When illustrator and creative, Jasmine Dowling, burst onto the scene with a dash of colour, unique designs and enviable calligraphy skills, little did we know then that not only did she have an obvious flare for creativity, but perhaps equally, a keen entrepreneurial spirit. Since launching onto the scene, the Queensland native has expanded her talent into a fully-fledged eponymous business that makes all of our print and stationary dreams come true. So, while her days consist of coffee, ink-covered hands, styling and editing, we nabbed some time with Dowling to find out what it really takes to become a successful creative today. Read on for some sage advice on turning your passion into a form of income, scaling it into a business, and learning the art of balance when you’re running the entire show.
You’re such an amazing creative, but how did you use that creativity and take actionable steps to turn it into a business?
- Create your own personal projects. These are projects that will speak to what you can do, and what you want to do. This helps to show potential clients who you are and what you can do for them.
- Share your work to the right type of audience for your business. As much as I love my graphic-designer followers, they are not my potential clients. A lot of my clients are fashion or beauty brands, so what I share needs to attract that audience.
- You may be a creative but you have to treat it like a business. That means, charging so that you can live off that wage even when work is slow, always work ahead of schedule, never miss a deadline and always over deliver.
As much as I would love to say that I planned turning my creativity into a business, it was a decision that I made quite hastily in 2013 when I really wanted to buy something I couldn’t afford. I was already using Instagram quite a lot while I was studying design, so it felt pretty natural to show what personal creative projects I was working on at the time. From creating a couple of personal projects, sharing images of them and getting good feedback from my audience I thought I should probably try make money from doing this. Looking back there are a few things that I think really helped in turning it into a business:
How long did it take to turn your business from a side-hustle and into something you could pursue full-time?
I worked part-time for six months before pursuing it full-time, but let’s be honest, my expenses were super low for the first year of working full-time. I was still finishing my final year of study, and I was living at home still so I didn’t feel like I had a lot to lose.
How do you seek inspiration when you’re feeling particularly low?
For me, I have to just get out of the studio. Whether it is going for a walk or a drive to the flower markets. It may not give me a creative burst, but it clears my head enough to revisit the project more focused. If the problem is that creative ideas aren’t flowing, I like to either tackle a completely separate creative project that is nothing like the one I am working on, or I like to go through all my old work. I like to do the first thing because it takes the creative pressure off and I can usually return to the problem with a new perspective. Whereas I like to look at my work because you can start to look at it objectively and find new connections that you didn’t originally see.
What’s something that people are often surprised to hear about your job?
Probably that I handle it all just by myself. I think people often think I either have someone running my online store or managing my social media and projects, but it is all just me. Sometimes I think about hiring someone else to take the pressure off, but at the same time I have always done it by myself, for myself so I don’t even know if it would work out.
Being an entrepreneur isn’t easy, do you set clear work/life balance goals into your time, or is that more of a myth when you’re running your own business?
Over the years I think I have gotten better at setting boundaries, especially working from home. I try my best to work reasonable hours most days in a week. Which means from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. I am in "work" mode, then I end the day by going for a walk and when I return to the house I no longer go into my studio. Working for yourself also means that sometimes when it rains, it pours. Which means I will have months when I work until 11 p.m. but it means I don’t ever feel guilty for taking a few hours to go see my grandma or go to the flower markets just because I want to.
Travelling is when I feel the balance really difficult. All of my overseas travel has been personal rather than work, but because of my audience, I still feel the need to shoot everything, video most days on Instagram stories, document everywhere I go for blog posts etc.
You have such a beautiful Instagram grid, what are some key elements you think about when taking a photo for social media?
Personally, my images need be beautiful with a hint of chaos. They can’t be too perfect, too staged. I really make sure my images don’t move too far away from reality, they are just a slightly prettier version. Colour also comes into it but I am just like a bowerbird (just not with blue at the moment). As soon as I am working on a project or artwork in a colour scheme, I start to be drawn to anything in that scheme. This helps keep consistency in my account, but over time you will see the colours changing.
What are three qualities you think anyone working for themselves need to possess in the current environment?
Firstly, you really need to love the process of your work; there is no guarantee for success or clients so you need to be motivated just by creating. Secondly, having a strong sense of self. Keep yourself in check with what you want, what your point of view is and what your values are. Lastly, I think it helps to always do more than talking or thinking.
What are some exciting things you are working on for the rest of the year?
I am currently working on a lettering campaign for my home city (Brisbane) which will be so fun to see up around the place. Otherwise everything is pretty hush hush until it’s out, but personally I am working on a few little photo and coffee books that I want to bring out throughout the year.