Angela Mckay is a surface pattern designer and illustrator based in Brooklyn, New York. Originally hailing from the sunny shores of Australia and the humid tropics of Thailand, she brings her unique illustrations together to create a fun and diverse range for Ohkii Studio.
Angela draws her inspiration from many places including the natural world, overseas travel adventures, folk tales and old murder mystery novels. We are loving the handmade quality of her work. Above all, Angela enjoys creating things that make you smile (they sure make us smile!).
Tell me about your path to becoming a freelance designer and illustrator.
I worked for a few years in Sydney as an inhouse textile and print designer for a swimwear label. After my husband won a green card in the lottery we decided to pack up our lives and move to New York. I had been wanting to start my own thing for a while and decided that moving to the States would be a great way to start and establish myself as a freelancer. Initially I started freelancing for a local print studio a few days a week whilst also working on my own projects. A while later I started ohkiistudio - a label under which I could be free to experiment with ideas and produce my own products. I now split my time between client work and ohkiistudio projects. I’ve only been working as a freelancer for less than a year so I’m still learning so much!
In the beginning, how did you attract your first good clients?
As I was relatively unknown when I arrived, I tried to create an online presence through the different social media platforms. I made sure I was posting regularly with lots of illustration and print work, ensuring that I was putting out the kind of work that I would like to be doing. I spread the word through people I knew and slowly people are getting to know me and find my work. Word of mouth is super helpful. It is a long process, so you have to patient!
Do you have any tips for being your most productive?
I am a huge advocate for lists. I make a list every morning and get a huge sense of satisfaction when I get to tick things off. Try not to overload your daily list with every single thing that needs to get done, just what you think you can realistically achieve in a day. This way you feel great about completing your list and it also helps to prioritize the commitments you have. It’s also important to have monthly and yearly goals which you reference often to make sure you’re keeping on track with your own life path! Also take time out for rest when you can which can help get you through the really busy times.
"It’s also important to have monthly and yearly goals which you reference often to make sure you’re keeping on track with your own life path!"
What has been your greatest struggle as a freelancer so far?
One thing I have struggled with is getting paid a fair price for the work I do. Potential clients can try to get away with ridiculously cheap rates and it’s really disheartening when you have to turn down work because they aren’t prepared to pay you what your worth. I had a couple of bad experiences in the past where I was totally ripped off and since going through that, I’ve learned to turn down those jobs no matter how tempting they may sound.
What is your favorite thing about freelance?
I love the flexibility! I love being able to set my own hours and take time off whenever I want to. I love traveling and exploring new places so having the freedom to do that whenever I can is huge. Travel is a huge part of my personal inspiration so it compliments my work too.
How do you continue to attract your ideal clients?
Through word of mouth and I think having a strong online presence helps. If your work is being seen in the right spaces then it’s likely you’re going to be approached by the kinds of clients you would like to work with. If you are unable to find client work which is directing your career in the way you would like to go, set yourself some personal projects that you think your ideal clients would be interested in. Don’t be afraid to get in touch with them and show your work, you never know what could happen!
"If you are unable to find client work which is directing your career in the way you would like to go, set yourself some personal projects that you think your ideal clients would be interested in. Don’t be afraid to get in touch with them and show your work, you never know what could happen!"
Do you have any tips for dealing with the nitty-gritty business details?
I’m still fine tuning this process! I find using programs like quickbooks helpful, as well as keeping track of other business stuff through google spreadsheets. I have a lot of spreadsheets haha.
The 3 greatest attributes you need to be a freelance creative are:
Flexibility, self determination and willingness to continue learning and growing.