals from last year.
My goals haven’t changed too much this year and still focus on things that grow my business.
• I’ve noticed certain ones like more passive income keep coming up again and again. This year I plan on starting to pay to scratch some things off my list. Hiring and outsourcing time-eating tasks that keep falling on the back burner. Like those passive income dropship items I keep saying I want to add to my shop year after year. They say you have to spend money to make money and now that I have some to spend I’d like to invest it back into my business to build it faster. If you think about it, it’s also cheaper for me to hire a junior designer at a lower rate, than to eat up my own higher priced money making hours.
• I’ve got ideas for a new Skillshare course and need to schedule the time to plan it out and make it.
• I’m still finding sending out a regular newsletter really daunting. I want to push past that this year and stop overthinking it. I really can’t pin down what scares me so much about it. I guess I feel like there’s such a big importance on having a list and sending tactical emails out to get results I just balk under the pressure and don’t even try to figure it out. Even if I commit to once a month, that’s only 12 issues. Come on Alana, you can do this!
• I didn’t put exercise on this year’s goals. But I really do have to get back into a routine of exercise videos, biking around, swimming and walking. I’m pretty good but can easily get too busy and end up on screens too long.
• I want to build a licensing portfolio and plan on taking some Skillshare courses on what to include in it and how to reach out to clients for it.
• I’m frustrated that I can’t control spray paint the way I picture it in my head. This comes with practice of the medium that’s new to me. It’s scary to practice since I feel like I’m wasting expensive paint when just messing around, so I plan on getting some new mural work and growing those skills. Line control is a major goal for me.
• I scratched voice acting off my goals from last year. I watched a Skillshare course on it, and realized it’s a whole new career path that includes knowing how to act etc. So I’ll just stick with focusing on my illustration career and enjoy reading to my kids in varied voices 😆
• Last year I joined HireIllo and Illustrators for Hire. I think they’ve both increased my SEO but I don’t think I’ve gained any direct work from them. I feel that Hireillo has too many artists and it’s easy to get lost in the crowd. I only got one inquiry from it for an underpaid kids book project. I’m not entirely sure I fit in on Illustrators for Hire since they’re much more stylistic and licensing focused. Maybe I’ll join up again when I have a licensing portfolio. It was a good experiment, but I’ve decided to stop paying for them and focus plastering my work all over the free creative sites like Dribbble, Behance, Creatively, Reedsy and the like.
• I want to strategically start reaching out to advertising and design agencies. I want to build up my art director list and send out regular reminder emails to them.
• I’d love to offload some of my original acrylic paintings that are sitting in a bin in my basement. I may start posting these in my stories as flash sale items. I’d also love to go through my old work and upload the ones that I still own the rights to stock sites. More passive income!
I’m definitely leaving 2020 with an optimistic attitude. I feel really secure and confident in my business and where I want to take it. I love that I feel so clear and on track with what I want to build. Now let’s just hope and pray that 2021 kicks 2020’s butt! It’s definitely not a high bar to reach.
Thanks for reading and all the best for the New Year!
xoxo - Alana