Friday Finds - Victoria Johnson - Illustrator

Morning everyone! Today’s Friday Finds is a truly fabulous illustrator called Victoria Johnson who I met virtually through the Lilla Rogers MATS class. Soon she will be jetting off from Rome, where she lives, to New York to exhibit at Surtex in New York in May for the first time. Find her at booth 447:)

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 Victoria Johnson came to be!

I’ve been designing for 17 years but started my own collection, representing myself, in 2012.  I definitely planned it. I allocated the first few weeks for just writing my business plan and building my online presence and gave myself a very clear starting strategy.

Did things take off immediately or has it been a slow burn?

I started to get sales and contracts almost immediately but I think I’d still describe it as a slow burn.  I’ve gradually increased the time I invest in it and am broadening my contact list.  It’s hard to move at a fast pace when you’re doing everything yourself.

Do you do your business part time or full time?

I do it when my children are at school, 5 days a week between 10am and 4pm.  I almost grind to a halt during the 3 month Italian Summer holiday!

Do you intend to grow your business into something much bigger or are you happy with it as it is and why?

I intend to grow it into something much bigger!
Where do you sell your work?

I sell or license my work mainly to paper product retailers.  I also do commissioned work quite often. I haven’t created my own ‘product’ as such but would like to in the future – even if it’s just prints on Etsy.  For the moment I want to focus on reaching more leading retailers.

Which of the selling methods that you use works best for you? Why do you think this is?

I submit my work by jpeg regularly to key companies.  This is the standard way of presenting work for most print designers.

Have you had publicity in national magazines? If so how did you approach them?

I was recently featured in the Uppercase Surface Pattern Design Guide – which was exciting. I’ve been featured on Print and Pattern numerous times in the last year. I just sent work following the submissio nguideliness. I’d like more exposure through popular blogs and must make more time to submit to them.

Who do you think your typical customer is?

Art Directors, seeking art that appeals to trend-driven women between 25 and 45ish!

Which aspect of your work do you enjoy most?

Obviously I like the designing but I actually love all the other stuff too. I really enjoy interacting with clients and feeling connected to the world out there and I even like doing my accounts!!  I like to feel I’m building myself a little puzzle everyday – putting all the different pieces together a bit at a time and watching it keep growing.

Is there anything you would have done differently if you were starting your business today?

Yes – I’d have made sure my website wasn’t dependent on Adobe Flash so it can be seen on ipads and phones better!  I’ll have to retackle that at some point.

Are you someone who sets goals regularly or more instinctive?

I force myself to set goals.  It doesn’t come naturally. I write a list at the beginning of each week and keep reminders on my phone.  I just started a book of general work goals – a series of untidy, random entries that identify where I’m trying to go.

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?

My best friend helped me for the first year and she was the wind beneath my wings!!  She helped me with sales, building a client list, sending work out, and I paid her a cut.  More than anything else she encouraged, motivated and supported me and I can’t thank her enough for that.

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?

I’m alone at home and generally I like it – especially since joining the Lilla Rogers MATS Facebook communities.  It’s like a virtual studio, being able to throw out questions, insecurities and triumphs to a group of fellow designers. I’ve considered having an outside studio but think that being able to work while I cook my children’s dinner etc far outweighs the benefits.  I’ve always liked being at home, surrounded by my own stuff.
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? 

At the moment it’s the MATS communities.  Before that it was my friend - I’m very lucky that shortly after my friend left to live in South Africa, I started the course and a void (in that respect) was filled.  I’ve had a successful business before though (a design studio in New York) and that experience has proved invaluable in guiding me through this and I’ve felt quite self sufficient in terms of decision making.  

What is a typical day for you in your business as it is now? What would be a dream day for you – business or otherwise?

I usually hit my stride about 10am, though I’d love to get going earlier.  I sit in my kitchen (I have a studio but NEVER sit in it!) at my computer and do whatever needs doing, responding to emails, designing etc.  I take a break between 2pm and 3pm usually then fetch my kids at 4pm.  If we’re not doing anything after school I might fiddle a bit with whatever I’m doing while they play or watch telly and if I’m not knackered I might have another go when they’ve gone to bed at 8.30pm – particularly if I have a US deadline.

A dream day – I’d work like a machine while my kids were at school without checking FB every 20 mins!!!  I’d start the day with a run and not eat any biscuits and I’d get an inbox full of opportunities (sales, new licenses, a competition win) throughout the day!!!  Ha ha!!

Anything else  you want to add… tips or plans or ambition…

My biggest tip is always – just show up.  Even on a bad day.  Sit down and fight your way through the difficult parts but be there.  I can’t tell you how many designs I’ve done that seemed utterly hopeless at some point and turned out to be work I’m really proud of. Challenges are problems to be solved.

© Victoria Johnson

Links please! Where can we buy your work?

I don’t really sell my work to the public at this point, though I’d love to start doing that and will do soon.  However, you can see my work  and find me on these links;

Thanks so much for doing this Victoria and masses of luck in NY - I am sure you will be a massive hit.


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