2019 Give Back

I have been so overwhelmed to start blogging again. So much has changed in the past year, and in the past six months since I last updated you all.

But with MLK day being yesterday, and the lack of celebration I did, I decided I needed to honor his legacy somehow. Putting together an application for local non-profits to work closely with in 2019 has been on my list of things to do since November, well, instead of shaming myself, I put myself to work and got the application up and running. (Sometimes those little things can feel so daunting). If you know of a non-profit that you think would be a good fit, please send them this link. Or email me at sidesignloft@gmail.com with someone’s email and I will reach out to them myself.

Hello everyone, and hello 2019! I can’t wait to see what is in store!

Started from the Bottom, Now I’m Here.

August 25th, 2016. This was a few months after the accident and we were still living in the camper. Grant was living in the camper full time, with a lot of time being taken for appointments, PT, surgery and the like. I stopped working at the business a few weeks after this, and focused my time on caring for him and fixing up the house we bought after this.

This was a year later. I had just relaunched my business, got dedicated to posting all the time on Instagram and seriously trying to connect with others. This was me working furiously at lettering and illustration after I discovered Creative Market, selling my goods, and in general, seeing my business as a sprint.

I just did work with KGB Texas and the City of San Antonio for the city’s airport, am doing social media work for some local businesses and posting my Notable Women’s coloring book. (Which has been three years in the making). If you want to be your own boss, recognize that it’s a slow jog. It’s constantly thinking that you are closer to the finish line, you just have to go a little bit further (even though you’re really only one quarter of the way there). It’s constant perseverance and dedication, which means, you should just DEFINITELY love it. But if you find that thing that sets your soul on fire, know that the struggle, the marathon, the growth. Is all TOTALLY worth it.

Fresh Prints!

Hey! If you follow along on Instagram or Facebook, you’ve been seeing these pop up. I meant to publish this on Friday, but being in Seaside Florida for a Bachelorette party, I tried to be super cognizant about keeping work to a minimum and enjoying a real-life vacation. (Anyone who has seen me on a ‘vacation’ knows I usually am at my computer daily).

This series has been so much fun to create. Eventually when you come to my house, these drawings will be printed with white ink on plexiglass and hung in our bathroom to create a different kind of gallery wall. I can’t wait to show you the progress pics (once we get our bathroom tile put in).

I’m currently working on a Notable Women Coloring Book and I am so excited to share the progress and updates with you! 

San Antonio Airport Project

Gosh guys, I feel like I should be all calm and collected about a project like this… Be all, “oh yeah, this is standard ops.” But in reality I am a nerd and get so excited about all of my projects, especially the surreal ones that so many people will be seeing.

It really blows my mind and makes me feel weird and excited.

I’ve mentioned my secret sauce for getting big things like this, and said I will be announcing it in a few weeks- and I can NOT WAIT to share this so others can get cool gigs and meet awesome people. What is holding me back currently is that I need to send out a few more, and I also want to hook you guys up with some kind of discount or deal. So keep your eyes peeled and keep working hard. I have loved this little community, the support from my readers and all of the inspiring work you post.

Keep on, keeping on friends! And share some projects that got you nerding out!

5 Things I’ve Learned about Building Passive Income

First things first- I’m back!!! And it feels so good! I’ve been traveling the past four weeks out of five and life has been CRAZY. Sadly, that meant my blog fell to the wayside, but no more. My first post back comes with a boom:

I am so honored to have been featured on the Rising Tide’s blog and monthly guide! Are you a part of the Rising Tide Society? It’s an amazing little community of creative entrepreneurs and our monthly meetings and friendships that they’ve introduced me to, has brought me so much joy. So when I was asked to write about my thoughts on “passive income” I jumped.

Here is the link to the blog post (and if you want to join The Rising Tide Society on FB, I highly recommend it and then search for your local chapter and attend the meetings regularly). Being introduced into this chapter has totally changed my life and business. It’s so cool to be surrounded by people who know the struggle [and joy] of entrepreneurship and I feel really lucky to work from home, but not feel alone in that journey at all.

Without further ado, my article:

I began as a wedding stationer/hand-letterer and now focus on licensing to other designers. I license patterns and prints to larger companies through an agent, working on an ad hoc basis for ad agencies and small businesses alike, while also drop-shipping merchandise.

Here are some things I have learned so far about successfully creating passive income:

Passive income is not really passive at all.

“Passive income” is kind of a misnomer—it’s incredibly active and it takes a lot of dedication and perseverance to make passive income work. I sell on Creative Market and the algorithm (like most) favors those accounts and shops that have a more routine posting schedule and more items for sale. If you’re a photographer or graphic designer who wants to begin licensing digital goods on Creative Market, I recommended that you post one pack a week for 10 weeks rather than post a bunch of packs immediately. The algorithm favors dependable and disciplined shop owners, so you can’t sit back and ignore your “passive” income stream.

Never assume people know what you’re selling.

If you are an established photographer who is selling curves or presets, never assume your audience knows that you’re selling these. You have to constantly remind your audience about your shops and what they can buy there. However, you shouldn’t bombard your audience with pages of links they have to search through—I use a Linktr.ee account to change my profile links so I only have three to four going at a time. Keeping your audience informed about your products and services and allowing quick access to them can be extremely helpful in generating consistent passive income.

Take the time to create strong sample images.

Did you know that Vegas hotels use ugly carpet to get people to keep their eyes off the ground and on the machines that can give them a lot of money? Well, you want to do the opposite of that. Creating strong images that showcase how customers can use your work can spur them into a purchase. Although bigger businesses often have designers who can visualize how patterns and designs will look in the final product, many people find it easier to see examples. Creating great mock-ups of your work can help you find agents and licensees if you choose to license your patterns or designs.

Create work that can be used in multiple ways

This goes for client work, too—as long as you retain the rights and get the necessary contracts in place (especially for photographers), don’t be afraid to use what you create in different markets. For example, if you’re taking photos for a styled wedding shoot, ask the models to be really expressive, toss a bouquet, kiss passionately, or laugh—this can lead to great footage for stock photos. You can then potentially license these to designers and other wedding professionals or use them to create beautiful “before” and “after” examples for presets or curves.

A personal example: I recently worked with a bride on a beautiful custom wedding suite, which involved creating a botanical drawing of a few different flowers. I specifically made sure to create the leaves and flowers on various layers, which has allowed me to and create and sell wallpapers, a pack of digital clipart, wrapping papers, art prints, and stationery. The designs are a different style than what I normally create, but they’ve been really popular and help display my breadth of work.

Consistency is king.

No matter what markets you choose to diversify in, you have to be consistent. Invest your time wisely and be selective of where you put your energy. Only create that Etsy store or Creative Market shop if you can see yourself investing the same amount of time two years from now. It takes a massive amount of dedication to begin to see results, but those who are consistent will win out.

How to stay inspired when working with commissions (or any other client work)

This comes up all the time. I used to feel so burdened when painting commissions. It was a part of the professional art world that seriously depressed me. I thought in order to be an artist, you had to sell your soul. To make money, you had to ‘give up art’ and be uninspired and miserable (probably because for a LONG time- that was me). 

Between a lot of business readings, a lot of time spent creating, finding wonderfully talented role models who I consider great artists… I have slowly changed my tune. It brings me great joy to do what I love. Sure there are lulls, or times when a project is tedious and challenging (just like art assignments when you are learning something new and the struggle is real and raw). But for the most part, I feel SO FORTUNATE to be able to create, to get lost in my work, to create a world that’s a little more beautiful and infuse the magic that I feel, into my work, or your work, as the case may be. 

I think a big transition of this mentality was that I don’t think making money and making art are mutually exclusive things. This seems simple, but it was a HUGE leap for me, I thought in order for art to remain pure, the artist must remain poor. (This notion was actually given life in the early 20th century when an artist wasn’t making it and wrote off all great artists as “starving” just like him). But it’s actually very untrue. I started considering great painters with patrons, people who paid the artist to paint what they wanted, I began looking at great works of art as commissions (since many were). Picasso was also a very rich man and branded himself and his work beautifully (read “Real Artists Don’t Starve” by Jeff Goins). You have to flip that switch in your brain that art and money are mutually exclusive.

The second point is that if you are DREADING working on a piece, then either you need to pivot and find a style/niche that suits you better, or charge more. Part of the reason why I hardly do wedding stationery is that I prefer to create the pieces custom for each couple, so the illustrations can take me DAYS at a time… I also haven’t branded myself to be able to charge the larger amounts that would make it worth while to me. Not getting paid enough is a total energy killer and has made me regret projects with a VENGEANCE. Want to meet the unhappiest, uninspired Sierra? It involved taking on custom portraits for $20, or extensive logo projects for $300. 

Third, I think we must begin to be seriously grateful for the ability to create. Gratitude is pretty amazing and the fact that I can whip out money from thin air with projects and art is SERIOUSLY incredible. With this attitude I was able to plug away at my portfolio, have a daily instagram post and create so much content that I now have clients that know the kind of work I do, are familiar with my style and I get to create even more work that I love doing. It’s a really cool cycle of what came first, and I am glad I am finally to see the work pay off.

So, all in all, you can create HAPPILY and also make money. Your art can be your career without any loss of interest or inspiration. Find your niche and charge enough to give your piece LIFE, to make you SO ECSTATIC to work on it (this can take a LOT of work to do, but it’s possible), and last, be grateful that we get to do what we love. We live in a special time where passion and social media converge with public interest and instant publication and mass sharing.

Obviously this is just projection for what has worked for me, and is more of a reflection after talking about how draining certain commissions can be (because they can seriously be the WORST). I hope you all find the work/art/life balance that suits you and you create with brilliant excitement (or whatever works for you) regularly.