The Design Business Show 082: Making a Living as a Freelance Illustrator With Nathan T. Wright

Director : Melissa Burkheimer | March 10, 2020

Nathan T. Wright is an illustrator and artist based in Des Moines, Iowa, specializing in graphic recording, custom illustration projects and comics. He loves collaborating with companies, organizations and individuals on their visual storytelling needs.

Nathan is the creator of Fatberg, a lovable sewer blob who stars in children’s books, graphic novels and comic strips. He draws cartoons for Clay & Milk, a publication covering new companies and art in the Midwest.

Nathan built his art career in between digital marketing jobs at an advertising agency, his own consulting firm and a large retail company. He speaks about creativity and innovation for organizations, universities and conferences.

Nathan graduated from the Iowa State University College of Design in 1999 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts. His work is inspired by science fiction, emerging tech and mythology.

Here’s what we covered on the episode:

  • How I first met Nathan back in 2011 when I first started my design business
  • The story behind Nathan’s social media agency, Lava Row, that he opened in 2007
  • The story behind why he decided to close the agency in 2012
  • The process he used to close the agency, including helping his team land on their feet
  • The role Nathan got for a retail company when he went back to working a full-time gig
  • How he knew illustration was the end-game for him, and started his side hustle as an illustrator
  • The story behind his first project, and how he figured out what his illustration services are worth
  • The two ways he charges for his illustration services
  • How much money Nathan decided to save before he quit his full-time job
  • The type of illustration projects that he works on in his business
  • How Nathan gets clients from referrals, and doing art shows
  • The story behind his popular graphic recording for events
  • How he pitches his graphic recording services to potential clients
  • How Nathan learned to get better at his follow up strategy when it comes to getting clients and getting payment on time
  • How Nathan charges for his graphic recording services at events
  • How Nathan came up with his day-rate price
  • A few things he’s currently working on for his business and why it’s good to be able to hold something you work on in your hands
  • The story behind his new book, Office Creatures: An Illustrated Field Guide
  • How he published his book through Amazon, using Kindle Direct Publishing
  • Some advantages of using Amazon’s publishing service and tips for working through the process
  • How Nathan got the idea for his children’s book, The Adventures of Fatberg
  • How creating that book lead to opportunities he didn’t think would ever come
  • How putting work out there can pay dividends in the future
  • The story behind Nathan’s artist-in-residence project at Ballet Des Moines
  • How he decided to create a comic book about ballet dancers in his pitch to Ballet Des Moines
  • Tips for pitching yourself for an artist-in-residence program
  • Some goals Nathan has for his illustration business in 2020 and beyond
  • The social media networks that Nathan uses to share what he’s up to in his illustration business

Links mentioned:

Nathan’s illustration website
Nathan’s book, Office Creatures: An Illustrated Field Guide
Nathan’s book, The Adventures of Fatberg 
Nathan’s work as an artist-in-residence at Ballet Des Moines

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