I’m back on the road to meet readers of The $100 Startup!
After a summer break where I hosted WDS 2012 with a great team, traveled to Yemen and Congo, and began work on an upcoming business project, I’m glad to be hanging out with readers again and talking about freedom almost every night.
If you’ve read the book already, you might recognize the great illustrations that accompany the text. These were created by Mike Rohde, a Milwaukee-based artist.
Because so many people have enjoyed the illustrations, we thought we’d show you how the process unfolded. I asked Mike to share in his own words why he took on this project, and how he made the work.
Here’s Mike! –>
IN THE FALL of 2011, Chris Guillebeau reached out to me with a top secret project he was working on. It was his $100 Startup book and he needed illustrations to amplify the words he was writing in the book.
If not for my friend Jon Mueller at 800-CEO-READ, I might have declined the project, because at the time I was incredibly busy with multiple projects and was planning to write a book on sketchnoting.
I’d known a little about Chris, his blog and his book, AONC, but it was Jon who highly recommended Chris’s book project. So, I decided to go for it.
First, Chris and I had a call, where he shared his vision for the book and the illustrations he wanted to create. I’d come recommended by Crown, the same publisher behind my illustrations for 37signal’s book, REWORK, in 2010.
Once I had an early draft of Chris’s manuscript, I began thinking about ways to illustrate each chapter, which led to pencil sketching ideas for Chris to see.
Here are a few example chapter sketches:
Once sketches were completed, it was time to ink my illustrations and then convert the scans of my work into vectorized artwork. Vector artwork is different from the more common bitmapped art (pixel based) because the image is made up of mathematically placed points and curves to create images that are clean, crisp and infinitely resizable—either up or down.
Here are some sample vector art illustrations:
Chris and I worked through all 14 chapters of the book, making revisions and tweaks to the final artwork, right until the galley proofs went to press. Final tweaks were applied a short while later, in preparation for final print production.
Beyond the illustrations themselves, I’d like to share a few lessons learned from this project and ideas that have influenced me from chapters in Chris’ new book.
1. Listen to your advisors. I very nearly turned down the illustration project with Chris. Fortunately, I had Jon, a good friend who knows the book business and guided me as I pondered my decision.
I’ve learned over the years how critical it is to develop relationships with people in and out of my profession, so when I have an important decision to make, I can lean on their wisdom and objective opinions to help my thinking and decision making process.
If you don’t have advisors, start by inviting people you admire out to lunch or coffee, and getting to know them now, before you need their help. This will provide you with a network of friends happy to help you when the time comes to make decisions or bounce ideas around. Start now, before you need advisors!
2. Be aware of opportunities. One of the reasons I nearly declined Chris was my state of busyness when he contacted me about the book illustrations. I was still busy when I decided to take the project—so why did I decide to go ahead rather than decline?
Opportunity. After reviewing Chris’s work and getting a feel for his approach, attitude and personality, I felt the extra effort needed to get his illustrations done would be well-worth the sacrifice in the long-term.
I learned that Chris works hard to promote his work and the work of those with whom he partners. I also loved the topic of The $100 Startup, because it aligned so well with my own experience as a small business owner and because it feels like a practical guide to many of the ideas about business I’d already illustrated in REWORK.
In the middle of the crunch right around Thanksgiving last year, it was tough. I spent many hours getting the details right and finalizing every last bit of illustration work so Crown could produce galley proofs on time. Now, having gone through the pain, I’m happy I did, because I know this book will help many people start and build great businesses and I’m proud to have worked with Chris to amplify his message with fun, memorable images.
I believe there are opportunities all around, all of the time—if we have our eyes open to them. Thinking with an opportunity mindset is one of the greatest lessons The $100 Startup teaches. Try turning the problems you encounter around to see opportunities lurking in the background.
3. Think like an entrepreneur. My favorite part of Chris’s book are the stories of people who thought creatively about the services or products they could offer and found simple ways to make those creative ideas into small businesses.
My story about sketchnoting—the name I coined for my visual notes, captured with a pen in a small sketchbook at meetings and events—would fit well within the book. In 2007 I began sketchnoting events for myself, sharing the results online. In the past five years I’ve moved from doing sketchnotes for fun to being paid and often flown and housed by conferences to capture sketchnotes. I’m being hired to illustrate books, like The $100 Startup and REWORK, and am now writing my own book on sketchnoting techniques to teach other people how to take sketchnotes.
I started small, as a sole proprietorship. Eventually, opportunities to sketchnote and illustrate were expanding fast, so I created an LLC with my wife to get more serious about the business and reap the tax benefits of an LLC.
In many ways, I wish I had Chris’s book back in 2007 when I started on this path with my own business, though reading through the chapters for my illustration work reinforced many of the decisions I’ve made along the way and has given me many new ideas for the future.
I hope you throughly enjoy the hard work we poured into The $100 Startup, and that lessons I’ve learned through the process of illustrating the book will resonate and help you on your own journey.
Back to Chris –>
I appreciate Mike sharing his lessons and experience here. After illustrating REWORK and The $100 Startup, he now has a book of his own coming out later this year, all about his process of sketchnoting. Read about it over here.
Oh, and be sure and follow him on Twitter!
Happy Monday, everyone. I’m flying to Minneapolis today, Chicago tomorrow, and Omaha on Wednesday.