The creative issue

THE WAIT. IS FINALLY. OVER.

This issue was released a bit late, but on balance this is absolutely the single biggest release of content I’ve done in one go so I’m hoping you feel like it was worth the wait.

First, in utter commitment to my refusal to refer to this as a blog and instead insisting on calling it a web-based magazine – I’ve grouped all previous content into issues, AND EVEN went ahead and made an Issue Archive so you can find them all more easily.

Now it looks like this was my plan all along and not like I’m totally making this all up as I go along because ENTREPRENEURSHIP.

Second, Inkbike is now on Instagram (woo), and boy if you want to see a picture of me sat on a desk I’ve dragged into the middle of a Sainsbury’s then you’re in luck.

Go ahead and give it a follow to get more content in between issues – I spend a lot of time trying taking creative pics so you regret the decision to follow my page as little as possible. 

Plus you’ll have the pleasure of knowing that every new follow to the page gives me a shot of dopamine that makes me all warm and fuzzy inside – so there’s that too. 


This issue was written for budding creatives that are looking to branch out and start seeking professional work. The articles were written to give you everything you need from inspiration (the interviews) to practical guides for every step of the process.

It’s my hope that this issue contains everything a creative would need to start making money from their craft.

But enough talk, let’s get to reading:

Bethany Thielen: THIS is how you job hunt

Matt Saunders: From street art to Pottermore; making it as an illustrator


Inkbike’s guide to getting your first client

How to nail the first client meetingH

The Nina4airbnb case study

How I failed my first attempt to collaborate with a business owner

Further reading


If you enjoyed this issue and want to read more of them then why not sign up to get my latest posts delivered straight to your inbox? Just type your email into the box at the bottom of the page.

I post content new issues once every sometimes, so adding your email means that you’re being both super supportive (yay!) and avoiding the need to check the website for new content.

How to start finding work as a creative

At a glance

Research small businesses in your area

Work on your pitch for small business owners to make sure that your work gets noticed by people who have the authority to approve a freelancer. The more people in a business, the more likely that your pitch gets lost somewhere between the person who reads your email and the person who can authorise your work.

Demonstrate value

When you pitch, don’t just tell them how your work can benefit them, demonstrate it. That means creating something high quality that they can use without having to spend first. This will make you stand out from your competitors.

Meet face-to-face

A cold-calling email is easy to ignore, but someone standing at your desk is much harder to dismiss without at least hearing them out. Get out from your desk and meet people.

Rinse and repeat

Keep following these steps and you WILL land a client – either through word of mouth or directly through one of your pitches. Someone that offers quality work and spends time to build rapports is impossible to ignore for too long.

Let me try starting this article by walking you through a train of thought that has REGULARLY stopped me from moving on from jobs I’ve hated into my dream of freelancing in an industry I find much more appealing.

If you can relate to anything in this next section, then this article is for you. Here goes:

If you’re reading this, then chances are that at some point you’ve been sat at work and thought “screw-diddly-ew this job, I’d so much rather be doing X”.

Then you picture yourself doing X, and you see yourself working confidently on some epic client project, in an industry that has plenty of room for you to grow in. 

That image is great.

Since there are few things that can kill a passion for a subject faster than formal education, X is most definitely not something you studied or have any experience in.

So what tends to immediately follow that thought, is the crippling realisation that if someone were to right now put that client project you’d been visualising on your desk and tell you to crack on, you’d have no idea what to do next.

Uh oh header

That doesn’t quite add up….because you looked confident while you were picturing yourself doing that new work. The kind of confidence that comes from knowing exactly what you’re doing and that what you’re doing is exactly right.

I mean, who realistically daydreams about themselves as they’re JUST starting out in a new job?

You know the drill, where you don’t know what the hell you’re doing and are desperately pretending to look productive in front of your new manager but have no work so you’re just marathoning through random folders in your yet-to-be-filled inbox to simulate productivity.

So then the kind of confidence you pictured at first can only come from having built up a body of experience doing many similar projects beforehand, and there’s no shortcut around that.

If you’re like me, then this makes you feel anxious, and that anxiety is enough to make you resigned to put down your head and get back to working on that job that you decided to screw-diddly-ew in the first place. 

F*ck. That.

The job you can barely stand can wait. We are going to fix that anxiety right here and now, because I’m going to give you a breakdown of exactly what steps you need to follow to build that experience.

First we need to recognise that your anxiety is coming from the fact that you probably don’t know how to get from here* to there**.


Inkbike‘ s contextual dictionary

here

adverb

adverb: here

  1. In, at, or to this place or position
      • Used to describe a time in your life and career whereby you lack the experience or confidence to tackle a project or piece of work in your ultimate career fantasy with a sense of certitude that you know exactly what you are doing throughout (thus leaving you in a position to marvel at your own brilliance and the enjoy the feeling that you are a brilliant part of a brilliant industry that is lucky to have you).

there

adverb

adverb: there

  1. Used to gesture to a place or to an intended point (in time and in your career)
      • The description of a time in your life and career whereby you have the experience, confidence and expertise to be an absolute legend in the field you want to work on.

        You’re about to win awards for your work on this project, and then you’re going to take that award and slap your current manager with it because you’re an absolute unit.

Here’s how you’re going to do it:

What you’re looking for first is businesses where the owner or a senior manager is based on the premises – this is to ensure that when you pitch to them your services, they are able to make a decision themselves rather than have to seek approval from someone else. 

For your first clients, it’s important to avoid looking into business that own multiple premises (especially where they are across multiple cities) – pitching to a larger business presents a bigger challenge, especially when you are just starting out.

When you’ve found a business that looks to be the right size, you’re going to start researching their brand. As part of this, you’ll investigate the following:

  • Their social media platforms
  • Their website
  • Any printed materials they might have on premises (if you are able to access their premises) i.e. for a restaurants or cafe look at their menus, any flyers or posters they have on display

What you’re looking to understand is whether the business has an established tone of voice, visual style and most importantly, whether it looks like an experienced creative has been anywhere near their brand.

If after all of your step 1 research, you feel confident that you are able to create something that the client will love and is either on par pr better than the creative materials they already have then you’re going to design something quality to give to the owner of that business for free.

No matter what your creative discipline, make something for them;

  • If you’re confident in web-design and you feel that your would-be-client could benefit then create for them a holding page.
  • If you’re an illustrator then draw them a poster.
  • If you’re more about social media, head over to Canva and create some graphics which would look like fancy new furniture in their Instagram profile house.
  • Videographer or animator? Make them a 1-minute reel for their social media.

You get the idea. 

The point is, in the beginning you might not have a massive portfolio to show them, or be able to get your name out there through word-of-mouth, so you have to make something quality for them to build their confidence that you can provide value to them and their business.

So create something for them like you’re being paid £1,000 to do it – aim to create the absolute best thing that you possibly can.

Business owners are used to being pitched at all the time by people who think that sending automated or templated messages offering the same deals (think of every 30 day trial you’ve ever read about) is the best way to land new business. 

By including in your initial ‘pitch’ something which is entirely bespoke, quality and free for them to use without any strings attached you are immediately setting yourself apart from the usual noise – you’re letting them know that you’re something different and that’s going to make them take notice.

If you’re like any of the number of people I’ve spoken to about this during the time I’m writing this, your first thought is “great idea genius (I choose not to read this as sarcasm by the way), but what if after all that time I’ve spent crafting the Michael Angelo of whateverImades that I don’t end up with anything? What if they don’t even respond to me?”

I’m not going to lie to you – that’s a very real possibility. Business owners are busy and so they might forget, not have time to or just not be inclined to get back to you. Your question becomes, what can you do to retain the maximum amount of value from this time.

First thing your going to do is add your finished piece to your portfolio, or let it be the first item in a brand-spanking-new one. 

The second thing you’re going to do is factor this idea into your initial contact…we’ll get to that in one second.

Do what your competitors won’t.

Your average competitor will send an email to someone they want to work with/for and let that be the end of it. Your less commonly courageous competitor might even be willing to pick up the phone.

What 99% of your competition isn’t willing to do is head down to speak to the client they want face to face because that takes time and effort and they can’t be bothered to put in either.

The reason why you’ll do it is because speaking directly to someone you want as a client is brilliant experience, and because speaking face to face makes building a rapport much easier.

Still not convinced or feeling like you’re too shy to do anything other than email? Let me put this another way.

Just think about that WhatsApp group chat on your phone with 83 unread messages in it. I mean, those are message you’ve ignored from people you actually know, consider how many fewer f*cks you’d give about reading and responding to those messages if they were from people you’d never even heard of.

Just imagine that the business owner you’re contacting has likely got 83 messages from people they’d never heard of trying to sell them something (because they likely have that many or more), and that by sending an email, your message is just another message amongst the noise regardless of how much value you actually offer.

Get it? Great! Back to rapport…

That rapport, combined with that piece of excellent work you’ve created for them is the reason why they’re going to choose you for their creative project.

What’s also important to remember is that you’re not going down to sell them something –  nobody wants to be hunted down in their workplace to be pitched at. That’d be about as welcome as a Greenpeace street fundraiser walking into your living room unannounced and yelling their pitch at you while you’re trying to watch Netflix.

Instead what you’re going to tell them is that you were researching local businesses and you loved their brand, you think what they are doing is excellent or that you wanted to support a local business. 

Whichever way, you made something for them to have for free to use on their social media/website/on display in their premises because you wanted to support them and because you are trying to build up a portfolio of work for use in your own efforts to find your feet as a freelance creative.

You’ll reiterate that you aren’t looking for any money, but if they do end up using what you made, you’d appreciate it if you could reference them in your portfolio and include the piece you made for them.

That’s it. When you’ve finished explaining who you are, why you’re in their building and what you’re hoping to get out of it you’ll thank them for their time and you’ll leave.

No-one likes a pushy sales person – especially one that’s come unannounced. Also, if you’re new to this sort of hustle then chances are being self-promotional isn’t going to come naturally to you so don’t feel the need to risk all your hard work by throwing yourself in the deep end. 

Be brave enough not to give a pitch, trust that they will see value in you and the work you’ve created.

Do what your competitors won’t.

If you follow these steps and you keep going after your first pitch – I guarantee you, you will land your first client. 

It might not be the first person you create something for, or the second or the third, but if you follow these steps you will eventually land one who’s willing to pay you to create something more for them – either directly or through word of mouth.

After all that hard work, it feels like landing your first client is job done, mission accomplished; time to relax and marvel at the fruits of your hard labour.

Trust me on this one, after about one evening of celebration, the feeling is quickly replaced by a panic that you don’t know what’s supposed to happen next. 

You have the feeling that you should be leading things in this client/creative relationship since you were the one that headed out and brokered this thing in the first place.

Having gone through this process myself both as the hired creative and more recently as the customer – I’ve created templates which you can use to structure your initial meeting as well as present your work. 

Check them out here.


If you enjoyed this article, then why not sign up to get my latest posts delivered straight to your inbox? Just type your email into the box at the bottom of the page .

I post content new issues once every sometimes, so adding your email means that you’re being both super supportive (yay!) and avoiding the need to check the website for new content.

Fin.

My failed first attempt to collaborate with a business owner

FourThings was an idea I had last year for approaching new businesses that I wanted to collaborate with in some way. I wanted to be able to initiate contact with business owners in a way that offered them immediate value while demonstrating competence.

I hoped to stand out by reaching out that way and give the business owner a reason to either get back in touch or think of me in the future when future opportunities to collaborate popped up.

The idea

I started FourThings because I hadn’t figured out what I wanted to do with Inkbike yet. I knew I wanted to work with other business owners in some way for personal and professional development, but I honestly didn’t (still don’t) have a clue what service I could offer – free or otherwise.

I came to the realisation that I should just treat collaborative work like I would my day job: if my manager gave me a type of project that I had no experience of working on before, I would just go away and try to figure something out.

Everyone has to start somewhere and there’s not much you can’t figure out on Google right?

Right.

So I decided I would investigate small businesses I wanted to work with, figure out what they were doing, and try to think of realistic ways they could expand their operation in some way.

These would become projects that I would outline, put into a document and send over in my opening email to a business owner. I knew I didn’t want to spend forever doing this for each business, so I decided to limit myself to four projects.

F-four…things – geddit..?

I hoped that by making four projects, I had four chances to come up with something that the business owner might like.

The ideal outcome would that they liked one of the projects, turn around to say;

Inkbike-person, you’re a brilliant curly-haired genius and I love your idea.

I think it could be great for my business but I don’t have the time at the moment to bring it to life – would it be something that you’d be interested in doing for me?

Imagine. the. scenes.


To achieve the desired effect, I wanted to focus on providing the business owner with value (while actively demonstrating the value I could provide), which meant creating something that went one step further than just pitching basic ideas.

I wanted to give a full break-down of what it would take to roll out the idea, costs and all, so they would have a step-by-step guide if they wanted to go ahead with it.

I thought it was a pretty good idea for being proactive about my development and was super excited.

Plan sorted, I went to work.

Execution headerThe company I decided to focus my efforts on was Cha Lounge. It’s a place I love (in case you didn’t already get that impression from the interview), have spent enough time in to have done some indirect research and I felt Mandeep (the owner) would be open to new ideas.

The four ideas I came up with were (*ahem*); Cha Spice, Cha Pots, Cha Classses and Cha Social. You can check them out in the way I presented them below or download a copy of the document by clicking on this link.



First page of the finished Four Things document

Second page of the finished Four Things document

Third page of the finished Four Things document

Fourth page of the finished Four Things document

Fifth page of the finished Four Things document

In the end I think I spent about a month chipping away at this. It worked out as a couple of hours here or there when I found the time in my evenings and weekends. I was pretty proud of how it came together!

Each point was made based on research that (I hoped) was detailed enough to be actionable while being low-risk financially.

Thinking it looked ready, I typed up an introductory email and sent it on over to Cha Lounge.

How I failed

Months passed and I didn’t hear back.

I started to get really paranoid that I might have accidentally over-stepped a boundary by mistake and offended the recipients somehow or that my ideas were so fantastically bad that Mandeep felt too uncomfortable to get back in touch.

In reality, Mandeep enjoyed the document but was busy running a new, growing business and so never found the time to reply.

Ultimately, the projects didn’t end up getting off the ground (although I did end up collaborating with Mandeep on other things), but that wasn’t why I considered my first collaboration attempt a failure.

The reason is because I was put off – I never made another copy of FourThings for other businesses I wanted to collaborate with.ConclusionsI maintain that FourThings was a decent first idea for approaching a new business. It forced me to creatively think in a way that I enjoyed and was a useful exercise  considering my interest in creating/managing something myself.

So it was absolutely no good that I allowed myself to be put off from doing it again just because I didn’t get a pat on the back as quickly as I wanted to.

Realistically, small business owners are likely to be stretched thin for time and won’t always have the time to get back in touch. Or honestly, they just might not like the ideas I pitch in the first place, but that doesn’t mean that no-one ever will or that I should’ve stopped trying.

I’ll finish by being objective and talking about this as if someone else had done it. The worst case scenario is that no-one ever replies, creating several of these would’ve still built up a kick-ass portfolio which for use in job interviews to demonstrate proactivity, research skills, creative design and more.

Even better, you might end up researching an idea that could end up being a business in it’s own right!

The moral of the story, don’t do a me. If you have an idea, don’t be put off by the first set back. Learn from it and keep working.

After all, good things happen to those who hustle (at least according to their Instagram feeds).



If you enjoyed this article, then why not sign up to get my latest posts delivered straight to your inbox?

I post content new issues once every sometimes so adding your email means that you’re being both super supportive (yay!) and avoiding the need to check the website for new content.

Just type your email into the box at the bottom of the page and the job’s a good’un!

Fin.

Further reading

So you finished reading, but let me guess, you have an insatiable thirst for knowledge that hasn’t quite been quenched by this latest, greatest issue of Inkbike.

S’cool fair reader, I’m not offended – in fact, I’ve got some recommendations for you!

Also ironically given the title, there is actually no reading required in any of the below since they’re all videos and podcasts…enjoy!

Tips for creating arresting visual content

This video is unbelievably awesome – every one of their tips can be done by anyone with a camera.

They’ve also just put it together in such a way that you can watch the video once and easily feel like you could go out and recreate any of their tips with little practice.

DEFINITELY give this a watch.

For anyone starting out as a freelance photographer or videographer

This video gives some great tips, and I watched this to help me put together

About turning no money into plenty

The whole 5 video series is well worth a watch for inspiration, if anything just to show you how might be able to make money without having to spend loads on any initial investment.

About making money from money

Another five video series that’s well worth a watch for inspiration; although as the name suggests, this one is suited to people who have a little bit more of an initial investment that they can use.

A podcast for anyone that wants to start a thing but has trouble keeping it up

Claire Tonti, founder of the largest podcast network in Australia discusses starting projects with inspiring, but more importantly relatable people. She then unabashedly focuses on her inability to keep working on her ideas after starting them, something that I know I personally relate to 100%.

The biggest strength of the podcast is in it’s honesty, Claire often seems like she’s laying all of her cards out on the table for listeners to learn from and in an era of us all putting out our highly polished instagram-selves online, this honesty is incredibly refreshing.

Click on the picture to listen to Just Make the thing’s entire backlog.



And those are the best things I’ve found in the last few months, I hope you enjoy! If you have any other suggestions for things that would absolutely make your ‘Further reading’ list then comment them below!

I’m always on the look out and will 100% be reading/watching/listening to anything you link to!

Matt Saunders: From street art to Pottermore, making it as an illustrator

At a glance

Name: Matt Saunders Illustration

Industry: Freelance Illustrative Design

Key Learning Points;

Work with whatever you can find when starting out

Starting out can be a sink or swim moment, but it’s also a period where you might be most open to working creatively.

You need to be able to look at whatever is around you, and think about how you might be able to monetise it – in the early days, Matt painted on pieces of wood he found on the street and made it work!

Create what you love and in time, people will look to you for it

My favourite line of any Inkbike interview;

If you draw enough stuff related to magic, eventually wizards will show up at your doorstep’.

I genuinely can’t think of any way to summarise this any better – bravo Matt, bravo.

Take care of yourself to perform at your best

A creative block comes from burn out, take care of yourself so that you’re able to keep up your creative momentum.

Look outside your medium for inspiration

It can be easy to flock to similar communities to get ideas for your work – painters following other painters on Instagram, illustrators following illustrative subreddits etc. 

Look elsewhere for unique inspiration, whether that be movies, photography or something removed altogether. 



I don’t know about you, but when I think of LinkedIn, I tend to think of people either sharing viral videos about something vaguely related to science or an office manager sharing boomerang GIFs of their team that they made on their phone (inexplicably always shot portrait-mode). 

It was to my great delight then that amongst the office GIFs I noticed one of my connections like a comment on an unbelievably beautiful piece by the artist Matt Saunders.

After viewing the portfolio on Matt’s website, and discovering the work he’d been commission to produce for the likes of Time Out, The Financial Times and Pottermore, I knew that he was someone that needed to be featured on Inkbike.

With an incredible body of work now under his belt (and much more still to come), Matt’s story embodies everything that Inkbike lives for – he didn’t set out to be an illustrator ever since he was a kid, but it was an interest outside of his job which he chased until it became his business.

Matt’s interview is a brilliant source of inspiration for any creative that’s looking to make a living with their craft – enjoy!

 

Did you have formal training on illustration?

When I graduated I specialized in animation/motion graphics this where my first job started I always had a passing interest in illustration. On an evening after my day job I would focus on creating illustrations and trying to find my voice.

I would paint in nightclubs throwing myself in the deep end. So I guess I am self taught as I didn’t have higher education in illustration.

Did you start off your career working full time as an artist or was it a gradual process?

I had a full time job as a motion graphic designer for 6 months , I was then let go by that job as this was the peak of the recession and went out on my own.

How did you first start making money as an artist?

I would juggle between doing freelance motion graphics work, editing, film making, animation, illustration, art working. I became extremely diverse in terms of how I made my income so I could support myself independently.

I would always come up with new ideas to generate income; at one point I was painting on planks of wood that I’d find in the street. You just have to grab what you can find and think how can this be monetised. It was a bit of a sink or swim moment where I had to do whatever I could to pay the bills.

“You always want to try to be ahead of what is going on around you.”

What was your first client commission and how did it come about?

I think it was for a friends band it was a t-shirt design and I was paid the grand some of £100, which at the time seemed like a lot.  

I imagine that one of the most difficult things to do when first starting out is figuring out how to price your work – did you ever struggle with that when getting off the ground?

I think it was a lot of trial and error and learning what styles work for certain budgets, the more you do it you learn how to become more efficient with your workflow so you end up working less for more money and your work becomes better as well.

It’s also about being more confident and knowing what you are worth and if a client doesn’t value that , you need to have the confidence to say no and walk away. It’s difficult when you’re starting out though, as people will take advantage of you.

 

Have you ever had to deal with people taking credit for, or even profiting from the work you post online? If so, what happened and how did you deal with it?

I have had a few instances, but if anything comes about I normally get my agents to sort things out when this happens. My style can be complicated so it’s not as easy to replicate.

What have been the most successful ventures you’ve undertaken for raising your profile as an illustrator?

I think creating work for myself is always a successful venture, if you produce a handful of unique pieces/concepts for yourself for each year, this will bank roll you in the future.

You always want to try to be ahead of what is going on around you.

“If you draw enough stuff related to magic, wizards will eventually show up at your doorstep.”

How did you secure an agency?

I was super lucky!  My agents were just starting out and still trying to find their voice as an agency. Now they are one of the most sought after in the world.

My illustration work back then is so different from what I am doing now and I feel like I’ve grown with the agency. The talent under the roof of Handsome Frank is incredible and we all push each other a long.

Illustrating for Pottermore is such an impressive achievement – how did the opportunity come about?

If you draw enough stuff related to magic, wizards will eventually show up at your doorstep. I’m a big believer in finding your audience and voice and anything in that is similar to your voice will find you.

This has happened quite a bit where things that inspire me will eventually cross paths with me. Slightly different than work but I was in the last Tim Burton film and I don’t think this would have happened if I didn’t put myself out into the world.

Have you ever found that you’ve gone through periods of extended ‘creative block’ in your career? If so, how have you overcome it?

I don’t really get creative block just more frustration , there are so many things I want to do and sometimes things get in the way be it work or life. There is a stack of projects I want to do and I just need to put my time into these.

Ive learned that blocks are linked to burning out and taking care of yourself to not think about anything is a helpful way to open ideas up.

 

Are there any particular tools, platforms to raise the profile of your work, pieces of software or anything else which you consider to have been particularly influential in your career as an artist?

Explore and be curious put down instagram/twitter there are so many interesting artists/styles that have been done in the past that can be applied to your work.

This could be films or photography, but look outside whatever medium you are in.

Are there any tools you think that absolutely every artist should have?

Adobe software is a must if you are wanting to be a commercial working creative these days and a notebook and a pen so you can always catch rough ideas and jot down thoughts.


If you enjoyed this article, then why not sign up to get my latest posts delivered straight to your inbox? Just type your email into the box at the bottom of the page .

I post content new issues once every sometimes, so adding your email means that you’re being both super supportive (yay!) and avoiding the need to check the website for new content.

Fin.