Turning a Passion Into Revenue


Words:
Shona McCarthy

Photography:
Brandi Welles

For most of her childhood, Lauren Hom thought she was going to be a scientist, or maybe a veterinarian. Science and math were her strengths, though she dabbled in art on the side. Then, in high school, Lauren’s attention diverted when she began spending time with her first serious boyfriend. Her grades began to slip. Realizing that her changing academic record might not be enough to get into the science and math-focused schools she’d planned to apply to, she shifted course toward art.

Looking back at that pivotal choice, Lauren said, “I’m a firm believer that life kinda always nudges you in the right direction. Even if you think you know what the right thing to do is, life has funny way of pushing you toward what is actually good for you.”

Lauren’s interest in hand lettering grew while attending New York School of Visual Arts as an advertising major. Though she’d taken a few graphic design classes, most of her coursework focused on advertising, and she spent her spare time doing lettering and illustration projects. Her blog, Daily Dishonesty, gained attention for the hand-lettered little white lies that she and her friends shared. For example, “I’ll be there in five minutes” or, “calories don’t count on the weekends.”

Lauren graduated in 2013 and quickly landed her dream job as a junior art director at BBDO. At the same time, Daily Dishonesty was gaining more attention online, ultimately going viral. She began building Hom Sweet Hom as an illustration portfolio for commissioned pieces on the side. Illustrative work quickly became more financially and creatively gratifying than advertising, and, within nine months of graduation, Lauren was doing illustration commissions full-time.

Though she knew that she was doing well, Lauren had no idea just how successful Hom Sweet Hom was becoming. “At the beginning of 2016, I got my 1099 for the year. I am historically terrible at keeping track of my books, so I tend to keep my head down and do the work and don’t really check the business revenue. [My finance guy] sent me my 1099, and I gave him a call and said, ’I think you sent me the wrong 1099 because there’s no way I made this much money this year.’ I had cleared 6 figures! I was 24, almost 25 years old. It just blew my mind. In my head, a six-figure income was reserved for people over thirty, or, I don’t know, it just didn’t occur to me that there was that much money for an independent artist to make.”

Then, in the summer of 2016, Lauren’s business experienced its first slow months. She realized she didn’t have as much control over the market as she’d previously imagined, and she began contemplating new opportunities.

Lauren had primarily been using Instagram as a marketing tool to reach potential commercial clients, but her audience was made up of mostly other graphic designers and students interested in learning from her experience. To diversify her income stream, Lauren decided to tap into this unaddressed market and created a ten-week curriculum that taught students how to ideate, execute, and market passion projects. That first round of online classes were so over-enrolled that Lauren had to close the registration portal within three days of posting. She made close to $75,000 from enrollment.

Though initially Lauren struggled to reconcile that she could make more money teaching her art methods than making art herself, she realized “the most successful businesses are adaptable and have multiple streams of income.” And, for her, this new revenue stream allowed her to be more creative with the client and personal work she does. Lauren recently launched another round of online courses, brought on an assistant, and is excited to work on more murals, craft projects, and food-focused illustrations in the upcoming year.

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What is the next goal you have your sights set on?

I heard a fabulous Kevin Spacey quote the other day that sums it up nicely: “If you’re lucky enough to do well, it’s your responsibility to send the elevator back down.”

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While I still want to do commercial lettering projects, I want to dedicate more time to making online resources that help artists kickstart their creativity and get more eyeballs on their work. This means more blog posts, online courses, and eventually some group coaching. I’m very excited to share more of what I know!

How do you mitigate anxiety or stress when it arises?

I welcome a little bit of stress because it’s a good motivational tool for me, but I’m really good at noticing when it starts to feel like too much. I definitely worry about things here and there like anyone else. My go-to solution is to take a deep breath and ask myself, “Is there anything I can do to improve the situation? Will getting worked up about this change anything about the situation?” For example: last year I was running terribly late to catch a important flight from London to Dublin due to a train closing down from a storm. I was in a taxi stuck in traffic, and Google Maps said I would get there right when the gate closed. I felt stress welling up inside me, but I realized that me giving into those feelings and panicking wouldn’t get me to the airport any faster. So, I closed my eyes and mediated for the rest of the ride. I made it to my flight with less than a minute to spare. I’m a very emotionally-driven person, but when it comes to handling stress, I’ve learned to be less reactive and keep my cool.

What is the best part of your day?

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The best part of my day is when my brain connects the dots and has an idea. There’s nothing that brings me more joy than frantically scribbling down a thought in my notebook.

What is one thing about you that most people don’t know?

That my optimistic, positive demeanor isn’t 100% organic; I have to work for it daily. Both of my parents suffered from crippling depressions when I was a teenager, and the family went through some rough emotional times. Since depression is genetic, doctors have told me that I need to be aware of my mood and feelings often. While there will inevitably be factors in life outside of my control, I believe that I can always choose my attitude, so I choose to stay positive. Bad things may happen, but a bad attitude can only makes things worse. I’ve learned to give myself room to process negative emotions without getting wrapped up in them. This wasn’t a trait I was born with, it’s something I actively choose to do every day.

What advice do you have for women who want to start their own businesses?

Surround yourself with other women whose dreams are as big as yours. Ambition is contagious! It’s been instrumental to my success to have a strong network of creative ladies to brainstorm and collaborate with.

Also, speak up and share more. Whether it’s through writing articles, vlogging, or (in my case) lengthy Instagram captions (haha), I think it’s really important to share our ideas, opinions, and stories with the world, especially as women. Life is too short to keep your thoughts and ideas to yourself. If you experienced something that inspired you or boosted your business, chances are it could do the same for other entrepreneurial women out there, so share it! This is also a great way to grow your business, no matter what your niche is. The internet is a large place, and you never know who’ll stumble across your content and connect with your business.