Los Angeles based Illustrator Annie Seo has won over our hearts with her whimsy. Formally trained at Parsons The New School for Design, Annie received her BFA in Illustration in 2013. Her clients include The New York Times, Cafe Dulce, dELiA*s, Inc., Marine Lane, Willamette Week, Portland Mercury and more. Read on for a dose of playful inspiration.
Portrait photos by Chris Hahn
Tell me about your path to becoming a freelance illustrator.
The job of being a freelance illustrator was introduced to me before I entered into college, however the profession never interested me until my last year of college. At that point I realized how much I loved to draw and tell stories with my characters and style. After I graduated college, I was pretty set on taking the leap and going in that direction.
In the beginning, how did you attract your first good clients?
I've mailed out a load of promo cards and emailed many art directors and clients. I'm definitely lucky to have such great friends with established businesses whom I've had the pleasure to work with and who have directed me to other great people as well.
Do you have any tips for being your most productive?
Coffee is my best friend. I always need a cup before I start the day. I also try to write out what I hope to accomplish at the end of the week, whether that be large deadlines, or just small sketches. Productivity will always be subjective to me. It’s my strongest trait and my greatest fear of not being, so I'm still teaching myself to take one thing at a time.
"Productivity will always be subjective to me. It’s my strongest trait and my greatest fear of not being, so I'm still teaching myself to take one thing at a time."
What has been your greatest struggle as a freelancer so far?
My greatest struggle as a freelancer so far would probably be handling the business side of things. It's definitely a challenge and a huge pain when I have to deal with it.
What is your favorite thing about freelance?
My favorite part is the partnership that is created with clients. I feel honored whenever clients approach me with their vision and picture my art alongside their project. I enjoy getting to sit down with them, asking them "How can I help?", hearing what they have to say and then brainstorming together.
How do you continue to attract your ideal clients?
Social media has been the best outlet for my artwork to surface around. Taking a picture of something I've drawn, and then uploading it, is like releasing it into the wild.
Do you have any tips for dealing with the nitty gritty business details?
I try to study up on whatever I'm not familiar with in books or I research online. Two great ones are: "Business and Legal Forms for Illustrators" and "Graphic Artists Guild Handbook to Pricing & Ethical Guidelines". It's definitely not my strongest area, so I talk to many friends who are in the same boat as me, or even some who are in different fields. Every year I'll always be learning something new or better ways of what I could be doing, and I'm thankful I have great friends to whom I can sometimes ask dumb questions!
Since you are your own boss, do you have any advice for maintaining a work life balance?
There'll be seasons when I'm super busy, or seasons when I'm taking things easy and slowly. Even on the days when I'm not busy with work, I keep myself busy with my own projects. I always like to keep myself busy, and also allow myself to rest on the weekends like any other job. There'll be days when I'm really hard on myself, feeling disappointed if I haven't been productive enough, or at times I allow myself to have those lazy days. No one can be perfect, especially when you're self-employed. Whatever the workload looks like, I always try to remember to be thankful for what I get to do, that's probably the most important mentality to keep in check.
"Whatever the workload looks like, I always try to remember to be thankful for what I get to do, that's probably the most important mentality to keep in check."
The 3 greatest attributes you need to be a freelance creative are:
Disciplined, faithful, and patient.