Jess' Mess Meets Abbey Fusarelli
Every now and again I check in with reality and think how weird and wonderful it is that the internet has enabled us to connect with people from all over the world. I've also always been in awe of the uniqueness of people's talents and so when I came across this lovely lady I knew I wanted to learn from her - and I did.
Abbey Fusarelli specializes in pet portrait and is a wildlife artist. I love that. How often do you come across a wildlife artist?! I was intrigued - I knew there was a story there. She is based in Australia and has quite a significant following, so when she answered my message and kindly agreed to do this, I got super excited. Even if you're not an aspiring artist or illustrator I'm 100% sure you will enjoy this piece. I am not a wildlife artist and I can't say that I'm super blessed in the drawing department, but there's so many things that I feel like I can relate with.
What is your story? What made you want to do what you do?
Animals have always been my muse. I was utterly obsessed with animals growing up. To somewhat express the severity of this... I was that little girl who went to a friend's birthday party, only to spend the whole time playing with her dog and trying to catch their chickens. Yup.
I've always loved drawing, however, growing up I never looked at it more than a hobby as I didn't want to become another 'starving artist' in the world. It was easier to brush it off, but I think deep down I was afraid I'd fail. It wasn't until years after finishing high school and working in the cold and unfulfilling corporate world, I decided to brush the dust off my pencils and try it again.
What prompted me was news which made my heart sink. A friend's much-loved dog had suddenly and tragically passed. I felt my words of sympathy were empty, so I wanted to create a portrait of him. One they could keep forever. Their reaction, disbelief and gratefulness absolutely overwhelmed me and I realized I had to follow this. It was no longer a hobby.
How have you managed to single-handedly create a brand out of your work or yourself, essentially?
I honestly had no idea what I was doing at the start. I knew nothing of how to build a business or how to brand myself. The one thing I did know though, was that social media was going to be a great (and free!) way to get my name out there. I started by doing free work to build a small portfolio and create content for my Instagram account. Before I knew it my first official client booked in - all the way from Minnesota in the States (I'm an Aussie, so this was kind of a big deal).
Since then I've been ever learning (books, audiobooks, podcasts are my go-to) to grow and evolve my business. In December 2017 I relaunched my business from solely pet portrait commissions to introduce my interior print range which I am continuing to develop.
I think the biggest thing with starting your own gig is persistence. Don't stop learning. Go with your gut. Trust in your abilities. Believe in yourself. In all honesty, I haven't mastered these yet. I have moments of doubt, but I don't let it stop me. I keep persisting as I know my burning desire to achieve my goals won't go away.
Don't let your fears stop you from creating something beautiful for yourself.
What made you decide to materialize this idea into an actual brand (when you first decided to go professional, get a logo, etc.) and how has that helped you?
Within only a month of booking my first real client, I already had a waiting list (short albeit, but a waiting list nonetheless!). It hit me that these were real people connecting with me from all over the world to get a piece of my work, and I needed to get my act together if I wanted to make a good impression! I got myself an ABN (Australian Business Number), a logo, a website (with accompanying professional email) and some business cards.
Once I had these things in order, I felt like I somewhat had myself together. Even though I was still fumbling with what the heck I was doing - on the outside I was totally professional. It gave me some confidence I really needed at the time. It helped me move past the fears I had with shifting from 'this is a hobby' mindset to 'this is a business' mindset.
You're essentially a designer of your brand. What have you learned from it? Is there anything you wish you'd done differently?
Google is your best friend. Don't know how to code your website? Google does. Don't know how to optimize hashtags? Google does. Don't know how to market your product or service? Google does. You get the idea. As I've mentioned, I didn't know anything about business. I never completed any formal training or qualifications. It was all learned by good ol' trial and error and loads of help from Google.
Having my own small business has taught me SO much about myself. It's really stretched me to my breaking points and I've done things I'd have never thought possible (like coding my website - not an easy feat for me!). As far as what would I have done differently? I mean, yeah, maybe looked more into the importance of a mailing list earlier, maybe I could have broken through the fear of releasing my print range earlier? Ultimately though, I don't have any regrets as I know I'm on this journey for the long haul and every set back forces me to grow.
What are some of your tips and tricks on how to develop a brand especially for creatives who are just starting out and small businesses?
I think getting clear on what kind of brand you want to be/business you want to have is integral. If you can get clear on your purpose and essentially your 'why' - you'll have a much easier time promoting your product/services and reaching your ideal customer.
Don't get caught up in worrying about competitors. If there's someone else doing the same thing - guess what? Your thing will be different. No one is you. You'll offer something else your competitors don't. Whether it's the personable communication, immaculate packaging, or just your unique personality, you have something special to offer that someone else can't.
And as mentioned above, Google everything you don't know. Except when it comes to that weird mark that just showed up on your arm - Dr. Google will conclusively convince you you're dying.
Is there anything else you'd like to share that's related to brand development?
Word of advice from someone who grew up described as a 'perfectionist' - don't try to be perfect. Nothing is perfect and if you keep 'perfecting' an idea/product/service you'll never actually release it! It's a battle but I'm getting better with it myself and just going with the flow in my business and so far, so good.
Yes. I actually can't tell you how much I enjoy this post - and how much I can relate to it. She couldn't have said it better - Google really does help you with literally everything. When I was first hired for a professional gig, I had no idea how much to charge, and yes, you guessed it - Google came to the rescue.
See you on the next one!