Simona Sanfilippo is an Illustrator from Turin, Italy.
You can find her here:
My Agency Portfolio: http://www.plumpuddingillustration.com/work
- Hi Simona, tell me who you are and what do you do as a freelancer?
Hello and thanks for this opportunity to share my job and my creative passions. It’s such a good thing to reach out the world 🙂 My name is Simona aka Tissi or Sim. I’m 40 years old and I work as a freelance illustrator in children’s book market since 15 years. I’m based in Turin, Italy but I work with publishers all around the world, primarily UK and USA.
- How long have you been working as a freelancer now?
I finished IED design school in 2003 and from that moment I worked as freelance designer/illustrator with different italian brands. Then, after 5 years of that, I met my actual UK agent and I started to work as what I was in my dream: a children’s book illustrator. And this is what I do, actually and happily.
- Why did you decide to become a freelancer? Did you think about it for a long time or did your decision come suddenly?
I was quite sure about my decision since the first moment. My idea was not to become an employee, even if our society pushes us into it. So, I decided to take the risk and starting to build my career in order to be me, satisfied and happy. Working is something you do for the most of your time, ’cause you need it to to pay bills and maintain your home and life. For this reason I choose to work with passion and not just for money.
- What is your competitive advantage, which makes your clients hire you?
I would reply at these in one 🙂 The book industry is full of really talented artists and the competition is always at first point doing a job like mine. You need to develop and constantly update your drawing skills, traditional ad digital, and you need to know and follow the market in order to grow with it because it changes “in a Flash or Zap!”. But that’s not all. In my opinion you also need to develop yourself as a clear person, with emotions and strong individual values, so you’ll be able to talk with you heart before that with your drawings.
Of course, a big dose of organization helps a lot and I think this is my best skill. Most of time publishers come back to me saying they love working together because I’m a professional, kind and problem solving person in addition to being a talented artist.
I’m not perfect but I love what I do and what I don’t have is probably the total “agent skill”. I love to develop my work with and for my agency ,creating good books and a professional portfolio but I prefer to have an agent. I think each person should do the job he was made for. In my opinion this is the best way to do your job at your best.
- Are there a lot of freelancers in your business?
Yes, there are are so many illustrators on this planet! But I think there is plenty of work for anyone. If you are motivated and professional enough, then you’ll find your place.
- What do your clients expect from you?
In my opinion and looking at my experience, clients always look for : good quality results, good team job, fast response and kind/clear working relationship. So I always try to provide them all these qualities.
And a smile, of course! Smiling and be happy/positive is really important if you wish to create a fertile and well working ground, as a good life.
- Who are your typical clients?
I usually work in picture books market but I’ve also created illustrations for educational projects or religious books.
It’s good to keep an open mind. I think that the images are able to speak in different fields if you accurately develop your way to” talk with pencils and colors”.
Each field/market is a wonderful chance to grow up and learn, so it’s good to take a ride on every area.
- How has your business changed over time?
As said, the book industry is constantly changing, so it’s important to swim with it.
My work started on a traditional path, working with watercolors, acrylic colors, paper and brushes. Now I still love drawing on paper and paint for myself but in terms of work I updated my path studying digital painting with Photoshop and working with my Wacom Intuos tablet too. I think this has been the biggest practical change. The rest was, and still is, an everyday-new mental approach to the HOW TO communicate.
To be a good illustrator means to properly look at the world you live in NOW, as at it grows and changes. So I suppose that stay connected with TODAY and be well balanced with your PERSONAL ROOTS it’s a good way to create an original job all along your life.
- How did you gain your first customers?
I got my first book project while I was searching for clients interested in my art. I found a lovely and independent publisher who gave me an old legend to illustrate for children. The text was in 2 languages, French and Arabic. A hard challenge but a very good start too!
- John Wanamaker said: Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I do not know which half. Do you gain your clients by advertising or in another way?
I never started an “ad campaign” but I’ve shared my artworks ,and still I do, on online websites as Behance and others like that.
Also I’ve my website ,constantly updated, and I use some social media. Then, my agency works for me in that way too.
- The best marketing move, you’ve done?
No special marketing tricks for me 🙂 I do my job with love and passion, delivering high quality and very professional working relationship.
I always have a sincere smile, an “Hello” and a kind word for clients. I believe in the “mirror reflection”, so I share what I wish to get 🙂
- The biggest marketing challenge that you deal with?
Oh! So many challenges to talk about! Working as an illustrator is sometimes like as running trough the jungle, you have to be ready to jump ,land, stop, listen, keep you fire on, provide your food and don’t get caught up. Everything keeping your balance safe each time.
- Do you hire outsourcing service providers for services, which you believe are a waste of your time?
No outsourcing for me. I always consider and choose projects with a mind as clear as possible and trying to be reasonable.
If I feel overwhelmed, I honestly prefer to say to the client I’m not available in that moment. Usually the opportunity comes back after months and people are happier ’cause I can give again my full attention to the project.
- How does your typical working day look like? What do you do when you are not working? How many hours/days per week are you working?
I work in my Studio and generally ,after a first email exchange to get briefs or texts, I start doing some research on the subject I have to illustrate. Then come sketches, pencils, color artworks etc etc. Usually I work 5 days a week, the weekend is for me and my family but if I need it I work on Saturday morning too.
I spend 8 to 10 hours of working, even if it’s hard and a mental energy consuming. More than that is exhausting so I prefer to stop and start again tomorrow with a fresh mind.
- Which books would you recommend to freelancers?
There are so many books about freelancing and personally I’ve read some of them but I think it’s not something you can suggest.
Books come to you when you need them. So let’s start a research when you feel it’s the moment and you’ll get the right book for you and for your career.
- What is your current inspiration that drives you in the business?
Life is my best source of inspiration. I keep my eyes open on what internet shares, ’cause it’s important and it’s like a fresh swim, but then I work with myself and my emotions. Drawing is thinking and talking with images ,new ,clear, original ,colorful and well studied/balanced, but it’s also important to put life on them too.
An image should talking to you to be alive and catch the attention.
- What would you do differently if you would start again?
Find an agent as first thing, jump and dive in children’s illustration since the first moment. Working with a good artist or agent to create my best and professional portfolio. Not ” wasting ” time in other projects. Even if it’s true that you always learn from your life, then I think that you need to channel your total energy in illustration if you want to be an illustrator.
I’ve been lucky finding a smart ,clever and wonderful agent that helped me to collect all my working qualities in a short time but if I’ve had that opportunity before, maybe I could have got much more results when I was younger. I’m happy with what I do but time flies so fast!
- What would you advise someone who has an idea, but no money?
In my opinion ,money are not SO important to become an illustrator. Today you can study and learn from internet and there are good courses/books for all pockets. If you want do this job, you have to struggle a lot, most of the time using your own energy and determination.
Study and practise drawing the most you can, look at what other people do, produce high quality work and find an agent that helps you to grow as artist in the market you are interested in. Not all the agencies take money from you if you don’t work.
- What was the best business advice you received?
Love what you do and keep your eyes open on the world. Be unique and strong but remaining modest and humble.
- Do you have an online resource which you use regularly? Which one?
Google Images as photo references, existing illustrated books, bookshops, libraries. Pinterest, Behance and more.
- What do you often dream about when you’re not working?
Travel is my first dreaming but I also love spend my free time reading, taking pictures, creating handmade stuff,li stening french music, running and writing on my blog.
- The place where you find your peace?
Woods or natural environment but also at my home taking meditation sitting in front of a candle.
- What do you do in your free time?
Same as “dreaming question”.
- Your last vacation?
Brittany, in the north of France.
- Business plans for the future?
Illustrate more picture books about bedtime stories, legends, mythology and stopping for a while to do religious books.
I love my job and I love that kind of books but I’ve done 19 titles and I would be happy to change a bit 🙂
- Your plans for the future?
Keep working on illustration, travel and spend more time reading. I’m not a big fan about future plans ’cause I’ve learned that life changes fast, so I prefer to live the present and looking at what it is offering.
Surely my highest plan is to be happy everyday doing what I love.