Patreon is like that dreamy cottage in the middle of the woods. If you’re an artist, you know exactly what I mean: We all want to be there, surrounded by trees (or the sea), with lots of tea and coffee, endless snacks, mountains of art supplies (or maybe instruments), music and blankets, and just be able to work without worries on personal projects for as long as we need.—Fran Meneses, Illustrator and Vlogger

But life wasn’t always a beach for the UK-based artist.

In 2015, self-taught illustrator Fran Meneses (aka Frannerd) was an unemployed, struggling artist in London with no savings, no commissions, and no plans. So she rolled up her sleeves and embarked on Inktober, a yearly challenge in which artists from around the world create one ink drawing a day throughout the month of October.

“Spoiler alert: I survived, and that period made me stronger and happier than ever,” Fran tells us. “I wish I could go up to my past self and say, ‘You’ve got this. Everything is going to be okay.’”

Just last year, Fran announced her Patreon page on social media.

“The feedback was great, but some of my fans were really scared,” Fran explains. “I asked them why, and the general fear was that I’d disappear from social media and stop posting.”

However, the opposite occurred because Fran’s Patreon page made it possible for her to pursue art full-time and therefore interact more with her fans.

“I can buy and review art supplies thanks to them, set a couple of days to film, and even take the train and go to London and draw at a museum,” Fran shares. “All of these expenses (museum tickets, art supplies, books, train tickets, filming equipment) and time are covered by my patrons. So I film videos with tips on how to become a freelance illustrator and draw illustrations to make them smile. I want to help them because they help me so much.”

Now, with a stable income fueled by her patrons, more than 5 million views on YouTube, and the ability to create illustrations (and get paid!) full-time, Fran has well surpassed her childhood goals of developing an artistic identity and becoming her own boss.

In fact, Fran has become the go-to expert for illustrators interested in getting paid for doing what they love and making the leap to full-time.

Straight from Fran herself, here are 7 tips for turning your side hustle into a full-time business:

1) Grow your audience organically.

“Post regularly, post content that really means something to you, and be true to yourself. I know it sounds cliché, but being honest and raw and real on the internet is something you don’t see very often. It’s easy to tell when someone is pretending to be someone else.”

Pro tip: Use Hootsuite to schedule your social media posts ahead of time!

2) Diversify your income streams.

“By far, the most effective monetization method is having several sources of income. Especially as a freelancer, you need to have multiple income streams, whether they’re small, medium, or big. My income typically comes from my online shop, Patreon, commissions, book royalties, and ad revenues from old youtube videos.”

Pro tip: For creators with multiple income streams, QuickBooks Self-Employed is a great way to create and send invoices, pay taxes, and track and organize expenses.

3) Join Patreon!

“I joined Patreon a year ago, and it’s been the best decision I’ve made in the last couple of years. Let me put it this way: Right now, I’m working every day from 9am until 10pm on a graphic novel, and I couldn’t have done it without my patrons. They know this, and I keep telling them how awesome they are, but it’s true. And that’s how Patreon has shifted my creative process: I can take the time to work on personal projects and create new material without having to worry about anything else. This is the first time in my life I have the space to do this, and I’m incredibly grateful.”

Pro tip: After joining Patreon, check out these 5 data-backed tips to crushing your first month.

4) Believe in yourself, and JUMP!

“I say ‘Believe in yourself, and JUMP!’ because there are so many ways we sabotage ourselves as creators. Trust me, I’ve been there, and I get it. I spent years doing illustrations halfway and not committing because I was terrified of failing. Seriously, just jump. Not literally (You can if you want to!), but if you truly want something, you need to go after it. That feeling of ‘this has to work, there’s no plan B, etc.’ is obviously risky, but it’s the best motivation to work insanely hard and make something that sounds impossible (like being a freelance illustrator in the most expensive city in the world) become a reality.”  

Pro tip: Try using the SELF Journal to help break down your lofty goals down into manageable chunks with daily action steps!

5) Know what keeps you going.

“I think many illustrators are going to relate to this, but every time I get stuck in a creative rut, I watch a Studio Ghibli movie. I also love going out and walking. Right now, I’m living in Hastings, which is a small city on England’s southeast coast, and walking next to the sea is a great way to calm my nerves. When I’m having a tough time, I also try to take it easy and read, draw stuff I like, take a bath, work at a cafe, meet up with my fellow illustrator friends, and talk with my husband Ed. He’s a creator, too, so we go through the same emotions that surround creativity. In my opinion, talking with someone can be one of the fastest ways to overcome a tough time or a creative crisis.”

Pro tip: Suffering from creative block? Here are 20 expert strategies to help you overcome it.

6) Send a lot of emails.

“I remember when I first started out as a freelance illustrator, I told everyone I knew about it. And I sent emails to friends, family members, and former colleagues, letting them know I was looking for work. I sent 15 emails in one day to all the blogs I was reading because almost all of them were reusing old photos. One of them actually replied, and I started working with them on a regular basis. There’s nothing wrong with asking for a job, and there’s nothing wrong with letting people know that you’re looking for a job. We, as illustrators, can breathe so much life into companies.”

Pro tip: Boomerang is an easy way to schedule emails, track who’s opened and read your messages, and remind you when to follow-up.

7) Be nice.

“Be nice to clients, fellow illustrators and colleagues, and other freelancers putting themselves out there. Be nice to everyone. You never ever know who’s going to recommend you or ask you to work on a commission. Being an illustrator and even a creator in general is like living in a small town, so you need to have a very good reputation.”

Pro tip: Consider hosting a meetup for your fans via Eventbrite, a one-stop shop for setting up, promoting, and managing every detail of your event.

* * *

What’s next for Fran? A graphic novel about friendship for adults. “I’ve noticed there’s not many books about friendship for grownups, and I asked my husband if we could work on this together,” Fran reveals. “He’s a writer, and we’ve already interviewed psychologists about why it can be so hard to make friends as an adult.”

About The Author

I contribute to Patreon's blog, America's sugar epidemic, and my boyfriend's insanity.

  • Aliya Huet

    Frannerd was the person who basically opened up the freelance illustrator world for me. She helped me make that jump & now I’m slowly but pleasantly growing my identity while putting some money in my pocket too! Thanks Fran:)

  • Mahrukh Murtaza

    Thanks for the wonderful advice! I can relate to you Frannerd. I’m standing at the brink of something good, I can feel it. I’ve wanted to be an artist since I was a child but somehow I’ve been delaying this dream for so many reasons(money, time, FEAR). I’m putting my foot down this year and working on creating a path for myself. Your story has just given me more hope 🙂

  • Nyu Bones

    i love Frannerd <3 i love this <3
    Thank you for so much, you are like my hero!

  • SO MUCH THIS! Thank you, all the inspiration right here!

  • Niklas Wejedal

    I feel the greatest hurdle is to acctually make people notice you and read/look at your stuff. Many times it feels like the thingsI put on the internet falls into a black hole, where no one can see them. I got a Sci-Fi-adventure blogg going, but so far, I have no or very few readers, no matter how much I try to advertise it. As any creative person would know, It is very easy to be hard on yourself, when there is no response – Maybe my stuff isn’t good or interesting enough? What’s the point of doing this? – It is hard to motivate oneself to go on, when these thoughts gets hold of you. I invite you to take a look and please leave a comment or two, if you like it – if I get positive response, I may dare to do that jump and join Patreon too… https://niklaswejedaldesign.wordpress.com/2017/01/07/the-story-so-far/

    • Crap, you sound like me. Let’s see if we can help each other:

      # **START. NOW.** It sounds hard and risky, but as you may be noticing, NOT doing these things isn’t working either. If you start doing it, you can get better at it. If you get better at it, you’ll start seeing the benefits. If you start seeing the benefits, you’ll keep going.

      # Decide what’s more important — your project/story, or your self? You can stop working on one project, and get momentum building with another project. Then, those people will look at the first one. It’s good to be able to be so dedicated to a single thing, but everyone likes different things. The more things you make, the higher the odds that someone likes one of them and becomes interested in the rest.

      I don’t know how good or interesting your work necessarily is, but I do know that what you have here is… well, it’s not presented in the best form. There are lots of ways to improve your work such that you can take what you’ve done here and make it into a higher form.

      I thought at first your work was a graphic novel, like mine ( http://www.lastres0rt.com ). Instead, it appears to be more like a “light novel” — i.e. more text than illustrations. As such, we can use a different approach. I use a writing app called Hemingway ( http://www.hemingwayapp.com/ ) to improve my writing. I bet if you plugged your current stuff into there you’d notice lots of things about it that you could improve. It will make your writing easier to follow.

      Also, you claim to be an industrial designer, but your work is, again, text-based writings. This seems like a mismatch of your talents, because your strength is your vehicle designs. Lead with your strengths. You will be happier, and your work will have its best foot forward.

      • Niklas Wejedal

        Thank you for your comment! I made my work text based for many reasons; It is by far the faster way to get my story finished in decent time. I spent 4 years on and off writing and illustrating it – doing it all with illustrations would have had me still working on it and with no end in sight (since I can only manage 3 illustrations per day). The illustrations were always intended as having a supporting role to the text, not the other way arround. I like writing as much as I like designing and don’t want to limit my creativity to just one area. My motivation was to create a story arround my designs – who would be using them and for what and where? A whole world oppened up and soon the story had taken on a life of it’s own, giving me ideas for totally new stuff to design and illustrate. I would love to spend more time with this project, but as you know, sometimes life has a way of pushing you in other directions than that you intend. Right now, other things have higher priority, whether I want it or not. As soon as these things are taken care of, I will be able to push forward again.

  • Santiago Meneses

    Lov Prima!

  • Mariana Cano

    She’s the BOMB! <3 I love her and her youtube videos and she is such great inspiration <3

  • Elisabetta Palmeri

    Thank you for all the advices! We feel like we can try it too 😀
    We already have a patreon (https://www.patreon.com/FuriaAndMimma ) but in this article we found a lot of useful tips and, well, even a little of inspiration! So thank you, Fran Meneses! (We’re going to check out your work as well, since we never heard of you before, but now that we’re seeing your style we’re interested to see more!)

  • Fantastic & Inspirational article. So happy for your success Fran. However I strongly believe the regions in which you live in & the peoples support for your medium also plays a huge role. In UK you have plenty of means to showcase yourself with one one interactions with your fans. Be it comic con, at meets & stuff. Plus comic & art culture is booming. However it places like India where a con just happens once a year in the city it becomes a huge problem to connect & tell people to contribute towards your cause. The internet is great to tell people what you do, but you can never really convince a person to support you the way you can in person. However I’m luck yop have some amazing patrons who understand my need to grow .I’ll keep your tips & mind & see where it takes me. I would love to make a full time career from my personal comic The Beast Legion , my anime style art & my custom animations.

    Thank you for the wonderful read, Patreon.

  • EricJStover

    I wish you didn’t skip over from Inktober to her announcing her Patreon. It’s that struggle time I’m most interested in.

  • EricJStover

    I wish you didn’t skip over from Inktober to her announcing her Patreon. It’s that struggle time I’m most interested in.

  • Thank you so much for sharing all of this. We are Podcasters and I feel like we are still struggling a bit to get noticed on Patreon. But we are still working on it all the time. I still post tons of content. And we’ll get there. I’m thinking about starting a Patreon for my husband specifically for his art as well. Getting support would allow me to write, him to focus on art, and both of us to do more of the podcasting that we love so much. It’s nice to see the encouragement and know it can be a reality.

  • Penny Weber

    This was so great! I am a huge fan of Hayao Miyazaki and I turn to Studio Ghibli movies for inspiration and serenity all the time as well! Loved this thanks

  • Jenny Ballif

    Thanks for the article. Very helpful and nice to hear the “me too” comments here. I’m also in that phase of working hard but not yet seeing support/results. I gleaned some good advice from the post, and feel encouraged.

  • Really love your just jump. and I did, I hit the publish button and I’ve already got one sponsor, yippee. Thanks for all the links and insight. I’m off to check out what to do next

  • Walter Boyd

    Thanks for sharing the tips of Fran, I wish I will become illustrator like her, I will try to do my best.
    online photo editor

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