Good morning! Today's interview is with artist and designer Angie Spurgeon. I came across the gorgeously colourful greeting cards, stationery and prints that Angie creates on both Facebook and Etsy where she has a large engaged following.
© Angie Spurgeon
When did you start your business and why? Did you plan how you started meticulously or was it almost accidental? Tell us your story of how Artwork By Angie came to be!
It all began when I started taking on freelance design work whilst I was pregnant with my first child back in 2005. It was very sporadic and word-of-mouth to begin with and stayed like that until my second child began nursery. From the start, my long term plan was be a work at home mum and to have a second go at making a career for myself from illustration and graphic design. Ever since I was a child I’d always wanted to be an illustrator and was very set on my path. When I left school I did a foundation art course and then went straight onto the University to do a BA Hons in Graphic Design illustration back in the early 90s. I was very sure about my path – possibly a bit too sure being so young. When I graduated and had to try and find work in the real world I found it all a bit of a struggle because I had no idea how to deal with the business side of things. I was unsure on how to pitch my work, how to value my work, I had no idea about marketing myself. It all seemed very daunting and I lost confidence in my ability. In the end, I came to a compromise with myself and took an office manager job in an advertising agency in order to gain some much needed (money!) and business and marketing experience whilst remaining in a creative environment. This was supposed to be a temporary situation, but I ended up having a 12 year career in advertising working in client services. Even though I gained lots of valuable experience and training during that time, I still felt I needed to be an illustrator again someday. So when the children came along that was the catalyst to spur me on and go for it again with the benefit of being much older, wiser and experienced. When my youngest daughter (I am mum to 2 girls) started nursery in 2010, that’s when I launched my website, folksy shop and blog for Artwork By Angie. It wasn’t meticulously planned, but there was a clear vision for the business from the start to simply try and earn enough from drawing and designing so that I can stay working from home and be there for my girls.
Did things take off immediately or has it been a slow burn?
I always consider the 2010 launch of my website the real beginning of my business because before that I was only doing the odd design job here and there to keep my hand in and regain my design skills. After 10 years not doing any design work, my skills were rusty and needed a lot of practice to bring them back up to the level I was at when I graduated. There was a lot of confidence that needed rebuilding. Since the launch of my website, it’s been a very gradual and steady growth, which I’m happy with and feel positive about.
Do you do your business part time or full time?
At the moment I’m putting in full time hours but am only taking part time pay as my main priority is to help ensure the business has continued steady growth. To be able to say that at this stage feels good as that’s already exceeded my expectations from where I started when I launched the website.
© Angie Spurgeon
Do you intend to grow your business into something much bigger or are you happy with it as it is and why?
My main aim is to grow the business in order to ensure I have continued full time work from it as that has always been my main goal. Of course I’d love to see my business really take off and do great things. I certainly have dreams that are so big they scare me. However, thanks to my marketing background, I understand the realities of what can happen when a business grows at a pace that it struggles to cope with. At the end of the day I just want to be drawing for living, so will keep my feet on the ground and continue to work hard towards that and see where it takes me.
Where do you sell your work?
I sell my work in few different ways. As well as my website shop I sell my designs as prints and cards directly from my Folksy, Etsy and Society 6 shops. I sell the license to use my illustrations as greetings cards to a publishing company that I work closely with. They get my designs into lots of lovely shops and show them at key retail trade shows such as Spring Fair International at the NEC. I have a few local wholesale stockists where I can test out new products. Most of the wholesale side is handled through the publisher, but it’s good to have a few stockists of my own to get feedback from the shop floor. On top of all this, I continue to fulfil graphic design commissions from a small client base of other artists, crafters and independent business owners, who are people I’ve worked with lots during the past few years and know their businesses well.
© Angie Spurgeon
Which of the selling methods that you use works best for you? Why do you think this is?
A combination of three main ways of selling suits me as it spreads the risk and helps keep cash flowing. Those three ways are:
- Selling illustrated products online and through a handful of local stockists using social media to promote it
- Licensing my designs to trade
- Taking on a comfortable amount of commissions and collaborative work from a trusted client base
Have you had publicity in national magazines? If so how did you approach them?
My products have had coverage in national trade press such as greetings today, but that was through the publisher I work with. I have had features in regional titles such as Somerset Life Magazine. I think starting with regional press is a good way to go. I contacted them on the back of seeing someone I knew featured in their magazine – it was a classic case of it’s not what you know it’s who. Warm introductions are always a good way in, it’s always worth asking around as you’d be surprised who knows who and can help introduce you.
Who do you think your typical customer is?
I think they are mostly lovely ladies who enjoy being surrounded by pretty things and bright colours. I imagine they are also rather fond of beautiful stationery and cheerful paper goods. I know from where my cards are stocked that many of them like to visit Waterstones and National Trust shops.
Which aspect of your work do you enjoy most?
I love drawing. I also enjoy developing a germ of an idea that’s burning in my head and making it real. It’s a fabulous feeling to get hold of finished printed items that you’d been imagining for months.
Is there anything you would have done differently if you were starting your business today?
Not really, I believe you need to make mistakes along the way in order to learn and grow. It’s all part of the journey but the main thing is to make sure you learn quickly from those mistakes and move on.
Are you someone who sets goals regularly or more instinctive?
Definitely, I think goals are essential in business. I set goals in the short, middle and long term because it helps keep me focussed and motivated. When you are using social media every day to promote your work, it’s very easy to get distracted or start comparing yourself to someone else and then start to drift and feel demoralised. That’s where I find goal setting comes into its’ own, it’s a great discipline when you work on your own. It snaps me back to focus on what I need to be doing to help move me towards where I want to be. It’s also vital to be able to assess your own progress as one person’s perception of success is very different from another’s.
Have you ever or do you employ people part time to help with any aspect of your business? For example, book keeper, accountant, packers? If you do how did you find people who were the right fit for you?
© Angie Spurgeon
Could you describe where you work? Are you alone most of the day or with others? Do you feel that they way it is now is the best fit for you? Do you see that changing?
My studio is a custom built corner of our bedroom. Sometimes the dining table get used for drawing or packing purposes. I tend to get most of the order fulfilling, emailing and social networking stuff sorted in the hours when our girls are at school. The design development tends to take place in the hours when the children are in bed, as that’s when I find it works best for me. We do have a room at the back of the house which the children use as a playroom - when they’re older and their toys get smaller and more gadget-y I shall reclaim it as my studio, but for now we manage as we are.
Do you have a mentor or people who you are able to discuss your business with? If not how do you find you best make decisions about your business?
I’m lucky to be surrounded by a very supportive family. My husband keeps me on track and always rolls his sleeves up to help whenever I need it. My dad and brother both have their own businesses so are great to turn to for advice and are always quick to share their knowledge and passion for being entrepreneurs.
Finally please tell us where we can buy your work!
Thanks very much for telling us your story Angie, it's really interesting to read how you manage things working from home and how clear headed you are, I find your thoughts about goal setting really helpful.