The Power of Building a Platform as a Lettering Artist

May 19, 2024
Pivot to Platform

Creative freelancers often find themselves trapped in the cycle of trading their time for money.

Breaking free from this model is crucial for a long-term sustainable business.


There are three pathways creative freelancers can follow to escape the freelance trap: Platform, Product, and Packaging.

You can read the overview of how all three business models work here, but we are starting this series by diving deep into the Platform Pathway this week.


Case Study: Gemma O’Brien

In 2009, Australian lettering artist Gemma O’Brien launched the “Write Here, Write Now” campaign, documenting her journey of drawing letters on various surfaces, including her own body. One particular series, where she meticulously drew letters on her legs, quickly went viral. The playful display of creativity catapulted Gemma into the spotlight, making her a recognisable name in the type and lettering community almost overnight.

After her initial success, Gemma didn’t just sit back and enjoy the limelight. She built a solid and diverse platform, including speaking engagements, client commissions, and personal projects. She leveraged her newfound visibility to land high-profile gigs, including creating commissioned work for Apple’s iPad Pro launch and collaborating with global brands like QANTAS, Volcom, and Kirin. Her work even found its way to a billboard in Times Square.

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Gemma is also known for her ability to engage her audience through social media and educational content. She frequently shares her creative process, behind-the-scenes insights, and tips on platforms like Instagram and YouTube. Her authenticity and willingness to share knowledge have helped to grow her Platform even further. By connecting with her audience personally, she continues to build a loyal following that appreciates her work and advocates for her brand.

Gemma O’Brien is often invited to speak at design conferences and events worldwide as a recognised leader in the lettering industry. Her talks focus on creativity, personal projects, and the business of lettering.

In recent years, Gemma has expanded her Platform by venturing into licensing and collaborations. Her distinctive lettering and illustrations have been featured on skateboards, apparel, and stationery. This approach allows her to diversify revenue streams while reaching new audiences through different products and brands.

How Building a Platform Differs from Traditional Freelancing

Unlike traditional freelancing, where creatives often trade time for money through one-on-one client work, the Platform model focuses on building a personal brand that attracts a broad audience. 

By showcasing unique styles and personalities through consistent online engagement, creatives can cultivate loyal followings and unlock opportunities like brand collaborations, high-profile speaking engagements, and passive income streams such as licensing and YouTube adverts. 

The Platform model provides greater autonomy, scalability, and financial sustainability, allowing creatives to control their careers and attract projects they are passionate about.

Gemma O’Brien is a perfect example of someone who has mastered the platform business model, leveraging her profile to collaborate with global brands and speak on prestigious stages. But she isn’t alone in this business model; let’s look at how other lettering artists have harnessed their platforms to attract big clients and dream projects.

Other Examples: Jessica Hische, Timothy Goodman, and Seb Lester

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As a letterer, illustrator, and author, Jessica Hische has built a personal brand synonymous with high-quality design and creativity. Her distinctive lettering style and approachable personality have attracted an impressive roster of clients, including Wes Anderson, Tiffany & Co., and The New York Times.

By consistently sharing her work and insights online, Jessica has cultivated a loyal following that trusts her expertise. Her “Daily Drop Cap” project showcased her skills and positioned her as a go-to creative in the industry, leading to high-profile commissions, book deals, and speaking engagements.

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Known for his bold, playful lettering and doodle murals, Timothy Goodman has used his Platform to connect with a diverse audience through projects that blend art with social commentary. His collaborations with brands like Nike, Google, and Samsung showcase his distinctive style and ability to make an impact with his work.

Timothy’s highly personal projects, such as “40 Days of Dating,” reveal his authentic voice, attracting a dedicated audience that follows his journey. His Platform has enabled him to secure high-profile collaborations, gallery exhibitions, and book deals.

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A master calligrapher, Seb Lester became a household name in the lettering world after his calligraphy videos went viral on social media. His skilful recreations of famous logos showcased his precision and creativity, quickly attracting a large audience. Seb leveraged this newfound popularity to attract commissions from brands like NASA, Intel, and The New York Times.

Gemma O’Brien, Jessica Hische, Timothy Goodman, and Seb Lester are all examples of lettering artists who have leveraged the platform model to build thriving careers. They’ve attracted audiences and unlocked new opportunities by consistently showcasing their unique styles, projects and personalities through videos and social media.

Their stories illustrate that building a platform online can open doors to collaborations, commissions, and projects that go far beyond the limitations of the traditional freelance model.

The Platform model is just one of three pathways creative professionals can use to break free from the limitations of freelancing. Each path—Platform, Product, and Packaging—offers a unique approach to leveraging your creative skills in a way that values your ideas over time. Over the coming weeks, we will showcase the other business models.

If these stories have inspired you and you’re curious about applying the Platform model to your creative career, the Typism Pathway to Pivot mini-membership is coming up.

The first cohort will kick off in June, and Platform will be one of the three business models we will focus on.

Join the waitlist today
 and take the first step towards building your platform and attracting dream clients who want to work with you.

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justify-content: center; } #block-1715054819782 .image__overlay, [data-slick-id="1715054819782"] .image__overlay { opacity: 0; } #block-1715054819782 .image__overlay:hover { opacity: 1; } } /* flush setting */ /* margin settings */ #block-1715054472756 { margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; } #block-1715054472756 .block { /* border settings */ border: 4px black; border-radius: 4px; /* background color */ /* default padding for mobile */ padding: 0px; padding: 0px; /* mobile padding overrides */ padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; } @media (min-width: 768px) { /* desktop margin settings */ #block-1715054472756 { margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; } #block-1715054472756 .block { /* default padding for desktop */ padding: 0px; /* desktop padding overrides */ padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; } } /* mobile text align */ @media (max-width: 767px) { #block-1715054472756 { text-align: left; } } /* flush setting */ /* margin settings */ #block-1715054480972 { margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; } #block-1715054480972 .block { /* border settings */ border: 4px black; border-radius: 4px; /* background color */ /* default padding for mobile */ padding: 0px; padding: 0px; /* mobile padding overrides */ padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; } @media (min-width: 768px) { /* desktop margin settings */ #block-1715054480972 { margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; } #block-1715054480972 .block { /* default padding for desktop */ padding: 0px; /* desktop padding overrides */ padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; } } /* mobile text align */ @media (max-width: 767px) { #block-1715054480972 { text-align: left; } } #block-1577982541036_0 .btn { margin-top: 1rem; } /* flush setting */ /* margin settings */ #block-1715054967741 { margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; } #block-1715054967741 .block { /* border settings */ border: 4px black; border-radius: 0px; /* background color */ /* default padding for mobile */ padding: 0px; /* mobile padding overrides */ padding: 0; padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; } @media (min-width: 768px) { /* desktop margin settings */ #block-1715054967741 { margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; } #block-1715054967741 .block { /* default padding for desktop */ /* desktop padding overrides */ padding: 0; padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; } } /* mobile text align */ @media (max-width: 767px) { #block-1715054967741 { text-align: ; } } #block-1715054967741 .block, [data-slick-id="1715054967741"] .block { display: flex; justify-content: flex-start; } #block-1715054967741 .image, [data-slick-id="1715054967741"] .image { width: 100%; overflow: hidden; border-radius: 0px; } #block-1715054967741 .image__image, [data-slick-id="1715054967741"] .image__image { width: 100%; } #block-1715054967741 .image__overlay, [data-slick-id="1715054967741"] .image__overlay { opacity: 0; background-color: #fff; border-radius: 0px; } #block-1715054967741 .image__overlay-text, [data-slick-id="1715054967741"] .image__overlay-text { color: !important; } @media (min-width: 768px) { #block-1715054967741 .block, [data-slick-id="1715054967741"] .block { display: flex; justify-content: center; } #block-1715054967741 .image__overlay, [data-slick-id="1715054967741"] .image__overlay { opacity: 0; } #block-1715054967741 .image__overlay:hover { opacity: 1; } } /* flush setting */ /* margin settings */ #block-1715054506593 { margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; } #block-1715054506593 .block { /* border settings */ border: 4px black; border-radius: 4px; /* background color */ /* default padding for mobile */ padding: 0px; padding: 0px; /* mobile padding overrides */ padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; } @media (min-width: 768px) { /* desktop margin settings */ #block-1715054506593 { margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; } #block-1715054506593 .block { /* default padding for desktop */ padding: 0px; /* desktop padding overrides */ padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; } } /* mobile text align */ @media (max-width: 767px) { #block-1715054506593 { text-align: left; } } /* flush setting */ /* margin settings */ #block-1715054707170 { margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; } #block-1715054707170 .block { /* border settings */ border: 4px black; border-radius: 4px; /* background color */ /* default padding for mobile */ padding: 0px; padding: 0px; /* mobile padding overrides */ padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; } @media (min-width: 768px) { /* desktop margin settings */ #block-1715054707170 { margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; } #block-1715054707170 .block { /* default padding for desktop */ padding: 0px; /* desktop padding overrides */ padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; } } /* mobile text align */ @media (max-width: 767px) { #block-1715054707170 { text-align: left; } } #block-1577982541036_0 .btn { margin-top: 1rem; } /* flush setting */ /* margin settings */ #block-1715055185783 { margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; } #block-1715055185783 .block { /* border settings */ border: 4px black; border-radius: 0px; /* background color */ /* default padding for mobile */ padding: 0px; /* mobile padding overrides */ padding: 0; padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; } @media (min-width: 768px) { /* desktop margin settings */ #block-1715055185783 { margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; } #block-1715055185783 .block { /* default padding for desktop */ /* desktop padding overrides */ padding: 0; padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; } } /* mobile text align */ @media (max-width: 767px) { #block-1715055185783 { text-align: ; } } #block-1715055185783 .block, [data-slick-id="1715055185783"] .block { display: flex; justify-content: flex-start; } #block-1715055185783 .image, [data-slick-id="1715055185783"] .image { width: 100%; overflow: hidden; border-radius: 0px; } #block-1715055185783 .image__image, [data-slick-id="1715055185783"] .image__image { width: 100%; } #block-1715055185783 .image__overlay, [data-slick-id="1715055185783"] .image__overlay { opacity: 0; background-color: #fff; border-radius: 0px; } #block-1715055185783 .image__overlay-text, [data-slick-id="1715055185783"] .image__overlay-text { color: !important; } @media (min-width: 768px) { #block-1715055185783 .block, [data-slick-id="1715055185783"] .block { display: flex; justify-content: center; } #block-1715055185783 .image__overlay, [data-slick-id="1715055185783"] .image__overlay { opacity: 0; } #block-1715055185783 .image__overlay:hover { opacity: 1; } } /* flush setting */ /* margin settings */ #block-1715055009261 { margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; } #block-1715055009261 .block { /* border settings */ border: 4px black; border-radius: 4px; /* background color */ /* default padding for mobile */ padding: 0px; padding: 0px; /* mobile padding overrides */ padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; } @media (min-width: 768px) { /* desktop margin settings */ #block-1715055009261 { margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; } #block-1715055009261 .block { /* default padding for desktop */ padding: 0px; /* desktop padding overrides */ padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; } } /* mobile text align */ @media (max-width: 767px) { #block-1715055009261 { text-align: left; } } /* flush setting */ /* margin settings */ #block-1715054715471 { margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; } #block-1715054715471 .block { /* border settings */ border: 4px black; border-radius: 4px; /* background color */ /* default padding for mobile */ padding: 0px; padding: 0px; /* mobile padding overrides */ padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; } @media (min-width: 768px) { /* desktop margin settings */ #block-1715054715471 { margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; } #block-1715054715471 .block { /* default padding for desktop */ padding: 0px; /* desktop padding overrides */ padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; } } /* mobile text align */ @media (max-width: 767px) { #block-1715054715471 { text-align: left; } } #block-1577982541036_0 .btn { margin-top: 1rem; } /* flush setting */ /* margin settings */ #block-1715058635056 { margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; } #block-1715058635056 .block { /* border settings */ border: 4px black; border-radius: 4px; /* background color */ /* default padding for mobile */ padding: 0px; padding: 0px; /* mobile padding overrides */ padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; } @media (min-width: 768px) { /* desktop margin settings */ #block-1715058635056 { margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; } #block-1715058635056 .block { /* default padding for desktop */ padding: 0px; /* desktop padding overrides */ padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; } } /* mobile text align */ @media (max-width: 767px) { #block-1715058635056 { text-align: left; } } /* flush setting */ /* margin settings */ #block-1715058678276 { margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; } #block-1715058678276 .block { /* border settings */ border: 4px black; border-radius: 4px; /* background color */ /* default padding for mobile */ padding: 0px; padding: 0px; /* mobile padding overrides */ padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; } @media (min-width: 768px) { /* desktop margin settings */ #block-1715058678276 { margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; } #block-1715058678276 .block { /* default padding for desktop */ padding: 0px; /* desktop padding overrides */ padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; } } /* mobile text align */ @media (max-width: 767px) { #block-1715058678276 { text-align: left; } } /* flush setting */ /* margin settings */ #block-1715058613539 { margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; } #block-1715058613539 .block { /* border settings */ border: 4px black; border-radius: 4px; /* background color */ /* default padding for mobile */ padding: 0px; padding: 0px; /* mobile padding overrides */ padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; } @media (min-width: 768px) { /* desktop margin settings */ #block-1715058613539 { margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; } #block-1715058613539 .block { /* default padding for desktop */ padding: 0px; /* desktop padding overrides */ padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; } } /* mobile text align */ @media (max-width: 767px) { #block-1715058613539 { text-align: left; } } #block-1577982541036_0 .btn { margin-top: 1rem; } /* flush setting */ /* margin settings */ #block-1698919145984 { margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; } #block-1698919145984 .block { /* border settings */ border: 1px none #68d3d7; border-radius: 0px; /* background color */ background-color: #FFFFFF; /* default padding for mobile */ padding: 0px; padding: 0px; /* mobile padding overrides */ padding: 0; padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; } @media (min-width: 768px) { /* desktop margin settings */ #block-1698919145984 { margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; } #block-1698919145984 .block { /* default padding for desktop */ padding: 0px; padding: 0px; /* desktop padding overrides */ padding: 0; padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 20px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 20px; } } /* mobile text align */ @media (max-width: 767px) { #block-1698919145984 { text-align: left; } } #block-1698919145984 .btn { border-color: #68d3d7; border-radius: 4px; background: #68d3d7; color: #ffffff; } #block-1698919145984 .btn--outline { background: transparent; color: #68d3d7; } #block-1698919145984 .card__footer { color: } /* flush setting */ /* margin settings */ #block-1698111760405 { margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; } #block-1698111760405 .block { /* border settings */ border: 4px black; border-radius: 0px; /* background color */ background-color: ; /* default padding for mobile */ padding: 0px; padding: 0px; /* mobile padding overrides */ padding: 0; padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; } @media (min-width: 768px) { /* desktop margin settings */ #block-1698111760405 { margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; } #block-1698111760405 .block { /* default padding for desktop */ padding: 0px; /* desktop padding overrides */ padding: 0; padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; } } /* mobile text align */ @media (max-width: 767px) { #block-1698111760405 { text-align: ; } } #block-1698111760405 .block, [data-slick-id="1698111760405"] .block { display: flex; justify-content: flex-start; } #block-1698111760405 .image, [data-slick-id="1698111760405"] .image { width: 100%; overflow: hidden; width: 500px; border-radius: 0px; } #block-1698111760405 .image__image, [data-slick-id="1698111760405"] .image__image { width: 100%; width: 500px; } #block-1698111760405 .image__overlay, [data-slick-id="1698111760405"] .image__overlay { opacity: 0; background-color: #fff; border-radius: 0px; } #block-1698111760405 .image__overlay-text, [data-slick-id="1698111760405"] .image__overlay-text { color: !important; } @media (min-width: 768px) { #block-1698111760405 .block, [data-slick-id="1698111760405"] .block { display: flex; justify-content: center; } #block-1698111760405 .image__overlay, [data-slick-id="1698111760405"] .image__overlay { opacity: 0; } #block-1698111760405 .image__overlay:hover { opacity: 1; } } /* flush setting */ /* margin settings */ #block-1694873532692 { margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; } #block-1694873532692 .block { /* border settings */ border: 4px black; border-radius: 0px; /* background color */ background-color: ; /* default padding for mobile */ padding: 0px; padding: 0px; padding: 0px; /* mobile padding overrides */ padding-top: 15px; padding-right: 15px; padding-bottom: 15px; padding-left: 15px; } @media (min-width: 768px) { /* desktop margin settings */ #block-1694873532692 { margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; } #block-1694873532692 .block { /* default padding for desktop */ padding: 0px; padding: 0px; /* desktop padding overrides */ padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; } } /* mobile text align */ @media (max-width: 767px) { #block-1694873532692 { text-align: left; } } #block-1577982541036_0 .btn { margin-top: 1rem; } /* flush setting */ /* margin settings */ #block-1698913035794 { margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; } #block-1698913035794 .block { /* border settings */ border: 4px black; border-radius: 0px; /* background color */ /* default padding for mobile */ padding: 0px; /* mobile padding overrides */ padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; } @media (min-width: 768px) { /* desktop margin settings */ #block-1698913035794 { margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; } #block-1698913035794 .block { /* default padding for desktop */ /* desktop padding overrides */ padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; } } /* mobile text align */ @media (max-width: 767px) { #block-1698913035794 { text-align: center; } } #block-1698913035794 .btn, [data-slick-id="1698913035794"] .block .btn { color: #ffffff; border-color: #68d3d7; border-radius: 0px; background-color: #68d3d7; } #block-1698913035794 .btn--outline, [data-slick-id="1698913035794"] .block .btn--outline { background: transparent; color: #68d3d7; }

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