We are excited to introduce yet another lady whom we've had the privilege of meeting through our Creative Lady Directory, Jena Holliday. Jena is an illustrator, designer, mother, and creative living in Minnesota. She founded Spoonful of Faith studio, where she focuses on crafting whimsical illustrations and designs as well as coaching mothers through their own creative journeys in her community Mother Creative.
Tell me about your path to becoming a freelance artist, illustrator, and educator.
Well I have always been creative. From a young age, I would sketch comic strips and draw people I did life with. I never took it too seriously until after I finished college with a degree in marketing. I decided that I wasn’t really doing what I loved to do, and then after the birth of my first child, I got an insane passion to go for what I always dreamed of. Art started taking root again in my heart and I started sketching illustrations and sharing them online. Immediately, people noticed and were asking me if I would sell them. I remember being so scared and working for pennies because I just didn’t believe people would really pay me to do something I really enjoyed.
From there, the work continued to come, projects came, and then even children’s book projects and proposals were being sent my way. At this point things were doing well, but I was still working full-time in social media marketing. I really enjoy marketing, but art and illustration is truly what I was made to do. At a really wild time, I was pregnant with my second child, I decided to take the leap to freelance and it’s been a thrilling, fulfilling, and adventurous ride. From there I’ve seen the need in the market for women, especially mothers, to be encouraged in being creative. I’ve also seen artists struggle with marketing and “selling” their work and through my past experience and passion for art – I started teaching tips and tricks to women through Mother Creative, an online community I launched in March of this year (2017).
In the beginning, how did you attract your first good clients?
I would say that sharing my work has always brought in good clients. I also have always used word of mouth and have never been afraid to ask people for work. I figure it’s my livelihood and if I am not willing to go out and get it, I could be missing out on an opportunity. I landed a future interview with a pretty big publication because I just asked for it. I also landed a book project with a nonprofit by just sharing my work and having the conversation of what I do. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve gotten more “No’s” than “Yes’s” but when that “Yes” comes it could be the chance you’ve been waiting for.
Do you have any tips for being your most productive?
Work in blocks. This could be hourly blocks or days. I like to set certain days for certain tasks. Because I work from home and often have my kids around, it’s better to have a set idea on what type of work I’ll be getting into for the day. It’s all still a process and ever-changing for me.
What has been your greatest struggle as a freelancer so far?
I would say figuring out what works for your business. In the beginning you are usually willing to try most anything to make money and to get experience. But as you keep going, you will have to start determining what you really want to do, and sticking to that can be difficult sometimes. When I first started, I had a shop and I didn’t really put much thought behind it. I closed it and just recently decided to relaunch it in a brand new way that is more in line with my brand. Find what works for you and your business and don’t look at everyone else! I will also just say figuring out the ebbs and flows of your business can be a struggle at first but when you discover the equation you’re golden.
What is your favorite thing about freelance?
Setting my own goals, plans, days! Being able to work from home and spend time with my kids when I want to. Working in my PJ’s or the local coffee shop! Freedom to work the way that works best for me.
How do you continue to attract your ideal clients?
Relative to illustration/design projects: I have to share my work. I share it on social media, newsletter, and sometimes on my blog. I try to show them what I am working on, so they can get a better idea of what I am working on and maybe it will spark a conversation or lead. Also, I am not afraid to reach out to past clients to see if they have friends or family that may need work. I think word of mouth is more powerful than anything.
Relative to my shop: My background is in marketing and I actually really enjoy analytics. So, that means I often do a lot of research on things. It can be as simple as what are my clients responding to in my shop or on social media. I then use that data to help me create products I think they will love.
How has becoming a mom changed how you work and/or the types of projects you take on?
Woo! Being a mom has totally transformed my work life, mostly my time and what is important to me. Time is scarce, so being productive is very important. I’m such a free spirit so this didn’t come easy for me, but overtime I’ve gotten much better with time management. I work from home and have a 3 year old and 1 year old around – so working is tough sometimes. I have had to set up childcare for certain days of the week so I can dedicate myself to work. I also have played the naptime game, where I get to things while they nap. I also try to bring them into my work. Showing my 3 year old what I am illustrating and setting up a space next to me that she can paint and draw on has worked wonders!
You do a wonderful job sharing your personal life in a professional space. How does this openness affect your client relationships?
I actually believe it brings in my ideal client even more. Many of the people I work with are passionate, have strong faith and have strong ambitions or goals – which are a lot of the things I often talk about in my personal side of my work. I believe that the personal side makes us who we are, it is the drive behind what we do. So sharing my kids or my faith – has only benefited me. It has allowed me to align with likeminded people and brands – which has brought in clients I have only dreamed of working for. I also feel like because my clients feel like they know ME, they in turn trust ME. And upholding that trust through my work has continued to bring them back time and time again.
Since you are your own boss, and mother of two, do you have any advice for maintaining a work-life balance?
Before I was a mom, I could literally work around the clock – not saying it was the best, but I just didn’t mind it. Now I know for the good of my family I have to set boundaries. I would say that having boundaries has saved our family. Learning when to say “No,” or when to make the tough call that you are not going to work and you are going to spend time with the kids, it can be hard at first. But what I have learned is that there will always be stuff on your to do list. You can always find something that needs to be done, but your kids will not always be around. So cherish this season you are in, right now, and don’t forget to appreciate the little moments that are often passing you by.
Can you tell us a bit more about Mother Creative and the motivation behind this community?
Sure! Mother Creative is a community of women and mothers to encourage and empower each other to go after their God-given dreams and potential. I believe women often get stifled and fear and doubt creep in, especially after having children – and I strongly believe that you can continue to walk forward in your passion and creativity in every season of your life.
What I strive to do within the community is provide resources with tips and tricks of what has helped me and other women, as well as provide interviews of other women who are totally killing it!