When you have nothing, you have everything.

I had no idea how to make a living with my creative thoughts or ideas. Coming from the banking industry, I was unsure whether my skills would be sufficient enough to enter the creative “world”, which was filled with successful and highly educated artists.

But sometimes when your life situation changes for the worse, you either throw in the towel OR you face it–and make the best out of it. At rock bottom, and with a strong backing of my kids, I decided to take the challenge and it turned out to be the right decision.

Editor’s note: Society6 artist Monika Strigel created an art business from scratch in 2012 when her family was dealt a very difficult hand. Details are being withheld for privacy, but she was thrust into being the sole breadwinner for her family while simultaneously unable to leave her home–a challenging problem to solve. Years later, she looks at her success story with pride. Aside from being a customer-loved artist on Society6, her work can be found in Anthropologie, Macy’s, Bloomingdales, Urban Outfitters, Desenio, Target and many more worldwide.


Monika working in her home studio in München, Germany.


Here’s how I “made it”…


1. Start with what you have (and be resilient)

Once I decided to make use of my talents and become an artist/designer, I faced another hurdle. I literally started with ZERO professional equipment, except for the ideas in my head. But then I thought to myself, “It’s not all the costly tools that make you a real, creative professional, it’s your own talent”. So, I grabbed my old camera, and with some initial ideas in my head, I simply let go and started shooting whatever I could.


2. Use your skills, no matter what your profession is

At this point, I need to say that my formal education as a banking manager did help me a lot. I knew that proper market research was mandatory, especially in a fast moving creative business. Just creating another artwork of a dog, cat or puppy will not generate the response you might be looking for. Always be aware of the audience you are aiming for and what the current market trends are.

You can create another cute artwork with kittens or unicorns, but make it stand out from all the millions of pieces already existing out there. Make it unique according to your artistic style. I never intended to reinvent the wheel. I do find on and offline inspirations, but I always create in my own style.

Monika Strigel on Instagram.


3. Work hard and believe in long-run success

Success will not come overnight. It will be the sum of all the tiny little steps you need to undertake–all the ups and downs you will face on your way to success. One thing I can say is that all the nights of brainwork paid off, and still do.

In 2013, my “GIRAFFE” artwork was my first hot selling design. I did my homework, researched trending themes, and what shoppers of my target group would love to buy. The giraffe I created was made to fit best for phone cases, but it also made for a great throw pillow. With the success of this design, for the first time, I knew I did everything right. The exposure was huge!

Your first “success” will justify all the efforts and headaches you’ve gone through.


GIRAFFE by Monika Strigel


4. It’s about getting the education, not having it

The most important advice I can give to anybody interested in getting their creative business going is this: Don’t think about what you cannot do just because you don’t have the right education. Rather, believe in the skills and talents you’ve been given by nature. Stay confident and believe in your personal goals!

The ideas for projects and designs are all in my head so the most interesting part for me is how to get there. Google is your best friend and when it comes to artsy skills, YouTube and Skillshare will help you a lot. Download free apps for photography and design. Use them daily, try all the buttons, try all the filters, and see what happens. Then decide if this is what you need to create the artwork that is in your head.

Whenever I look back, thinking of all the achievements since starting a new life, I come to a few mental milestones that helped me get to the point I am at today:

Be confident. Believe in your talents, regardless your previous education.

Be unique. Take the ideas and shape it according to your own style.

Be patient. Success will take it´s time, but it will come if you stay tuned.

Be wise. Try to make use of your skills of your “former” life.

Be thankful. Even with the smallest sales you generate.

Be supportive. Provide and share your experience to artist friends and offer your help.

"Summer Mermaid" beach towel

"Summer Mermaid" beach towel

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” – Henry Ford


You can learn more about Monika through her Society6 shop or Instagram account.

Photos of Monika by Peter Rothnie

Ben Renschen



Formerly: Artist Development Manager at Society6