Today I have a special treat for you!  An interview with popular fashion illustrator Holly Nichols!  Holly has been in the fashion illustration business just a short while and already has a fantastic career ahead of her.  Her art is gorgeous with a work ethic and attitude to get things done.  She is a true business darling!

Holly Nichols on Fashion Illustration Business

Tell us about you and your business.

Hello! My name is Holly! I operate my business under the name “H. Nichols Illustration“. I’m a fashion illustrator and Etsy shop owner. I sell my prints, originals, and cards on the site, as well as out of my studio and attached storefront. I specialize, however, in fashion illustrations used for creative branding with clients and brands all over the world.
Holly Nichols on Fashion Illustration Businessheadshot by Shannon Michelle Photography

When did you realize this was something you could do for a living?

I had the realization that I could illustrate for a living while I was working my full-time job. I was working as a paraprofessional in a special needs classroom. I would answer all my emails regarding my illustration work during lunch break, or while the kids were at recess, then I’d come home at night (after commuting 2 hours each day) and start my freelance work around 7. It got to be far too much having both on my plate, and I realized I was making more money doing what I loved than doing what I was doing solely to “get by”. I made the leap, and so far, it is proving to be not only a wise decision, but one that has made me extremely happy.

What did you want to do for a living before you found your current path?

Before I started illustrating full time, I wanted to be an art educator. I taught art classes to children ages 4-14 for several years prior to this. I really enjoy seeing creative exploration in children. This summer, I introduced fashion illustration to the same group of kids and they were SO enthusiastic about it. It was great to see. I hope to be able to find ways to merge my love of teaching and fashion illustration again in the future.

Holly Nichols on Fashion Illustration Business
If you had to go back to your younger self and give one bit of career advice, what would it be?

If I could give my younger self career advice, I would tell myself to realize what you had sitting in your lap. I had no idea what I had was a “business” until I became overwhelmed with two jobs. I wish I had jumped right into this right after I graduated college (which by the way wasn’t too long ago ;) ).

What’s your favorite business book and why do you love it?

Hmm… I certainly love #GIRLBOSS like any other 20-something entreprenista, but Art, Inc. by Lisa Congdon has served as a really great tool creatively and professionally for me. It covers anything you’d need to know starting a career as a professional artist.

Was there anyone who really helped or continues to help motivate you in your business and goals?

Oh my…I’ve had so many people that have helped and motivated me with my business. First and foremost have been my parents. It definitely takes patient and understanding people to let their daughter go to art school then graduate with not-so-clear career decisions. Next are the countless number of (mostly) female entrepreneurs who are also going through the same ups and downs I am. Illustrator Monica Lee, (also founder and host of Smart Creative Women!) has helped me immensely as a guiding light in my specific industry. I also am motivated, as many others are, by my own goals. Nothing can really beat setting a goal, achieving it, then going for the next one.

What’s the best piece of advice you have ever received?

That no detail is ever too small.
Holly Nichols on Fashion Illustration Business

Who and what inspires you?

As mentioned before, I’m extremely inspired by other female entrepreneurs. I’m also heavily inspired by the weather and my environment. A lot of my illustrations give off seasonal vibes.

What tips would you give someone starting out in your field now?

Draw every day! Draw whenever you find yourself not doing anything. Remember that the photos of your work reflect the quality of your work, so when photographing your art (even if it’s just to post quickly on Instagram) make sure the quality and lighting are good.

What have you done that made your business stand out?

Hmm… that’s a tricky one. I’ve tried, and hopefully others agree, to create sketches that reflect a variety of personalities and styles. While I love sketching couture, not everyone can relate to it. So i’ve tried to sketch illustrations like “Catherine” for example, that reflect the everyday girl (because I’m certainly not walking around in couture either!). “Catherine” is actually part of a collection I sketched inspired by my real-life best friends.

Holly Nichols on Fashion Illustration and Business
What’s a typical day look like for your business?

I’m sure we’ve all heard it but my business day is really from the second I open my eyes until the second I close them! I wake up, check my email and social media, get ready and head out the door to my studio, which is about 15 minutes from my home. While in studio, I fill all my Etsy orders from the night before, get those out the door, then start sketching commissions or new ideas for prints. At the end of my studio day, I pack up, head home, and spend some time with family while working off my laptop. I find solace in listening to podcasts on my ride home (hello Serial fans!).

What social media platforms have been the most useful to your business?

Definitely Instagram. It truly is the reason why I was able to start the business entirely. I really hit a great combination of audiences because there is a high rate of artist users as well as users interested in fashion. I cater to both, so I’m lucky in the sense that my account serves both crowds.

What networking events, retreats, or in person workshops do you recommend?

Any you can go to! I’ve been pretty awful about attending networking events recently because I’ve been pretty busy, but they’re really a great way to connect with like-minded, creative, people.

Tell us everywhere we can find you online and about any new projects you’re working on!

I can’t announce it just yet but I have some really fun things to share on my Instagram (@hnicholsillustration) and blog (, about my upcoming trip to New York! ;)


Be sure to share this post to inspire your artistic friends.  Let us know in the comments your biggest take away from Holly’s story and be sure to follow her on Instagram, check out her Etsy Shop, and Website!  Want your business featured in an upcoming post?  For more info go here.

xo, Kat