Molly Suber Thorpe

Owner - Molly Suber Thorpe Calligraphy & Design

I am a hand lettering artist whose focus is on branding and editorial calligraphy work. I'm also a Skillshare Top Teacher and the author of three calligraphy books.

What inspired you to start your business?

I am a person who is happiest as my own boss, and when I can work alone, on a flexible schedule, from almost anywhere. I am really, really lucky that I figured this out about myself very early on, and that my passion for drawing letters coincided with a hungry market for them when I started out in Los Angeles, circa 2008.

Calligraphy started as a hobby for me that I pursued on nights and weekends while working days at a design firm. As my calligraphy work increased to 30+ hours/week, I took the leap and made it my full-time job.

What is something you would say to someone who is struggling in their first few years of business? Is there something you struggled with and learned from in those first few years?

Oh yes, the road to freelance success is not a straight one!I had to learn on the job, as I think most freelancers do, and the biggest struggles came with putting a price tag on the artwork that I so loved to make. Standing my ground on pricing and the value of my time and talent was by far the steepest learning curve.

When I graduated design school, I worked at a graphic design firm where I learned invaluable lessons about setting clear prices that add up to a living wage, the importance of contracts, and how to manage my time when I have lots of projects going on at once.

To those just starting out as freelance artists and designers, my advice is always the same. Having every single non-creative responsibility on your shoulders – from marketing to accounting to health insurance – can take a LONG time to get used to, especially if you're transitioning from a 9–5 job. So don't make this period harder on yourself by undervaluing your talent. Actively seek out a support network in your industry who can allay your bouts of imposter syndrome, encourage you not to give in to emotional pricing, and simply boost up your confidence on a rough day.

Mistakes are still inevitable. Indeed, it’s the mistakes and frustrations that inform our business policies, so I’ve always tried to learn from the occasional chaos and disappointments and invest those lessons in making my business stronger.

What hobbies, causes, or activities are you passionate about aside from your work?

The climate crisis is my #1 cause. Not only do I devote most of my non-work hours to climate activism and research, but I am starting to incorporate it into my work as well. I've become passionate about leading a low-impact lifestyle and using my platform to speak about it.

Apart from that, knitting is the most peaceful, meditative creative outlet I have right now.

Image Credit: Headshot: @malktime_photography; Teaching picture: @angelaliguori; Books: @mollysuberthorpe