Katie Hart is a San Diego-based illustrator, hand letterer, and designer. After graduating with a degree in Interior Design, she made the switch to illustration and has never looked back. Her work includes hand lettered cards, custom wedding stationary, prints, postcards, and more.
Tell me about your path to becoming a stationary designer.
I studied Interior Design, and after graduating, I realized I was super drawn towards graphic design and illustration. Oops! Oh well, that’s life. I taught myself some Adobe basics and quit my job to do an internship with Megan of MaeMae Paperie. I learned so, so much through that — including technical things (mastering Illustrator) and working with clients. For a couple years following the internship, I had a day job and worked on my stationery line in my free time. This past year I took the leap to focus on Odd Daughter full time.
In the beginning, how did you attract your first good clients?
At first, I did random projects for friends — the best place to start! After opening up my online shop, I was able to attract more custom freelance work. I think the shop gave me some credibility and drew clients in. Fairly early on I started working with a local wedding planner and that was an amazing partnership for wedding related clients.
Do you have any tips for being your most productive?
Scheduling out my time is so, so necessary. If I don’t have my calendar blocked out with separate tasks (emails at 10AM, work on “x” project at11AM), I spend way too much time bouncing from one tab to another (email, etc.) and my productivity suffers. On my most productive days, I schedule everything.
What has been your greatest struggle as a freelancer and shop owner so far?
As a freelancer, I have to say that money has been the greatest struggle. So lame. But it’s true. Leaving behind a steady paycheck is just tough. I have so much to learn about the financial aspect of running a business and that’s difficult to do when you depend on that money to pay rent. Ha!
What is your favorite thing about having your own business?
Although there’s a lot of stuff that is difficult/frustrating about being an entrepreneur, I am getting to work on something I’m passionate about and do work that gives me joy. So, I mean, that’s hard to top. I truly love that drawing and painting can be considered “work” (even if that’s just a percentage of what keeps this business running).
"I am getting to work on something I'm passionate about and do work that gives me joy... That's hard to top."
How do you continue to attract your ideal clients?
This is certainly an area where I’m still learning. I’m continuing to work with wedding planners who send great clients my way. Other than that, I think having a solid social media presence (specifically on instagram) is key. If I want people to be attracted to my work, I need to show the type of work that I want to attract.
Do you have any advice for launching an online shop?
Keep things simple at first. Don’t stress about having a crazy-beautiful custom design right off the bat. That can come later! Focus on taking good photos and keep the design simple (there are so many clean templates you can get for free, or for a reasonable cost).
Do you have any tips for dealing with the nitty-gritty business details?
Figure out what is most difficult for you, or what takes up time that would be better spent elsewhere, and look for ways to outsource that work. I’m fortunate enough to have the best sister ever and she takes care of my accounting… but if you don’t have that and accounting is taking up way too much precious time, hire someone! If managing invoices/emails/contracts is difficult for you, do some research and find the best client management system for you. I’m currently using 17hats for client invoices & contracts and use quickbooks for my overall accounting. These tools are completely worth the monthly cost.
Since you are your own boss, do you have any advice for maintaining a work-life balance?
HA. Still working on that one. Being your own boss means that you can sleep in if you really need to, go do that midday yoga class, or meet up with friends for an early happy hour. BUT, it also means that you need to get that work done during what would typically be considered “your time”. Working for myself has given me a ton of flexibility, which is amazing… but it also requires that you get down to business other times. Working in a space outside of my house has really helped with work-life balance. I still do some work from home, but the majority of what I is now at my studio and that creates some good separation.
Fill in the blank: The 3 greatest attributes you need to be a freelance creative are:
Tenacity, good communication and adaptability.