Featured Maker: Ryan Hamrick

Ryan Hamrick
Austin, Texas
Business founded: 2012

Ryan Hamrick is a busy guy these days, doing hand-lettering projects for a range of clients. “My decision to become an independent designer full-time was probably about as random as it gets. I’d never worked in a primarily design capacity ever before, be it for a company, an agency, nothing. I also had no design or art schooling beyond the ‘Intro to Graphic Design’ and ‘Ancient and Medieval Art History’ classes I squeaked by in my first semester of community college (actually, I may have flunked the latter, now that I think about it),” he explains.

What was the impetus behind starting your own business?

This requires a little bit of backstory: For about six or seven years, in my early twenties, I worked in wireless retail management. I did a stint with just about every wireless carrier, managing anywhere from one store, to an entire district of eight stores for a while with Sprint. When our family moved to Pittsburgh in 2009, for my wife’s job, I was working for a smaller regional carrier and didn’t have an option to transfer or anything, so we decided I would stay home with the kids, while I looked for the right opportunity. There weren’t really any comparable positions, so I ended freelance writing for various wireless news sites, covering news, app and phone reviews, etc. After about a year or so, I ended up taking over as editor-in-chief for a site called knowyourcell.com (since renamed knowyourmobile.com), and ran the site for about six months. During that time, while experiencing the sad state of design in BlackBerry Twitter apps, a developer partner and I actually created what would become one of the bestselling Twitter apps ever on the platform—this was my first real taste of making a little income from design.

About five years ago, the financial opportunity to take the leap and become a full-time independent designer presented itself, and I took it. For the first six months or so, I was basically working on visual design projects and UI stuff while trying desperately to teach myself web design and make myself more versatile. Then, in late 2011, I decided, more or less on a whim, to try my hand at lettering. My early attempts were quite rough, and it took a while to gain the ability to come even close to representing what I saw in my head, on paper. And once I did, I still had to deal with the fact that I knew absolutely nothing about the rules of typography or lettering. Still, the process of crafting these letters and words was easily the most rewarding work I’d ever done before, so I committed to teach myself this craft, and the rest is history!

What works best for you in terms of promotion and marketing your work?

My growth and the building of awareness of my work has been pretty organic. Early on, one of the most effective things for me was just interacting with others on social media. I would inject myself into conversations on Twitter between various people I respected that were doing the work I’d hoped to do one day. Eventually, I formed some great friendships and was able to associate myself with the industry. Dribbble was also absolutely instrumental in my growth; not only as an outlet to share my work and my progress, but also as a forum to interact with other talented artists/designers in the industry and make connections.

Today, I definitely notice a direct correlation between the amount of work I’m putting out and sharing, and the amount of incoming inquiries I receive. Staying active online keeps the inbox active!