Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in personal development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Jennifer Lezan, Founder of Bella + Sophia Creative & The Creative Studio, located in Naperville, IL, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Bella+Sophia Creative is a freelance design studio founded and run by me - Jennifer Veguilla-Lezan. The Creative Studio is an offshoot of the brand and is a new welcoming+supportive creative community where I house my digital creative courses and share resources with curious creatives. Membership to the Creative Studio gives you access to my entire 27 (and growing) course library. These courses are available to play in full, on demand, and catered to those who are interested in learning more about graphic design, art, illustration, and creative business. You can learn at your own pace alongside a supportive community. You can access these courses through a monthly membership or purchase individual courses ala carte. Class topics range from: graphic design to surface pattern design, illustration, digital and physical planning, marketing, and trend forecasting.
Tell us about yourself
I'm Jen Veguilla-Lezan, a Freelance graphic designer, illustrator, and educator. I am a Chicago-born Latina (I'm a proud Puerto Rican and Mexican American) millennial, an educator, and a freelance creative with experience in graphic design, digital media, illustration, and surface pattern design. I am passionate about helping other creatives learn new skills to achieve their goals. I taught as a professor in Higher Ed for the design and fashion industry for 11 years. Three years ago, I brought my graphic design, surface pattern design, and creative courses online. I've taught over 13,000 students, and they've watched nearly half a million minutes of my courses. Now, I'm bringing those same courses and more to my own inspiring + supportive, creative community: The Creative Studio.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
My biggest accomplishment is being able to support myself through my creative business while also being a mom to my kids. I have been freelancing since 2008 - always in conjunction with a full-time job and in addition to teaching. It wasn't until the last two years that I had the courage to just focus on freelancing and my education business full-time. The idea of working from home and running my own business during my corporate days seemed like a pipe dream, but now I am able to run my creative business doing what I love and spend time with my family getting to experience watching them grow without having to give up on my career.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Consistently getting work and getting paid can be a hard thing to face as a freelancer and business owner. There have been a very small number of times when I didn't get paid for the work I did. Over the years, I've worried about this less and less by getting higher-quality clients. Also, I learned how to offset the ebbs and flows of freelance life by creating multiple streams of revenue so I wouldn't put all my energy only into client work - which often takes the most work and doesn't always pay out as high as one would like. I also offset my freelance income with non-client related work like my classes on my platform: learn-create-design.com, as well as platforms like Skillshare and Thinkific and my design products on print-on-demand sites like: creative market and Spoonflower.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Be aware of the realities of freelance life - not just the glamorous side that the media portrays.
- Understand you will wear many hats, and that can be overwhelming, but it is a necessity at the beginning, and when you are big enough, hire out the things you don't enjoy
- Entrepreneurship/freelancing is not for everyone, and that is ok!
- BONUS - remember entrepreneurship and FREELANCING isn't FREE
Clarifying the above - I see a lot of people talking about freelancing and entrepreneurship on youtube lately! It's interesting seeing people leave the corporate world to pursue what they call a "digital nomad" nowadays. I think, though, that it is not as glamorous as YouTube and the internet make it out to be. It can be very difficult to pursue freelance full-time - which is why people often keep it as a side gig - it requires a lot of work, and it is not for everyone. And that is ok. Some people do well with a consistent paycheck, going to an office, and having a set of guidelines to work by. Others don't always fit into that mold, and that is where freelancing comes in, but it does require one to be dedicated, a self-starter, willing to work hard even on days they don't want to, and be able to put a lot of faith in their skills and ability. Also, many freelancers are not just doing the creative work, but we have to be our own accountants, marketing and promo department, go through our emails, send out our pitches and follow up on our client pitches. We do it ALL because there isn't a department for those things, we wear all the hats, and that can be overwhelming for some. As for others - I love it and like the flexibility that can come with it, but it can also be stressful. So, it is important to really learn to balance things and figure out if it is something you can work with if you decide to pursue freelance full-time.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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