From Employee to Creative Entrepreneur in a country where PayPal is not supported. I’m Sawyer Cloud, an author, illustrator, fashion designer, comic artist and filmmaker from Madagascar. Ask me anything!

Sawyer Cloud
Jul 19, 2018

My name is Sawyer, I’m 25 years old and I work as a freelance illustrator/Designer/Author for companies and individuals around the world. I grew up in a tiny village in the capitale of Madagascar where trees grew all around. I used to work as a first grade teacher, librarian, video artist etc before becoming a full-time illustrator. I’ve always dreamed about becoming my own boss and earn my life with  something I’m passionate about. I love drawing, since my childhood I drew on walls with mud and a piece of wood on the ground. Growing up I discovered the internet and started to watch vlogs and tutorials of foreign illustrators who were talking a lot about pursuing dreams and running a business as an illustrator. But I didn’t have the courage yet, I waited to become brave enough until the day I was losing my sick father. I realised life is too short to live “as we should” and not taking risks. I left my job and I decided to go futher as an illustrator and author.

 

It was an insane decision because in my country we do not have neither the structure nor the culture to run a business in illustration... We don’t have paypal, so I could not do the half of things other illustrators out there in the internet do to earn money. Fortunatly most of my clients until now accepted to make paiements differently, I get paid either on Payoneer or Western Union.

However difficult it is to live as a freelance illustrator from where I am, I’ve never stopped moving forward and arming myself with whatever I can take along the way : books, tutorials, articles, movies etc.

 

Few months ago, I contacted a publisher in the US and we have published my first children book “Under Lucy’s Bed” which talks about the fear of darkness and how a little girl was fighting it.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Under-Lucys-Bed-Sawyer-Cloud/dp/194839068X

 

A small video talking about it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FfEB-xZhlMA

 Besides illustration, I also have a little background in Design and started a collaboration with a local fashion brand for a fashion collection inspired by the plants of Madagascar.

I aslo published few days ago the first episode of my Webcomic “The Cactus fever” on Webtoon. It’s about 3 little cactus who decide to create a comic book in order to give a sense to their lives.

Here is the link:

https://www.webtoons.com/en/challenge/the-cactus-fever-/list?title_no=203756

 

And I have a patreon creator page where I'm sharing most of my works in progress. It's also the place where I get supports from my fans for my webcomics and illustrations.

Here is the link : https://www.patreon.com/SawyerCloud

 

So, how do I get clients?

Well, most of my clients find me on the internet, mostly on my social media such as facebook or instagram. I always try to be as active as possible on social media. This helps me not only to find clients but it helps me building a bridge from my island to the rest of the Wolrd. I like talking with other illustrators and exchanging advices to go through this jungle called “creative business”.

I also spend most of my days doing researches on the internet to teach myself about the industry and to look for companies I’d like to work with. Then I send them mails requesting jobs or collaborations. I hasn’t worked yet for me but I know lots of illustrators get jobs like that.

Being a freelance artist is not always happy, bad days are come even frequently. But this is my dream and it's worth all sacrifices. 

 

Here are the links to my social media:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SawyerCloud/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sawyer_cloud/

Artstation: https://www.artstation.com/sawyercloud

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sawyer-cloud-13a396131/

 My blog: https://sawyercloud.blogspot.com/

 

 


Sawyer Cloud says:

This AMA will end Jul 22, 2018 12PM EDT

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Have you found out how many people wish paypal was in Madagascar so that you can see if you can direct paypal to a market they had not considered?
Jul 22, 8:02AM EDT1

Hi,

Thanks for that question. The thing is that it's just so complicated to get things done in my country because all the system is corrupted and I'm sure this paypal thing has a lot to do with the government as they want to maintain the power on people. They create other options for payment issues and make us pay more to be able to receive money. I'm not sure I'm explaining it correctly but in a nutshell we are kept in a visious system in which rich people control poor people in every single way. I'm still thinking about other options, what I'm sure of is that I'll never be stopped by those things !.

Jul 25, 3:35PM EDT0
You are quite versatile on the colors you choose to use. Do you have many copies of different colors before you pick the one you like most or do you have the colors to use in your mind as you do the illustration?
Jul 21, 9:22AM EDT1

Hi Laura,

I don't have copies of palette color. I don't prepare. Before making an illustration, I just have the idea in mind and start to imagining it. Then I go on the internet sometimes to find interesting illustrations/photos related to what I want, I create a kind of moodboard. Then I choose 3 or 4 main colors based on the moodboard or the idea in my head, and here I go. It's better to choose only 4 colors or less in order to have a good looking composition. 

Jul 25, 3:40PM EDT0
Is there any of your projects that has been most important to developing your personal style?
Jul 21, 2:55AM EDT1

Hi,

Yes there is. I think it started when I decided to really build a carrier as an illustrator and then I had to build an audience on the social media. People will not follow you and support you because you are just like the other great artist they know, they will follow because you have a voice, you are unique. 

With my first webcomic, I also realize I need to develop more my style because the community is so huge and if you want to be noticed you have to be sincere with yourself. 

Jul 25, 3:29PM EDT0
Which illustrators or artists working today do you admire the most?
Jul 20, 11:27PM EDT1

Hi,

I follow a lot of illustrators I really love. But I think the one who inspires me the most is Frannerd. She is a spanish illustrator who travels around the world with her husband and her cats. I love her illustration style and she gives a lot of useful advices on how to work as an illustrator. What I love about her too is the fact that she works a lot in order to achieve her dreams, and it motives me everyday to do a little bit more. 

Jul 25, 3:23PM EDT0
From where do you draw inspiration to create your illustrations? What puts you on a creative mindset?
Jul 20, 7:17PM EDT1

Hi Evan,

Inspiration comes from everywhere and everything. Most of the time it's from my environment and my feelings at the moment. Creating helps me balance my emotions and share a part of me with other people. It's my way of expressing myself. 

Jul 25, 3:17PM EDT0
What have you put most of your effort into regarding illustration?
Jul 20, 1:57PM EDT0

Hi Brandon!

Patience. It was hard for me to keep being patient in front of all the challenges. I'm still making a lot of efforts to stay patient  right now as I'm working hard to get a client base. 

I'm also struggling in learning technics. I'm not really a technical person and I take more time to learn a software . So I'm making lot of efforts to understand and use a software generally. 

Last edited @ Jul 22, 2:29PM EDT.
Jul 22, 2:28PM EDT0
What kind of influence do you hope your work will have on other people?
Jul 20, 8:07AM EDT1

Hi Mary! 

Thanks for that question.

What I want for my work is to bring a little kind of wonder to people who are watching it.  I want to make people think wider and be opened to new perspectives through my illustrations. I want them happy to live because there are a thousand of possibility in the World waiting to be seen. I think this is the most important work of artists : bringing people to react, to feel things, to see things and to have dreams. 

Jul 22, 2:17PM EDT0
How much do you practice until you get an illustration that you are satisfied with?
Jul 19, 5:04PM EDT1

Hi Edewor,

To be honest I don't know !. I always take a long time to decide and it's painful because I feel like it's never good enough. But I think this is normal for us creative people. We want something that is representative of our imagination and we get easily frustrated if it's not the case. The solution is to practice I think, we spend too much time in the abstract world and not enough in the concrete. 

Jul 22, 2:01PM EDT0
As a freelance illustrator, do you sometimes find the amount offered is too low for the work done? What do you do if you realize this and you have started working only to find that the quantity of work is immense?
Jul 19, 10:45AM EDT1

Hi ! 

First of all you should have all the information about the work before accepting it or not. You should know the number of pages, the estimated budget (or they will ask you rate) , and other details about the use of the illustration etc. So you basically already know what you are going to before doing it and you have accepted. Nevertheless, sometimes you have mean clients who change the plan all along the way and decide to make you work more. In that case you have to stand tall and remind them the terms in the contract , then you can also ask them to pay more as it was not mentioned in the contract. 

Jul 22, 1:57PM EDT0
If someone wants to begin being an illustrator, what does he need?
Jul 19, 5:48AM EDT1

Hi !

I think it's important to learn the basics (composition and colors) first. After that he needs to learn using the tools for the media he chose. It's important to learn from traditional first before going to digital. Reading books related to illustration, going to some exhibition, being curious about visual art. What I do is I'm watching tutorials and vlogs by illustrators everyday if not going to galeries. In addition, if he wants to live from illustration, I think he needs to learn about art marketing a little bit. Internet is a good friend to learn things ! 

Jul 22, 1:49PM EDT0
How has your children's book been received by the public so far?
Jul 19, 3:24AM EDT0

Hi Mirjana,

Actually the book is sold on Amazon until now, so I don't have a general idea of what people think about it. But I have some of my friends who bought copies and they pretty liked it. The only problem is the printing, it's not a good quality one. I couldn't make anything about it because I live in Madagascar and the publisher in the US. They had control of selling and printing. But as I said in my video https://youtu.be/FfEB-xZhlMA it was just a beginning and I'm learning from my mistakes.

On August I should be holding a "meet the author" session in a local library where I will sell some copies. To be honest, I'm a bit nervous ! I'm afraid of people's reactions... But I'll never know if I don't face it.

Jul 20, 2:33PM EDT0
Do you think you would be able to achieve greater success if you worked outside Madagascar? If yes, given the chance, where would be the ideal place for you to succeed?
Jul 19, 1:59AM EDT1

Hi !

Thanks for this question. Honestly I'm thinking about that question everyday... I would say Yes things would be so much more easier for me if I was outside Madagascar. Apart from the fact that there is Paypal (yes it's a big problem here) outside, I think people in other countries are may be more familiar with the illustration business than those who are here. The creative industry is not yet settled in my country so it's hard to live with it.

But in another hand, success doesn't really depend on your geographical position or anything else. It depends on you, if you want something so much, you will always find a way. All creatives out there, they all have challenges to face, just like me. SO my problem is the context where I'm living, the solution = working hard and paying internet at home so that I can continue working online like other illustrators out there.

For your second question, I've always dreamed about going to UK, US or Japan. I think if I had the chance to move, it would be in one of these places. I follow many illustrators who live in those place too, their businesses seem to be alright.

Last edited @ Jul 19, 5:44PM EDT.
Jul 19, 5:38PM EDT0
Is there anything you would like to change about the way you learned to either improve your skillset?
Jul 18, 9:44PM EDT1

Hi !

I think if I had the chance to live in a country where there are lots of art schools, I would have studied like hell yeah ! . It's not easy to learn on my own and to learn professional life based only on daily experiences.

Jul 19, 5:15PM EDT0
Are you mentoring anyone to help you when you have a lot of work, if so, how do you select your mentees?
Jul 18, 9:25PM EDT1

Hi !

Right now I'm not mentoring anyone yet. I think I'm not ready for that responsability yet as I'm still learning on my own too. Besides I don't have the financial possibility to take someone else for the moment. But if I had to take someone to work with me, I think I'd select him/her by the personality and motivation, if illustration business is his/ her passion and not just another work in his/her CV.

Jul 19, 5:11PM EDT0
How would you describe your style?
Jul 18, 9:02PM EDT1

Hi

I'd describe my illustration style like doodle/cute/cartoony with lots of pastel colors. I actually don't find the right genre for it but I like drawing boneless characters with big eyes and hairy legs.

I like roundy shapes and candy colors, illustrations that inspire kindness and happiness even in the darkest moments. I think that's what describes my illustration style more.

Last edited @ Jul 19, 5:07PM EDT.
Jul 19, 5:07PM EDT0
What are some of the challenges you face when it comes to getting illustration work online?
Jul 18, 8:26PM EDT1

Hi !

My challenges when it comes to getting work online? Hum well the big deal is to get clients !. The most challenging would be patience and not going into depression. The most challenging is also to keep the client and not making it just passing by you. I always recieve mails asking my rates or asking for offers, but until now few (1 or 2) only replies back. The main reasons are :

1) My rate is too big compared to others that make illustrations very cheap. I just can't do it, I just can't undervalue my work and others works because I have to eat... I had to face lots of rejections because of  that.

2)I live in a poor country. I know it should have nothing to do with getting clients but sometimes it just matters in which country you are. Clients don't totally trust in someone living in an island where all the World knows is King Julian (lol). It's also because working with me is more difficult for them maybe, as there's no Paypal here and they have to go to other services to pay me. But I wish things were different...

Anyway, internet is a wide and deep ocean, every movement is a challenge if you don't want to sink.

Jul 19, 10:17AM EDT0
What is a day in the life of an illustrator like?
Jul 18, 4:53PM EDT1

Hi Beazerne,

A day in the life of an illustrator (at least mine) is waking up early to prepare my boyfriend's lunch at work. Then going on my desk with my pijama's on (lol) and checking emails and facebook. Then I write down on a post-it my to-do list of the day and I stick it on my computer. Then I try to follow the list, meantime I make researches on the internet about art business or about a subject in particular. I listen to an indie feed music on youtube and when I'm tired I take a rest on the bed few minutes. Then I continue. Sometimes I don't eat because I don't wanna cut my motivation to make a meal. But sometimes I take a break to make a meal. I take a bath in the afternoon before going back to my desk.  In the late afternoon I take a small break to clean my kitchen (most of the time I forget to clean dishes lol) and I cook for dinner. Then I go back to work again waiting my boyfriend to come home. When he is home I stop doing my stuffs and try to spend more time with him. Sometimes we watch movies or we talk about our projects before sleeping. (wow talking about my day gets me really emotionnal right now ! )

Last edited @ Jul 19, 9:52AM EDT.
Jul 19, 9:51AM EDT0
What has been the greatest achievement of your career as an illustrator so far?
Jul 18, 2:12PM EDT1

Hi !

I think the greatest achievement of my career as an illustrator would be my first children book "Under Lucy's Bed". It's also the most unexpected thing I've done, I didn't plan to make it that early to be honest. Two years ago, I wrote a story about a little girl who is sailing on a wide ocean to find the thing that she is afraid of. I wrote it for an international children book contest but I failed in the second round. After that I just totally forgot about it. When I decided to turn into a freelancer, I wanted so much to work in the children book industry and I joined groups of people working in that field. I found a publisher there who is settled in the US and when she suggested me to show her my project, I thought about my former project. Thought it's not my best in terms of storytelling and drawing quality, I'm quite proud because I'm maybe among the first artists to be published by an american publisher in my country. I'm also impressed by how I could manage to finish the book in about one month despite the fact that my father was very sick. I had to take care of him and to finish my book meantime. My book was finally published but unfortunatly my father passed away few days after that and was not there to see it. 

I haven't earned as much money with that book but I think it was a concrete step towards my dream of becoming a happy and independant illustrator. 

Jul 19, 8:05AM EDT0
Do you think being an illustrator has made you quite versatile in the things you can do including fashion design?
Jul 18, 11:15AM EDT1

Hi ! Good question :) 

I think being creative has made me "versatile" naturally. Before being a writer, or an illustrator , or a dancer, artists are creative souls above all. Afterwards they choose what artistic disciplines they want to use to express themselves. It's very important to nourish that creative part in you. About the fashion design, I used to draw girls and fancy clothes when I was a kid. I've always loved doing it and illustration is definitely a very important tool when you are a fashion designer. I have a sketchbook where I draw my fashion collection and the inspirations etc. 

So to answer your question: Yes illustration helps me producing in different fields and developing my creativity ! 

Jul 19, 6:05AM EDT0
The internet is full of scammers who use freelancers to work for them with no pay. What have you done to safeguard yourself and your business?
Jul 18, 8:06AM EDT1

Hi !

Yeah it's frustrating when you meet scammers along the way. I think it happens mostly on freelancing websites, they have a kind of policy bending towards clients interests. That's why I'm leaving freelancing platforms and I'm trying to contact clients directely instead. 

Internet will never be "safe", but you can definitely safeguard yourself by getting to know your client and act professionally. Before working with someone, make sure that it's not a scammer, you can notice that in the way the client is communicating with you, if he/she doesn't sound like a serious person, let it down. Make sure you both agrea on the terms and condition and you sign a contract before doing a job. If they tell you "make me a drawing as a test", they are not fair. If they have reached to you, they certainly have already watched your online portfolio for example and they get to you because they find your style interesting. 

Also , always act like a professional. Show them you know your work in your way of communicating etc. 

Jul 19, 5:41AM EDT0
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