Side hustle became a 6-figure business
Turning a passion into a business can be hard work, but thanks to online platforms like Instagram it's become easier to break through, according to one designer.
Georgia Norton Lodge, 29, has been able to turn her creative house illustrations into a thriving business that will allow her to buy a house within the year.
"I'm literally with a pen and paper making a living and I feel blessed to be able to do that. Being able to prove to myself that I could match my income was really valuable," she said.
All of it is thanks to opening an Instagram account back in 2014.
In 2014, Ms Norton Lodge put her hand up to design the cover of her sister's book of short stories about Annandale, the inner-west suburb of Sydney that they had grown up in.
Given a background in graphic design, Ms Norton Lodge thought she would be perfect to help but soon realised they were after an illustrator, which led to her becoming one and drawing all the houses in and around Annandale for the book.
"I was quite scared; I said to myself, 'I'm a serious graphic designer' and to take that leap to illustration was nerve-racking," Ms Norton Lodge said.
Less than five years later, Ms Norton Lodge has been able to leave her six-figure job as a graphic designer after first achieving her financial goal.
"I gave myself a mission to prove that my side hustle could match my agency salary. I've worked really hard to prove that mission and this year, ahead of schedule in February, I realised my passion could match and even exceed my salary. So I quit my job," she said.
The turning point for the illustrator came when she drew a large mural on the side of her parents' house.
"I draw a giant mural of my parents' house on the side of their house and that exploded and through that engagement I realised people wanted my drawings as opposed to just being a number on my follower count," Ms Norton Lodge said.
"It was a bit of guerrilla marketing and it was so amazing for it to grow organically and to receive notifications during my 9-6 job saying 'you've been tagged' was so amazing."
Just being on the platform can spell success for businesses, according to Instagram.
Sixty-seven per cent of Australians aged 18-34 have used Instagram to find new services, businesses or products that often translates to sales as 53 per cent of Australian users admit to buying products they've seen on the platform.
"Small and micro business should leverage Instagram as it's a great way to connect with the customer base. It also lets your community get a behind-the-scene look of the product which followers love. It's a win, win" Ms Norton Lodge said.
Despite by her own admission not being an Instagram influencer, Ms Norton Lodge has been able to leverage the platform effectively.
"I'm not an Instagram influencer by any means, just look at my followers on there. But what I do have is an engaged audience who have come on the journey with me," she said.
Certainly, Ms Norton Lodge's 3600 followers are nowhere near the six-figure follower count of other "influencers", but she believes it's not about the number of followers but the connection.
"What works for me and this business is that I feel like I'm giving a little bit of joy back to the world, and that makes me feel good about what I'm doing, and that's what creates engagement," she said.
For her audience, that joy comes in the form of illustrations of individual houses that range in sizes and take Ms Norton Lodge anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour to complete.
She said the illustrations used to take just 15 minutes, but she puts more care into it now that it's a full business.
Already this year she has drawn over 548 commissions for Australians, Kiwis and even for a family in Switzerland.
"People are ordering houses because they feel a connection to home and family. So, either they're selling or bought the first home or grandad built the house; whatever the reason, it's always very emotional," Ms Norton Lodge said.
The next step for Ms Norton Lodge is to own her own home in Sydney's inner west and potentially draw a new mural of her own.
"A little fixer-upper is my goal so that I can make a mark on it. I'll have to buy a corner house so I can draw a mural on it," she said.
For aspiring side hustlers, Ms Norton Lodge says to take it slow, ensure it's something your passionate about and it fits in with your lifestyle.
"It doesn't matter what your salary is, but if you have to reinvent your life to do your side hustle then it will be stressful. If you want to do it all the time, it's got to fit into your life," she said.