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Fighting the urge to do it all on your own.
There’s this thing about being a freelancer or small business owner where we sometimes wear our independence as a badge of honor.
“Look at what I have built! All by myself!”
By going solo and tackling everything on our own, we gain a lot: confidence, experience, know-how, and the all-powerful skills of adapting and improvising.
But what do we lose? Possibly a lot.
🌟Please pardon this quick interruption! I wanted to pause here for a moment and tell you all that I have a NEW online course on drawing and animating in Adobe Fresco! And it’s on sale at an 80% discount right now. Check it out here! Now back to the article …
The sale of my Photoshop brush brand to Adobe in 2017 was a moonshot. And like many solopreneurs, I was trying to make it happen all on my own. But I was completely out of my depth. The ability to notice when you’re in over your head is not necessarily innate, especially in fiercely independent creative people (like me, and maybe like a lot of you). It’s easy to plow forward, believing all the while that you will eventually figure things out. Sometimes, this works in your favor, and I have written about how my own ignorance has been a kind of superpower in the past. But in this scenario, it was simply ignorance with no benefits.
Fortunately I realized that not knowing what I was doing, in this case, was holding me back. Even more fortunate was my realization that I might still achieve the ultimate goal of the sale of my business with the one thing we all need in our lives at certain moments, but are too afraid (or too proud) to solicit: a little help.
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I needed a partner who had knowledge and experience that I did not have the time to acquire. There was a small window of opportunity, with regards to the timing of the sale of KyleBrush, and I knew the moment for a chance at success was fleeting. I couldn’t wait.
But I didn’t know anybody, personally, who had ever negotiated the sale of a business with a multinational corporation. My friends were illustrators and designers, like me.
What to do?
Simple: I asked everyone I knew if *they* knew someone with this kind of experience. We all have different networks, usually comprised of people with varying professions that are not necessarily related to our own; our connections might not always benefit us directly, but they could be of enormous value to somebody else. Your friend, the graphic designer might have a cousin who is a trademark lawyer, an orthodontist, or an astronaut - you don’t know until you ask.
And in my case, I was connected with the right person within only a few days. My brilliant illustrator pal, James Yang, informed me that his agent, David Goldman, had negotiated some very sizable deals for him with some very large clients. Apparently, he was also connected with a few associates who had experience with valuations for businesses that were shooting for acquisitions. Just like that, I had what I was looking for.
But people like David (and his business partners) don’t work for free. And this is where you have to take a long, hard look at what you’re willing to give up, in terms of money (and maybe glory?) to get the job done, knowing that if you go it alone, you will greatly reduce the chances for a successful outcome.
In my case, the benefits of working with an expert like David were far greater than the costs; I knew, after only one conversation, that he could take me across the finish line, because his knowledge and experience were exactly what was missing from the equation. Together, we had the right combination of skills to make my dream a reality.
And fourteen months later, KyleBrush was sold to Adobe in a deal that was announced on the MAX stage in October of 2017.
Those long months of hinting at, officially proposing, and ultimately negotiating an acquisition were some of the most exhilarating and stressful in my life and I will write about the process in more detail in my next edition of The Accidental Expert. I hope that sharing my own experience (as much as I can, legally speaking) with a deal of this nature will help some of you out there with your own brands. To say I learned a lot is the understatement of the year.
Meanwhile, give some thought to where you are now, professionally and personally. Are you doing too much on your own? Do you need help? Would the benefits outweigh the costs if you were to get some assistance with, for example, some smaller tasks that are keeping you from focusing on the bigger and more important work you need to complete? Or on the flip side, is there something big that you want to accomplish that requires a partner with a different set of skills? Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Sometimes, it can change your life!
Thanks for reading (or listening, if you are a paid subscriber). And if you have been enjoying my writing, I hope you’ll share it with others. This is easy to do and really goes a long way! And don’t forget to check out some resources below. 👇
More to come very soon.
Take care of yourselves and each other, remember to be kind, and I’ll say, ciao for now.
Resources for You
More info on my NEW online course (over 4 hours of lessons!) on drawing and animating in Adobe Fresco.
Shared it before, but sharing again because it’s great: Sterling Hundley, one of the best illustrators and artists of my generation, has a Substack. Jump on it.
Jillian Tamaki and her cousin, Mariko, have a new graphic novel out. I own all of Jillian’s books and am a megafan of her drawings and storytelling.
My livestreams are back! This week, I drew some dogs with custom Photoshop brushes. Watch here.