There is money involved

Flow Arte Onyx Glade scarf

The interviewee said: “It’s weird, I love doing my job, I could do it all day long but the second someone offers to pay me for it, it becomes work and so all the procrastination mechanisms become activated”.

I can’t remember which podcast it was. It must have been around 2014 when I was listening to a lot of web design and development podcasts. This woman was a UX designer. I remember I had an a-ha! moment when I listened to her.

I’m able to tinker away at my WordPress site for hours. I can get into the code and change things until it looks perfect, I don’t mind to refresh the page a thousand times but when I started to do it for clients, the whole picture changed. I had a lot of trouble and anxiety about breaking things, about not doing it well, about writing spaghetti code, or having to do endless changes and adjustments, despite being paid for it.

When I started to do illustration work, it was exactly the same. I illustrated many things, I created clip art sets and worked meticulously on them with strict quality control and I released them to my Artistic Clipart shop, but when somebody asked me to work on a paid project, it automatically became “work” and it stripped the pleasure. There was money involved.

This is a phenomenon that baffles me, especially since illustrating and painting is my dream job, I want to be able to support myself with my work but why does money murk everything? Why is it a source of insecurity and dread?

My theory

It’s all about confidence and self-worth. I am certain that my work is good. I show it and I feel proud, but I don’t associate it with monetary value.

I came across this interview with Kaye Blegvad on Design Sponge:

Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned in running a business?

I’ve always found pricing very difficult. At first, I wanted to make things at a very low price point, something that me and my fellow broke-artist friends could afford. I looked at the costs of production and marked pieces up based on that, not factoring in time and labor at all — I was basically just looking at a piece and thinking “I would be able to spend X amount on that” and calling that the price. Then there was a point where I started to get busy, and was churning orders out, working crazy hours, replying to countless emails, totally exhausted, and I realized I was probably making about $3/hr. It’s really important to value your time and effort, and to factor it in to your pricing. I still try to keep my pieces as affordable as I possibly can, but it was an important discovery that pricing based on your own finances is not necessarily going to be good for your health and sanity!

Big insight right there!

Ever since I started to work for myself, I’ve had this fear of pricing my work and since most people still tend to complain about cost when they know they’re doing business with a freelancer, I always caved and charged too little. No wonder it felt like an ungrateful job.

Artists and hand made businesses need to learn how NOT to mix our own financial reality with that of our potential customers. We have no idea of their reality.

I think it’s a bad sign to be surprised when you get an order. It means you are not valuing yourself enough. People have purchased my leggings and they love them! Why am I surprised?


My clients and customers value my work, they do or they wouldn’t buy. It’s my job to value myself too. To account for the long photography session of last Tuesday when I spent all afternoon bent over taking pictures of my Furoshiki wraps and scarves. Then editing the pictures in Photoshop. Practicing tying them up and verifying that they indeed look beautiful.

Flow Arte Furoshiki Scarf

For this scarf, the process went like this :

Japanese Watercolor Botanical by Flowarte

I did a painting.

I wanted the most simple brush strokes, something evocative and delicate. Something botanical with a Japanese feel.

Next, came the process of digitizing and transferring to Photoshop to extract the image from the background. I digitize at 600 DPI.

Extracting the background from defined shapes is a little easier than abstracts and very fluid watercolors. This image is quite defined so I decided to make a dark navy scarf. No wandering white pixels would tarnish the final design.

Flow Arte Onyx Glade scarf
Scarf Onyx Glade

The file is sent to my local printer who I visit regularly and reassures me. I know where my products are made and this printer follows ethical guidelines which were the defining aspect when I decided if I wanted to print them overseas at ridiculous low prices at the expense of workers who labour under poor conditions, or here in Montreal where production is a little slower and yes, a little more costly but I know that on Friday afternoon, workers leave to enjoy their weekends or any other paid holiday.

I’m confident that my customers value this process. From my studio to their hands. And so, yes, there is money involved but the money supports values that are important to me: ethical and local shopping, reducing waste by creating multifunctional products and last but not least creativity.

Visit my Etsy shop, look around, if you have questions contact me.

If you’re a creative share with me how you manage to successfully deal with the monetary aspect of creativity.

By Luisa Fernanda

Artist, Illustrator, Cruelty-Free Advocate. Notion Geek.