The Invoice2go, a Bill.com company, Artist series is born out of our mission to amplify the independent spirit of small businesses and freelancers. Each month we’ll collaborate with an artist and add their creative energy to our blog, Amplified.
This month, we’re excited to feature Sabrena Khadija, who did original artwork for our article on grants for Black-owned businesses, which includes Grow – our own $200,000 of awards to support small business owners from historically excluded communities.
Sabrena is a Brooklyn-based creative, bibliophile, and anime enthusiast. Born in Maryland and raised in West Africa, she’s now collaborated with numerous world-famous brands, including Google, Coach, and Coca-Cola. She continually seeks out inclusive and innovative spaces to explore art and creativity in meaningful and impactful ways.
Read on for our exclusive Q&A with Sabrena. Learn more about her inspiration and life as a freelance artist.
What inspired you to become an artist?
I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember. Art and Illustration seemed to run in my family, so I’ve always been drawn to it (pun intended). My earliest inspirations that laid down the groundwork for the artist I am today came from watching anime, specifically Sailor Moon, as a child.
I always found anime and cartoons so visually stunning and I always tried to explore that with my drawings. However, art wasn’t seen as a viable career option in my family, so after a few fumbles into other fields, the pursuit of happiness ultimately inspired me to become an artist more than anything else.
Who are some of the biggest inspirations for your creative work?
To this day, I still draw a lot of joy and inspiration from my favorite anime and manga series. The art in these fields is constantly growing, and there are so many styles, approaches, and concepts for me to fawn over.
I also have a plethora of contemporary artists that used to inspire me, but these days I really feel like my fellow illustration friends and peers inspire me the most. I love to see how other people see the world through their art and what colors and techniques they use to translate it.
You have several years of experience working at design agencies. What was your favorite part about that? And what made you decide to go freelance?
My favorite part about working for an agency was the variety of client work we got to do. Each project brought a new challenge with it and I loved using art and design to figure out how to solve it.
It taught me that design is its own language that we can use to communicate with the world and I loved working within that space. I decided to go freelance because I found myself wanting to go back to my illustration roots, so when I was given an opportunity to give it a try and I took it.
Describe transitioning from the agency to freelance work. What were you excited about? Was there anything that made you nervous?
Transitioning to freelance work was pretty easy for me. I had already been freelancing on the side while working full-time so being able to focus my work and energy into illustration alone was very freeing.
I loved being able to work for myself, live with a more flexible schedule, and create a healthier work/life balance. In the beginning, I was most nervous about being able to support myself without the salary and benefits that came from working full-time, but thankfully those fears have pushed me to do my best to do just that and more!
Now that you’ve been freelancing for almost two years, what are your biggest learnings?
I’ve learned that creating structure for yourself as a freelancer is very important. When you’re working on your own it can be very easy to want to dedicate 24 hours 7 days a week to your work, but it’s important to set healthy barriers to keep you from getting burnt out. I’ve also learned to know my worth.
I feel like it’s very common for freelancers to be taken advantage of in many fields, but our time and skills are valuable just like any other profession and it’s so important to know that.
What’s one of your favorite projects that you’ve worked on recently?
I recently did a project for Google to create a set of themes for their Chrome Browser, and as much as I love the set, the outpouring of love and support I’ve gotten from people because of it has touched me the most.
It’s been a few months since it’s been released and I still have people reaching out to me constantly to say how much they love and feel inspired by my work, and that’s ultimately what I do any of this for.
What advice would you give to artists and designers looking to grow a freelance business?
The best advice I could give to artists and designers looking to grow a freelance business is to keep creating and connecting. Even if it’s just for fun, showing people what you can do and sharing it can really help put your work out there.
But the connections you can make with people through sharing your work are just as important. I literally wouldn’t be where I am today without the community of creatives that I’ve been blessed to cultivate.
What are you most excited about for the future?
In the future, I’m most excited to see what kind of art I’ll be creating and what kind of work I’ll be doing. I’d love to continue to work on bigger and bigger projects and see my work in all kinds of spaces and settings. I want to try a little bit of everything and I can’t wait to make that happen!
If you enjoyed this article, check out The Creative Collective. Each month we'll share new original illustrations and interviews with artists from around the world.