Painting Your Way To Freedom with Freelance Artist Kayla Whitney

Kayla Whitney is a freelance artist with a palette of many colors and talents. Based in Hamilton, Canada, Kayla is an hustler who’s become known for her bright happiness-inducing murals and design expertise. From delicate paper drawings to large scale installations, Kayla never ceases to search for growth opportunities to grow her biz and craft. Read below to learn from her journey from big city to farm, to rocking it as a solopreneur.

Let’s make sure you pat your own back… What’s your biggest strength as a solopreneur?

I am completely unable to work for other people. For most of my life that was a definite shortcoming. But when I started working for myself and felt how good and right it was …. I knew this is the solution! I don’t really have another option – I can’t have another job, I have to do this. It is just so thoroughly suited to who I am and how I work. Not having another option keeps the fire lit and burning bright. There is no fallback plan, or an option to give up and work for ‘the man’. Solopreneurship is it for me, and I really love it! It’s weird to say an inability to work for others is my greatest strength, but it is the reason I am here doing this today!

What’s the best business or money advice you ever got as a freelance artist?

It came from one of my best friends! We were in the park, laying in the grass, and I was marveling at how she had just jumped into a career she had no real experience in. She was making great money and killing it, and told me: “fake it til you make it”. I know that’s an old saying but oh does it work! I’ve always had a ‘can do’ attitude so I just really really dialed it up. I would say yes to everything, and then sort it out as I went. I am still doing that today, all the time!

Now for a moment of realness, what are you struggling with right now in your business?

Allow me to list them!

  • Time management between juggling multiple projects is a huge one for me. Starting out, you have to say yes to everything. This means that sometimes I spend 8 hours outside mural painting and then another 4 on my computer doing design. All this because I am scared of missing an opportunity.
  • Pricing: valuing myself, my time and my work (see point above).
  • Navigating downtime, personal time, and work time (again see point number one and two).
  • Millennial burnout – it’s a real thing (see all above points!).

As a freelance artist in Hamilton, what challenges and advantages do you think are unique to your city?

I went to university in Toronto and then worked there for about six years. After leaving to go farm for a few years and decompress from the madness, I moved to Hamilton. Comparing life as an artist in Toronto to Hamilton is laughable! When I moved here, my goal was to work full time as an artist. And I have been able to make that happen!

The community support in Hamilton is like nothing I have ever experienced. People are so welcoming and supportive. When you meet someone they are likely to ask: what do you do? how can we collaborate or support one another? In Toronto, I really felt ‘a kill or be killed’ attitude especially within the creative fields.

We know the freelance artist life is all about the hustle toward incredible goals. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Financially, personally, and with your businesses? 

I would like to create financial security for myself, and my family. As a freelancer I have really only been financially secure a few times in my adult life (when bartending) and it is something that I am really striving towards in my future. My partner and I are both painters so creating financial stability is important for us to be able to continue to do this our whole lives and also exist within the world with any semblance of normalcy. 

With my business and personally, I would like to close the gap between my studio practice and client work. For example, I’d love to do more murals that were blown up images from my studio practice, and get more illustration and design work that is based on my own art practice and unique style. Another business goal is to become successful enough that I either don’t need to use social media anymore because I just have enough work coming in or, to be able to hire someone to do social media for me. Once either of those things happens I will downgrade to a flip phone and only ever take calls. If I am really lucky I will get a landline and only listen to my answering machine messages when I get home for the day!

See more of Kayla’s journey on Instagram!

For more tips on the business of freelancing, check out the Lance Magazine.

How to Choose The Right Clients For Your Freelancing Biz

As freelancers and independents, the relationships with our clients is the gateway to success. Working closely together often creates strong bonds that outlast a certain project, and may even develop into friendship. But if you ask a group of freelancers in confidence if they’ve ever had a problematic client, almost all of them will have a horror story to share. You can’t predict how working with certain people will turn out, but you can learn how to better choose your clients to avoid the difficult ones. Over time this will become easier, but if you’re just starting out or you feel like you’ve been faced with one difficult client after another, take a look at these tips to help you choose the right clients for your biz. 

Know what you want.

Before you commit to a client, make sure you know exactly what kind of projects you are looking for. If you can clearly state the type of project you wish to work on, you’ll find clients who are looking precisely for your services. Having clarity on what exactly you want to work on will help you stay clear from those enjoyable projects that ultimately lead to frustration for both parties. It’ll simply make finding a match that much easier! Be as clear as possible with your realistic business intentions, and make sure to communicate them to your potential client.

Ask the right questions. 

What is your client looking for? What problems led this potential client to begin their freelancer search? What is the timeline? Are you sure you will be able to complete this project? Do you have the tools necessary? 

The more communicative both sides of the party are, the more likely you will be able to see if it’s a right fit. The project a client explains may sound like an absolute dread to you or it may be extremely exciting. Taking time to understand your client’s goal will be worthwhile and can save you a lot of time in the future. Before moving forward, make sure you will be able to add value to your client’s project. Read here for more insight on asking your clients the right questions. 

Establish detailed expectations. 

Between deadlines, budgets, and techniques, there is a lot to go over with potential clients. Create a contract with your client to make sure these details are in writing. Feel free to use our contract template for freelancers, and watch our free webinar for more insight into what it all means. Having a contract will hold both parties accountable and ensure a fair business deal. Setting descriptive expectations is key to keeping a thriving business relationship.

Say no. 

This idea will be the most helpful when establishing your business and choosing your clients. As your solopreneurship continues to grow, your cash flow will increase. But don’t bite off more than you can chew. Saying yes to every offer is a recipe for burnout, not to mention dissatisfied clients. Although it may feel counterintuitive to turn down opportunities, saying no allows you to focus your time and skills on your existing clients and provide the best work you possibly can.

If saying ‘no’ is still a learning process, use these ideas to learn how to confidently decline a potential client. 

Trust your instincts.

This may come as a surprise to you, but so many people talk themselves into working with a client that they initially had a bad feeling about. You have these feelings for a reason. Don’t disregard them. 

All in all, it’s hard to fake enthusiasm when working with problematic clients. But you don’t have to. Seek out clients who have projects that excite you. Sometimes we forget this, but us freelancers get to pick and choose our clients and our projects. This is one of the best parts of being an independent hustler. Don’t take on projects that feel forced, especially if it doesn’t feel right from square one. To avoid those troublesome and demanding clients, be transparent with your expectations and say no when necessary. You might feel guilty for having to turn down a client. Just remember that your business(ses) will be more successful if you filter out clients that hold you back. 

From 9-5 to Freelance Master: Interview with Bold Surface Pattern Designer Elizabeth Silver

Illustration of Freelance Surface Pattern Designer Elizabeth Silver

Freelance surface pattern designer Elizabeth Silver has a gift for making things more appealing.  Through her great artistic skill-set and magnificent color palettes, Elizabeth turns the blandest of products into lively works of art. Elizabeth spent 9 years as an in-house designer for home textiles in New York City before going solo. When the time came to realize her dream in Raleigh, North Carolina, Elizabeth made an admirably bold move a lot of us freelancers make as she left the world of full-time employment and began her freelance practice.  While the transition was not always smooth, over the past 7 years Elizabeth has really found her place as a freelancer.

Since becoming a freelancer, Elizabeth has picked up work from a number of notable companies including Amscan, Evite, and GapKids.  Below, Elizabeth shares insight into the world of freelancing and her path of success.

Let’s make sure you pat your own back… What’s your biggest strength as a solopreneur surface pattern designer?

I’m a left-brained creative. My ability to think logically and stay organized is crazy important as I try to juggle all. the. things. that go into building my business. The balance between my creativity and my analytical side is great for my clients as well. While working to put together a beautiful design, I’m also thinking about the manufacturing constraints of the end product and any other factors that are important to the final deliverable. 

What’s the best business or money advice you ever got as a freelancer?

The ethos behind ‘know your worth, then add tax’ resonates with me. I definitely got work in the early days through freelancer websites. It’s so easy to undervalue your work in those settings. Learning to turn down work (even when I *need* it) has been so important for my stress level and confidence. 

Now for a moment of realness, what are you struggling with right now in your business?

Exponential growth! I keep hoping that as I build momentum and work with more clients that opportunities will start doubling and tripling. I’ve just hit the 7-year mark of being my own boss and I’m proud of where I am. But it was a sloooow climb to get here and I still can’t see the top of the mountain. 

As a freelance surface pattern designer in Raleigh, what challenges and advantages do you think are unique to your city?

I guess you could say I have Raleigh to thank for my current career. I was a full-time textile designer living in New York City before. It wasn’t until I wanted to move out and found a warmer spot where I could have a backyard that I plunged headfirst into the freelance life. Raleigh has great opportunities for graphic and web designers, but it seems the surface pattern industry is non-existent. And I really wasn’t interested in shifting my design focus. 

We know the freelancer life is all about the hustle toward incredible goals. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Financially, personally, and with your businesses?

I’m working towards bigger projects with bigger clients. For example, licensing deals that span a full line of products, and an amazing audience who loves my digital tools and courses. If I can swing that while working about 35 hours a week, I’ll be killing it 2024.

Find Elizabeth’s incredible work on and on Instagram!

Elizabeth Silver Freelancer Surface Pattern Designer

Feeling inspired by Elizabeth’s journey to solopreunership?
You may also like to read: 6 ways to move your Solopreuner Business Forward.

Opening a Business Bank Account as a Freelancer

Since there’s usually not a clear “first day” on the job as a freelancer, many of us don’t take some very basic first steps in organizing our income streams – and expenses. One of the steps that can make your life much easier down the road is opening up at least one business bank account. We say “at least one” because you may want to set up separate accounts and even credit cards tied to each of your income streams to keep better track of everything. 

Why You Should Have Separate Accounts

Before actually opening a business bank account, you need to know why it’s a good idea. As with most things, being organized helps – A LOT. Whether it’s looking at if you’re actually making a profit on a particular income stream or trying to calculate your taxes, having separate accounts will help you see everything more clearly. 

If you’re spending your time in the weeds, you’re not alone. We recently asked several hundred freelancers about how they organize their finances. Only 22% reported having a separate business bank account. As freelancers, it’s all too easy to intertwine personal and business expenses. You want to set up your separate business bank account, so you can focus on starting and growing your business instead of untangling your finances. 

Another significant reason to have a business bank account – and even credit card – you use regularly is the benefit of documentation. Making sure you have a separate account from which you pay yourself an income, track expenses, can show growing or significant revenue, and establish a credit score has many advantages. From this one umbrella source, you can grow your potential to take out business loans, rent a space or a home, take increased tax deductions or show potential investors your businesses’ stability or potential. As a freelancer, you can’t predict every issue you’ll be facing in the future. But with an established business bank account, you’ll be able to create a separate credit and potential for your growing needs and interests. 

What Type of Business Bank Account Should You Have?

Once you have decided to open a business bank account, your next step is determining which kind of account you should open. Often your first round of choices entails a checking account, a savings account, and whether you want a credit card or not with that debit card. 

So, where should you start? You need a bank account with services that match your needs. 

  • Will your account be used primarily for taking deposits and then making a few payments to yourself and maybe paying for supplies? 
  • Are you going to need to take withdrawals more than six times per month? 
  • Can you keep a certain balance in the accounts? How much is it going to be? 
  • Are you going to want to have a couple savings accounts – for taxes, general big equipment purchases, etc? 
  • Are there other business services you will need? 
  • Do you want your personal and business accounts tied together for easier wiring of funds? 
  • Are you going to have a regular overage with your supplies that you might want a credit card to cover for a few days? 

Write down the answers to the questions above before you look for a particular bank or banking solution. Having a clear picture of what you want to use this bank account for will narrow down the types of accounts you can – or should – open. There are also often fees and requirements associated with different types of accounts. Once you know what you’re looking for, you can begin your search for a bank that meets your needs.

Pick a Bank 

Alright, now you know what you need your accounts to do for you. It’s time to look for a bank. 

It’s important to do your homework. Take the time to research different banks. NerdWallet and Bankrate are great to look at in terms of dividends if you’ll be carrying a decent balance or if you want to look at annual percentage rates (APR) across credit cards. Once you’ve looked around a little, you may want to head to your existing bank if they have competitive rates or you want to negotiate with them. Opening a business bank account with the same bank that handles your personal account may be worthwhile, as they want your business and may offer special deals for a current client or if you come in with a little homework done. 

Make sure to negotiate your terms and expenses. Almost 70% of people who sat down with a banker were successful in getting a better deal when they negotiated their fees. Use some of these tips to prepare for your negotiation. If a bank isn’t able or willing to work with you or meet your needs, go elsewhere. You’re worth the extra effort to get better terms and service. 

Get Your Documents Together

Depending on what kind of business you run (sole proprietorship, LLC, S-Corp or C-corp being the most common) you’re going to need a few documents. 

First, you need to get a Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN). This can be a Social Security Number (SSN), Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), or a Federal Employment Identification Number (EIN). We highly recommend getting an EIN to use for your business bank account and working documents. This protects you from having to give out your SSN like candy. You can get one for free from the IRS if you’re a sole proprietor – or at Lance, we can help you get one as part of your business incorporation. 

Almost all banks will require you to have an EIN when opening a business bank account. Once you have your TIN, the remaining documents needed to open the account will vary depending on the type of business you run and the bank you choose. Sometimes they’ll ask for your Articles of Organization and your Board Agreement if you have filed as an LLC. 

If you’re a sole proprietor or just starting a side hustle, you can simply open a separate personal checking and savings account or credit card. This will help for tracking purposes and for developing good habits around your business finances. 

Opening Your Account

You can open your business bank account online or in person. Opening a bank account online is easy and convenient, but opening your account in person ensures a better understanding of the account. Being face-to-face with your banker allows them to walk you through all components and fees or terms of your account. This may be a good idea if you are not completely sure of the account you need to open. Or if you’re looking to negotiate better terms. Often credit unions across the US will give more favorable terms as well. 

Once you’ve opened your business bank account, you are free to start depositing payments from your clients and linking to various payment platforms like PayPal and Venmo! Start bringing in that cash money! 

Staying On Top

Now that you’re all set, that was fun, right?! That prospect of making more and watching your bank account grow – so exciting! But, along the way, make sure you’re keeping that necessary balance and using your various cards to keep personal and professional purchases separate. 

There’s still a lot involved in making sure you’re able to track if your businesses are profitable. It can be challenging at first to get everything started and develop better habits, but we promise it’ll get easier! It will be well worth your time, and we’ll be here to help you navigate along the way!

Blooming into an independent career with Paper Artist Kathryn Bondy

As a freelance botanical paper artist, Kathryn Bondy brings beauty into this world in a unique way. Katheryn captures the serenity of nature through her elegantly crafted flowers, fruits, plants, and insects. She delicately shapes wire, dyes crepe paper in an array of stunning colors, and sculpts them together. This creates truly alluring pieces of art- all made by hand!  Kathryn embodies what it means to be a freelancer. She fully invests in her passion and lets creativity drive her work. This hard work and talent don’t go unnoticed. Her pieces have been featured in the international press such as Apartment Therapy.  Here, Kathryn shares her tips on being a solopreuner, asking for help, her dreams for the future, and creating multiple income streams. 

To shop her exquisite creations, visit her Etsy Shop!

Let’s make sure you pat your own back… What’s your biggest strength as a solopreneur? 

I’m always in conversation with my work. I consistently ask for feedback from my clients. I spend a lot of time refining and sharpening what I offer, so that my work can best serve the people who need it. I also love researching the history of flowers in art. I think that adds another layer of interest to the work I make. 

What’s the best business or money advice you ever got as a freelance artist?

Be open! Try to stay open to new opportunities, sharing your story, and open to help too. The idea that we should do everything alone is so damaging, and deprives us so that we can’t actually grow. 

There was a devastating fire in my studio last Spring, and I lost everything. All of my supplies, lots of finished pieces, furniture, everything! My community of artists and friends really came together to help me rebuild. That fire forced me to see how closed off I was to receiving help, to opportunities for growth, and to how much more I could share with others. 

I thought that unless I was doing it all myself, I couldn’t say that I felt successful or happy. Accepting help is harder than it seems, but by being open enough to accept it, I can see how it can help me grow, and how it can be used constructively to help others grow too!   

Paper flowers and moth by artist Kathryn Bondy

Now for a moment of realness, what are you struggling with right now in your business?

I struggle with what I’m imagining all solopreneurs struggle with: making enough money! The nature of the work that I make is that it’s time-consuming. Every flower, moth, butterfly, leaf, and fruit I create is made by hand, by me, in my studio. I struggled with thinking that was a downside because if I could just make things faster, I could make more money too. But the time I spend on pieces is actually an advantage, because it brings in a lot of commissions and bespoke work: pieces that have an aspect that is deeply personal and needs to be honoured. 

I’m also coming to realize the power in income streams. I also do commercial work, I teach workshops, I’m developing some online courses too, and I’m doing more writing and public speaking. My creative process can flex to suit the nature of different projects, so that keeps things fun for me! 

As an artist in Toronto, what challenges and advantages do you think are unique to your city?

Toronto is a diverse city, so there are lots of great opportunities to widen your network and work with people who might have different experiences than you, but will teach you so much. It’s getting more and more expensive to live here though, and I hope we can find ways of reigning that in, or we will lose the people and industries that really matter.   

We know the freelancer life is all about the hustle toward incredible goals. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Financially, personally, and with your businesses? 

I hope that in 5 years I’m making work that still speaks to people, and can help them too. I would love to be in a position where I can create job opportunities for others, and that my finances are in a place where I can contribute more, save more, and support more. I also hope that I’ve written a book by then, since it’s always been a dream of mine! So check back in 5 years and I’ll let you know!