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.