Free friday - questions

It's time for a Q&A again!
This question is from clix bee design:

What would you give as tip(s) to an illustrator that wants to start freelancing?

The most important thing you need is work! After all, a potential client would want to see what they get, right? Create a good portfolio. My experience is that an online portfolio or website is the most asked for but a 'real' one is good to have as well.

So what is a good portfolio exactly? A good portfolio shows who you are, your style and expertise. Your work shows a solid line and recognisable style. This might be a bit tricky when you just start out though. You might not have found your own style yet. In that case, show the work you enjoyed most making and are most proud of, this is a good measure for who you are as an illustrator. This also could mean your real portfolio is still a bit empty. Therefor it's important to show on your blog/ website/ online space what you're up to at the moment.

There's a simple psycological common belief: if you're busy, you're succesful.
Show what you're working on, the proces, your thoughts and passion for your work. When you create something new regularly you not only make a motivated impression but you give yourself the chance to grow.

Take this motivation and passion with you when going, for example to an exhibition opening where potential clients might 'walk around in the wild'. This does not mean you go scatter around your businesscards like candy, that's way to pushy! Just chat with people about what they do and what you do in an 'I'm not looking for a commision, just enjoy what I do'-way.  When you are enthused about what you do, others will be too and they might ask for your card or ask for theirs.

The second most important thing when you start freelancing is bookkeeping. If you're not comfortable with doing this yourself, find an accountant you trust (mine was recommended to me by a friend). If you're comfortable with bookkeeping yourself but to an expert, you can ask if you could fill in your income and expenditure yourself and they only do the end bit, this safes money. Check if your accountant offers that option.

The last tip is about the online community. There are loads of drawing assignments, little projects and creative pitches you can submit work to (like doodlers anonymous, the art house project ad sometimes Uppercase Magazine asks for submissions too). This is fun, expands your network and gives you the possibility to make new work for your portfolio.

One more thing, it could be interesting to go look for a agency. Some of my illustrator friends (like Sue Doeksen) are represented by one. Check if it is a good one though. Who are their clients, who are the other illustators they represent? Personaly I have no experience with this but it could work for you!

Good luck!

illustration by Helene Riff

Seb has got mail!


Seb received a little parcel with medication for his snotty noose! (And I can tell you on his behalf, he feel soo much better!). Thanks secret (but not so secret) doctor ;-)



Urlaub and Uitgeverij Snor (book publishers) are organizing a winterfest... More about that later, first: a sneak peek into flyer making process.

Free friday - question


This Free friday's question is from Mieske. She has send me a cute little package with postcards and the following thing she wanted to know:

I have a great product (in this case christmas postcards) but how to promote and sell it?

Well, this is your first promotion, a blog feature! This is a powerful thing, as lots of people see it and might hop over to your website. It's always great if someone writes about your work but how to achieve this?
Don't send people something with the only goal: feature my stuff, this feels a bit cheap. Make sure you have a reason (like with this free friday question) or just send a cute goodie to tell them how much you like their work. It's very likely they'll post about your little snail mail. Make sure though, you are sincere, don't go tell people you like their work just so yours is featured.
I've send Sandra Juto a costumized portrait pin (with her portrait of course) once to tell her how much she inspires me. When she told about this on her blog, lots of people clicked the link and since then I have a lot more followers (and people who visite my shop), even though this wasn't my first intention.

Some other advise is to blog yourself, and by that I also mean blog about others (and make sure you link to them). Let them know when you've blogged about their work so they can link to you on their blog (but don't ask them to). After all, what you give is what you get!

Another good thing to do is just to mail shops (real or email) about your product, this is always permitted in this direct way (in contrast to blog features) as they are a shop and might want your product. Be nice about their shop (show that you know what they sell and that you not just send your 'please-sell-my-stuff-message' to every random shop) and ask friendly if they'd be interested in selling your product (if so, you can send them your wholesale and retail prices, don't forget tax and shipping info).
Make sure you direct your mail to the person who handles wholesale and such (not 'sir/madame' or 'hello', this makes it very impersonal) and include one good picture (in case of email) of your product in low resolution (72-100 dpi).

Etsy is a great way to sell your products too. Not only is it easy and very cheap (they only charge 20 dollarcent per listed item and 3,5% of your selling price of every sold item) but also great fun! The Etsy community is very large which means: lots of potential buyers and heaps of tutorials, help and fun stuff, even meetings and markets. The trick is to make sure your shop stands out. Choose a name wisely (also pronounceable in english). For more info on opening a online Etsy shop, see here.

Be aware of the fact that people don't only buy your product but your brand. If they like what you stand for, the feel and who you are, they are more likely to buy from you, as by doing so they buy your style. This means that when you pack your orders, always make sure you add a little something. This could be a personal note, an extra product or do a great giftwrap. Always include a business card or something else that shows your name and website. And, very important: be friendly and helpful in your communication!

Last but not least, it helps to email (with one good picture in low resolution) your product to magazines. Investigate a bit on what mag might be interested in your product (kids products are not so likely to be featured in a magazine about science, unless you make science kits for kids). Same rules here as with mail to shops, direct it to the right person and be friendly.

Ps. 101 Woonideeen (a lovely dutch interior design magazine) has a christmas-card-countdown every year. You can send them your christmas card and they might include it on their blog with your link! Be quick though as it closed on november 29th. For more info, see here.

Seb and the Vet


Seb has been a bit under the weather lately, he has a snotty nose and won't eat his dinner... so yesterday I took him to the vet, maybe he could tell me why Seb was not his hungry self?
Well, first the vet couldn't find a cause. He noted Seb had: a strong heart, great lungs, good teeth, perfect weight and finally proclaimed (this specifically made me feel a proud mother, hearing this from a pro): 'what a beautiful rabbit!'.
At this point I thought all couldn't be more peachy perfect but the vet had one more conclusion...
Seb is allergic to dust!

OMG, this is so typical me, having a rabbit with an allergy! I put my sensitive furry friend in his traveling bag (may I mention here that it is a very fashionable one with army print?) and rushed home to thoroughly vacuum his residence and cleanse his hay in water. Let's hope it helps...

Aunt Henry finds

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We at Aunt Henry's listed some new pretty finds in the shop... Mr robot and tin toy pony (two real collectors items!)

Wrapping paper for the holidays

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I listed new printable wrapping paper in the shop, for the holidays!
Once purchaced you'll receive a zip file with the two designs in A3 size which you can print (for personal use only) as often as you like!

Free friday - questions


As promised, a free friday with some free advise. A few of you have responded to my call for questions about being an illustrator or webshop owner, thanks! I'll try to answer them all (some are simular) over the next few weeks. In the meantime you can still email me with new questions!

Todays question is from Rebechan.

Back at university, teachers used to tell us to "just write emails to editors, magazines and send your work". Does this really work? I can't bring myself to 'just write', I tend to think they will just discard my emails since they probably get a ton of those every day.  

Yes and no... First of all, to make this approach succesful, you have to understand how these editors work. You are right to think that they are people with loads and loads of incoming mails from shops, product designers, illustrators, graphic designers and other creative people who all want there work to be featured or commissioned, and no time on their hands. But there are a few tricks.

To make it easier for them to pick you, make sure you never send an overload of work in your email. Stick to one or two signature illustrations (or whatever work you make) and include them directly in the mail in a low resolution (72-100 dpi) so it's easily uploaded.

Make sure you have a short but clear story on what you want (nothing more annoying than someone saying: 'I hope we can mean something for each other' when what they really want is a commission or feature). A little note here though: we dutch are quite direct and prefer this in our communication, this may be different in other cultures!
I do believe it never to be wrong to say something like: 'I think your magazine is amazing (because...) and would love to illustrate for you!'. As long as you're polite and sincerly enthousiastic, you can't go wrong.
Also mention in your mail that you'll contact (email) them again, within two weeks or so, about how they liked your work and by that time do so.

This however doesn't mean that they'll give you a commission... right away. You need to wait and in the meantime send an occasional (once every 4-6 months or so) new work to keep them posted on your progress. I've had clients who finaly contacted me after 3 years! Sometimes they already have enough illustrators or they are looking for a different style at that moment or they just need to hear from you more often (this can also mean they notice your work somewhere else like in a blogpost or exhibition).

A final tip: it helps to investigate you future client a bit. What does the magazine stand for, what is their target market, what do they like, is their anything missing? A friend of mine wrote to a magazine once that she noticed they didn't have any illustrations in their magazine and she thought it would be a great addition to the magazine if she could make them some. They agreed!

I hope this was helpful, good luck!

Paper cut illustrations


The students in my Illustration and Digital course made their own postcards using the paper cut technique. We ordered some real postcards at Moo to see how their hard work looks in print, fingers crossed the cards turn out just as pretty as the originals!

Surprise mail!

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Yesterday we at Urlaub received some darling mail... a poster by Zilverblauw's Anki (who just launched her beautiful portfolio website) send to us by Monique, the art director of 101 woonideeen! Who has a very inspiring blog herself by the way...
Thanks Monique, for this great surprise (imagine me and Ellen screaming 'oooh' and 'aaah' over the parcel)!


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Now that I am an illustrator, designer and Etsy shop owner for a while I'd like to pay my knowledge, gathered over the past years, forward. Is there something you'd like to know, some advice, tips or tricks? This is your chance!
Email me your question(s) and mention in your mail subject 'free friday question' and I'll give it a go!

ps This cute tin toy bird is for sale at Aunt Henry's!

Aunt Henry is in business!

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Our new Etsy shop, Aunt Henry, is open! This shop has a bit of a special goal... We (me and my man) are saving for a shared dream: a road trip through the USA. We worked hard this weekend on photo's of the pretty vintage pieces and some fancy product descriptions. The first items are now listed.

To celebrate the opening of Aunt Henry, we'll give a 15% discount only this week (till sunday the 18th)! Just enter couponcode AUNTHENRYFIRSTWEEK at checkout.

Aunt Henry - New Etsy Shop!


My boyfriend has the most amazing collection of vintage finds... all hidden away in the attic. We talked about what to do with all these treasures and came up with the perfect solution over sunday breakfast: why not open a Etsy shop?

Hands on as we are, the name was found within ten minutes: Aunt Henry, and we planned to list items upcoming weekend. This means our shop will be open from next monday on! I'll let you know when it's there (I'm so excited)!

Flow Magazine


Working on an lovely commission for Flow Magazine...
You'll have to wait a while for the finished illustration, it's coming out in februari 2013!

No free friday (or saturday)...

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The tea bag holders I listed in my Etsy shop last week sell so quickly I have to make new stock already!

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