How do you make a living when you’ve always loved drawing and painting?
"You become a graphic designer," laughs Sally Spratt.
Having decided she’d "never make it" doing what she most enjoyed, Spratt spent several years working in her second choice of career, "but I never truly loved it," she says.
Several years (and a substantial career pivot) later however, Spratt’s signature watercolours are commissioned by a global client list that spans from Electrolux to Estée Lauder.
Her path to success was a thoroughly modern one. "I’d just resigned, had no savings and was working odd jobs to support myself when my flatmate suggested I start an Instagram account," she says.
Intended as "partly an experiment, and mostly for a bit of stress relief", The Lust List – a daily post featuring illustrations of the fashionable items Spratt could no longer afford to buy – took off almost instantly.
Since launching two years ago, the account now boasts more than 100,000 followers.
It serves not just as a platform from which Spratt’s clients can connect with her audience, but as a means of advertising her watercolour prints, posters and stationery which she sells online.
"I only ever see 10 per cent of what I earn – the rest is invested – but I pinch myself every time a new job comes in," she says. "I didn’t in my wildest dreams imagine it could be this good."
I left my job with no savings whatsoever
"A lot of people told me it was going to be tough, and it was. But I reduced my goals to earning enough for food, rent and petrol, and that made things so much easier."
Getting an agent was a no-brainer
"Three months after starting The Lust List, I sent illustrated Christmas cards to fashion houses and publishers. Roxy Jacenko [founder of Sweaty Betty PR] called me up the moment she received hers, and I signed with [her agency] Ministry of Talent the next day. She’s been a huge source of support and, like all good agents, a great champion of my brand."
There’s an art to building followers
"Many think Instagram is about self promotion, but nobody has to see my face or my abs – they have nothing to do with my business. Allow your personality to come through, but know that a bit of modesty is appreciated.
You need to be constantly visible
"This was one of the best pieces of advice I received. Someone may not want your work today, nor in another month, but if they don’t see your work when they need you, they’re not going to think of you. So I emailed and wrote regularly to clients I wanted, and posted religiously to Instagram each day."
I tried selling illustrated T-shirts a few years ago
"My heart wasn’t wholly in it, though. You need to be fully committed in order to succeed. Then I sold illustrated gift cards for awhile. While working full-time I started making and selling [them] on Etsy and through a florist. That’s when I realised that I have such a love for illustrating that it wasn’t an effort. When you turn a hobby into a job … that’s the best kind of job."
All roads lead to Rome
"You can’t really make too many mistakes – they’re all lessons on where you want to take your business. Taking a seven-year ‘detour’ via graphic design gave me the skills I needed to start The Lust List. Just follow your heart. You’ll get there. You can only do your absolute best. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. You can only ever give it your best shot.