Maayan Alper-Swan is an artist, illustrator and textile designer living and working in Brooklyn, NY. Her clients and collaborators include Macy’s, Fashion Snoops, Urban Outfitters, Incoco, Calvin Klein, Kellwood, Victoria’s Secret and Temple Flower. She is also a member of our Creative Lady Directory.
Read on to find out how she gets it all done and still makes time to travel often for work and inspiration.
Tell me about your path to becoming a freelance artist, illustrator, and textile designer.
I’ve always made art as far as I can remember. I come from a family of architects and grew up in a creative and aesthetically conscious environment. Art was always a part of my life and I was that kid always drawing on any surface I could find and putting together colorful outfits.
I decided to study fashion design thinking it would be a practical career in the arts as I have always loved fashion and style as a medium of self expression.
I started freelancing right out of school. I fell hard for textile design when I began creating artwork and patterns at the request of several clients. This led me to create a portfolio focused on illustration and surface design and things took off from there. My work in textile design and illustration allows me to be a multi-disciplinary artist that creates in a variety of media and techniques and I love the process in which the artwork transitions from something I’ve dreamed up to becoming a finished product, often on apparel or home decor.
Do you have any tips for being your most productive?
This is a bit counterintuitive but before I stop work for the day, I like to start on new work or my next project and just leave it. That way the next morning I can jump right into my work and pick up where I left off rather than confronting a blank slate.
Also, I make lots of lists and my calendar is color-coded by client/projects so I can stay on top of my work and deadlines.
"This is a bit counterintuitive but before I stop work for the day, I like to start on new work or my next project and just leave it. That way the next morning I can jump right into my work and pick up where I left off rather than confronting a blank slate."
What has been your greatest struggle as a freelance creative so far?
Balancing the day to day of client work in tandem with personal work and longer term projects remains a struggle for me. It does, however, become easier with time and experience as you learn to set a clear agenda.
What is your favorite thing about freelance?
The freedom to work from anywhere and the ability to choose the people I will collaborate with. Freelance affords me the opportunity to pursue a great variety of projects, all of which challenge me and never leave me feeling bored.
I’m a night owl as well and thus I appreciate not having to try and perform feats of creativity within the prescribed hours of 9 to 5.
How do you continue to attract your ideal clients?
Instagram has turned out to be a great tool for attracting clients and collaborators.
I think putting out work that you are proud of and what represents your aesthetic is a great way to find those ideal clients that want to work with you for what is unique about your work and style. If you chase what you perceive as commercial, you would potentially alienate the most fruitful and rewarding client relationships.
I have gotten clients through word of mouth as well. It’s very gratifying when a client enjoys your work and the experience of collaborating and feels inspired to pass your name along to others.
Do you have any tips for dealing with the nitty-gritty business details?
Try to stay organized with tracking invoices and expenses throughout the year so that tax time isn’t quite as painful. Hire an accountant that specializes in working with freelancers or artists to do your taxes - they will be helpful in figuring out all your deductions.
What do you do to stay creatively inspired?
I travel often, always with sketchbook in tow. Being immersed in a different culture and a new landscape is constantly inspiring. It has become an integral part of my creative process.
I like to get involved in projects with artists working in media outside my own, such as film and photography. I find it creatively invigorating and I can then bring that energy back to my own work.
"I like to get involved in projects with artists working in media outside my own, such as film and photography. I find it creatively invigorating and I can then bring that energy back to my own work."
Since you are your own boss, do you have any advice for maintaining a work-life balance?
My advice is to take a longer view on work-life balance and not think of it as a daily goal. Not every day, or even week, will be balanced but if working extra hours for a few weeks allows me to take a month off to travel, that’s my idea of balance.
I love what I do and it is so much a part of who I am. I subscribe to the notion that if you do what you love, you will never work a day in your life.
The 3 greatest attributes you need to be a freelance creative are:
Self motivation, curiosity, adaptability.