Climbing The Ladder

Everything You Wanted To Know About Being A Career Artist But Were Afraid To Ask

By and | Friday, September 25, 2015


Today marks another installment of TFD’s Afraid To Ask seriesThe Afraid To Ask series is meant to provide insight into a variety of subjects, and shed light on things people are sometimes ignorant about (myself included in every topic I cover!). This particular installment is all about a very talented young woman named Samantha Rothenberg who founded Violet Clair studio. She has made a living for herself as a freelance designer and illustrator, and has been working for herself for a sizable length of time.

I’m infinitely impressed by individuals who have the foresight, work ethic, and business savvy skills to start their own company and become successful. There are so many levels of complexity that go into being an entrepreneur, which span across the social, psychological, and financial realms. It’s a bigger task than anyone can imagine, and it takes an entirely different skill set to master.

Samantha was kind enough to answer some of my burning questions about how she manages her personal life, career, and finances as an illustrator and studio owner. This interview provides fantastic insight as to what life working as a full-time small business owner looks like. Samantha’s living and working space is in close proximity, and I felt compelled to discover the way in which she makes it all work — and work beautifully if I say so myself. Take a look!

How long have you been a full-time freelancer? When did you realize you had a skill (illustration) you could capitalize on and make money doing?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved creating art. I studied studio art and communication design as an undergraduate, but I decided to abandon it because it did not seem like a professionally viable option at the time. Cut to a few years later, I watched the people who did decide to pursue it become increasingly successful, and so I decided to give it a go.

Were you nervous to strike out on your own? What do you think people, who might have an itch to go at it on their own, need to know before taking the plunge?

Absolutely. I think it’s important to embrace the fact that when starting out on your own, you are responsible for EVERYTHING. So, it’s important to know what your weaknesses are and devise strategies for dealing with them. You can take classes to fill in gaps, or hire a freelancer to help you out. It’s also great to become friends with people who are in similar situations to you. It’s really comforting to be able to text someone for advice or to say “Have you had to deal with X yet? Or, “Is it weird that I’m feeling this way about this situation?”

Did the pressure of sustaining yourself financially make your skillset any less fun/fulfilling since it’s become responsible for paying your bills?

I’d say the opposite! Whenever someone wants to pay me to create art, or purchase my artwork I want to pinch myself because it’s just been a hobby that I’ve kept to myself for so long. Being able to make a living off of it is wonderful! Sustaining myself from what I create inspires me to do the best the I possibly can.


Do you have a plan for saving money? Are there any specific tips that help you the most?

I gave myself a quota that I must meet each month, and anything over it goes into my savings account.

How would you describe your working style compared to the working style of people you know who have traditional jobs. What do you think the biggest misconception people have of individuals who freelance full time.

Some people tend to think that working for yourself is somehow ‘easier’. It’s really not! This has been more demanding of my time and mentally grueling than any “standard” job I’ve ever had.

Have you ever (it’s about to get personal) dated someone who felt uncomfortable/intimidated with you owning your own company and being a successful business woman? If so, how did you handle that?

No, I don’t think so. That’s probably not a coincidence as I tend to gravitate towards people with entrepreneurial mindsets who understand and admire what I’m doing (and vice versa). Like I said, surrounding yourself with people in similar situations is really helpful.




Do you ever find it difficult to stay on track and motivated when you work alone? How do you work around that and get through difficult periods?

It can be! I’ll often invite friends to my studio to get their own work done. I love how it’s becoming a bit of a mini-coworking space.

Did you need a lot of capital to get your business set up at the beginning of starting your own business?

Not really! I did use my saving to invest in a high end printer, and a few other supplies. Other than that, it’s mostly been sweat equity.

What resources did you find helpful when looking to manage your finances, taxes, and strategies for managing a budget as a freelancer?

For my personal finances, Mint has been great for keeping me in check. And for the business, the Wave Accounting App is super helpful and easy to use.

What are the three things you think are essential to one’s personality/work ethic/character that will allow them to succeed in a working/business environment like yours?

Don’t be afraid to reach out to people (you don’t get what you don’t ask for), create systems and be as organized as you possibly can (this is sometimes difficult for creatives such as myself but it pays to take time and keep yourself organized. Most of all, believe in what you’re doing with an enthusiasm that borders on delusional!

samantha-work-2Check out Samantha’s online portfolio and shop here at

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