Creative professional.


21st February, 2019

Tips for running your own business as a creative professional

Jessamy Gee took on a lot of risk when starting her business. Now that Think in Colour has been in operation for nearly a decade, we asked her to share some of the secrets to her success.

Few people would have ever heard of graphic recording, let alone considered it as a viable career pathway. But for Jessamy Gee, striking out on her own was never going to be about playing to others’ expectations.

Almost 10 years after starting her business, Think in Colour, Gee travels the country translating verbal or written content into visuals – often in real-time – and by doing so, she’s able to bring education and training events to life.

To find out more about how she’s developed her creative talent into a sustainable business, we recent interviewed Gee to find out what makes her tick. But if you’re still not sure what a graphic recorder does, you can watch the below video featuring Gee’s work.

Making a living as an artist: Passion as purpose

The stereotype of the impoverished artist is one that’s always existed throughout history – to the point where some creatives even look down on the concept of using their talents to make money.

But for Gee, turning her hand to graphic recording was less about ‘selling out’ and more about finding the best way to apply her skills.

“My job is best described as a cross-between an illustrator and a translator – I specialise in the translation of verbal or written content into visuals,” said Gee.

“I always knew I wanted to draw for a living, but really had no idea what that might look like in reality.”

Early on in her career, Gee began working within an accelerated problem-solving facilitation methodology known as MG Taylor, which has been employed by consulting firms like PwC, KPMG and many more besides). A key part of the process of visual facilitation required the use of graphic recording, and this is where the young Gee found she was first able to use her passion for drawing in a professional setting.

“It was here that I did a lot of my on-the-job learning as part of a larger facilitation team – and my business really grew out of that,” she said.

Say ‘yes’: Tips for building a creative business

While Gee has always operated primarily as a sole trader in a service-based capacity, she’s managed to move beyond the limitations of her model with a combination of tenacity, ambition and savvy business management skills.

But mostly, Gee says, her success stems from saying ‘yes’ to things.

“The success of Think in Colour has been largely dependent on saying ‘yes’ and working out the details later,” said Gee. “When I was offered my first ever graphic recording gig before I’d ever tried I said ‘yes’.

“When people started asking if we did ‘those cool hand-drawn videos’, I said ‘yes’. When clients started requesting digital graphic recording, I said ‘yes’.

“Not being afraid to try new things and learn new skills, being flexible and listening to what your clients want, and keep abreast of trends and new opportunities that come with emerging technology have been the key factors to our success.”

Nevertheless, Gee recognises the limits of her ability in offering her services, and she offers the following tips to others operating under similar constraints:

  1. Outsource what you can – I have a virtual assistant that takes care of my admin and logistics, a colourist that does all the post-production from live events and some of the colouring for illustration work, a small network of trusted graphic recording contractors, and a video producer. Consider which elements of your business could be outsourced to improve efficiencies and take some of the pressure out of your day.
  2. Make the most of your IP – Defining and structuring knowledge around the value of visual thinking and communication has allowed me to diversify my services again by moving into the training, writing and coaching space. I am also currently working on an online course and a book, both of which will be released later this year. There’s nothing stopping any creative professional from exploring similar strategies.
  3. Get online business software – I love the fact that both myself and my Virtual Assistant, Chloe, can access my MYOB software online and that there’s a clear and easy process for quoting and invoicing that doesn’t become confusing when multiple users are involved. Working from different locations means that reliable platforms like MYOB really enable us to get our work done efficiently.

Want to learn more about graphic recording?

Not everyone can be a graphic recorder, but whether you’re interested in it as a business model, skill or service you might like to hire in to your next big event, Gee’s impending book launch and online course could be of interest to you.

“The book and online course, both titled ‘Listen, Think, Draw’, will focus on teaching people how to be better more focused listeners, how to practice visual thinking for better communication and clarity of thought, and how to use drawing to communicate more efficiently and effectively.

“It also explores the symbiotic relationship between the three: how drawing helps you listen, listening helps you think, thinking helps you listen, and so on. Watch this space!”