Illustrator Sunny Eckerle on starting before you’re ready and jumping into freelance
For this week’s Freelance Creators story, we had the pleasure of talking with Brooklyn-based freelance illustrator, Sunny Eckerle. Sunny is the mastermind behind Brooklyn Bodega Cats and has worked with big name clients such as Curbed, Urban Outfitters, Country Living Magazine, and many more! Learn more about Sunny’s journey into freelancing below!
How and why did you get into freelancing?
After I left my job in advertising, I started work at a very small custom stationery studio. I learned so much about running a small business and was able to focus more on my illustration. I started to receive commissions every now and then, mainly from friends, and it just kept going from there.
The switch happens slowly and also very fast. There was a time when I felt like I would never be getting enough projects to support myself and all the sudden I had multiple deadlines a week!
The idea of doing the same exact thing in the same exact place everyday for years to come gave me unspeakable anxiety, so I wanted to find more flexibility for myself while doing something I truly enjoyed.
What’s been your proudest personal moment so far?
I think freelancing is made up of a bunch of tiny victories. At first, it would be opening my email to find any kind of message at all. In the early days, that felt like a huge deal! Sometimes, I’ll get a check in the mail and have to take a moment to appreciate that fact that I have the chance to work with cool companies or brands I’ve always admired.
Recently, my illustrated series Brooklyn Bodega Cats was featured on Time Out New York, which felt pretty good to see.
How do you stay motivated and productive when flying solo?
I try to keep a routine for myself without being so rigid as to kill the best part about working for yourself — flexibility! It’s important to understand how you work best. For instance, I hate working late at night. I would much rather wake up at 5 a.m. to finish something than to work until 1 or 2 a.m.
With that in mind, I know I need to do the bulk of the work in the morning and I allow myself more freedom later in the day. Understanding how you work best and structuring your day around that will help productivity come more naturally.
What’s the hardest part about being an indie worker?
It can be quite lonely! I’m lucky to have several friends who also freelance so they can understand with the ups and downs. Not everyone understands the challenges that go along with freelancing which can feel isolating at times. Being able to commiserate with someone who “gets it” alleviates a lot of the stress and can make you feel less alone.
On that same note, I’m enjoy working by myself (I typically work from home) 90% of the time, but I’ll go through phases where I crave having another person to chat to or sit near my while I work. Luckily, popping into a coffee shop or making lunch or coffee dates with people helps a lot with the social aspect.
What advice do you have for others taking the leap?
Wow, so much comes to mind. To pick just a few — don’t neglect the “business” side of your business. Make it a point to be organized with your finances, research write-offs and your options for becoming incorporated (DBA, S-Corp, LLC), etc.
It can feel like overkill when you’re just starting out and don’t have a lot of moving parts, but once you get busier you’ll be glad it’s in place and one less thing to worry with. Being on top of that will also allow you to keep more of the money you make, which is always a great thing.
I’ll also share one of my favorite sayings which is “Start before you’re ready.” It’s important to have your ducks in a row and to make sure you can realistically support yourself with freelance, but I also believe if you wait until you feel totally prepared, you’ll never actually go for it. It can be very scary and uncertain, but if you push yourself and work hard you’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish and what comes your way.
Where can we find you?
You can connect with me through my CloudPeeps profile!
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