First up for my new monthly feature is the lovely Harriet Gray who creates beautiful illustrated items. I thought i would ask her a few questions about her lovely business and if she has any tips for you budding entrepreneurs here is what Harriet had to say about being a business owner, illustrator and creative.
What is the name of your company?
My company’s name is my name … Harriet Gray
What do you create?
I am a freelance illustrator, so I am commissioned to created drawings for all kind of uses from commercial to personal; for example, editorial illustrations, album artwork, drawings for use on clothing, blog banners, pet portraits … the list goes on!
I am also a designer maker, and create a range of handmade and limited edition items, including homeware, accessories, prints and stationery, all of which are adorned with my illustrations. I sell my wares in my etsy shop, and also some small boutiques across the UK and Europe.
What does being a business owner mean to you?
I can’t remember a time in my life where I haven’t been doing something creative/art based, but I don’t think it ever occurred to me that it would be my full time job one day. I feel so incredibly lucky that we have these kind of opportunities available to us, and I can honestly say that I’ve never been as happy as I am right now! Working for myself means I am in control. I love the independence it gives me, and the satisfaction I get from knowing I’ve put in the hard work to get here. I really couldn’t see myself working in a job I hated for the rest of my life.
Other people may not think I have a very good work/life balance; (I’m pretty much unable to switch off from my work) But to me it’s perfect. I love that inspiration can strike at any moment!
5 tips you would give to a new business / creative wanting to start up their business?
Believe in yourself! Being your own boss takes a lot of motivation and determination. If you don’t believe in your product noone else will.
I think it’s really important to build an identity/brand around your business and have work that is recognisable as your own; so be original and try and focus on a small area at first.
Get your work seen! … start blogging and join twitter, send your work out to publications and shops! It’s no good creating a masterpiece if it’s going to stay hidden away.
Keep your accounts in order from day one! It may seem like a bit of a faff, and you may be under the impression that as a new business it’s not something you need to worry about (you’re wrong!) It’s good practice to keep a note of all your ingoings and outgoings as they happen, and really saves a headache later on!
Most importantly you have to be realistic; you can’t expect to make millions over night, it takes time to build up a good client list, so don’t be too hard on yourself. If you put in the hard work and believe in yourself, it will all be worth it in the end.
What are your hopes and dreams?
I’m currently living with my boyfriend at my parent’s house; we moved here two years ago after uni in order to help us save up a bit of money (thanks mum and dad for putting up with us for so long!) … so at the moment what I’m most looking forward to is having a place we can call our own. We’re moving in September, and I really can’t wait!
Work-wise, I love drawing, so if I can continue to do that ‘til I’m old and grey that would be truly wonderful. I’d also love to have my own real life shop with a studio in the back – the dream is to have the two separated with a glass wall, I imagine we’d build it from scratch and appear on grand designs. It will be filled with beautiful handmade items and artwork.
Is there anything that you have struggled with and overcome?
Money and time!
When starting out, after leaving uni I found it quite difficult to manage my time between working my full time day jobs and fitting in time for illustration. It really was just a matter of perseverance which allowed me to overcome this. I found it helped to set myself deadlines to work to, so I decided to start producing work for submission based projects, online mags and zines etc. The structured deadlines and briefs allowed me to practice for ‘real life’ illustration jobs, whilst also giving my work some exposure. During which, I diligently saved money from my full time jobs, to go towards getting promo cards printed, and buying stock for my shop!
I also attended a four day course held by the prince’s trust, which gave invaluable help and advice towards setting up your own business.
Once you got past the cheesy team building activities, there was a lot of sound advice on aspects like accounts, budgeting and looking to into what grants might be available to you … Things which may not be at the forefront of your mind as a creative.
Something else I feel I’ve overcome is my shyness towards sharing my work. The internet has been a godsend for this! Being able to share my work online, through blogging and using Twitter has allowed me to meet so many wonderful and like-minded people. It’s even bought about opportunities to exhibit and sell my work. Oh, and if you happen to be having a moment of self doubt, you just have to mention it on twitter and you start to realise you’re not alone, and that in fact, you’re probably just being a bit silly. I really can’t sing it’s praises enough!
The amazingly supportive online response I’ve had has given me the confidence to develop my work into a style I’m proud of and make a career out of something I love.
Where can we find your work?
tweets : @harrietgray
I just wanted to say a massive thank you for harriet, isn’t she sucha cutie?!