Shyama Golden

Shyama Golden is a Brooklyn-based graphic designer, artist, and painter who has illustrated for The New York Times, Apple, Wired, Cosmopolitan, The Atlantic, and more. 

We are captivated by her meticulous and vibrant style and could easily get lost within the world she creates. Read on to learn how she honed her craft and find out exactly how she showcases her work to attract her ideal clients. 

Shyama Golden | Freelance Wisdom

Tell me about your path to becoming a freelance graphic designer, artist, and painter.

When I was a kid I wrote questionable HTML and javascript, made bad oil paintings, and did brilliant pixel by pixel drawings in MS paint of ponies and the Spice Girls. I majored in graphic design in college and my first two jobs relied on strict style guides so I would work late into the night on freelance side gigs looking for some creative outlet. After that I freelanced for 3 years, doing a stint as an app designer under a former Disney animator, designing identities and doing some illustration work.
The most life changing decision I made was when I realized I just needed to paint again, and I took a couple months off of client work to do that. Self doubt almost completely took me over, but by organizing a show that would get a ton of foot traffic during SXSW, I shamed myself into getting all the work done and most of it actually sold. The art I did for that show made its way around the internet, and eventually led to me getting a illustration job in San Francisco for a startup called Airtime where I worked for a few years before needing to do my own thing again.
That brings me to today. Over the past couple of years I’ve been working part time doing a little branding work, which allows me to spend the majority of my time doing personal work such as an illustrated book I’m working on (Catsquatch), patterns, portraits, paintings, and freelance illustration. A year ago I bought an iPad pro which has increased my creative output a lot because now I can replicate my oil painting style digitally using the Pencil and the app Procreate.
Shyama Golden | Freelance Wisdom
Shyama Golden | Freelance Wisdom

In the beginning, how did you attract your first good clients?

One of them I met through a family friend, and others have reached out after seeing my work on Twitter, Dribbble, and Instagram. Later many of them found me through other clients. I don’t think there’s any one way I’ve gotten gigs but what really matters is sharing your work online. A couple of my biggest clients have actually come from Google image search and more recently from Instagram tags, so if there’s something to learn there, I guess it’s that you should keep your website up to date and make sure your images are tagged and searchable. People will always ask you to do more of what you’ve already done, so I make sure my personal work is what I want to get hired for next, and that has been a solid strategy to keep my work interesting and varied.

You work in multiple media, which I imagine is a balancing act. Do you have any tips for being your most productive?

I’m a terrible multi-tasker so I’ll just write everything down on paper and try to only look at a list of things to do today so I don’t get overwhelmed. I think it’s good to know your own biggest distraction and address it directly. For some people that’s TV and social media, for me it’s reading the news and getting lost in tangents learning probably-useless facts. I think all of this consumption does add something to your worldview and your shared experience with other people, so I’m not saying you should get rid of it, but I would recommend turning off the noise for a week just to see how it affects your work.
Shyama Golden | Freelance Wisdom
Shyama Golden | Freelance Wisdom

What has been your greatest struggle as a freelancer so far?

I think this relates to the last question, because for me it’s that balance between consumption and creating. 7 years ago I was all output and no consumption (really stuck in my own head) and now I’m more consumption and inspiration and far less output (too much learning and looking at stuff and not enough doing). I think where I want to be on that spectrum is closer to where I used to be, but hopefully now I’ll have more life experience to inform my work.

What is your favorite thing about freelance?

My favorite thing is just getting to set my own schedule and work on the projects I want to. You have the power to say no to a project, or take time off for personal work. You can take a vacation any time of the year. Sometimes you even get a client who is more like a collaborator who pushes your work to a better place. The potential of what could be around the corner is always exciting, once you get to the point where you’re not worried about paying your bills.
Shyama Golden | Freelance Wisdom

How do you continue to attract your ideal clients?

Something I’ve been trying out for the past couple years is curating what I share on my online portfolio. Instead of saying “look at all the million things I’ve ever done! Are you impressed?” now it’s very focused and only shows illustration in one particular cohesive style, because that’s specifically the work I want to attract more of at the moment. It means that I will miss out on some clients who would have liked me to do a typeface, logo, or vector illustration, but it’s helping me build my portfolio in a more specialized direction (painterly illustrations and patterns) that will hopefully help me get more jobs I enjoy in the long run. It doesn’t mean that I have to always work in the same style and mediums, but I’ll slowly evolve it over time.

Do you have any tips for dealing with the nitty-gritty business details? 

I would recommend hiring an accountant at tax time, having separate business and personal bank accounts and credit cards, and keeping track of your invoices. To keep track of my invoices, I number them indicating the year and the invoice number and keep them all in one folder together, rather than in separate folders with their corresponding project files. This stuff may seem obvious, but it took me a long time to get a system down so it might help someone else like me!
Shyama Golden | Freelance Wisdom

What do you do to stay creatively inspired?

I try to have a life. Most of the time I’m a super boring homebody, that’s my natural inclination… but I force myself to go out and talk to people and so far I haven't regretted it. Some of my best ideas have come from conversations with friends. I also go to a lot of galleries and museums, and I use Pinterest to find illustrators and artists I like.

Since you are your own boss, do you have any advice for maintaining a work-life balance?

I’ve always felt like being your own boss isn’t exactly true for freelancing. Maybe it’s more true for personal work. You still need to make the client happy as a freelancer unless you’re a really famous badass. There will still be times when you don’t agree with the client but you need to do the revisions anyway, or the client steers the project into a direction you don’t like. You’re right though, you are your own boss when it comes to deciding when to go to sleep and how much to work. I definitely give myself time to rest. Having at least one pajama day a week where I don’t have to face the world is something I’m grateful for. I used to miss sleep all the time and I just became more and more tired. The older you get, that just isn’t worth it anymore.
I do like to travel and I always see my parents in Houston for a few weeks a year—they are retired now and meditate a lot and they give me perspective when I’m worried about a stupid thing (which is all the time). My mom will always remind me that I should start exercising again… I’m still figuring it out really.
Shyama Golden | Freelance Wisdom
Shyama Golden | Freelance Wisdom

Are there any projects that you're ruminating on that you'd like to make time for someday?

So many! I have a few more halfway realized ideas for illustrated books, I want to get my patterns on some fabrics, and I have an idea for a zoetrope that will require me to learn 3d modeling. I would love to do more collaborations with people in different industries.

The 3 greatest attributes you need to be a freelance creative are:

Passion, determination, and focus (the one I’m still working on).

Get Social with Shyama

W E B S I T E  |  I N S T A G R A M  |  F A C E B O O K  |  T W I T T E R

Lauren Hom

We are fan-girling hard over this week's interview with designer and lettering legend Lauren Hom.

Known for her bright color palettes and playful letterforms, Lauren has created work for clients like Starbucks, Google, AT&T, YouTube and TIME Magazine. Her work has been recognized by Communication Arts, the Art Directors Club, the Type Directors Club, the One Club, and the Webby Awards. Lauren is also the author of the popular blog (and now bookDaily Dishonesty.

We could not be more grateful for the wisdom she shares below, including a brilliant tip about how salsa can solve your productivity woes!

Lauren Hom | Freelance Wisdom

Tell me about your path to becoming a freelance designer and letterer.

Me becoming a hand letterer was a happy accident! I actually went to art school for creative advertising and started my career at an ad agency. I always had an interest in lettering, but it was just a hobby...until it wasn't! Senior year of college, I started a blog called Daily Dishonesty as a fun project to practice lettering, and it ended up going viral, landing me a book deal, and circulating my work around the web. Within about a year, I had enough freelance work to comfortably leave my full-time agency job, and I've been paying the bills with lettering ever since.

In the beginning, how did you attract your first good clients?

I attracted 99% of my first bigger clients through the exposure I got from Daily Dishonesty. My first editorial job was from Los Angeles Magazine. The design director had seen my work on a popular type blog, and he hired me to do some hand lettering for a feature article. Shortly after the piece hit newsstands, I had other magazines lining up for editorial work! That one magazine spread started a chain reaction of luck: within the year, I’d lettered 10 covers and 7 interior spreads for magazines like Time Out New YorkWashingtonian Magazine, and TIME Magazine.
Lauren Hom | Freelance Wisdom

Do you have any tips for being your most productive?

My productivity tips are pretty simple: make realistic to-do lists, focus 100% of your energy on one task at a time, and eat light, healthy meals (big meals tend to make me sleepy haha). When things get really dire and I can't seem to focus or get motivated, my weird secret weapon is to stop what I'm doing, go to the kitchen, and chop vegetables to make salsa. People usually laugh when they hear this, but it's my tried & true method for getting into a more productive mode! I think that productivity compounds, so if I complete a small task like making salsa, it makes me feel good and that feeling carries over into my work day. Oh and also, now I have a delicious bowl of salsa, which makes the day even better.
Lauren Hom | Freelance Wisdom
Lauren Hom | Freelance Wisdom

What is your favorite thing about freelance?

The flexibility! I love being able to have autonomy over when and where I work. I'm definitely a night owl, so I love that I can make my own schedule. If I feel a creative spark at 11pm, I can follow it down the rabbit hole and not worry about having to wake up early the next day.

How do you continue to attract your ideal clients?

The same way I attracted my first big clients: organic exposure through my passion projects! I'm a firm believer that you don't need to wait for a client project to come along in order to do the work. For example: a few years ago, I wanted to get hired to do chalkboard lettering but didn't have any of it in my portfolio, so I came up with this project called Will Letter for Lunch to build up a portfolio and get my name out there. I offered to do "daily special" chalkboards for local restaurants in exchange for the exact menu items I wrote out, and the project got a ton of press and booked me lots of paid chalk work over the next years. I've noticed that the more passion projects I create, the more paid projects I receive.
Lauren Hom | Freelance Wisdom
Lauren Hom | Freelance Wisdom

What do you do to stay creatively inspired?

Haha I feel like I'm going to sound like a broken record, but the answer to this is ALSO my passion projects. The same way a little productivity inspires more productivity in me, a little creativity inspired even more in me. Working on passion projects lets me explore a bunch of different styles, ideas, and mediums, which keeps me creatively inspired. I'm a big believer that every experience in my life contributes to my creative work. I've been just as inspired by sharing a bottle of wine with a girlfriend as taking a trip around the world. 

You've written some great articles on your blog and on Medium regarding freelance work. What inspired you to share this wisdom?

When I was in design school, I used to love reading blog posts from designers like Gail Anderson and Jessica Hische, so I feel like it's my duty to share everything I've learned with the next generation of creatives. I used to feel like I was too young and inexperienced to have anything valuable to teach others, but one day I realized that you don't have to have 20 years of experience under your belt to teach; all you need to know is a little more than someone else. I try to share information that I would've loved to know 5 years ago! As designers (especially female designers), we're all on the same team. No one HAS to share their creative process or business tips, but so many people choose to. Why? Because smart creatives value community over competition. If you've ever benefitted from someone else sharing their wisdom freely, you should do your part and share yours. This quote from Kevin Spacey sums it up really beautifully: "If you're lucky enough to find success, it's your responsibility to send the elevator back down for someone else." 
Lauren Hom | Freelance Wisdom
Lauren Hom | Freelance Wisdom

Do you have any tips for dealing with the nitty-gritty business details? 

I've never been a fan of paperwork, so I actually got an agent to represent me as an illustrator right before I began my full-time freelance career. I noticed that all of my favorite designers had agents, so I thought there must be something to it. Before lettering was my full-time thing, I was managing my freelance work by myself and spending just as much time managing invoices and contracts as I was actually designing things. While I think it's good to have a basic understanding of how your business works, it can be draining to have to do everything yourself. I think it's smart to hire someone who specializes in the areas that you don't. I have an illustration agent, an accountant, and a marketing coach. Trusting them to do what they do best helps me focus on what I do (and love to do) best: make cool shit.
Lauren Hom | Freelance Wisdom
Lauren Hom | Freelance Wisdom

Get Social with Lauren

W E B S I T E  |  I N S T A G R A M  |  T W I T T E R  |  F A C E B O O K

Lorraine Nam

We are so glad to have found our next interviewee through the Creative Lady Directory...without further adieu...introducing Lorraine Nam, a Paper Illustrator, Designer and Prop Artist based in Brooklyn, New York. Her work is whimsical and intricate and will certainly brighten your day. Lorraine is also the co-founder of Illustrated Impact, a platform dedicated to spreading awareness on charities through illustration.

Thank you so much for sharing, Lorraine!

Lorraine Nam | Freelance Wisdom

Tell me about your path to becoming a freelance paper craft illustrator and prop artist.

I have always been interested in paper and while I was in school, I first started playing around with paper as my medium. I interned at a bookbinding studio, made lots of art books by hand, started paper cut illustrations and dabbled with pop-up books. When I started paper cuts, I really fell in love with the immediacy of the technique and devoted myself to it for several years. Then about 3 or 4 years ago, I felt restless with the medium and started working with paper 3-dimensionally in paper craft. I was working out of my apartment and eventually rented a studio space while I was working as a full time textile designer. The separate studio space really changed my approach to work and after 5 years as a textile designer, I finally took the opportunity to work as a freelancer doing what I love!
Lorraine Nam | Freelance Wisdom

In the beginning, how did you attract your first good clients?

I wasn't very good about promoting myself for work in the beginning. I was however posting my self-initiated projects on Instagram and that's how my first clients approached me. In the beginning, most clients found me through social media and some reached out to me after visiting me during Bushwick open studios.

Do you have any tips for being your most productive?

I have found that as hard as I try to be a 9-5er, I work best in the evenings and sometimes really late into the night. It is when I'm my most creative, energetic, and enthusiastic about new ideas. I also feel ready to work when I talk with other creatives or go to see art at museums or openings. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I feel the most un-productive when I look through social media so I try to limit how often I check my feed.
Lorraine Nam | Freelance Wisdom

What has been your greatest struggle as a freelancer so far?

Balancing my time between the fun things like creating and the business side of being a freelancer. As a freelancer, you are selling your time and I'm learning how to manage my time in the best way. Another struggle is to always feel motivated. There are some days where doubt creeps in and it is harder to get started. Since I am typically working by myself, talking with peers to get out of my rut is not always an option. I've learned to push through the doubt and the feeling of being productive will eventually encourage me.

What is your favorite thing about freelance?

Being able to work on awesome projects with cool clients. Every day is a different day and that excites me!
Lorraine Nam | Freelance Wisdom

Can you tell us more about your side venture Illustrated Impact?

Illustrated Impact started off as a conversation between my friends, Susanne Lamb and Laura Korzon on how we could use our talents to help out with charities. We quickly found out that other illustrators felt the same need and from there, it was born! Every month we feature a different theme. May was Family Month and we chose to share stories and interviews from different people on their perspective on families such as balancing being a mother and a business woman, how to overcome loss in a family, or talking about miscarriage.

For Illustrated Impact you work as a member of a founding team. Do you have any advice for handling communication as a partnership?

Communication is super important and luckily I work with my closest friends. We were friends since our days in college! I can't say that our communication is perfect and we are constantly looking for ways to improve. We have bi-weekly and sometimes weekly conference calls where we start off catching up on each others lives and then talk about who is tackling what for Illustrated Impact. Since this is a non-profit project, we trade off on who is the "leader" for the month so no one person is left with the bulk of the work all the time. We also share a google document that lays out the plan for the month and like other friend groups, we have an ongoing group chat where topics vary from work related stuff to cats :)
Lorraine Nam | Freelance Wisdom
Lorraine Nam | Freelance Wisdom

Since you are your own boss and juggling more than one venture, do you have any advice for maintaining a work-life balance?

I'm not so sure that a work-life balance exists or at least in the sense that it's been traditionally defined. For me, I can't picture a life where my creative work is separate. My boyfriend is a painter where we share a studio so work is always a topic in our conversations. I try to do the basic things like listen to my body when it's tired or hungry and make sure in between projects, I take a day off for myself to walk around and enjoy New York.

The 3 greatest attributes you need to be a freelance creative are:

Passion, business sense, persistence. A good peer group who supports you doesn't hurt either!
Lorraine Nam | Freelance Wisdom
Lorraine Nam | Freelance Wisdom

Get Social with Lorraine

W E B S I T E  |  I N S T A G R A M  |  T W I T T E R