Jordan Sondler is a NYC-based illustrator. She received her BFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art. Her work spans digital, print, and three dimensional forms with a particular interest in pattern. Her clients include Nickelodeon, Urban Outfitters, Ban.do, Papyrus, Food52, Adult Swim, Nylon Magazine, Lenny Leter, Le Chocolat Des Francais, and more. We admire her unique whimsical style and positive energy.
Tell me about your path to becoming a freelance illustrator.
I started freelancing when I was still in school about six years ago. Since graduating, I moved to New York where I was balancing either a part time or full time job on top of a freelance workload. When things were slow, I would continue to self generate projects so that I was constantly updating my website and social media with new illustrations. About a year ago I was at a crossroads—I was so busy with client work that I’d need to ditch my day job or turn away awesome projects. Since I made the leap I’ve never been happier (or busier)!
In the beginning, how did you attract your first good clients?
I was really fortunate to have Ban.do, an accessories brand based out of LA, reach out to me a couple years ago. Ali LaBelle had become a friend of mine through the web, and thus began my foray into product licensing. As I continued to work with them over the years, the brand grew and I think that really is responsible for some of the clients who reach out to me nowadays.
I would also say that when I first got started, I would scour mastheads, Linkedin and Instagram to find the people I wanted to get in touch with. I created a list of 100+ people that I would reach out to over email or with postcard mailings a few times a year. Persistently keeping up with that has also brought me success.
Do you have any tips for being your most productive?
I have learned (though often forget) that I am my most productive self when I take breaks. Leaving my studio for a lunch date or even to run errands allows me to quiet all the ideas and thoughts I have bouncing around, and when I come back to my work I am much more focused than if I burnt myself out for ten hours straight.
What has been your greatest struggle as a freelancer so far?
It can be really hard to keep up with all the emails when you have deadlines and money to chase. Networking is one of the most enjoyable parts of my job but can eat into my time for creating work. I am certainly still getting the hang of it, but I am learning that freelancing is a balancing act.
What is your favorite thing about freelance?
I love being my own boss! It is fantastic to decide what projects I want to spend my time on, and to be able to say no to things that aren’t the right fit. It has taken me a while to to use the word “no," but I feel good knowing that I’ve made more time for fun projects and I’ve taken a little stress off my plate.
"It has taken me a while to use the word 'no,' but I feel good knowing that I've made more time for fun projects and I've taken a little stress off my plate."
Do you have any tips for dealing with the nitty-gritty business details?
Years of working in administrative environments has turned me into a diligent bookkeeper. I have a document that tracks my deadlines, invoice dates and payment dates, that I always cross reference with my very organized calendar. I have transitioned into using Google for these files so I can view them on my phone or on any of my computers. It has been a lifesaver. Also—hire an accountant.
Since you are your own boss, do you have any advice for maintaining a work-life balance?
This is still something I am exploring, but as of right now I have turned my work into my life. I get together with a group of female illustrators on a regular basis, host events for creatives in my free time and try to integrate both worlds as best I can. It has helped me to feel like I’ve not neglected one or the other, but sometimes I certainly need a break.
Fill in the blank: The 3 greatest attributes you need to be a freelance creative are:
Talent, persistence and passion.