Alex Bowman

This week we are excited to chat with Alex Bowman, a California native, illustrator, designer, production artist, and cat lover living in Berkeley, CA. We love Alex's ability to infuse her freelance projects with her unique, dynamic, and soulful style. And we just can't get enough of her blues and pinks!

Thank you Alex for sharing your freelance wisdom.

Alex Bowman | Freelance Wisdom

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

I've been illustrating and designing for people for as long as I can remember. When I graduated college, and moved from Chicago to the Bay Area, I didn't know many people. I got a job as a print production artist in SF and my boss and I became good friends. She drove me home from work one day and as we were driving over the bay bridge, I asked her for advice on getting freelance work. I'll never forget; she said, "honestly, for the lack of a better word...whore yourself out." So, I did. I offered my art and design to new friends I made and people I met around town, asking for little to no money in return. I didn't do this for just anyone, I worked with people I believed in. My good buddies are in an awesome surf punk band called Babewatch, (check them out πŸ˜‰). I've made tons of posters, album covers, t-shirt and pin designs for them over the last few years. They traded me beer and free tickets to their shows for the work, which is wonderful because I really believe in them and respect them as artists. 

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

Well, I continued meeting people in the music scene, bands would ask me for posters or cover art and all the sudden...young people who owned small businesses were starting to hit me up for work. They had seen my illustrated posters on the internet or went to a music show and saw my album art at the merch table. I didn't just gain clients, I gained confidence as a freelancer. On that note, I've never been very bold or visible on the internet; I didn't like the idea of promoting myself on social media (I'm more of a "moody painter" personality type than self-advertiser.) But I realized I had to get over that if I wanted people to see what I can do. I posted a lot on social media and was pleasantly surprised when I started to attract exciting clients inside and outside of the Bay Area.
Alex Bowman | Freelance Wisdom

"I didn't just gain clients, I gained confidence as a freelancer."


Alex Bowman | Freelance Wisdom

Do you have any tips for being your most productive?

Buy a chalkboard for your wall to write your to-do lists and to better manage your time. As a visual person, I’m more productive when there's a large glaring reminder of my busy schedule, advising me not to procrastinate. And because I still have a full-time job in print production, it's easy to feel lazy and uninspired when I get home from a long day at the office. I find that if I exercise for just 30 minutes, my mind clears, my mood improves and I generally have more energy. When I'm working, especially on a tight deadline, I usually keep my phone in the other room and try not to pay too much attention to my cat. He can be very cute and distracting! A late afternoon coffee doesn't hurt either. 

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

Balancing my 9-5 gig with my freelance work and still having time for personal projects. It's easy to feel overwhelmed, and I've had to sacrifice a lot of my social life. As a young woman in the modern age, staying busy and focusing on my goals is challenging, but the fact that I am advancing my career and making money doing what I absolutely love to do is extremely satisfying.

What is your favorite thing about freelance?

In my own art practice, my work is very personal. In my freelance work, I'm taking someone else's personal story or idea and completing it with my own. I love the variety of thoughts that come together to finish a project. Most of my freelance is work that I would have never done on my own...so it's really cool to step outside of my own thoughts and work with someone else's vision. 
Alex Bowman | Freelance Wisdom

"In my freelance work, I'm taking someone else's personal story or idea and completing it with my own. I love the variety of thoughts that come together to finish a project. Most of my freelance is work that I would have never done on my own...so it's really cool to step outside of my own thoughts and work with someone else's vision." 


Alex Bowman | Freelance Wisdom

How do you continue to attract your ideal clients?

By setting aside time to pursue my personal art practice. As I continue to grow as an artist, my concepts become more in depth and telling of who I am as a person. And with many works, my technical skill advances and so does my vision and "design eye." If clients look at my portfolio, I want them to see what I produce when under my own direction. It's important for clients to know that before being a freelancer, I'm an artist and will always strive to keep things fresh, think outside the box, and challenge myself. 

Your portfolio is wonderfully cohesive. You are able to adapt your style to many different assignments. Do you have advice about how to choose which projects to take on?

Choose projects that you can identify with and work with people and values you can relate to. Starting out, it's easy to get excited and take every job that comes to you...if you take a gig just for the money or promotion, your work will lack soul, and you just can't fake that. 
Alex Bowman | Freelance Wisdom

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

I'm super lucky to have my mom to call when I'm stuck. She was a freelance designer and illustrator at my age so she is incredibly helpful and understanding. (Love you mom!) Her advice is to keep a file folder, print, track, and save everything. Don't make business deals over the phone, you want to leave a paper trail. When it comes to invoices, I use a free website...there's also a lot of helpful information on the internet to assist freelancers with business transactions like this. 

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

Reward yourself when you complete a project or get paid. Plan a weekend getaway with a friend, treat yourself to a massage or have a glass of wine and take a bath. Work-life balance is all about mental health and self-care. If you don't find time for yourself, making work that you are proud of will be nearly impossible. It's cheesy, but loving yourself should be number one priority. 
Alex Bowman | Freelance Wisdom
Alex Bowman | Freelance Wisdom
Alex Bowman | Freelance Wisdom

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

Confidence, creativity, tenacity.

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Jessica Bruggink

Jess Bruggink is an artist and designer residing in Minneapolis. She is currently self-employed as a freelance designer with a focus on surface and pattern design. She has 6 years experience as a stationery and product designer at Mara-Mi. Her designs can be found in Mara-Mi, Russell + Hazel, Target, TJ Maxx, Papersource, Indigo, Patina, and boutique stores across the country. AND she is a member of our Creative Lady Directory

Thank you Jess for sharing your wisdom!

Jess Bruggink | Freelance Wisdom

Tell me about your path to becoming a freelance designer.

I've always known that I wanted to pursue freelancing at some point. I dreamed of having a flexible schedule, setting my own hours, and working with clients directly. I also loved the thought of having more time at home while still pursuing a career that I'm passionate about.
After my daughter was born, it felt natural to pause and have some time at home with her. I left my full time job and used any free time I had to work on putting my website together and building a catalog of new pattern work. I also took this time to get organized (at least more so than I had been!).
Then after a few months, I started pursuing design and illustration opportunities and working at my studio a couple days a week.
Jessica Bruggink | Freelance Wisdom

You worked at Mara Mi for 6 years. How did your time at Mara Mi prepare you to take on freelance work?

I started working at Mara Mi when I was pretty young and still learning a lot about myself as a designer. Working there, I learned how much I loved to paint and hand letter. It's hard to believe, but I used to be scared to pick up a paint brush. Now that's usually my first step!
I worked with many talented women, all with different styles and perspectives. It was an excellent place to develop a range of skills because I touched so many different types of products and projects.

How do you continue to attract your ideal clients?

Work has come from a relatively equal balance of social media and word-of-mouth referrals. Instagram and Dribbble have proven to be great ways to attract clients that are looking for my skill set and my style. I use these platforms to reintroduce past client work and present new personal work. I'm nearing the end of a 100 Day series of patterns. That series has been a really fun challenge that will not only broaden my catalog of work but also draw in new clients.
However, as beneficial as social media has been, I've probably had more success making real life connections. It's been extremely helpful to meet with people in the industry and pass my work along. These meeting don’t always lead to an immediate project but keep me top-of-mind when something does come up.
Jessica Bruggink | Freelance Wisdom
Jessica Bruggink | Freelance Wisdom
Jessica Bruggink | Freelance Wisdom

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

My biggest struggle has been the social side of freelance: both networking and communicating with clients. Naturally a shy person, the thought of directly reaching out to potential clients and clearly articulating my work made me a bit nervous.
However, it's definitely been a good challenge for me. I learned that I actually enjoy presenting my work to clients, especially on a one-to-one level. Networking in the industry has also been more enjoyable and less awkward than I initially thought. It's been incredibly helpful and inspiring to meet so many talented people with similar career goals. The Creative Lady Directory has been amazing for this!

What is your favorite thing about freelance?

What I love most about freelancing is that every day can look so different but I can set the tone. I can work from different locations, meet someone for coffee or spend the whole day painting. There is plenty of variety but I get to set my schedule and manage my own work load. I can work late on a project one day and the next day I can take a few hours off to get inspired or run errands. I like being in control of my day and I that I can switch it up so things feel fresh.
Jessica Bruggink | Freelance Wisdom

How do you stay creatively inspired?

If I'm in a creative rut, it's usually helpful to go somewhere that may not seem directly related to art and design. Then I view my surroundings through a creative lens. For example, I love visiting our nearby botanical conservatory. I'll take photos of leaf shapes and flower colors and leave incredibly inspired to make new patterns with new palettes.
My husband, Ross, is also a designer. I love that we can bounce ideas off of each other and share what's inspiring to us at the time. Our aesthetics are pretty different so it's enlightening to see how we both interpret shared inspiration in different ways.

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

I'd love to say that I have this figured out but I certainly don't! I've never liked categorizing my life into "work" and β€œhome”. There is a great deal of overlap between the two. It's helpful for me, however, to have a couple days of the week to fully dedicate to work. When I'm home, I always make an effort to be fully present with my daughter and use her nap times to check and write emails, make mood boards or scan new art. I'll usually make a to do list each day, but acknowledge that very little of it may get done when I'm home with her. I'm really thankful that she'll grow up seeing me working in a career that I enjoy so much.
Jessica Bruggink | Freelance Wisdom

"I'm really thankful that she'll grow up seeing me working in a career that I enjoy so much."


Jessica Bruggink | Freelance Wisdom

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

passion, discipline, and patience
Jessica Bruggink | Freelance Wisdom
Jessica Bruggink | Freelance Wisdom

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Luisa Castellanos

This week we are excited to bring you another international interview, this time from Colombia! Luisa Castellanos is a fashion illustrator, textile designer, and self proclaimed lover of pink. Her work is vibrant, expressive, and powerfully feminine. 

Luisa Castellanos | Freelance Wisdom

Tell me about your path to becoming a freelance fashion illustrator and textile designer.

I decided to become into a fashion illustrator and textile designer three years ago when I was finishing my career as a fashion designer. Illustration was the only attractive part of design school to me; I fell in love and that was the beginning of everything. Then I turned my illustrations into textiles for my semester final project. Since then I’ve practiced a lot. I created Behance and Tumblr profiles and contacted people to see my work.

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

I started attracting my first clients via Instagram and Behance pages. I posted daily illustrations and prints with tons of hashtags and I did a lot of research and sent emails to fashion magazines and blogs. I think good clients started to come because I take this work seriously. In time, companies and brands started to contact me.
Nora Lozza print.jpg

Do you have any tips for being your most productive?

When I am working I try to keep my cellphone away and try to be as comfy as possible. I also like to listen Tedx talks, interviews, and historians on YouTube (My fav is Diana Uribe), or relaxing music on Spotify.

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

I think the biggest struggle was believing in my work enough to stop working for free.
Luisa Castellanos | Freelance Wisdom
Luisa Castellanos | Freelance Wisdom
Luisa Castellanos | Freelance Wisdom

What is your favorite thing about freelance?

The best thing about being freelance is that I can work in my pajamas and eat on my desk, hahaha.

You are currently based in Colombia, do you find that most of your clients come from within Colombia or internationally? If internationally, how do these clients find you?

Yes, I am from Colombia and I'm based here :) The majority of my clients are from Colombia, but I've had the opportunity to work with people from all over the world. They contact me via Instagram; it's amazing how a few hashtags can connect you with so many people.
Luisa Castellanos | Freelance Wisdom

How do you continue to attract your ideal clients?

I keep posting my work on Instagram (don't forget the hashtags), Facebook, Behance and Tumblr. I also send e-mails to fashion and art magazines sharing my portfolio. But I think the best way to attract ideal clients is word of mouth. If you did great work and you had a good relationship with your client, that will help you to attract new ones.

What do you do to stay creatively inspired?

Runways and trend reports always keep me inspired. I also get inspired by nature in my country (Colombia is the second leader in bird diversity in the world) and of course, women around me keep me inspired everyday.
Luisa Castellanos | Freelance Wisdom

"Runways and trend reports always keep me inspired...and of course, women around me keep me inspired everyday."


Luisa Castellanos | Freelance Wisdom

If you could design for anyone who would it be?

Vivetta, Lazy Oaf, Antonio Marras, Miu Miu, Msgm, Polite.

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

+Be disciplined, constant, and passionate.
+Make a schedule to keep your deadlines organized.
+Establishing good relationships with your clients will define your future ones.
+Support freelance artists, buy national products and don't underestimate your work.

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

Discipline, passion, persistence.
Luisa Castellanos | Freelance Wisdom

Photography Credits: Hero photograph - Juan Moore, Other photos - Cristina Salgar, Runway photos - Mint And Fancy

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