This week on the podcast, I spoke with Alysha Anema, who is the owner of Anema Designs and Illustrations.
Alysha is a talented artist and after a false start in accounting realised her true calling was all things creative - namely, design and art!
In the podcast, we talk about:
…and loads, loads more.
If you are itching to branch out and start working for yourself, this is the podcast to listen to.
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(Heads up - I'm a content strategist and PR consultant who helps businesses tell their stories clearly and consistently to make more conversion$.)
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**0:00:00** - (Carmen): Hi, Alysha, and welcome to the Committed Creative Podcast. I'm so happy to have you on with me today.
**0:00:05** - (Alysha): Oh, thank you. Thanks for inviting me and including me in your podcast.
**0:00:12** - (Carmen): Absolutely, I had to include you. You're one of my most creative contemporaries that I know, so I knew I had to get you on. So for those of us who don't already know you, this is always the first question I ask. Who are you and what do you do for work?
**0:00:28** - (Alysha): Well, yeah, obviously Alysha and I run a creative studio called Anema Designs, and my main focus is on branding and illustration. So Anema actually means little soul in Latin, and I aim to bring a little bit more soul in your branding design and illustration.
**0:00:47** - (Carmen): I love that. And you definitely do, because if you look at your work, it's so vibrant and beautiful, and you always definitely meet the brief, I think, with all the clients that you work with. So how did you get into this line of work?
**0:01:01** - (Alysha): Good question. I actually didn't start off as a creative. Well, I think everyone is creative. Hang on. Firstly, everyone has the creativity, but I didn't start off doing design. I actually have a background in marketing and accounting, and I cried through my accounting degree. And I worked in the commercial world for about six years. And then I basically was working at Fiona Stanley Hospital for Semens for quite some time, and I got burnt out. I was doing extra hours, and someone actually my mum said to me, why don't you do artwork on the weekend?
**0:01:44** - (Alysha): So I drove out in the middle of the bush, so bullsbrook. No reception on a Saturday. And I'd do artwork and different mediums and everything. And that kind of set the path to doing design because someone said to me, have you thought about doing that on the computer? Which then basically made me say, what if? And then I had a few family members, older family members die. And I remembered one family member used to say, I have regrets, so I don't want to have any regrets. And so that's what led me to basically doing graphic design and then basically worked for some agencies. And then butabing butaboom here I am.
**0:02:34** - (Carmen): What a beautiful story. And I can see your artwork behind you on a canvas, so you still obviously do the tactile drawing. Is that pencil on canvas that's behind you?
**0:02:47** - (Alysha): Yeah. So that's pencil. So I started actually off with doing watercolor paint and watercolor pencil, and then I've actually now using just basically pencil colored pencil and pastels. That's probably like, my love area. And I still do it because I feel like it helps stimulate another part of my brain to be able to be creative.
**0:03:17** - (Carmen): Oh, yeah, for sure. Do you get inspiration from that kind of artwork for your graphic design?
**0:03:24** - (Alysha): Yeah, so I was doing a project a little while ago and I was looking at some inspiration and I came across the French artist Matisse, and one of his artwork is of people sort of running around in a circle, and I used that sort of idea as a basis for one of my branding and design concepts. So I think creativity, obviously, is in the perception of the person. I've always sort of looked at things, even walking. My imagination will see, instead of a rock, it might be a face.
**0:04:06** - (Alysha): So it sounds scary, but yeah, that's how I do it.
**0:04:10** - (Carmen): Yeah, I'm just wondering how someone so creative as you thought that accounting would.
**0:04:14** - (Alysha): Be a good well, it's interesting because it's like culture, right? So. It's sort of the unspoken culture of the so I grew up in a South African family and a Dutch side, so I've got the two sides and the whole scenario of, like, sorry if anyone's a Dutch person, but the philosophy in my family was, if you're not Dutch, you're not much sort of environment kind of thing, which is not ideal in the sense that everyone is awesome.
**0:04:51** - (Alysha): And, yeah, basically, I had this idea in my head that I had to get a real job and creativity. I didn't think that you could really earn money doing creative stuff, and that's why I did accounting. I cried through uni a lot and I never clicked until later in life.
**0:05:10** - (Carmen): So, yeah, I'm glad that you found your path. It's interesting, isn't it? Like, even I was saying to my mum the other day, when I was in high school, I was always expected to go to uni. She's like, you weren't you didn't outwardly say you need to go to university, but it was just, like, implied, by the way that they raised me, that there's no other option but university. And it's interesting how that's kind of a cultural thing and I wonder if that will kind of change now that with social media and everything, people can see that there are other options and that you can make just as much money working on the mines, which you don't necessarily need to go to university for, or doing jobs like social media, content creation, those kinds of roles that you don't necessarily need a university degree for. And sometimes you make a lot more money than if you are university qualified. It's interesting.
**0:06:06** - (Alysha): Yeah. And even tradies, some tradies earn quite well. Yeah, I think there's many different ways of going about things. Yeah.
**0:06:21** - (Carmen): And I think if you love what you do, the money will come. I really believe that, because if you love what you do, you're good at it, so then you're going to attract the income.
**0:06:32** - (Alysha): Yeah, that's right. I think the passion kind of you become almost the person absorbed in it. If you are that person, you're passionate, it comes out, it exudes into different areas. Right.
**0:06:48** - (Carmen): And people pick up on that energy and they want to work with you because they can see you're driven and you're passionate. So, yeah, I think it's about finding that passion and making sure you're doing a profession that aligns well with it. So tell me about your client base. What kind of industries are they in?
**0:07:07** - (Alysha): So I actually don't necessarily have a niche in the sense of industry, but I specialize. I could say a niche in branding and illustration. So branding design and illustration. And the clients I've worked on or worked with is from like at the moment, I'm working with a gin distiller, and they've got a couple of vodka and gin labels and they got an indigenous background to, for example an agriculture company who basically is ASX listed and they're worldwide and they're obviously more the corporate side of things to basically a sports fitness center which is courtside fitness.
**0:07:57** - (Alysha): Basically did their rebrand and a mural on their wall. So I didn't paint it, but I did the artwork and they had it printed. I went recently back to the hairdressers, and the hairdresser I went to years ago, they've still got the logo that I've done and the branding. So it's very varied, but in the sense of, I like to work with people who value basically design and they want to see their brand visual identity, basically build a strong foundation in that. And even using illustration, like infographics, I love infographics, more data.
**0:08:43** - (Alysha): I actually love discerning how to basically put it in a logical manner. I think that's the whole accounting side that I survived, coupled with the creative side. So I've worked on some awesome graphics with Gusta Gelato, with the Train Train, a large train company doing some of their infographics. It's not really industry specific, but it's more if they value and they want to see good communication connected so that they can connect to their audience.
**0:09:25** - (Carmen): Yeah, absolutely. And what does it feel like when you see the logo you've designed or the branding that you've created up on a wall or on someone's shop front?
**0:09:35** - (Alysha): It's a little surreal. Actually. Today. I got given. I did prospectus for Murdoch University. I worked on a project for them doing their book, and I got given it, and it feels surreal that I created that. And it's like physical print. It's printed and it's up and the same with the mural or even going to a Petisserie place and seeing how it's up on the walls and actually used some of my branding supporting elements as graphics on the wall. And yeah, it feels a bit surreal.
**0:10:14** - (Carmen): It's like excited.
**0:10:15** - (Alysha): Yeah, I do, because you see it on the screen and then you see it come to life and people's feedback, for example, at the Mardi Gras Petisserie, for example, that's in Ellenbrook, I went and visited and I walked into the local lolly shop to get lollies, and the lady actually asked me what I'm doing here. And her feedback was like, yeah, that petitioner is so much nicer my daughter walked past and it just attracts people. So even hearing people's feedback is so cool. It's like wow, so awesome.
**0:10:51** - (Carmen): It feels like you're making a true impact and it must be so rewarding.
**0:10:55** - (Alysha): Yeah, it is and I think it's nice to see the business owners flourish in it too because it's like equipping them with the tools to because branding is everything, right? It's creating that brand experience, even customer service, all that and it's just helping them and it's cool. Yeah, absolutely.
**0:11:19** - (Carmen): So how do clients find out about you? Is it through word of mouth or.
**0:11:24** - (Alysha): How would you yeah, so mainly through word of mouth referrals. I go to obviously a few networking events and basically just chat to people. I have received a few via website or even social media but mainly it's through referrals and yeah, that's how I get it and that's showcasing some work but I need to showcase more.
**0:11:56** - (Carmen): Awesome. You do such beautiful work. So one question that I often get asked, or that I know people ask a lot of new business owner or established business owners, owners I should say the new business owners ask they struggle with pricing and they're not sure how to price their services and is this something that you've learned over time to price accordingly? Do you have any tips for any graphic designers starting out who are unsure about how to price their work?
**0:12:29** - (Alysha): Yes, I have the baptism of fire through that. Yeah, definitely. So I think firstly for me realizing that first year that you have to be confident in what you are providing as well. So basically I quote on projects and then also sometimes based on hourly but sometimes when I first started out, specifically when I was new in my own business, I was realizing, man, $3 an hour, I worked all that out because you didn't realize the full scale of what included. So firstly it's asking the right questions and making sure you get the right brief.
**0:13:22** - (Alysha): If you don't know, communicate with them, get as much information so that you can quote correctly and also leave in a bit of a buffer just in case. How can I say, yeah, you can see when you deal with certain clients for me over the years now, I can assess depending on who I speak.
**0:13:52** - (Carmen): To, they're going to be a pain in the ass or not.
**0:13:54** - (Alysha): Yeah, you said it like that but they're going to have been painful or not. Or if clients don't know what they want, then you need to majority don't let's be real. Even if they do, it ends up because of the way of the direction it ends up going in a way but yeah, making sure that you covered that part and then keeping track of your time. Even though I think as a creative you shouldn't necessarily just place it on your time because it's also your experience and looking at other costs, like associated to your business or do.
**0:14:39** - (Alysha): But yeah, I think I'm still in that phase of learning that side of things in the sense that I still hear people talk about pricing value pricing, project pricing versus hourly pricing. If you're new, I think just bear in mind ask a lot of questions and if it's out of scope, actually tell people this is beyond the scope or the communication is massive.
**0:15:09** - (Carmen): Yes, so true. And do you mainly do project rates now? Would you say that's the main way.
**0:15:15** - (Alysha): That you yeah, mainly project rates. I think sometimes I would do have done over the last year or so, sometimes hourly, if it's something for example, if they need something really basic and like a business card and I've done branding for them before, and they'll come back to me and they said to me, I need some business cards. Do you mind just doing it? Then I would just basically do hourly. Very easy, not as time consuming, but yeah, mainly project rates.
**0:15:54** - (Carmen): You mentioned there about briefing and making sure that they really nail down the brief. Do you have a specific set of questions that you ask clients?
**0:16:04** - (Alysha): Yeah, I do. I've learned to have a brief questionnaire, so I've got a questionnaire that covers even their story because I feel like when businesses come to me, they don't think that their story is necessarily part of it, but their why is massive. Right? And you would know this.
**0:16:29** - (Carmen): Yeah, definitely.
**0:16:31** - (Alysha): So encompassing that is part of it. So I ask questions like that, the vision, their values, where their direction is, because doing brand visual identity, it's great to have it at the moment, but it's also thinking long term too, because brands evolve, right? You look at how even the red rooster, right, that's a great example. If you've seen their new, they've had a brand refresh, so they're still sort of in the same sort of sphere, but it's refreshed, so you can see some of their graphics have been updated.
**0:17:11** - (Alysha): So that's what I mean. It's like thinking about the future as well, where they want to go and that's not necessarily doing it all once there, but it's basically equipping some foundational elements there so that if they do think about future stuff that they've got something foundational to start with. Even stuff that they don't think about, like deliverables in the sense of what is it going to be applied on? Because someone who does like a gin distiller is very different to someone who's in agriculture, they're not going to produce bottles.
**0:17:50** - (Alysha): So it's thinking about how it's applied and how the user or the audience is going to use it. So, yeah, I tend to have a brief questionnaire and then I basically chat to the client and if I'm working with someone who's a marketing or a brand specialist or a strategist, then usually they brief me and they have the full scale of what's involved and then I hash it out with them.
**0:18:18** - (Carmen): It's so beneficial to spend the extra time at the beginning getting it right because it will save you hours in the long run.
**0:18:27** - (Alysha): Yeah. And setting expectations with clients or with people because that's the main thing, right. It's managing the expectation, it's actually not the work. The expectations is what is the big thing.
**0:18:41** - (Carmen): I'm a big believer in the under promise and over deliver client. Happy?
**0:18:48** - (Alysha): Yeah.
**0:18:50** - (Carmen): So when you started your business, did you reach out to any mentors or did you do any specific training?
**0:18:57** - (Alysha): So. Yes, I did. I actually did the Niece program, which is a government funded program, which I think is amazing that they do. I think I did an intensive period of time where they take you through and do a business plan with you and you've got a coach. I did it online because it was during COVID crazy madness. And then you submit your work, your business plan, and then you actually can get allocated a mentor and it's subject to your business and your goals and your vision.
**0:19:32** - (Alysha): So I had a business mentor for a year and then they actually help subsidize your income as your business grows. And the whole idea is by the end of that year you would have been established and then you can just basically move into your business, which is what actually happened to me.
**0:19:54** - (Carmen): Awesome.
**0:19:54** - (Alysha): Yeah, I highly recommend that because if it's available through the government and there's other training as well that they provide and they're very resourceful with that.
**0:20:09** - (Carmen): Do you have to pay to do the Niece program?
**0:20:11** - (Alysha): No, it's completely free and you can do it through I think I did mine through Business Foundation, but there's a few different places that do it in Australia, but in WA and yeah, they've helped a lot of different businesses. Another friend of mine I didn't even know did this. They've got a printing, what do you call it, screen printing business. And they did nice and yeah, they're successful in Wangara and yeah, so there's some really good successful stories out of it and I think it just helps establish you because the government doesn't want you to be on centerlink forever.
**0:20:55** - (Alysha): You have the capacity to pursue your own business and I think it's good that they invest into your business. And small businesses.
**0:21:06** - (Carmen): Small businesses, they make a lot of taxes from small businesses, so I guess they're incentivized to invest in small businesses as well. But yeah, it's great to learn about these kinds of programs that are out there and I think it'll probably help some of our listeners to know that there is help if they want to kick start their own ambitions in a business.
**0:21:25** - (Alysha): Yeah. And then there's also local councils are pretty good with some of their initiatives and yeah, sorry. Yeah.
**0:21:36** - (Carmen): I know for sure that City of One or in City of Joondalup do have certain programs as well that help small businesses. So, yeah, there is help out there if you need it. You're like me, you work from home. Do you get lonely at all working on your own?
**0:21:50** - (Alysha): Yes, I do. I was actually saying to someone today earlier, I was like, if I'm at home in my own studio, it takes and if I'm not seeing someone, like, as in from a work perspective in three days, I get sad and lonely. I need to like three days is a long time. Yeah, three days is a long time. But yeah, I tend to like once a month I try and catch up with I've got a bit of a design group. It's very informal, basically just catch up with them and they've got their own businesses or they work for part time school or whatever, and we just chat about different things and their experiences. So I try and fill my month with a few different things and chat to people as well via Slack.
**0:22:47** - (Alysha): I don't know if you use that platform, but that's nice.
**0:22:52** - (Carmen): And obviously you do a lot of networking. I think that's where I met you. Was that a networking event?
**0:22:56** - (Alysha): Yeah, go to a few of the networking groups, but yeah, it takes a while for me to get to know people, too. So if I pick with you or whatever, I just pursue you.
**0:23:15** - (Carmen): Yeah, no, I think that's such a good such a good side note because you sometimes get really overwhelmed at these networking events and feel like you don't connect with anyone, but then you keep going back to them and you're like, why am I doing this? I'm not enjoying this. But yeah, if you can just sound ball the people you actually like and then catch up with them at a different event or one to one, I just feel like it works out better in the long run.
**0:23:42** - (Alysha): And for me, I find that one on one I'm better at and I try and invest time in that aspect. I mean, I went to a conference in the beginning of the year, I think it was the end of January, and I didn't expect anything. I got a free ticket. I thought, this is great mix of a whole bunch of people. There's a whole room full of different people from different industries. And I knew someone there that invited me and was very conscious about networking. And for me, I take it more on that approach of relationship building.
**0:24:18** - (Alysha): Because I saw something recently says it's not sales, it's like dating your clients or dating the people.
**0:24:27** - (Carmen): Yeah, it is so true, isn't it? Because so many people have bad connotations in relation to sales, like they think. But when I think of all the people that I've ever sold to, like all my clients and my favorite clients, I almost consider them friends because we work together even before I sell to them. We've been in contact multiple times, had lots of chats and, yeah, it is totally about that relationship building.
**0:24:56** - (Alysha): Yeah. And I think with this conference that I went to, I just was myself. I met someone there, lovely lady who runs a business with two other partners and just chatted. And meanwhile, this other person was like, hey, we need to network. I'm like, I sort of am, because I think if you push something, it can come across. I think people are intuitive in your motives as well. Not saying that that person's motive was wrong, but I'm just saying there's something in more fluid and organic building and obviously there's strategies of how to meet people and so forth. I'm not saying that that's not wise, but I think if you too, it can come across right and then ends up being that this person I was talking to and the person invited me, now they're working together, I basically connected them.
**0:26:07** - (Alysha): It's hilarious. But, yeah, there you go.
**0:26:14** - (Carmen): I think people would totally pick up on that pushiness. And I just look at my LinkedIn and how many DMs I'm getting on LinkedIn lately about, have you looked at this for your business? And trying to direct sell me before they even know my business or what it is I do, or even ask how I am. It's like, I've got a lead for you, and just that cold, hard sell. And I think it's really outdated, to be honest. No one I don't know if it's still working. Maybe it is, but I don't think it works on me.
**0:26:42** - (Alysha): The only person I've ever had on LinkedIn so far. Not that I'm a great whiz at LinkedIn, I wouldn't ever call myself an expert. There is one lady from I think she's based in New South Wales. She's also a copywriter, but she does books, book coaching. Right. And she sent the amazing message via LinkedIn. It actually made me want to pursue right back to her. And she was very friendly. Just say, I've got a whole bunch of people and I'd like to just connect with these people that I don't know, that I'm connected with.
**0:27:19** - (Alysha): And, yeah, that worked.
**0:27:21** - (Carmen): Yeah, I actually had a business coach who connected with me on LinkedIn about a month ago, and it really worked as well, because she said, do you want to jump on a free call for an hour where I'm getting a bunch of other business owners in and we'll just chat about our businesses, how they're doing, and you can just shoot me. Any questions you've got at the moment? And so I did. I went on to this free session for an hour, met some other business owners. It was really nice.
**0:27:44** - (Carmen): And we might be doing that as a regular thing now. And I think that's a great way to demonstrate her skills. And I'm much more likely to work with her now over some other business coach that I don't know, because I feel like I know after talking with her for an hour and listening to her advice. So, yeah, that was a good tactic as well, I think.
**0:28:03** - (Alysha): Yeah.
**0:28:04** - (Carmen): What would you say to a graphic designer if they're starting out? Perhaps, but maybe they already work at an agency and they're doing really well for the agency, but they kind of feel like they want to make a break and go out on their own like you did. What encouraged you to take the leap and what advice would you give that person?
**0:28:26** - (Alysha): I think if you're thinking like that and it keeps coming back to you. So that's what happened to me is I started thinking maybe I should do my own thing and it used to sit that nagging. Sometimes those nagging thoughts don't go away, then you know that there's something in it. And what helped me to make that progression is one actually getting some clients on the side. So I worked with a disability company based in Queensland and then a manufacturing company that does large scale concrete blocks for kilns, very different industries. But I started doing some side design work and some branding for them, and it became ongoing work as well. So I think by taking that small step of starting to pursue that but also, I find that it depends also because agencies are run very differently.
**0:29:35** - (Alysha): Like, from my experience, one of the agencies, they had an account manager and there was like, clear hierarchical structure, and the account manager would come to me, whereas there's another one that I know of that I went to and did some work is they basically have all the designers and one project manager, and he oversees it. But the designers also speak directly to the client and the project manager, make sure that it's on progression.
**0:30:12** - (Alysha): I think there's different agency types. I think if something's not sitting well with you and you want to do freelance or you want to go out on your own and do your own thing, I think if it keeps nagging, I would do it. And I would start by having a few side clients or start pursuing that and see if that's the taste that you want to do. But yeah, I've learned probably a lot more than I would imagine, working in an agency role.
**0:30:47** - (Alysha): But that's me in what I think. But it's got pros and cons.
**0:30:55** - (Carmen): Are there any areas that you miss about any things you miss about working for an agency?
**0:31:02** - (Alysha): Yes, I think I like the collaborative nature. And you do learn you learn a bit different. Like, I learned heaps. And I used to sit next to one of the design. She was an art director, and I learned a lot from her, just from sitting next to her and then by hearing. So that's cool, that part. And that whole you're in a team environment, which is great, but now I have to not have to but now I pursue that in a different way. So I do like self development, or, like I mentioned, I have a group that I go to each month and we talk about different design things.
**0:31:49** - (Alysha): There's a recent thing about Mid Journey, which is an AI. Yeah, that's pretty cool. It's other ways of combating that missing.
**0:32:04** - (Carmen): How do you feel about AI and its potential to do design so well?
**0:32:10** - (Alysha): Well, there's this ongoing thing, right, where it says clients don't know what they want, so how would they use AI?
**0:32:17** - (Carmen): I've seen that. I laugh too, because it's the same with Chat GPT. I'm like it's all well and good to know Chat GPT, but you need to know what prompts to put into Chat GPT to get the good ads.
**0:32:28** - (Alysha): Yeah, definitely. I think there is a few AI things now happening with Illustrator, Photoshop, even Canvas integrated there's. Like Mid Journey with Illustrator, it saved me so much time because it has now a new function where it can identify similar types, whereas I used to do that manually and it takes me a bit of time, so I think it'll save us time. But then in Photoshop I've been looking at, they've got some generative AI in there, which is great, but you actually have to feed it the right questions, right statements, like you said about Chat GPT.
**0:33:12** - (Alysha): And then, for example, Mid Journey, I recently saw, I'm part of this Facebook group of designers, and this chick put on some images that she had that she did for a campaign which had tennis ball ice creams, because it's a tennis event. So she's basically exploring imagery for them in that way as a campaign. So I think, yes, it'll be interesting to see how things evolve. I think one thing I would like to continue to is just stay aware of it and learn the AI, because I don't want to be outdated.
**0:33:53** - (Carmen): Yes, I think that's true. I think jobs, they're not going to be replaced by AI, but your job will probably be replaced by someone who knows how to use AI. It's important to keep on top of it. And even for me, with Chat GPT, it does save me time, certainly, but I would never copy and paste something directly from Chat GPT and give it to a client. Like it still needs loads of work after it comes out of Chat GPT to make sure it's on brand, the right tone of voice and all that kind of thing.
**0:34:28** - (Alysha): Yeah, I agree. Sorry, go on.
**0:34:31** - (Carmen): So, what's the future for Alysha looking like? Do you have plans for this coming financial year and beyond?
**0:34:38** - (Alysha): Yeah, sorry, I didn't expect this question.
**0:34:44** - (Carmen): Sorry, I just came out of nowhere.
**0:34:49** - (Alysha): I'm looking at basically doing a bit more of collaborative work with other creators, so that's one. And secondly, I'm wanting to basically look at doing more product based business as well, so maybe venturing into that side of. Things, whether that's capitalizing on some art or whatever that looks like, but that's something that I want to pursue and then just continue growing in the business and working with I mean, I realized recently I'm working with other people now, ongoing, and that's great.
**0:35:31** - (Alysha): So just keep growing and keep learning. Yeah. Does that answer?
**0:35:37** - (Carmen): Yeah. It's so exciting. I look forward to see what happens in your business because I reckon it's going to continue to boom. Thanks so much for coming on the podcast today. It was really great having you on here.
**0:35:51** - (Alysha): Thanks for having me.