Kate Hoolahan, Illustrator & Product Designer

Kate Hoolahan is an Illustrator & Product Designer based in Sydney, Australia. She has degrees in both architecture and digital design, and almost 10 years experience in design. She has worked with clients all across Australia and featured on numerous design blogs and websites. We first discovered Kate via her bright and fun vector illustration work. Thanks so much for chatting with us Kate!

What do you do?

I’m a freelance illustrator and product designer.

What did you want to be when you were a child?

I actually wanted to be an illustrator! But I was also told by a lot of people that this was not a sensible career choice (understandable), so at first, I studied architecture to please everyone. I quickly realised I needed to follow my passion and switched courses to digital design, where I focused on digital illustration.

Tell us about your journey to becoming a freelancer.

I’ve always worked full time as a digital designer, and in these roles have had the chance to do some illustration work. I would share this work online and notice people seemed to be drawn to the illustration I did – so I kept making little projects for myself in my spare time to post online and gather feedback from. From here, I would start to get more emails for freelance work, and from there it just snowballed.

When you first started, how did you find clients?

Mostly through Dribbble and Instagram. I think sharing work online is key. Nowadays a lot of it repeat clients or word of mouth.

Kate Hoolahan
© Kate Hoolahan
What are the biggest milestones that have led to where you currently are in your career?

Moving to Sydney (from Perth) introduced me to a wider creative community and gave me the opportunity to work with a lot of great startups and international companies, like Helpscout, which has been fantastic. Before I moved I thought life in a big city would be harder, but actually it has grown my network tenfold.

Do you have a motto that you work by?

Don’t wait for inspiration to strike. Inspiration will come once you get started, even if you don’t feel like it, just begin working and eventually you will get into the groove. If I were to wait for inspiration to strike I’d rarely get anything done.

How do you stay productive?

I am somewhat forced to stay productive by keeping so busy. I have a tight schedule most days so I will literally timetable out my days and estimate hourly what projects I am going to go work on next. I get satisfaction from seeing progress, so this also motivates me to stay productive.

What are you working on right now?

I am working on some illustrations for an agriculture tech startups homepage and overall brand. It’s a great project where I’m getting to define the illustration language which I love doing.

Kate Hoolahan
© Kate Hoolahan
Kate Hoolahan
© Kate Hoolahan
Kate Hoolahan
Don’t wait for inspiration to strike. Inspiration will come once you get started, even if you don’t feel like it, just begin working and eventually you will get into the groove.
What is your dream project?

I wouldn’t say I have a dream client, but any project where I get the chance to push my style outside of the box and have time and room for experimentation is fantastic. Getting to define an illustration style for a brand is always a lot of fun.

What one piece of advice would you give to a freelancer just starting out?

Just get started! Don’t procrastinate or worry that your website isn’t perfect, neither is mine! You can always iterate on your style, so make things, share them with the world and grow from there.

What is the best piece of advice you've been given?

Hmm I love the advice in Casey Neistat’s earlier videos, which is generally along the lines of just keep creating, I find those really inspiring.

Kate Hoolahan
© Kate Hoolahan
Tell us about a time in your career when you struggled.

My first design job wasn’t the best, it was working for a small family printing company and the projects coming in did not have budget or time for decent, well thought out design. I felt I had made the wrong career choice, and was even considering going back to uni to study medicine, but instead I aimed to learn as much as I could from the role. By the time I had a year or so experience, I got a new job offer.  I had learnt a lot about project management and had been working on my side projects extensively, so I’d built up a few clients on the side. From that I learned not to get too worried about your present situation, and to just keep working towards the future, eventually your circumstances will improve. Try and take what you can from any situation. 

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

Getting contacted by larger companies that I looked up to – such as HelpScout and Spaceship to work on illustration for them. Anytime I get contacted I am completely flattered!

What are you listening to, reading or watching that is inspiring to you lately?

A lot of documentaries. I recently watched a documentary about Anthony Lister (an Australian artist). Seeing his process and drive to keep creating was really inspirational, but also seeing how important he realised family was to him – it’s important not to forget that and not to work so hard that you neglect those around you. 

What is your favourite piece of clothing?

My denim jacket, super comfy, super versatile 🙂 works in summer and winter!

What is the strangest thing about you?

Maybe my accent? I am someone who used to be Irish who now lives in Australia, married to a Brit. 

Who would you most like to answer these questions next?

Elen Winata – she’s a big inspiration to me!

How can we find out more about your work?

You can visit www.instagram.com/hoolahk or www.katehoolahan.com or email me at hello@katehoolahan.com 🙂