Nick Navatta is a San Diego Graphic Recorder, Illustrator, Storyboard Artist, and Content Creator helping businesses connect to clients in ways that STICK.
Are you curious about how to get into graphic recording and start getting paid to do it?
I was at a Tedx event in Nashville, TN when I first found out about the field of graphic recording.
At that time, I saw this guy drawing what looked like cartoons of the main points of each speaker. I thought to myself ‘I want to do that!’.
Up until that time, I had mostly created art for arts sake. To see art used as a communication tool opened me up to new possibilities to help people move forward and accomplish their objectives.
One year after I attended that TedX event, I was working with the same guy I saw graphic recording on stage (Peter Durand of Alphachimp Studio). And I was getting paid for it.
But when I started out, I wasn’t sure how to go about breaking into the field. All I had was my desire.
Where To Start When You Want To Start Getting Paid As A Graphic Recorder
You may be at the point where you’ve discovered this field and need some forward momentum to move toward becoming a professional graphic recorder.
At the time I discovered graphic recording, I was in a full-blown identity and career crisis. I had spent about 5 years studying art in San Diego, CA and had moved back across the country to live in my hometown of Nashville, TN. The idea of making it as a painter for was not in the cards at that point. I realized it was going to be a hill to big for where I was at in my immediate circumstance.
Graphic recording was a field that seemed to satisfy my urge to create, to help others, and create the kind of lifestyle I wanted.
So what did I do to get started?
I started with setting out to build a support structure that would ensure I would be paid to be a graphic recorder. I started with committing to breaking into the field and doing whatever it took.
If you want to sculpt your physical body, you would have a diet plan in place, an exercise regimen, and if really serious, a trainer.
This is the kind of approach you will need to break into the graphic recording field and start getting paid.
Start with committing to doing whatever it takes to get paid. And go a step further and ‘pre-commit’. That means that you set up conditions that make it inevitable that you will eventually be paid for your service.
There are 3 things I would say are ‘must haves’ to ‘pre-commit’ too so you can propel you to the point where you are a paid graphic recorder.
3 Things You Can Do To Prepare And Make Sure You Get Paid As A Graphic Recorder
When I started out as a budding graphic recorder, I put structures in place that made it close to inevitable that I was going to keep moving forward, build my desire, and get paid. Here are 3 things that I focused on and can suggest.
1. Get Support, Don’t Isolate.
I can’t stress this enough: DON’T ISOLATE. It’s just not smart.
I would suggest throwing out any romantic ideas of this being something you can do a a ‘lone wolf’. Why? Because you will get better and quicker results in a more enjoyable way.
Having ongoing support speeds up what is possible for you. Isolating slows you down – a lot.
A few things you can do are:
•Ask a Close Friend For Accountability.
The most simple place to start is to ask someone you know, someone who is close to you and you’ve already a built a rapport with, to check in with on a daily or weekly basis.
It can be as simple as creating an agreement to text this person what you are going to be doing to move forward each day. It can be a small action.
Accountability is about getting the momentum you can’t yet create on your own. You can offer accountability to the person who is checking in with you to get them onboard to help you.
If this works for you and you want to take it to the next level or if this approach doesn’t get you going, you may want to…
•Start Or Join An Accountability Group.
When I got started in this field, I was hungry for more. The more you want it, the more support will help and feed you.
Two people is great. But three? It’s greater.
You’ve heard the saying ‘three’s company’, right? It is. That is the point that you have a group and the group dynamic can fuel you.
When I was looking for work in this field, I started an accountability group with a friend. It was a men’s group with a focus on challenge.
We would have a weekly topic around major areas of our lives, talk about our relationship to that topic, and set a challenge. Every two weeks, we would check in and see how we did on our challenge. Several people in the group were able to jump start some major momentum in this group.
Here is an article by Ellen Bard on how to set up an accountability group and get results. Use a group like this to get a good start as a graphic recorder.
If you want to get really serious, I would suggest that you…
•Hire A Coach.
Hiring a personal coach would be on the high-end of commitment. They aren’t cheap. They can range from anywhere to 250-1000 or more a month, depending on the coach you choose. Do your research if you go this route so you know what you are paying for.
If you’d like to go this route but don’t want to spend a lot, you may want to check out the app, Coach Me. You can find coaches here that will help you focus on a specific area for a great price. Finding something like a productivity coach could net you some insights and practices that could go a long way to moving you forward.
For me, I hired a coach to keep me accountable to do the things that didn’t occur to me, for insight, and for helping me build my fire and hunger. My coach helped me become a stronger graphic recorder.
As part of your support, you will definitely want to support yourself on the skills side. Next up is…
2. Develop A Solid Graphic Recording Practice Regimen
Getting your drawing and penmanship skills up to snuff is THE place to start so you can actually do the work when you land your first gig.
The first thing to focus on is making sure that your note-taking is readable. Second, you’ll need just enough (not a lot to start) drawing and design skills to make the presentations visually appealing.
Focus on the basics and don’t get into the fancy stuff to start. Here are a few things you do and check out.
When I began practicing graphic recording, I acted like I was learning to print my letters for the first time. My first tip is to SLOW DOWN – and practice making your letters look how you’d like them to look if you were a reader of the text.
I would pick up a surface from Writeyboard and just practice your penmanship with dry-erase markers. You can consciously practice whether you are journaling and using a pen or pencil too. It will translate to your work with markers.
Find a book or website that resonates you when it comes to improving penmanship and roll with it.
•Listen to Your Favorite Podcasts and Videos.
TedTalks are great resources for practicing as a graphic recorder. The good thing about practicing like this is these talk are pretty dense. Only in meetings where there is a lot of information will you scribe at this pace, so it’s good training.
One graphic recording company in the UK, Scriberia, offers a graphic recording test on their web page. They give you a 12-minute Ted Talk and some challenge parameters to test your chops against.
Also, choose your favorite podcasts to listen to. Make this fun and easy for yourself.
There are great sites like Dafont where you can find new fonts. Just Google ‘fonts’ and you will be exposed to quite a few.
Pick up design books for more ideas and if you want a style with a bit more flair, check out some grafitti books.
Choose a font you like, write it out by hand, and then use that font in your next practice session. Take action on what you learn as soon as you can to integrate the muscle-memory quicker.
There are a lot of books from a lot of sources when it comes to cartooning. When I first began, I was recommended books by Ed Emberley for understanding some simple ways to begin drawing for graphic recording.
These books are great because the drawings are simple, they look great, and he shows you how to build these drawings very simply. It’s a great resource to begin building your visual vocabulary.
I would do that or..
•Do Master Copies.
When I went to art school, we had a master’s class where we would copy a famous drawing or painting to learn the calligraphy and strokes of the artist. You can do this with samples of graphic recording too.
Google graphic recording and see what images pop up under Google Images.
Or-if you prefer, find an illustrator or a cartoonist’s work you like and copy it. It will slowly begin to inform how you make marks with your penmanship and drawing.
And then next, make sure to…
3. Connect to Others In The Graphic Recording Field And Be Bold
All of the opportunities you come into as a graphic recorder are going to be because of a relationship you have. Whether you’re working for a company or building your own practice, relationships are going to be your currency.
When it comes to getting paid in the field of graphic recording, it pays to be connected to those who are already doing what you want to be doing.
A few things I do and have done are below.
•Email Other Graphic Recorders To Learn.
I usually reach out to people who I want to learn something from. And in reality, I can learn a lot from everyone. So if we have something in common and I can learn from you, I’m going to want to explore what is possible if we connect. There may be something there, there may not, but it’s always worth a shot.
So in order to do that-you need to talk to that person! Connect with them and ask them questions.
If you have a relationship with this person, there can be a give and take between the two of you. You can’t give someone something of real value until you know what would really serve them. And when people know what would serve you, they can give to you.
You can also use LinkedIn. Here is my profile. Add me and we can exchange some ideas.
•Take Courses, Read Books, Join Organizations
This is another way to meet people in the graphic recording field and study under people who have developed businesses in this field. One piece of great advice applied can really help you develop.
One course I can recommend is Become A Rockstar Scribe with Alphachimp Studio. I helped co-create the course and you will see some of my animations and ideas in the course. You will even see a young Nick in one of the videos! It’s a good course to get your feet wet if you are a beginner and feeling intimidated by this field. I don’t know about the online community, but the course claims to have one.
I haven’t taken her courses yet, but I’ve been told Christina Merkeley offers some great courses for beginners and veterans alike.
Lastly, join the International Forum of Visual Practitioners, or the IFVP, to be exposed to a wide-ranging network of people in this field.
The idea is to gather where people gather, build relationships, and then if you’re feeling brave, work those relationships.
That is where the next suggestion comes in.
•Be Bold And Ask For What You Want
Ok, so you’ve got the skills, you’ve started to build relationships, and you have support.
Hopefully that support is goading you on to take some risks. But if not, this is the suggestion that will help you the most.
There will come a point where you will have to ask for something – a meeting, a referral, a sale, or even a job – in order to create what you want. There will be a time when you will need to be vulnerable and set yourself up to receive a YES or a NO.
This is how you create paid work.
It can be one big action or a series of small actions, but the idea is to ask for what you want. And to be willing to do what you need to do to create the outcome you want.
When I got my first job at a graphic recording company, I emailed them. I told them that I would be willing to work for free to learn the skills. I was hungry. They gave me a test job (which they paid me for) and then hired me. I went from having ZERO experience in this field to getting paid to learn on the job. It was an exciting time.
But none of it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t proposed or asked for something. I had to be bold.
And you will too to start. It’s the act of getting out of your comfort zone. And as you’ve probably heard, everything you want is usually outside of it!
Thank you for reading,