Illustrator Ryn Frank is best known for her hand drawn fine line illustration. She has worked with clients from around the world such as Anthropologie, Tesco, Marks & Spencer, John Lewis, Waitrose, River Cottage, Lonely Planet, Penguin publishing and many others.
When she is not in her studio creating designs she can be found out walking with her dog, sketch book in hand taking inspiration from the country side and coast where she lives.
Tell me about your path to becoming a freelance designer and illustrator.
It seemed to evolve quite naturally, as a child I would spend hours creating sketches and doodling in the garden. It was my way of getting lost very quickly into a different and somewhat magical world and I loved that. At school, fine art was my passion, I loved creating something beautiful from what was once a blank canvas. I decided after A-levels to take a foundation course which gave me the opportunity to try different mediums and areas of art like fashion and photography. I loved the illustration course on the foundation year and found drawing very free and un-complicated. This sparked me to do a three year course at Falmouth University in Illustration. During the course I feel in love with embracing Cornwall - the coastline, countryside and getting lost in different projects. This really inspired me and was about the time when my style clicked into place. Whilst at University John Lewis asked me to design my first collection with them and from there I knew being a freelancer and setting up my own business is what I wanted to do. I've always wanted to do something different where I could be creative and have freedom in my work. My partner and I now run a creative design studio together which focuses on branding and illustration for a wide range of companies.
In the beginning, how did you attract your first good clients?
When I left University it felt like a small fish in a big world which felt very daunting after being in a little bubble at University. I was lucky to have a couple of commissions trickle in such as Penguin and John Lewis which gave me confidence to start creating a portfolio and reaching out to other companies which inspired me. Pinterest was a big game changer for me, I worked hard and created a following of over 300K which lead to a lot of connections and also attracted good clients.
What is one thing you wish you knew when you were starting out?
Understanding contracts, licensing, and what to charge. All these things were the hardest things to tackle as I just wanted to focus on being creative. I learnt very quickly that having a good contract, being paid correctly for your time and the correct license were key to being a freelance illustrator. My advice would be to do your research, understand pricing contracts and how to license your work properly. I wish I had stumbled across AOI earlier than I did, they are fantastic and help you with contracts, fees, and when to say no.
Do you have any tips for being your most productive?
It sounds simple but having a routine helps me to be the most productive. I'm an early bird and like taking time to have a coffee and to let my brain start wakening naturally. I then go out running first thing into the countryside with my dog which completely focuses me and clears my head. I can then get back to the studio feeling refreshed for 9am ready to focus. I'm a big believer in the Swedish philosophy of 'lagom' which means 'just the right amount' and find that balancing my day with focusing on one task at a time and taking breaks helps my productivity also.
What has been your greatest struggle as a freelancer so far?
Being able to switch off from work and tear myself away from my sketchbook or mac. I find it very hard to balance work and life, if I'm not careful I find myself getting lost in projects until 10pm and end up feeling exhausted and having burn out. I have to be very strict with turning off my mac and scheduling days to take a break and to spend time with family and friends. Letting myself slow down and potter around outside with a tea is something I'm building into my daily routine and not working past 6-7pm. I'm also a perfectionist and learning to let go, live in the moment and let my work be how it is has also been something I've learnt to roll with. It's often when I don't try hard that my best work emerges.
Do you have any tips for dealing with the nitty-gritty business details? Additionally, is there anything you've learned that you'd be willing to share about working with international clients?
Organisation is key, having once a week to get on top of the paperwork is integral to having a smooth running business. I'm very old fashioned and each morning over a cup of coffee write my 'to do' list in my notebook which I tick off throughout the day along with answering emails. I hire an accountant to do all the booking keeping which allows me to focus on clients. I've loved working with international clients but making sure you have a concrete contract which outlines the license and agreement is key to working with all clients.
Since you are your own boss, do you have any advice for maintaining a work-life balance?
This is something I'm still working with along with learning to slow down and take time out. Having your own routine which works for you is key to being freelance and knowing when to stop. I now plan my week and know when I'm having days off where I don't look at my mac and days when I'm in the studio where I can give work my full attention. I also have a studio which separates work from personal life, when I'm in the studio it's the place I can just focus on work.
How do you what your creative appetite?
Taking time away from the studio and experiencing new places. I like to plan breaks away somewhere new every couple of months or so even if it's a small break to give my mind some breathing space and enjoy different surroundings. Traveling and taking time out to do the things I love is integral to being creative. It's when I'm in the natural elements that I feel most creative and can come back to the studio feeling revived and fueled. Living by the ocean always stirs up my creativity.
Are there any projects on which you're ruminating that you'd like to make time for someday?
I would love to write and illustrate a book, I have tons of ideas and hope that I will have time sometime soon to focus on it! I'm also looking at starting a homeware range in the coming months which is something I've always wanted to do and very excited about. It feels like a new adventure!