Our team is full of exceptionally talented people, and the work they do is what makes our agency so great. And what really sets us apart is that our employees are creative, innovative, and driven outside of the office as well. We’re going to go into mum-brag mode and feature some of our employees’ most impressive side hustles, because we’re proud of them and want to show them off.

First up: Stephanie Maiden, Resource Manager and superstar illustrator.

How did you get into illustrating?
I’ve always drawn, ever since I was really young - my parents definitely encouraged me to draw. I have early memories of me and my sister drawing in the garden and fighting over colouring pencils. I did art throughout my school life, but in terms of the way I draw now I’m pretty much self-taught. I used to do massive oil paintings at home, with sheets and canvases and stuff taking up all the space in my room, and when I moved up to London I couldn’t really keep it up so much. Then I was introduced to digital art by a designer I worked with, and as soon as I started using Photoshop I was amazed at the results and how easy it was.

What inspires your drawings?
Initially, it was music that I listened to. Anyone who I really liked as an artist, I would put on their music and then draw them. When I’m drawing people that I know - friends and family - I take their personality and feed that into the art. Now that I’ve started taking commissions from other people who I don’t have that connection to, I imagine what they’re like and who they are and use that as inspiration. I have to keep my imagination stimulated when I’m drawing. When people pay me to do illustrations for them, I feel like I’m giving someone something valued. It feels like a two-way thing and knowing that someone is going to cherish my work inspires me. It’s definitely case-by-case though.

How do you find that it fits in with your work life at We Are Social?
I do have to dedicate time to it, but I find that drawing after work relaxes me. One of the reasons I draw is to shut everything else out. I was quite surprised by people in the office’s reaction to my illustrations when they found out about them. I think I lack confidence in my abilities and when people at work were so positive about my art it definitely pushed me to set up my own website and do more commissions outside of work.

Does social media play a part in your side hustle?
100%. It started off when I set up my illustration account on Instagram. I used that to follow other artists that inspired me, and that pushed me. Now all of my commissions come through Instagram.

What’s the illustration community on Instagram like?
It’s definitely supportive. People I followed right when I was starting out still like and comment on my posts now. It can be really helpful asking people about techniques and stuff, and seeing artists who work in a similar style to myself motivates me to do better. There’s an artist called Biana Beers (@biancabeers), and her work really inspires me. I’ve never seen anyone doing exactly what I do though, which makes me proud to own my style. I think that overall Instagram has made me a better illustrator, and feel more positive about my work in general.

Where do you see yourself taking your illustrations in the future?
My goal is to get an illustration into an independent magazine. That’s what I’m working towards now. I don’t think I’d want to be a full-time illustrator but I’d be really pleased with myself if I achieved that.

What’s the best piece of motivational advice you’ve ever heard?
I think it’s really hard to stay motivated. I’m discovering that it really has to come from me. I think my favourite motivational quote is from CT Fletcher, “Greatness, in any field, cannot be achieved without obsession.” It inspires me to push myself more.

Check out Stephanie’s work on her Instagram channel @stephmaidenillustration, and on our channel @wearesocial now.