Lauren Hom is an artist and inspiration. She’s an AdobeMax Master Speaker, educator, lettering artist, muralist, marketeer.. and a bold voice!
She empowers creatives, she is generous, she is amazing! If you’ve ever wanted to know how you can get visibility, get seen on Instagram, and turn your passion into profit, this is your girl Lauren Hom! Enjoy our #DesignwithDot interview.
Meet Laura Hom: an adobemax master speaker, designer and letterer
I got to meet Lauren in Barcelona after her OFFF Barcelona keynote as a Wix speaker. I had been following her for years and was thrilled to welcome her into the city. Via Instagram I invited her to a glorious evening wining and dining with locals and other artists, a magical night I’ll never forget. I’m so excited that she’s generously giving us some of her time today to chat with us about marketing for artists.
It’s such a pleasure to have you on the #DESIGNWITHDOT blog Lauren!
1. #ImposterSydrome Can you tell us a little bit about how, especially for us creative people that have a lot of imposter syndrome, how it was for you and how you were able to overcome it?
I think it’s kind of baked into our society, still, that art isn’t a real job, that it’s a hobby. And so of course, we are going to internalize those things. For me, part of what helps me get over imposter syndrome was seeing other people who looked like me who I related to doing those things. So that was really instrumental. I think, having someone else who has kind of walked that path and saying to yourself, why not? I would also say, just cultivating confidence in the sense of practicing taking risks and trying things. I can also recall that most things in my life have been a lot scarier in my head than they actually have been in practice. And so, for me, a lot of that at the beginning of my career was just saying yes, to all opportunities, dipping my toes in the water, seeing what was for me what wasn’t for me, and then just kind of fine-tuning from there. But I would say, I still had imposter syndrome, from time to time, it will never be completely eradicated.
Coming along for the ride is also really liberating. I think just knowing that everyone goes through it and that it is normal helps a lot too. But that doesn’t mean you still can’t persist and keep trying. So that’s it, I think that’s how I’ve been able to get over it a little bit.
2. I teach all my little dragons how to communicate their beliefs and what their opinions are. How hard is it? How were you able to cultivate your voice and really have the audacity to start sharing your opinions as you’re building your brand on a global platform?
I will say that I credit a lot of that to my parents, they were very encouraging of me doing my thing. And they’re fairly outspoken, as well. And so I think that was a big influence. My grandma is also very outspoken. So that was modeled for me, I think growing up, and then honestly, it wasn’t like I was born confident, and I was like my voice matter.
It was a lot of baby steps. The way that my career really started when I went to visual arts school. And as an art student, you’re kind of finding your voice. And I really started noticing a pattern in my work junior year of school where we would get these really open assignments from my teacher, Gail Anderson. And she actually pointed out that all of my projects tend to be when given the option of what to make centered around food and humor. Then I thought I was getting a little closer to my beliefs.
And my career kind of took off unexpectedly I suppose in college, when I started a project called Daily Dishonesty, it was a Tumblr blog, which sounds so dated now because I haven’t been there in a while. But I started sharing my voice and my opinions as that passion project.
I have to remind myself that yeah, you’re not gonna be for everybody. And you can’t create the intention of trying to do for everybody. And for me the most, I guess, frictionless way for me to do that is to just make stuff that I like, to think of things that are going on that I’ve noticed, and then hope that the right people will be able to connect with that.
3. I know you have this amazing course called Passion to Paid and it’s all about turning your side passion projects into a business. How did you actually learn about marketing and putting yourself out there? Because that’s something that I didn’t learn in school… So I’m curious to know, how did you learn about how to market your art?
Yeah, I also didn’t learn that in school. I went to an art school and they didn’t even get marketing classes. I don’t know if things have changed. I graduated in 2013. So hopefully, there are more branding and marketing classes for artists now.
For me, it was really trial and error. And I think a lot of the advice you get out there, you just have to give it a shot. And if it works for you, and your style of art or your business, great, if it doesn’t, you’ve got to try something else. There are so many different kinds of ways to market depending on who your target audience is what you’re selling, what price point it is. So for me, it was really trial and error.
You might see your favorite artists or creators doing these high-profile jobs. That’s a little further down the road but it’s the little baby steps that count and learning by doing.
4. What is your formula for success for your brand?
And the formula that has worked for me is to make passion projects. So what I mean by a passion project is, if anyone’s a designer, or an illustrator, or a visual artist, (and I think this could apply to any kind of content creator, to be honest) instead of making one-off posts for Instagram, or Tumblr, or wherever people are posting their work in singular pieces I instead focus on thinking about campaigns.
I began to think and learn about campaigns for myself in my advertising classes in art school. In order to do this, I would create series of work, you know, 10, 20, 30 pieces, and publish those. This kind of gave my work a storyline or a through-line, to be able to follow along with, for people to relate to. That proves to be really effective for me both in practical terms of being able to focus on making kind of one theme of work at a time. And then also for content publishing, where people began to see my work and see it over and over again, under this same theme. That consistency I think helped for things to catch on, rather than seeing lots of one-off pieces.
Just like the marketing saying that states “you need to see something eight to 12 times before people will take action.”
That’s a while but knowing that it actually makes sense, then, because when you create a series of work, it might take them till that eighth or 12th post for someone to connect the dots and want to work with you.
In summary, I’ve used passion projects, as my main marketing lead magnet for getting my name out there for client work as a lettering artist and illustrator.
5. So something that we have in common besides going to the same high school is that we got our first few jobs from Craigslist. Can you tell us a little bit more about when you first started and what that hustle was like? How did you get your first gigs?
So I’ll give a little backstory of the start of my career on Craigslist. So I moved to New York to go to the School of Visual Arts. And I got a bunch of part-time jobs. I was a hostess at a bar, and I was selling soap, working retail, and I think that was my freshman year. And then sophomore year, I realized that oh, you know, I moved all the way across the country to study something creative. So I could get a creative job in advertising or design, and that these kind of odd jobs I was taking weren’t serving that purpose. And so I quit both of my part-time jobs. And I was like, okay, from here on out, any part-time work I do on the side, I’m going to make it through creative work.
And so I hopped on Craigslist, because that was the only place I really knew to look, I didn’t really have a creative network at the time, I don’t even know of sites like Behance or Dribble. And so I went on Craigslist into the gigs section. There’s usually a creative gigs section, and would just take on or apply for whatever I could see that looked remotely close to what I was doing.
So I was doing portraits of people’s kids, I was doing random wedding invitations, I was, you know, hand illustrating birthday presents for people. Just a lot of little odd jobs, I was doing $50 logos. This is so embarrassing, but I’ll share it. The first logo I ever did, I didn’t even get paid for even though I was only charging $50. Because I didn’t know how to set up a PayPal link. That was the reality of it. And I was too embarrassed to keep pestering the client until I just kind of let it go, which is not great. But I hope it brings like a tinge of reality to anyone who’s watching. That as you learn as you go, you will mess up. It’s okay. It’s normal.
I think that learning through experience is still the most valuable thing because you figure out one, what you like to do and what you’re good at, and then two where your work kind of fits in the market. And you really never know that until you kind of work your way up from those little jobs.
I was doing dinky little jobs and eventually, you know, I got a couple of paid internships, just random things, mostly from Craigslist. I interned at a bowling alley as a graphic design intern. I interned at a haircare company. Yeah, and I think I just kind of took whatever I could find. My friend Jessica has a really good phrase that she used in one of her talks, she spoke it off as well.
She had a similar start to her career. She called it Tarzan, where you pretend you’re Tarzan and you’re swinging on a vine. And you just grab whatever closest vine is near you. And at the beginning of your career, no matter what you’re working on. That is an effective way to you know, grow your design chops, build your resilience and grit.
You might see your favorite artists or creators doing these high-profile jobs. That’s a little further down the road but it’s the little baby steps that count and learning by doing. That’s really the best advice that I can give.
You can go to passiontopaid.com for my number one signature class that I teach.
6. When you work 70 hours a week, and you did like 50 different odd jobs like that, how do you know what your niche is if you work with many different industries? How as an illustrator would you actually find your niche and go about marketing your different illustration works?
Back to my story from before with trying lots of little things and seeing where you fit in. The key to getting or get making a living off of your illustration work is to try to find the sweet spot between what you like to draw and what people are willing to pay you for. And the only way you find out what people are willing to pay you for is by saying hey, I’m available for work. So taking on lots of little jobs at the beginning, just kind of figure out what you like and where you fit is important. And then again, publishing passion projects, making personal work, to see kind of what takes off.
For me, what happened was, I was doing my Craigslist gigs, I was, you know, building my portfolio, I started a passion project, called Daily Dishonesty. And Daily Dishonesty was the thing that it caught on, it stuck after me doing a bunch of other little things. And that stuck, it took off. It was unexpected. And so because Daily Dishonesty took off and started getting circulated around the internet, and shared, I started getting asked to do projects in that style. So for the very first time, clients were coming to me rather than me seeking them out. And so what happened for me was I doubled down and I saw that things I like people are going to pay me for Daily Dishonesty style, 3D dimensional colorful, quirky kind of lettering. I double down on that and pretty much did that style exclusively for two years.
It was working and it was really good. And then slowly, once I built a name for myself, and people started knowing my work, and I started getting some smaller to medium name clients on my client list, then I started expanding and experimenting with adding one other thing in at a time. So after Daily Dishonesty, I did a chalkboard lettering project because I didn’t want to pivot, but just expand the breadth of my skills and what I offered to clients in my portfolio. So my advice, and what’s worked for me is, to experiment until you find that thing that catches, double down on that, get known for it, and then start expanding.
7. What is your advice for Instagram for illustrators or designers?
To help with Instagram my advice is to have kind of, again, a through-line to your work. So even if you work is in different styles, one way to make your Instagram look cohesive, if that’s important to you, is to just use the same color palette, so maybe it doesn’t have to be two colors, but rather it could be five to 10 colors that you just kind of cycle through, that’s one way to do it.
8. If you could do it all over again how would you start? And where would you invest? Which social media networks?
I would start on Instagram again.
I haven’t found the time to experiment with another platform yet. My advice is, it does take a lot of focus and energy to build up any social media platform. And a question I get from my students a lot is like, okay, so do I post the same thing to all of them at the same time to increase my chances of shooting my shot on every platform? And my answer is, usually no, because it’s exhausting to run multiple accounts and to engage on them.
And so my advice is to pick the platform that you naturally like being on as a user the most and where you like consuming, the kind of art that you make, whether it’s illustration design, and that’s probably where I would start. So if I had to start all over again, I would likely start on Instagram again I’m sure the algorithm’s a lot different now.
Another thing is I always remind people who might be new to my work, and they see that I have a big following. I’ve been on Instagram since late 2013. It’s been seven years. So it’s not like that all happened overnight. And also one thing, the important thing to note, too is social media management and social media marketing is a full-time job that people get hired for. And so it is a lot of work, it takes strategy. You don’t have to be an expert in it to get started, but you have to find what works for you.
So again, learning by doing I think is the best. It’s frustrating I know when your account isn’t growing a lot at the beginning. If it helps anybody, I was probably stuck at 5000 followers for the first couple of years. And it wasn’t until I started doing more passion projects and when I quit my full-time job, I was able to free up more time to be able to really dive into social media. So again, it’s not like the sexiest answer, but it is a lot of effort. And if you don’t have the extra hours on the side to dedicate to posting every day, don’t feel bad if you don’t post every day, you just kind of have to do what you can. And what I’ve noticed on Instagram is yeah, things just I think as with anything in life, compound interest comes into play where the more you do something, the more you start building.
Once I kind of crossed over that 10k mark things just went uphill. And social media following isn’t everything. But it is something like with all marketing, it’s a credibility marker. Of course, someone having a big Instagram following doesn’t mean that their art is better than yours necessarily. It just means that they found something, they found their hook with the algorithm or with social media, and it can be a positive credibility marker for someone looking to follow you or hire you, which is probably why my following started expanding after I kind of reached that mark.
9. I know that you have a course that’s on teachable, do you want to share how everyone can get access to it and, and all of your URLs and stuff so people know where to find you?
So, everything I’ve been talking about is about passion projects. If you are interested in passion projects, and kind of that marketing strategy I’ve used for my creative career, and you have the bandwidth to work on a passion project. You can go to passiontopaid.com for my number one signature class that I teach. I could talk about passion projects and ideas and series of work and marketing for artists for like 18 hours straight.
And if you are interested in painting murals, like the one I have behind me, I actually just opened up enrollment for my mural painting course recently, I didn’t even realize this was going to coincide. But Passion to Paid is open year-round.
And so you can take that whenever. You can find that in the link in my profile or at the end of this blog post.