Helen Lang, Owner of Wetpaint Illustration
A highly experienced London-based freelance illustrator who has worked on projects for many high-profile companies
It had always been mum’s dream to go to Wimbledon. As we sat together watching the action unfold on Centre Court in 2010, I discovered via text that the company I worked for was going under.
‘Liquidation’ is a scary word and the thought of going freelance at that time was incredibly frightening. I’d learned many important lessons during a successful career within the art publishing industry – especially concerning emotional intelligence within business (building positive relationships and nurturing creativity) – but something was holding me back from taking the plunge and going it alone…
I briefly leapt from the company that collapsed to another which was very patriarchal. As a strong, confident woman, I don’t believe my new employers were accustomed to receiving healthy challenges when it came to ways of working; however, I made myself heard. I always strive to take the positives away from any experience – whether they’re professional or personal. In this case, I started to believe in myself much more – thinking: ‘What’s stopping me from managing my own business? Nothing at all… I CAN do this!’
Since founding Wetpaint Illustration in 2011, I haven’t looked back – working with high-profile international clients including HarperCollins, John Lewis, Virgin Trains and the Tate.
Powered by builder’s tea, BBC Radio 6 and Bourbon biscuits, my illustrations have been featured on numerous interiors, wedding and children’s product blogs.
If you’re looking to start your own business this year, my advice is to find your tribe from the outset. Surround yourself with individuals who both challenge and encourage you. You’ll find that having a supportive environment, where successes are celebrated and questions are shared, will put you at ease and instil greater confidence in your abilities.
Work hard, but have fun! Say yes to EVERYTHING at the beginning; then whittle out what doesn’t work. Be a multiplier of talent too… the more you do it, the more you yield – and DON’T let any failure destroy you.
Finally, I believe it’s important to have a side hustle or two (or even three!), but don’t let them overwhelm you. My current side hustle is writing a novel, although I ensure I manage this alongside my online shops and illustration business.