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The Creative Columnist: How a side-hustle can become a full time creative gig.

Pete Clayton is Made in Plymouth’s Creative Columnist; an illustrator, animator and graphic designer based in Plymouth. Not a born native to the city and region, but a fully bred Plymouthian who’s lived here most of his 41 years… man and boy! In work, Pete’s purpose as a multidisciplinary creative and writer is to share his love of what he does and in turn give people an inspiring creative lift. Outside of work, Pete is a father of two to Jack and Mia who love a family outing to The Box or a trip to the Barbican for pasties and iced fingers. Today he discusses taking big step to working for himself – and how that turned into small steps; pivoting…evolving…and blooming.

Not that I sign up to the “new year, new me” mantra when the clock turns midnight on the 31st of January, but I do like the idea of a fresh start. But can’t that happen any time of the year? Indeed, it doesn’t need to be a clear cut break from the past into the new, it can be gradual can’t it?

In my experience growth takes time. This is something I have learned particularly in business and my creative career has flourished from seedling side-hustle to a fully bloomed full-time creative gig. It’s never without its hard work and nurturing but giving my business time to grow organically has been the best thing I could have done. At least, that’s what’s worked for me thus far.

It has taken me 8 years to get to where I am now as a creative ‘solopreneur’. Not to dismiss the previous 12 years or so working in multidisciplinary studios, but it’s the last 8 years where I started taking my own thing seriously.

Starting Small

Initially I started small. I had an insatiable desire to do illustration but I wasn’t 100% sure where I wanted to take it. I simply began with art prints and bespoke art for friends. I even did a 100 days of illustration on Instagram to begin building my portfolio. Before I knew it, I was doing Native Makers markets and selling my art at Cornish Interiors. In addition I used to do (and still do) little 30 day projects and self initiated work of packaging, cartoons, book covers… anything and everything to show what I could do given the opportunity. Sure enough opportunities did come in the form of proper paid commissions, mainly through Instagram, and I was beginning to feel like I was getting somewhere.

Going Part-time

In amongst all this I was working full time as a senior designer here in Plymouth. Juggling family life, kids etc and full time working along with my side hustle meant I was VERY busy indeed. I use the term “side hustle” loosely as this now was becoming a lot more concrete as a new creative career path. After a couple of years of spinning plates like this I decided to take a partial plunge and go part time in my senior designer role so do just 3 days a week.

I set out firstly to produce a tonne of promotional zines to send out to any business or studio I wanted to work with. I contacted everyone I knew too who might be able to throw me some work and got my name out there as much as possible. As well as this I set out to get myself an illustration agent to give myself more opportunity out there in the world of commissions. To be honest, despite my go-getter enthusiasm, I didn’t get much in the way of feedback or work. I did however get a lovely agent by the name of Bronagh of Loveblood Creative. I have been at Loveblood since early 2021 and it has been one of the best decisions I have made for my career. Together we have worked on everything from animation, to packaging to editorial… it’s been a dream come true to say the least!

Going Full-time

After another year of slow but steady growth I had an itch to take this creative career from a side hustle to a full time creative gig! I had nurtured the seed and worked hard to get it to grow and now it was time for it to bloom. So, in late 2021 I did just that. Armed with some money behind me , some great commissions in the works and a dream, I stepped off the ledge and dived into the unknown of full-time self employment. I say unknown because whilst I thought I knew what I was getting myself in for I didn’t really entirely.

Now, I had originally set out to purely be just an illustrator and animator, but after 6 months in I quickly learned that the work wasn’t always there despite me hustling like mad. Luckily for me I had spent the largest portion of my career as a graphic designer so I opened myself up to more varied work and now I offer everything from illustration to animation to brand identity to website design. I didn’t set out to offer everything this way but that’s just how it’s evolved.

It’s an evolution!

And that’s the point really… It’s an evolution. At least my path has been anyway. For me, it hasn’t been a case of putting a flag in the ground and saying this is me now! It’s more a case of trying new things that inspire me and seeing where they lead. Pivoting where needed, trying new avenues of work streams and evolving and blooming as I grow.

Find out more about Pete and his work by heading to https://www.peteclayton.com/


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