Alexandra – Living Her Art as a Small Business Owner

Hazel Needham

Hazel Needham

Alexandra Snowdon is a massive fan of words. She loves reading them, writing them, and drawing them for hers and others’ small businesses. She is a self-employed illustrator and hand lettering artist living in Edinburgh, Scotland.  Being a small business herself, she believes in the power of local shopping habits can have on the planet and on the community. One Tribe recently had the opportunity to sit down with her and talk about travel, self-employment, small business, shopping small and Skull Crusher Coffee.

Alexandra Snowdon
Alexandra Snowdon

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A Year of Travel Was The Catalyst

After working as a graphic designer for 25 years, Alexandra was looking for a different kind of inspiration. She found it in the form of travel.

Alex travelled the world for a whole year with her then-boyfriend, Charlie who is now her husband. Nothing lights her up more than exploring somewhere she hasn’t been before.

Charlie and Alex spent 12 months living out their goals and dreams by travelling across South America, the South Pacific, New Zealand, Australia and Asia.

Alexandra wasn’t up for the 9-5 life

Being away from her usual day to day life helped her see things from a new perspective. It confirmed what she had always felt deep inside, and what many are feeling after remote working due to the pandemic. She just wasn’t cut out for the 9-5 office-based world.

She wanted a life that would give her more autonomy over her days, more freedom and variety in her life and more opportunities to travel. She did exactly that and found the perfect city to host her creativity- Edinburgh.

Alex came for a weekend away in Edinburgh and completely fell in love with the place. She loves spotting all the old hand-painted ‘ghost signs’ and intricate shapes and patterns on the ironwork. She really can’t see herself getting tired of it. 

A good ride is only a bike ride away
A Good Day is Only a Bike Ride Away Print

The Self Employed Journey

Being self-employed isn’t a walk in the park. Lucky for Alexandra, she has many high points in her illustration career.  Early into her career, she was chosen to take part in Spotted, a new designer showcase at the Top Drawer trade show in London. 

That experience really opened her eyes to how it would actually be possible to make a living from selling prints and cards and taking on hand lettering commissions. She has done hand lettering for several book jackets published by HarperCollins in New York and has also contributed several times to one of her favourite magazines, Uppercase.

Alex is a big fan of ‘hands on’ design, and not anything slick and perfect. She recently was dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century when her husband bought her an iPad for her birthday. Procreate, a graphics editor app, has saved her so much time and her lettering is still able to keep all the human quirks but the artwork stays clean.

Art + Life tools of choice

Aside from Procreate she also loves linocut printmaking because of how satisfying and unpredictable every print is. In the future, she’d like to combine linocut prints with Procreate work…the possibilities could be endless.

So, how do you know whether the self-employed lifestyle is for you? Well, Alex says you need to ask yourself if this is something you feel you’d want to do even if you weren’t paid for it. She advises you to ease yourself into it part-time at first and make sure you have enough money for living through the lean times.

Building a network of self-employed friends is also key! It can be lonely working for yourself and it helps to have like-minded people to bounce ideas off.

Not on the High Street Poster

Big on Shopping Small

Alex’s prints are featured on Not on the High Street, which is a marketplace that brings together handcrafted gift designs from over 5,000 UK’s best small creative businesses.  Especially because Alex owns a small illustration business herself, shopping small is important for her.

She says that supporting other small businesses is something she will never stop doing because she knows the impact every pound makes on that business owner. She loves buying from small independent shops and makers because it’s a much more interesting, personal and fulfilling experience than buying from big multinationals. 

Alex said, “They keep our high streets alive, and give us choice. Without them every town and city would look the same and we’d all be using and wearing the same things”.

Skull Crusher Coffee

Coffee Fueled Mornings with Skull Crusher

Alexandra doesn’t think she could survive without coffee.  It actually helps her with the ideas process, especially when she is facing a blank sheet of paper and is feeling uninspired. 

If that doesn’t work, she’ll go for a walk or to the gym. For her, exercise helps the flow of ideas and it’s always a lot easier to power walk up a steep hill or lift some heavyweights after a strong cup of coffee.

Now, that brings us to Skull Crusher Coffee. Alex’s husband first bought it because he loved the design on their mugs and he likes his coffee super strong. Between the two of them, they drank most of it in one week.

Drinking Skull Crusher gave us our most productive week ever! 

He’s self-employed too and they always laugh about the fact that the week they started drinking Skull Crusher Coffee was probably the most productive week they’ve ever had! It gave them a huge energy boost and helped power them through a very busy time. 

She goes through her ‘to-do list in record time and even manages to come up with some winning ideas for future projects. Results may or may not vary–you’ve been warned of the excess good energy levels.

So, there you have it. Don’t be afraid to step out of the 9 to 5 to explore a new country or two. It just might lead you to a whole new career path, and a whole lot of Skull Crusher coffee.  Or keep at it but completely reinvent how you spend your personal time like triathlon hero Harrison is. 

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