Ep.198: Create Art That Sells with Cat Coquillette (Cat Coq)

By Iva Mikles •  Updated: Jul 09, 2019 •  Interviews

Hey, guys! In this episode, I am chatting with Cat Coq, a location-independent artist, and designer. Her success as a creative and businesswoman has afforded her the opportunity to travel the world as a permanent “nomad.” Her passion for art, education, and entrepreneurship have led her to explore the globe 24/7 in search of creative inspiration for new projects and experiences to uplevel her personal and professional life. Enjoy!!

Get in touch with Cat

Special thanks to Cat for joining me today. See you next time!

All artworks by Cat Coq, used with permission

Episode Transcript

Iva Mikles  

So welcome everyone to another episode of Art Side of Life. And I’m super happy to have Cat here. Hi. Hi. So I’m super happy that you joined today. And if you can tell us a little bit more about yourself, and what is your specialty nowadays, and then we’ll move on like how you get to that actually.

Cat Coquillette  

Perfect. Yeah, my name is Cat Coquillette, and I’m an artist and designer, and I’m the founder of my brand “CatCoq” (pronounced “cat coke”). That’s CAT COQ. And what I do is I make surface designs, illustrations, patterns, that I then license out to my retail partners like target urban outfitters print on demand shops online, and my income comes through those royalties from the things that sell.

Iva Mikles  

That’s perfect. That sounds like a good combination. Definitely.

Cat Coquillette  

It’s a great combination.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah. And did you start right away with licensing and because this I read like your story a little bit, you worked also with the graphic design and art direction. So how did you come to this? And what was the transition?

Cat Coquillette  

Yeah, I started my career actually, as a graphic designer. And then I kind of went through the ranks that are in wound up as an art director, over the process of about four years. And my specialty was branding. So I would do branding, you know, you you weave in a lot of strategy with the visuals as well. So I was working at an agency as an art director and things were going well, but on the side, I would come home from work, and I would paint, so a lot of watercolor paintings, acrylic wash, things like that. And I started taking photos of the things I was painting and posting to Instagram. So within a matter of, you know, maybe a few months, my following really exploded with people that were following me to see the artwork that I was putting out there. And I was looking for an opportunity to sell to these people, because they were literally commenting, you know, where can I purchase your work. And before I’d never monetized my artwork like that before, you know, my career was as a designer. Yep. So I started looking for opportunities of where I could sell my work to this to this audience on social media. And that landed me to a website called society six, which is a print on demand website. I don’t know if you’re familiar with it, but it’s basically a market. Yeah, it’s an online shop where you can go in, buy cool phone cases, home decor, items, apparel, just a bunch of stuff. And every product that they sell on their website is designed by an artist somewhere in the world. So I upload my artwork to their products based off their product templates. And then if someone decides that they want to purchase a phone case with my artwork on it, oh, this is one There you go.

Cat Coquillette  

Or, yeah,

Cat Coquillette  

yeah. But yeah, the customer wants to say purchase this you know, add to their cart, checkout process, and society six will manufacture the phone case, ship it out to the customer or handle all of those relations. And then I’ll get a cut of sales called royalty. And so that’s kind of what I started doing on the side while I was still working at an agency full time. And it was a really great opportunity for me to kind of embrace this whole artist side of you know, my passion so I was still you know, working nine to five as a designer, but then I got to paint and do digital illustrations on the side and they get paid for it.

Iva Mikles  

And what was your kind of decision making in the sense like why society six why not sell your own art prints? Because a lot of artists are thinking in these rounds like Oh, should they like get the full amount and print it myself and spend all this time or just get smaller royalty and have bigger reach with a society

Cat Coquillette  

you know, there were it was a combination of factors. The first one was simply I didn’t know how to do it, you know, I was doing a lot of research on what type of printer should I buy? Or should I outsource to a printing company? How do I buy shipping envelopes? How do I set up a website all of these logistical things that I just didn’t want to deal with you know, I was doing this kind of as a passion on the side I wasn’t doing it so that I you know, build up the side hustle for me, at least initially I was doing it because I just loved creating artwork. So partnering with a print on demand company took a lot of the logistics out of the equation so that I could just focus on creating artwork uploading it to their products and then it was done you know at that point and you know, like I can market myself and drive my traffic over to their shops but I didn’t have to deal with the logistics of inventory and you know customer complaints or returns or all of those little things that I’m just not I’m not skilled at and that was the biggest reason and also they society six that website they had such a massive audience so that if I could get in with them I’m not only driving my own traffic there I’m also utilizing the the audience that they have, which is you know, millions of people.

Iva Mikles  

But then that now if people start now bit later because you started few years back for do you have advice for someone starting out now because there is a big competition with artists as well. So maybe some things like what you can do Yeah. Is it starting artists?

Cat Coquillette  

Yeah, no, that’s that’s a great point I got started in 2014. And society six was already successful website. But they have grown so much in the years since. And now there’s hundreds of 1000s of artists sell their artwork through the platform. So it is a very saturated market on that specific company. I still, that’s where I still get most of my sales. And most of my licensing income through print on demand is still coming through them. But I do think I agree with you a big part of it is because I was in the right place at the right time. So my advice now would be a lot of these print on demand, companies like society, six red bubble case, defy a draw deck, all of that they ready to read the contract, but most of them have non exclusive licenses, which means that you can sell the same piece of artwork through their company, and through as many companies as you want, as long as it’s not exclusive. So you can set up shops on a lot of different websites, and there’s no financial risk. It’s just a time risk. And you can see what starts to be more successful. And then what isn’t really pulling in that much money for you.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, so basically, you need to create some more artwork and see what sticks or what is selling better on each platform, because all of them are a little bit different. Right?

Cat Coquillette  

Exactly. And it’s kind of a shotgun approach. So it’s kind of you know, you’re blasting your art, at least this is what’s been successful for me is putting my art on as many different platforms as possible. And then seeing which ones are most financially beneficial for me. Yeah.

Iva Mikles  

Do you remember the first art or if someone asked you to like, Okay, can I purchase this somewhere?

Cat Coquillette  

Oh, man, I’m pretty sure it was this ad, which I can’t even sell now, because I understand it’s a copyright violation. But it’s this quote from Mean Girls that says, You can’t sit with us and I did. Like calligraphy and I did all these florals. And that was my first phone case that sold and of course now it’s you know, that’s now I know what copyright infringement intellectual property is. So I can’t I can’t sell those types of things anymore. But yeah, that was the first one. And I actually remember the first month that I uploaded all my stuff to society six. Well, as an all my stuff, I probably uploaded about five pieces. And I sold two items. It was a t shirt and a phone case, maybe two phone cases in a T shirt. Either way, I didn’t have that many sales. But it was such a such an empowering moment to see that people were actually interested in purchasing my, my designs on products like that. It was I had such a limited belief that I could make money through art. I always thought art was a was a hobby. And then design was a career. And so that was a that really broke that barrier for me.

Iva Mikles  

Definitely, yeah, because a lot of people are like thinking or either scared just like how to start and maybe you have like a full time employment. So how long does it actually take you to cue to start like full time going from the art licensing then being employed?

Cat Coquillette  

So I mean, I definitely hung on to that job longer than I needed to because it was for me, but I mean, by month six, through selling most of these print on demand companies, you know, I started with society six, but I immediately started snowballing into as many as I possibly could find that had that similar business model. So at about month six, I was earning more through those companies than I was at my nine to five job, but it’s still Yeah, it was it was it really, really snowballed quickly. But But I still hung on to that job for several years. Because, well, for a few factors. One was, I loved it. I loved being a designer, I loved the agency that I worked at the people I got to work with and collaborate with my coworkers. I loved the clients everything. And second of all, it it still was this mental shift to think, to think like, oh, well, the I guess what I’m saying is the idea of quitting. My job made me so nervous because a Job felt safe. You know, it had benefits, it had a steady salary, and had people that could tell me you know, what to work on and what to do. And it just there was no, it didn’t feel like there was much risk. But if I quit that job and started doing this stuff on the side, even though it was making me more money, I still was so nervous about doing it. So it took me, you know, several years to kind of build up the confidence and the courage and the belief in myself to be able to leave

Iva Mikles  

the society. It’s not something they expect, like this is not real, like when are you going to quit doing this and go to be living a normal life being employed and all of that?

Cat Coquillette  

Yeah, exactly. When I told my parents that I was going to quit my job to be an artist, they were just they were, they were surprised, but they also they were supportive. They, you know, they asked me a few questions and they believed in me, but I think their initial response as with a lot of my peers and friends was just like, What what are you doing? You’re quitting your job at an agency to be an artist like Oh, okay. But um, you know, I that was, that was several years ago. That was about three three or four years ago and I’ve definitely made it work.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah. And plus you add another layer to that you are digital nomad. Right, which a lot of people don’t understand.

Cat Coquillette  

Yeah, that’s the other. The other thing is I don’t have one permanent home. I travel the world 24/7 Right now I’m in Tbilisi, Georgia, kind of between Asia and Europe and I’ve been here for about a month and heading to Poland and a few days. I’ll be working there for a few weeks and then heading back down to Italy. But yeah, I’m just I travel the world for my artistic inspiration. And I take photos of the things I see. I work in co working spaces. I have a lot of digital nomad, entrepreneur brands, I’m actually living with three of them now. Yeah, so it’s kind of this blend of solo travel, if you know, I really want to go see someplace, I’ll check it out by myself. But then I also, yeah, spend a lot of time like CO living and co working with friends that have this similar lifestyle. They’re all running different businesses. You know, one is, she has a fitness app, and other one is a strategist and copywriter. A third is a programmer. So it’s, there’s a lot of different types of ventures that you can get into that give you the flexibility to live and work remotely.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah. And do you do something like a mastermind as well, when you guys meet once a week? Or do you have it with these guys? Or do you have a separate mastermind?

Cat Coquillette  

I mean, a few masterminds? Yeah, so a mastermind is basically, you get together with either business peers or friends, whatever it is, and you discuss the challenges that your business is facing, or maybe your goals, or, you know, anything that you feel like talking about what to elevate within your own business. And this group of people, maybe it’s a group of for up to 10, they offer their own insights about how you should be proceeding with next steps. So I’ve been in different types of masterminds. One that was really great a few years ago, was an accountability, masterminds. So I was with three other girls. And we were all focusing on completing these big projects in the span of we gave ourselves for months. So each of us completely different industries. But we would get together once a week, and then talk about what we had accomplished the week prior, what we hope to accomplish the next week, and, you know, the group of us together would keep each other accountable for meeting our weekly goals. So yeah, it was it was really, it was really beneficial. And then I’m in you know, big picture masterminds, where we talk about what our, you know, our big, hairy audacious goal is and then how we hope to reach that goal and the the steps that would take to achieve it. So it’s a really supportive community.

Iva Mikles  

And so and how do you find these guys? And girls, right? Because sometimes, yeah, there are some platforms, right, but also maybe recommendations.

Cat Coquillette  

Yeah, it’s a combination of my friends. So if I’m in a city that I’ll be in for probably a longer span of time, like I spend about five months of the year in Chiang Mai. So that’s a really good opportunity for me to settle in, get into a good mastermind with friends that I know we’re going to be there for a while. And it’s the people that I meet, that are either in my circles, my friends, circles have been digital nomads, it’s people that can meet in co working spaces. I’m part of an entrepreneur group called Dynamite Circle. And so we have these, like Skype call masterminds, where you’re in with a group of four other people and under beat you get together and talk about there’s a lot of opportunities there, whether it’s people you meet in a co working space, or people you meet through an entrepreneurship group.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, perfect. Because I think like a lot of people are interested in this, and they maybe don’t even know that exists, but it’s super beneficial. So it’s good to find the right people.

Cat Coquillette  

Yeah. And it doesn’t have to be some huge formal thing. You can just get together with a few friends and, you know, plan out, you know, an hour a week of just getting together and kind of shooting ideas back and forth and seeing what kind of support and what kind of advice you’re getting. It doesn’t have to be this big, organized thing. It can be pretty, pretty loose. Yeah,

Iva Mikles  

definitely. And how do you actually balance your time, right? Because you know, like doing it, some people call it as a hobby, right? So you have to create a lot of stuff, plus the editing and all of the computer work. So do you work 24/7 or less?

Cat Coquillette  

Oh, man. Yeah, I do a pretty bad job of setting boundaries for myself between personal life and work life. So you know, the two often blend together. So I just spent the weekend down in Azerbaijan with a group of friends. And it was definitely a vacation. It was 48 hours away from our laptops. But I was still I had my phone with me. So I was still you know, checking emails and taking photos of things that I wanted to paint or draw later. But I found that having that kind of that blur between personal and work, it’s actually fine because I’m really passionate about what I’m doing. So it doesn’t feel it doesn’t always feel like work even though I’m working.

Iva Mikles  

And how do you do you do everything by yourself? Or do you have maybe an assistant or some kind of help?

Cat Coquillette  

I built my company and for the first few years, it was all so low. So I outsourced a few things through people I found on Upwork or Fiverr, especially when it came to programming or Facebook ads, things like that. But for the most part, I was running my company by myself. Although last fall I just signed on with a with a licensing agent company so it’s a company called jewel branding and licensing and they represent me so they go out and on my behalf pitch to new clients at They do a lot of that in between work of, you know, reviewing contracts, getting good rates, and then going out and finding new, new partners to collaborate with. So since signing on with them, it’s been great because it cleared a lot of my plate like a lot of those day to day tasks that really bogged me down. Now all of a sudden, it’s freed up that that time where I can focus on the thing that I actually am really good at, which is creating art, you know, I’m not really good at reviewing contracts, and making sure everything is nice and tidy. I’m not good at going out and pitching myself to new clients and outreach. Like, those are things that I was really terrible at. So finding a partner that can really help me with that. And that’s their strength, and then I can focus on my strength, which is, you know, creating these designs that are then going to be selling.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, definitely. Because a lot of creative people have a problem with that, like, how should I price my art? Or what is the percentage I should ask? Because every time the project is little bit different, maybe it’s a different percentage. Did you have a steep learning curve in this area? Or did you ask people or?

Cat Coquillette  

Yeah, my learning curve, I went in there, I was completely naive. But the very first contract I ever signed, it was with a company that wanted to license my artwork to put on wall art and home decor items. And they offered me a 10% royalty, which I know now is the industry average. But at the time, I was thinking like 10% royalty on the sales price, I’m gonna make like $2 for every pillow that sells like that’s, that’s so low, I’m not going to sign that. And I thought it was. So I was asking for, like 50% royalty are 70. And these companies were like, No, that’s we would never like that would that they wouldn’t even make a profit off of that. I was asking for a lot of things that I didn’t get. But I also asked for a lot of things that I did get. I asked for mentions in their newsletters, if they had a big email list, I asked for features on the homepage, I asked for shoutouts on Instagram and Twitter. And these were things that cost that company, you know, virtually nothing to give me but it would make a really big deal for me. So what really was impactful for me was finding out, you know, what, what kind of leverage points can be mutually beneficial, but something that can cost them little, but will make a lot a big difference for me. And so going in going into these contracts, originally my first contract ever, and having no idea how to price myself and just responding to their initial offer. But then asking for the moon, you know, after that, it actually was beneficial. It helps me learn, you know, these industry, these industry norms. And also by asking for things that weren’t originally written in the contract. I didn’t get everything I asked for, but I did get a lot of it.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, definitely. Because that’s important to learn along the way. Because then every next client, you know what to ask for? Or how to ask, right? So yeah, so when you like now along the way you learned, like how to ask for the percentage and all of that, then you can also brief your agency or they can advise you. So you don’t have to deal with this. And you know, now every new client, what is basically your norm?

Cat Coquillette  

Yeah, exactly. So I was able to communicate with the agency that represents me, everything that I kind of look for, like that I prefer to get out of the contract. So if it’s possible, you know, one of my big points right now is looking for opportunities to grow my social media, because that’s that there’s a lot of opportunities there if you can get a big engaged following. And so, yeah, that agency, they know that that’s a big priority for me. So they know what something to always kind of fit into contracts. I’ve told them that it’s really important for me to always keep my signature on my work. So that’s something that you know, they every contract that, you know, they’re finessing with a new partner that always gets written in. And it’s not like I’m blind to those contracts to before anything, I always have to sign everything. So they do all that negotiation, and that back and forth on my behalf. The final contract gets sent to me, I can review it and then sign it and then we’re good to go. But yeah, having someone that’s that’s kind of got my back with that because, you know, the the higher royalty rate I can get on something, it’s going to be beneficial for not just me, but for that agency as well. Since we’re splitting those profits,

Iva Mikles  

did you find them or they found you?

Cat Coquillette  

They found me I was actually I’ve been researching a lot of agencies because I was interested and looking for representation. And then I just kind of it was it was almost like it was this like indecision stalemate where I just couldn’t I couldn’t make up my mind. But I done a lot of research that when they contacted me, they’re actually they were on my top tier of list of agencies that I would love to have represent me. So it actually worked out really well. They contacted me, I was already familiar with them. And we really got the ball rolling.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, because that’s definitely helpful. And when you’re actually working with new clients you haven’t worked before. How do you make up your mind that if you want to work with them, you know if it is beneficial for your brand, or even if it is a starting company, but maybe you like what they are doing, how do you make these decisions?

Cat Coquillette  

It’s a combination of gut instincts and then research. So for example, if it’s a new company, I want to make sure that they’re a company that can that isn’t going to rip me off. You know, it’s, there’s a lot of trust in licensing, you know, I’m sending these high res files of my paintings to people. And if they decide to fudge the numbers and tell me that only 12 things sold, when really it was 1200, I would have no idea. So there’s got to be a lot of trust there and the people that I decide to work with, and so if it’s a brand new company, I’ll usually give them a few months and see who else they’re working with. And if it’s other artists that I recognize, I’ll email them and be like, Hey, I noticed you had an account with blah, blah, blah, how’s it going? And then, you know, this artists community, like the those of us that are into licensing, we always wait, we’re always in communication with each other. So I get an email, probably about once a week from someone that’s like, Hey, I see that you’re selling through, blah, blah, blah, company, is everything going okay? Are they trustworthy? Can I sell with them? So, you know, we talked to each other. And so the fact that we have this community, and when unite and stay together, I think it’s been really, really powerful. And it helps us all, you know, rise together. And then your other your other point was, how do you decide with it was a new company? And then what was your other question? Yeah,

Iva Mikles  

how does it kind of reflect on your brand? Like, if it fits?

Cat Coquillette  

Yeah, that’s the other thing. So there’s, there’s definitely companies that I really, really want to do work with, like anthropology is one that I haven’t worked with them yet, but I have my sights on them, because there’s a lot of opportunities for my audience to, for our audiences to combine with each other. So you know, the people that shopping anthropology, it’s that kind of same demographic of the types of audience that purchase my artwork. So that would be an amazing one. That would be an amazing collaboration, you know, target Urban Outfitters, those were great ones as well, for me to collaborate with because there was a lot of benefits to merging those audiences together, especially Urban Outfitters. That was, that was a really impactful point for my brand, in terms of getting to have that brand association with a company like urban outfitters was just absolutely phenomenal.

Iva Mikles  

Oh, nice. Nice. Congratulations. Oh, thank you. And when you were also deciding on which art styles or what to sell at the beginning, maybe did you have a wider range? Because now you have also watercolors, you have some illustrations, I mean, like maybe an illustrator. So we’ll see the problem at some point that it’s like completely two different styles, but they are all colorful. So how did you put everything together? Because a lot of artists are talking about this, like you have to have one style,

Cat Coquillette  

nothing else. And when I was getting started, I had a pretty wide ranging variety of styles. So I did a lot of illustrations with Indian ink and a stylus. I did watercolors, I did acrylic, I did these digital collages. And the ones that were selling the best were the watercolor pieces. So I started with a pretty wide variety of styles, watercolor was doing really well for me. So I decided to focus on that specifically at the time back in 2014. It was a lot of watercolor florals with, you know, inspirational, inspirational quotes attach that we’re done in calligraphy. And so that was kind of my that was that was really my jam for a while. And that’s where it was making the most money. So I was really pursuing that hard. So I was really pushing for those watercolor florals the quotes, and then kind of expanded from there. But I only figured that out because I started with such a wide range of styles. And clearly like the digital collage stuff I was doing was Jimmy, it was awful. No one No one was buying it. I look back on that. And I’m embarrassed. But yes, I kind of I cut that out pretty quick. But yeah, I learned what to focus on and what, what these what these customers were purchasing. And then I really went full speed ahead. And then when I got to a place where I felt like I had a little bit more traction, people were buying my work and I was selling, you know, maybe 50 products a day. So I had a lot of opportunity there to maybe expand and then see what else I could do. And so when I got to a point where I had more, I had that traction and a little bit more of, you know, have a comfort of if this doesn’t work, that’s okay, but I can try it out. Then I started trying more styles and kind of seeing what would stick there. So that’s when I got more into the digital illustrations. I started I started bringing back that acrylic that I had been working with originally but I started painting in a slightly different style that was more homogenous with what was selling well. But yeah, it was it was kind of like I started out really wide narrowed in got comfortable and then slowly started expanding. But yeah, that that turned out to be pretty, I think that was pretty impactful as well. Because it really taught me you know how to depict what I think is going to be on trend, but I think people will be buying and then how to take little risks. Like maybe I’ll branch out a little bit and see how that goes. Okay, that didn’t work. Oh, but this did work. So it kind of helps me along this path. You know, I don’t want to just paint the same thing every single day, you know, watercolor florals. But you know, it’s important to kind of grow as an artist and you also have to grow with trends. You know, those paintings that were selling well back in 2014. They’re not there. Some of them are doing okay, but for the most part, you know those things Numerous had moved on, and they’re on to new things now. So it’s a big part of it is keeping up with those trends and keeping up with what the customer demand is.

Iva Mikles  

So where do you do the research for the trends like magazines, blogs, or everything.

Cat Coquillette  

It’s a lot of different stuff. I really I love following fashion blogs, you know, I wear the same T shirt every day, but I live observing fashion. Yeah, so the things that are on the runway are a really great indicator of what’s going to be in style for what I’m doing. So even though I’m doing the surface designs and wallpaper and, you know, apparel, or T shirts, you know that that’s not necessarily going to be you know, it’s not going to be a direct correlation of what you see on Prada walking down, and you know, winter 2020. But there are certain things you can find patterns in that. So maybe if Neons are becoming really popular, then that’s an indicator for me, that’s something I can easily incorporate into my style, you know, something, another example would be kind of these mixed mixed media. So if you see a lot of, you know, gold with pastels, that’s another thing that I can incorporate into my artwork, I follow home decor blogs, as well. So, you know, if it’s, whatever, you know, what Jonathan Adler’s doing, or what West Elm is doing, can also be really beneficial for me where I can see, you know, not everything is going to apply to me. But you can also find patterns within those things. Like if, if everyone is suddenly putting something out there, whether it’s a handbag or a shoe or, you know, a nightstand that’s cork material dipped in, you know, bright fluorescent hot pink, you can I can apply that to what I’m doing as well. So you find these, you find these patterns, and then that is kind of like how I determine what a trend would be. And then I look for opportunities to apply that to what I’m doing. Yeah, because

Iva Mikles  

you create a lot of artworks do you create, like a list for yourself? Like, for example, that being like, Okay, I want to incorporate pink, then some other stuff? Like, do you create like 10 artworks per day, or what is your creation process.

Cat Coquillette  

On out, I’m trying to put at least one piece out there a day. So when I illustrate something, it’s not just that one illustration that’s said and done. Maybe I paint a picture of miniature pigs, that was when I just finished a few weeks ago. So that that painting itself is one is one file that I can send out. But I can also digitally rearrange that illustration to create a pattern and then all of a sudden, it could be printed on a duvet cover, I can change the color palette to be like bubblegum pink, and then I could sell it on something else. So there’s, you know, one illustration can can live a very long life and can be applied to a lot of different things. So that helps, that helps diversify a little bit. And it takes, you know, the effort it takes to create a painting all of a sudden, it just tenfold tenfold the opportunities to to get it out there in the world. But in terms of how we decide what to paint, it’s, it’s kind of a combination of painting, whatever I feel like painting. So I mean, I’m an artist, after all. So I want to do something that I that I, you know, have that creative inspiration coming through. But then I’m also painting things that I hope are going to sell well. So I’ll get trend boards from clients about every the beginning of every quarter, a lot of clients send me what they’re trying to projections are for the next quarter. So maybe someone says something like, Okay, let us and snails are super going to are really going to be in in the fall. I actually got that one recently, I was like, let us and sales really. But you know, I was nails. So yeah, so it’s a combination of seeing what my, what my clients are looking for, and then trying to put something together that will appeal to them that I know that they’re going to push hard with their marketing and try and license out. And also a combination of just the things that I that I believe might be strong potential sellers. You know, after all, I’m an artist, but I also this is my livelihood. So my incentive is to create artwork that I think is going to sell really, really well. And it can be really tricky to predict sometimes, like sometimes I’ll paint something and I’ll think like, oh, this is going to sell really well. And then it just nothing happens. And it’s it can be frustrating. It’s like oh, why did that not sell well? And then something else that I painted that I think like oh this might do, okay? It just soars and skyrockets. So it’s I think I do a good job of predicting but I’m always proven wrong but you know what starts taking off and what doesn’t? About I would say 10% of my overall portfolio of 1000s of pieces earns me about 90% of my licensing income so it’s a big strategy that’s worked out well for me is just massive output. You know, I create a lot of art I do a lot of illustrations, paintings, patterns, I put it all out there and then if 10% of that does really well then that’s that’s going to earn me a living

Iva Mikles  

Yeah. Which is super great. And I’m sure everyone is now thinking like, which are the artwork?

Cat Coquillette  

Yeah, I mean, if you go to pi society six shop and you mean you can sort by bestsellers and you can see the ones that are performing best for me.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, so everyone can check healthier society six, because you have a lot of stuff to choose from there. And a lot of stuff. Yes. Because I was looking and you have so many things, which is amazing. And I’m sure everyone can choose something. So yeah. And how do you actually create your income streams? Is it mainly from society seats and licensing? Or is it like, I don’t know, 1/3 from teaching, or how do you kind of do the split?

Cat Coquillette  

So it used to be about, I would say about 90% of my income seems to be coming in through entirely art licensing and print on demand. So art licensing, meaning, like a contract with target and print on demand is a company like society, six that is online, and, you know, prints products as as people are purchasing them. Yeah, it used to be about 90%. And then 10% was other. So it was freelance design work I was doing it was online teaching. It was selling products through my own website, I set up a Shopify store. But it wasn’t really that significant. But one thing I’ve noticed over the last year or so is that the online teaching income has really been rising, as I’ve been putting more classes out on Skillshare. So right now it’s about 7525. And 25, is coming through these online courses that I have available, like all of my online courses are available through Skillshare. And it’s classes that I teach with to creatives. And it’s either creative skills, like how to do hand lettering, or watercolor or acrylic, or it’s entrepreneurial skills specifically geared at creatives, like a one on one and how to get involved with art licensing. That covers everything from pricing yourself to contracts to knowing when you see a good deal and when something is going to be you know, not in your best interest. But yeah, as I’ve been putting out those courses, it’s, it’s been, it’s been really beneficial for me in two ways. One is that income coming in, which is great. And secondly, I had this opportunity to reach this massive community of entrepreneurs that are or artists that are wanting to succeed, and but they aren’t quite sure how. So if there’s a really deep sense of fulfillment and being able to help those people.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, definitely. Because if sometimes people just decide, okay, maybe I want to learn how to draw and even they don’t want to pursue the career and they just like, Okay, I will take this class, because it’s so interesting. So yeah, you can pick and choose. Yeah, definitely. And so when you also mentioned that you had, like licensing through the platforms, like society sakes, but also like Target or these big brands, right. So that split was 5050 in terms of licensing, or it was bigger, maybe through like society, six type of platforms.

Cat Coquillette  

It was definitely bigger through print on demand. So because I did such a poor job of outreach, when I was getting started, you know, I cold called will cold call emailed so many different companies, I would stalk them on LinkedIn and look for buyers at Nordstrom or wherever and send them emails or messages. Introducing myself, I used to send out packets, introducing myself and including some pieces of artwork that that paid off zero. I got I mean, I spent so much effort on that. And it’s not that it’s not that those strategies can’t work, but I clearly wasn’t doing the right thing. So it was a really slow grow. For me in terms of selling through these stores. These big stores like Target, I actually I’m selling through Nordstrom now. So not at all through my own outreach. It was it was through my the agency that I partner with the represents me, but um, yeah, but that was it was definitely a slow grow. And so now I’m finally getting to a point where these instore companies, they’re that income stream is starting to rise up to where print on demand is, which is always, you know, print on demand is how I was able to afford to quit my job and get started on this career path. So it’s still my primary source of income. But I’d love to see these in store opportunities start to elevate as well. And I think they will with the agency that I signed on with to represent me.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, definitely. Because, as you mentioned, now, with the help of the agency, and now growing your business, do you still consider yourself more artists or more entrepreneur? Or how would you how do you introduce yourself when you meet other people?

Cat Coquillette  

It depends on who I’m talking to. So if I’m talking to other entrepreneurs, I mentioned that I’m an entrepreneur, because I’m an artist, it’s like, oh, she’s not an entrepreneur. But if I’m talking in a creative circle, I feel more comfortable mentioning that I am both but as far as which one I identify with more that’s that’s a hard one because you know, I don’t do the entrepreneurs have because I have to I do it because I really enjoy business thinking and strategy and looking for opportunities to uplevel my brand. That’s something that I get a lot of fulfillment out of, and I also get fulfillment out of painting. So it’s, it’s been great because I found this opportunity where I can blend both of these passions together in a way to build a Bible company.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, because also the location independence. If you think about like having your own business right. Would you still decide to go more for the location independence or if you have like, great, great business opportunity, maybe back home, but you have to be at the same location.

Cat Coquillette  

I would I would take a pay cut to continue this entrepreneur, this location independent lifestyle. That’s, I mean, that was a big reason to of why I decided to leave this agency world and the study career path working, working for a firm I wanted, I wanted more vacation days, I wanted more opportunities to travel. That’s a, that’s a really big incentive. And drive for me in life is I love being able to, you know, pack up my bags head somewhere else on a whim, maybe, you know, go live in Georgia for a month, which is what I’m doing right now. Yeah, having that that, that autonomy and freedom over where and when I decide to work is absolutely vital for me. I don’t think I could go back to I don’t think I could go back to having to be in one place. Because I’m committed by somebody else to be there. You know, I having a boss or a company or an investor telling me I have to be in one place. That would be that would be a deal breaker for me.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah. That’s a very tough decision. Yeah, the thing like amazing businesses are more like, Yeah, more free.

Cat Coquillette  

Yeah. And if I do decide to settle down somewhere, I want it to be my decision, not because I’m being pressured into it. But, you know, outstanding circumstances.

Iva Mikles  

And how do you choose the countries to go to is it more the art inspiration, or like, Oh, I haven’t been in this part of the world yet.

Cat Coquillette  

It’s a little bit of both, you know, art inspiration, I get a lot of art inspiration in Southeast Asia, which is where I spend about half the year, mostly in Chiang Mai, Thailand. But then I’ll also do you know, visa runs over to Vietnam or Laos or Cambodia, I can only stay in Thailand for a set amount of days before I’ve gotta leave the country get my passport stamped and come back in. So I have a lot of opportunities to travel within Southeast Asia. And there’s so much artistic inspiration there. I mean, for about two years, pretty much everything in my portfolio were these tropical plants, and orchids, and monkeys and things I would see while hiking in the jungle or visiting. And it was I mean, it’s the entire aesthetic of my portfolio for a few years. So that was so much massive creative inspiration. But then I also go to places where I’m not going there. For the art inspiration, I’m going there for the experience. So for my 30th birthday, I wanted it to be extra special because I was turning 30. So I wanted to go up to the Arctic Circle. My birthday is in June in late June. So the summer sun will never set in the Arctic, you know, past a certain parallel. So I went up to this group of islands called Svalbard, which is halfway in between Norway, mainland Norway and the North Pole. And I got to be you know, out outside midnight, the second I turned 30 with the sun shining above me drinking a beer and walking down the main road. Like that was pretty cool. But even even then, you know, my incentive for going there was to have this amazing, you know, Arctic Circle experience, where you can’t even leave the main town, Longyearbyen without a guide with a high powered rifle because a polar bear attack like it was it was legit, right? Yes, it’s like, Oh, my God, I have to see that for real. But yeah, I went up there purely to have that experience. But then, you know, I still found myself finding inspiration while I was up there, you know, in the tundra, the the Arctic and finding things to paint afterwards. You know, I did a lot of patterns that were based off of these kind of like Scandinavian Norwegian textiles. So even when I go somewhere that I’m going there purely for the tourist mode experience, I’ll still find opportunities to get inspired.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah. Because then you can take pictures of stuff, and then you can create something afterwards.

Cat Coquillette  

Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, even when I was on that trip, I wasn’t traveling with all my art supplies. But I did have my camera. So it’s, you know, I photographed everything that possibly struck a little bit of inspiration. And then when I was back, in my apartment, I had all my watercolors my laptop, everything that I use to create artwork, my scanner, I was able to just paint you know, as in a frenzy for a week and then letting all of that inspiration kind of come through in those paintings.

Iva Mikles  

And you have like a portable scanner and all of these kind of portable things, right?

Cat Coquillette  

Yeah, yeah. So I traveled with a portable scanner, I travel with all of my watercolors, acrylics, India inks, honestly, my bag, it’s it’s mostly art supplies, and I’m like, Yeah, and so it’s like, every time it’s just like just over the limit or like just barely underneath the limit for what I can do as a checked bag, you know, which is, you know, maybe 22 kilos, but so I have to like put on my art supplies, like the really heavy stuff in a backpack that I then put a jacket over so that I just look like I have a hunchback when I’m getting on these slides because my art supplies are so heavy that so far I haven’t been caught and it’s worked out pretty well so

Iva Mikles  

yeah, because I always like okay, I’ll just take a tablet if I’m traveling somewhere because the other stuff is just so massive

Cat Coquillette  

Yeah, yeah and and sometimes I’ll like if I’m if I’ve gone back to the States, which is where my parents live. I grew up in can This, I’ve got, you know, every time when I’m traveling, I just stockpile a bunch of stuff that I collect on my travels, dump it in my childhood bedroom. My parents hate it. They’re like, Stop bringing stuff home. But yeah, when I’m back home, I’ll have a bunch of art supplies that just accumulate. And then when I go to a new place, say I go back to my parents house for a few weeks in the summer, and then I’m leaving again. I’ll be like, Okay, I’m not going to take, I’m just going to take the bare essentials. But then as I find myself packing, it’s like, oh, I need that’s really blue and the Prussian Blue and probably the Cobalts as well. So it’s like, I’m like, oh, like clothes like that. That’s fine. I can buy clothes when I get there. But the paints like I need, I need all of that with me. So it’s, I’m a tear, I cannot be a one bagger. Like I’m a terrible packer,

Iva Mikles  

it because you cannot buy sometimes all the art tools, which you like, maybe a sketchbook or special paint in some of the places, right?

Cat Coquillette  

Yeah, um, I was in Rome last summer. And I had just done this illustration of this volcano. And I wanted to it was a watercolor. And I wanted to do all of the constellations, but I needed white acrylic. And I just left my white acrylic on this island. So I was like, I can’t I can’t keep traveling with this. And then as soon as I ditched it, like two days later, I needed it. And I was in Rome. So there should be an art supply store that’s open, but it was Sunday, and nothing’s open. And I was like, I’m never leaving the white acrylic again. So it’s like, yeah, but like, it’s, it’s pretty ridiculous. My bag is huge.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah. And then you also travel with your computer, right? Because then also this essential part? And what do you do if something happens with the computer? Do you always find some repair store? Or do you have to always send it somewhere? Or how does it work? Because just my computer broke like recently. That’s why it’s like what?

Cat Coquillette  

Yeah, that would that would be my absolute nightmare. I just spent about two or three months through about three months in Bali over the spring, and I was living in a villa with friends. And while I was there, it’s really hot. The humidity is just, it’s just insane. And my external hard drive, which is where I store all of my files, it failed. And so I lost it was five months of work because I was a terrible backer upper I’ve got Thanksgiving, and I lost five months of art files, and it was catastrophic. And so I called every place I could find on the entire island of Bali looking for people that could prepare external hard drives, I got a hold of some guy that he would see said he would take a look at it. And from where I was, he was in Denpasar, which is the capital of Bali. And it’s normally about a two hour drive from where I was, I made it there on my motorbike in like 38 minutes because I was just in this like, like complete panic mode. I was dry, I was probably just driving terribly, but it was like, I’ve got to get there as soon as possible. Have them take a look at it. And you know, the bad news was he wasn’t able to recover it. And then it took me two hours, like the normal two hours to drive home because it was just like sad driving at that point. But I Yeah, it’s part of the risk, you know, of this kind of lifestyle is, you know, the tropics aren’t great on electronics. So when that kind of stuff happens, it’s you cross your fingers, and you hope for the best but it did teach me a really valuable lesson and always backup my stuff. So now I traveled with two extra externals that I used to backup and backup to the cloud whenever I’ve got internet. But yeah, it’s five months of work was awful. But it could have been way worse. That’s the thing. So what if I hadn’t backed up in a year that would have been you know, just, it taught me a valuable lesson. And so now I very much respect my SSD, my external hard drives and my electronics. I treat them like babies now before I would just like throw stuff in my bag and it would be fine. Yeah, now it’s man, if I were walking down the street, and I slipped, and I was carrying my external, I would just like cradle like a baby and take the blood to the My shoulder or something. But yeah, it’s their importance

Iva Mikles  

of putting stuff on the cloud as well. Yeah.

Cat Coquillette  

Yeah, absolutely. Dropbox, everything.

Iva Mikles  

But I guess the oldest travel has like much more advantages than disadvantages when you are traveling.

Cat Coquillette  

Yeah, I mean, that was that was probably one of the worst case scenarios in terms of work was was losing was losing all of those files. But for the most part, I mean, and if I would have been more, you know, more responsible and careful, it wouldn’t have been would have been so bad. But yeah, for the most part, I get way more way more enjoyment and benefits and personal and professional growth out of traveling than I then I think I would if I were kind of stagnant in one place, at least for me and my whatever, like what my personal drive is, that’s what has been the most advantageous for me.

Iva Mikles  

And do you also take time off to learn something new or take courses online, even though?

Cat Coquillette  

Yeah, I still take Skillshare classes all the time. I learned how to do calligraphy by taking a Skillshare class. And then when I’m in a new place for the first time, I love getting on Airbnb experiences, and seeing and then sorting by arts and crafts, I think is the filter. And you can see people in your area that are teaching like locals that are teaching something that’s indigenous to that area. So when I was in Vietnam for Christmas, I was searching Airbnb experiences and I found this one where it was this this old man who He was Vietnamese up in northern Vietnam, and he was teaching calligraphy classes. And just through Airbnb experience, it would be a personal, you know, one on one class. And I signed up for it. And it was great. He didn’t speak any English. But he brought a translator that did. So he was teaching me this very traditional Vietnamese calligraphy style that was very much based on Chinese calligraphy style. And I do I do modern hand lettering. And so I know how to do that. But I’ve never learned a traditional Asian style before. So I got to spend a few hours, just one on one with him. And then this translator learning all of these ancient techniques, and it was it was so cool. And it’s something that now like having learned those on those skills I can incorporate into new pieces that I’m doing.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, I mean, that sounds awesome. I haven’t tried it yet. I always go with Airbnb, but actually, somehow it didn’t occur to me.

Cat Coquillette  

Yeah, Airbnb experiences, it’s great. It’s, it’s always a local person. You can do food tours with them. You can do city walking tours, you can learn how to make textiles. I mean, it all just depends on where you’re going and the types of things that are offered. But that’s that’s my, that’s kind of my travel hack secret when I want to kind of get in with the locals and learn something new.

Iva Mikles  

Have you tried also Trustedhousesitters? No, what is that, that’s you just travel and take care of someone’s pet in their location. So yeah, I can put also link for others if you they want to check out but that’s my favorite way to travel as well. So you can stay in the totally awesome, nice house with the, you know, pool, or like small apartment in Tokyo or whatever. And they have just different types of animals. And it’s just so cute. So it’s just exchange. So basically, they don’t pay you, you don’t pay them, but it’s super nice experience.

Cat Coquillette  

I love I love animals. I love that idea. I have a friend. She’s in Medellin right now in Colombia, and she has a little dog. And so she was leaving for two weeks to go to this retreat in Europe, and she needed someone to watch her dog for two weeks. And she was just posting on Facebook looking for anyone that could you know, head down to metagame they’d have a penthouse apartment to stay in for free. She just needed someone to watch Sulu. If I would have known about this, I would have recommended it to her.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, because I think you’re also obsessed with animals as I am. So you might like that.

Cat Coquillette  

Yes. Yeah, because I actually got exposure. Yeah, I got Pre Exposure rabies vaccinations last year, because I pet so many dogs and cats as I’m walking around on the street. But I was like, it’s only a matter of time before I get rabies. So I’m just gonna get the pre exposure. Vaccinate now nip it in the bud. But yeah, it’s I’m obsessed with the animals.

Iva Mikles  

It’s a good idea. Yeah. Because I choose locations where to target like, what animals can I see there?

Cat Coquillette  

Yeah, if you’ve ever come to Thailand, there’s a lot of elephant sanctuaries. And you can go on a volunteer basis and volunteered an elephant camp for, you know, a week, two weeks a month and learn everything about how to take care of those animals. It’s pretty I’ve never done it, but it’s always been on my list.

Iva Mikles  

Okay, I have something to put on my list. Great. So that’s, yeah. And so when we talk about the future, I would like to know, what would you kind of plan for five to 10 years. So this your like, dream scenario, if you have the vision,

Cat Coquillette  

oh, man, there’s a lot of different things that I’m interested in doing. I mentioned that I teach these Skillshare classes. But it’s something that I I’ve, like I mentioned, I’ve got a lot of personal fulfillment out of doing since I began teaching. So I’m looking for opportunities to expand that into something that can be more personal and maybe more one on one, you know, I’ve got 20,000 students that take my classes, but I never meet any of them face to face. So the idea of being able to grow this education platform where I have more opportunities, you know, maybe it’s not, maybe it’s not an in person, but maybe something where a small group class, maybe 10 students where we can do Skype calls once a week, and I can see what they’re working on and advise that that sounds really appealing. So I’m kind of looking for a strategy for how I’d want to kind of build that out. So that’s definitely one aspect. There’s a lot of places in the world that I’ve never visited that I’d love to see, I’d love to see Antarctica, I’ve never been to Africa, India, there’s there’s so much of the world to explore, and so little time. So that’s another that’s more of a personal personal goal. And then a lot of little things, I’d love to publish a book with my paintings and the stories of the inspiration behind each piece. Maybe set up some sort of affiliate program, whether where it’s benefiting, maybe not just my artwork, but maybe a group a group of us together that kind of a group of artists that can maybe put together some sort of co op and have our artwork you know, together elevating everyone else’s, there’s a lot there’s a lot buzzing around and so it’s just a matter of kind of taking these small baby steps and then seeing what’s what’s working and what’s not working.

Iva Mikles  

And do you have a plan for next year already like these to do lists what to do first. Oh,

Cat Coquillette  

man. Well, I just finished filming my new online class, which is about creating surface design and creating patterns and then learning and how to license those out to companies. So we’ll be publishing that in the next few weeks. And then next year, it’s pretty I have like a few pinpoints throughout the year of like, I know, I’m going to be in this country at this time for this event. So, for example, I’ll be speaking at an entrepreneurship conference in Bangkok and a few months. So that’s, I know, I have to be in Bangkok by October to speak at that conference. So it’s like, wherever I am in the world before that, or after I have that one thing set in stone. Same thing with Italy. Next, may I go to an entrepreneurship, it’s a founders retreat, and it’s 10 days on this island. And so I know that, you know, late May, I will definitely be in Italy. And so everything else just kind of gets sandwiched in and around those dates. But so, you know, I might not know where I’m going to be. I don’t know where I’m going to be two weeks from now. I’m going to Poland for a week and a half. But after that, I have no idea. But I know that I’m going to be in Montana in like two months. So it’s, it’s sometimes it’s just filling in the blanks.

Iva Mikles  

You should visit Switzerland. I will be here.

Cat Coquillette  

Oh, I’d love to I went to Zurich last winter, but it was when the the beast from the east that massive, like cold front was coming through from Siberia. And it was it was so cold. I would want I would wander around the lake just like Oh, no. But yeah, I’d love to go visit Switzerland in the summer,

Iva Mikles  

like 35 So definitely go to swimming the lake and the river and just basically hang around. So it will melt.

Cat Coquillette  

That’s that’s you know, I live in the tropics. So anywhere super warm. That’s That’s my place.

Iva Mikles  

Super cool. Yeah. So thank you so much for sharing all of these artistic journey and intrapreneurial tips. I’m sure everyone appreciates it so much. Thank you so much for this opportunity. So thank you so much again and I will put all the links and everything in the description so you guys can check out the society’s eggs, your Skillshare classes, and basically everything will be mentioned. Like Thank you. Thank you so much and thanks everyone who was watching or listening and see you guys in the next episode. Bye

Cat Coquillette  

bye

Hi, I am Iva (rhymes with “viva”). I am an artist, illustrator, founder of Art Side of Life®, and Top Teacher on Skillshare. Since 2009 I've worked as an illustrator, character designer, art director, and branding specialist focusing on illustration, storytelling, concepts, and animation. I believe that we are all creative in infinite numbers of ways, so I've made it my mission to teach you everything I know and help either wake up or develop your creative genius. Learn more about me.

Recommended:

Ep.110: Johanna Tarkela on motivation in the moments of self-doubt

Ep.110: Johanna Tarkela on motivation in the moments of self-doubt

Hey, guys! In this episode, I am chatting with Johanna Tarkela, a self-taught artist from Finland, now residing in the UK. With a big love for the natural world and fantasy creatures, she works in digital media and creates believable atmospheric work.

Ep.126: How to get a job at big studio with Felipe Machado

Ep.126: How to get a job at big studio with Felipe Machado

Hey, guys! In this episode, I am chatting with Felipe Machado, a digital illustrator and concept artist from Colombia who is most known for doing the cover art for music bands and working for Lucas Films. He runs Blank Atelier and Colectivo Tajalapiz.

Ep.209: Interview with community members – Alex and Petar (YouTube 20k subs giveaway)

Ep.209: Interview with community members – Alex and Petar (YouTube 20k subs giveaway)

Special episode with the winners of the YouTube 20k giveaway. I chat with Alex (graphic designer from Poland) and Petar (3D artist from North Macedonia).

Ep.40: Lärienne (lariennechan) on how to succeed in different social media

Ep.40: Lärienne (lariennechan) on how to succeed in different social media

Lärienne, a traditional and digital freelance illustrator from Poland brings various characters, concepts, symbolism, and stories to life.

Ep.20: Don’t think about other artists as competition with Ashleigh Izienicki (missupacey)

Ep.20: Don’t think about other artists as competition with Ashleigh Izienicki (missupacey)

Ashleigh is a freelance illustrator from Colorado. Her current dream is to be able to make money doing something she loves, creating art! 

Ep.95: Creating fantasy worlds with Jonas Jodicke aka JoJoe

Ep.95: Creating fantasy worlds with Jonas Jodicke aka JoJoe

Hey, guys! In this episode, I am chatting with Jonas Jödicke, aka JoJoe from Germany. He is a freelance digital artist, fascinated by the worlds of fantasy and magic, the contrast between light/dark or good/evil which he portraits in his artworks.