Becca Clason is a northern Utah-based freelance lettering artist and stop-motion animator. After studying advertising and graphic design at Brigham Young University, she began working as an advertising art director in New York before transitioning to full-time freelance in 2015. Her clients include Disney, Target, American Express, Kellogg's Special K, The Washington Post, Denny's, Annie's Homegrown, L'Oréal, Sabra Dipping Co., General Mills' Lärabar, and more.
Tell me about your path to becoming a freelance designer and letterer.
I started lettering casually in college, without really knowing that it was “lettering”, and I didn’t find out that lettering had a name and was a profession until a few years after I graduated from college. I fell in love immediately and knew it was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I wanted to become great at it, so I practiced all the time. I studied calligraphy on my own, always had a sketchbook with me, did online classes, and attended various workshops. I’ve gotten a lot better over the years, but there’s still so much to learn, and I don’t ever want to stop learning and pushing myself.
I worked full-time doing graphic design for eight years before I became a full-time freelancer. A lot of people think freelancing full time is something they can jump into right away, and maybe for some people that’s the case, but for me it took several years to build my skills, portfolio, and client list to a point where I was able to jump off and expect to pay my bills through freelancing. I worked on the side as a freelancer for about five years, and throughout that time I continued to practice lettering, hone my craft, and build better client relationship skills and business skills.
In the beginning, how did you attract your first good clients?
Instagram has been a huge help for my career. I started getting into tactile typography the summer of 2012, and quickly became enamored with it. I loved being away from my computer and working by hand. So for fun and as a creative outlet, I started creating hand-lettered designs using products, food, or flowers, and posting them to Instagram, and people really seemed to enjoy my posts. I slowly started gaining a larger and larger Instagram following, and among those followers are social media managers for brands, art directors or creative directors at ad agencies and magazines, which has led to some great projects I’ve been able to work on with clients.
Do you have any tips for being your most productive?
If I don’t exercise and take a shower first thing every morning, the rest of the day I feel like I’m running behind and am off my game. I like to start the day on a healthy note that makes me feel good about myself for the rest of the day. Also, I focus better in the morning, so if I can get started on my work at a regular time in the morning, I’m always more productive.
What has been your greatest struggle as a freelancer so far?
Not knowing when the next project is going to come is the biggest struggle with being a freelancer. Sometimes I’ll go a couple weeks without any client projects to work on, and other times I have to decline projects, because I have too much on my plate. There are some months I might not make very much but other months that I make enough for three months. I’d much rather be doing what I’m doing than working in an office from 8–5, commuting, and getting a steady paycheck. So there’s more worry about making enough money during the slow times, but the benefits of being a freelancer greatly outweigh the worries.
During my slower times, I’m able to focus on my brand and portfolio by creating personal lettering designs and stop-motion animations using products and styles that I have been wanting to explore. Then I post the work online, which keeps me relevant and continues to get people looking at my work and thinking about hiring me for future projects.
What is your favorite thing about freelancing?
There are several things that I love about freelancing. I get to work on projects that I love. I never wish I were at home working on something else, which is what used to happen when I worked at an office, because now I get to do that “something else” from home every day. I love that I can work from anywhere, because my husband and I recently bought a cabin in the mountains of Northern Utah and moved there in November. I love that I have a flexible schedule, which is extremely important to me now since I’ll be having a baby in a couple of weeks.
"I never wish I were at home working on something else, which is what used to happen when I worked at an office, because now I get to do that 'something else' from home every day."
You are represented by several agents, can you describe a bit about the process of hiring an agent?
Definitely, although it’s more like you hire each other. I don’t really work for my agents, and they don’t really work for me. It’s more like a partnership.
When I first decided I wanted to seek out representation, I did a lot of online searching to find different agencies who represent typographers, artists, and illustrators. I sent out personal emails to each one giving a brief explanation of what type of work I create, letting them know I was interested in being represented by them, attaching a few samples of my work, and including a link to view more of my work. It doesn’t always work out that you’ll find a good fit on your first try. I didn’t sign with anyone the first time I emailed some agents, but after five or six months of working on my portfolio and creating new work, I emailed them again (some the same, some new), and this time there were a couple of places who wanted to represent me. I signed with Snyder New York to represent me in North America, and I couldn’t love working with them any more.
Since then, some agencies in different areas of the world reached out to me to see if I wanted to be represented by them. So artist reps are always looking for good people to represent just the same as artists are looking for agents to represent them.
Do you have any tips for dealing with the nitty-gritty business details?
Luckily, my agents take care of most of the nitty-gritty business stuff! What a relief. They deal with all the contracts with clients, paperwork, and invoicing the clients. I invoice my agents once the project is completed, and I get paid once the client pays my agent.
I do have to save all my invoices for tax purposes, and since taxes aren’t taken out of my payments, I set aside ⅓ of all of my payments for taxes in a separate bank account, so when it comes time to pay taxes, I have all the money there.
Since you are your own boss, do you have any advice for maintaining a work-life balance?
Take breaks! Sometimes there are days when I don’t leave the house, but whenever I take a break to go on a drive or a hike with my husband, I am so glad I did. I need refreshers without realizing I need refreshers, but it’s good for the mind and soul if I spend time outside every day.
Get off your computer at night. Sometimes if my husband and I are watching some shows after dinner, I keep my computer on my lap, editing some images from my photo shoots or responding to emails. I feel like I need to be productive all the time, but that’s counterintuitive, because if I don’t stop working at a good time every day, I’ll just get burned out.
If I have a deadline and need to finish putting together an animation or editing a design, that’s another story. I’ll stay up all night if I have to. Haha.
The 3 greatest attributes you need to be a freelance creative are:
Drive, good will, and time management (and I’d like to add a fourth: brand strategy).
Becca just gave birth to a beautiful baby boy named Ira! Send her love by getting social with her in the links below!