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  • Writer's pictureLeonie Jonk

Planting the seeds

Sometimes I wonder why I choose what seems to be the hardest work to try and make a living. Because while creating art lights up my soul, it isn’t easy to turn that into anything resembling profit. The sad truth is that of the people I know are unable to even make minimum wage with their art business. And that includes people you might think are hugely successful. I recently read a newsletter of a Dutch published illustrator who I honestly consider a huge success. She has weekly comics in magazines, has illustrated and published her own books and is a name most Dutch artists know. And yet she too struggles to make ends meet in a healthy way. She wrote about how she worked 80+ hours when she started and how the average income per illustration job in The Netherlands has remained stagnant over the past decade, while prices rise. Dutch illustrators make half of what illustrators in the UK make and a fifth of what they make in the US.

And yet.

Whenever I see a story roll by my feed with my art in the background, my heart swells.

Whenever I get an order, whether it’s a single sticker or a whole bag full of goodies, I couldn’t feel any more grateful that I get to make that.

Whenever someone tells me that something I made was meaningful for them, because it gave them joy or made them feel less alone, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

But that doesn’t make it easy. I am extremely fortunate that I have a partner who can support me financially because at this moment I make about a tenth of what my financial goal would be. I trust him with every fiber of my being and thank him for this support almost every single day. But when your entire roof needs to be replaced and you’re one minor accident away from having no income, that seems like an incredibly precarious situation to be in.

Trying to pave your way as an artist or illustrator is HARD. (And I assume the same thing goes for any other self-employed creative, whether that’s music or fashion design)

There are a million paths you can go down and each requires a different skillset and learning that takes up your complete focus and attention.

You have to learn a million different things -besides your craft- in order to find success. From learning the foundations of marketing, social media management and accounting, to learning about things like international tax laws, shipping, package design or inventory management. And that’s *just* for having a tiny little shop in the corner of your living room.

Every single day you have to grow in a million different directions while also making sure that you create and grow in your creative path.

And yet.

Sometimes I wonder why I choose what seems to be the hardest path forward for me, but the truth is, it felt like the only path that I was capable of following. While this path may be wrought with obstacles, while it may have me sitting on the stoop crying on occasion. Every other path seems barred for me. There is only so much a single person can do who needs to rest several times a day that aren’t self-employment.

And yet

Lately, I’ve felt more hopeful than I have in a long time.

I’m the kind of person who craves that immediate return. Shop update should mean incredible sales. But it also never works out that way for me. What does work out for me is the slow and steady. Because while I’ve been learning and growing and working I’ve been planting the seeds for so many things to flourish. I feel like I’m beginning to see the benefits of all that careful tending.

So if you’re a small creative with their own business that doesn’t feel valid enough because it isn’t as huge as some others. Or you’re not achieving that sort of numerical success as quickly enough as you see others achieve that. Know that they have been planting seeds. And know that you are doing the same. One day those will come to fruition. I believe in you.

I love you <3


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