Top Teacher Nic Squirrell on Turning Her Side Hustle Into Her Main Source of Income

Nic Squirrell, one of Skillshare’s Top Teachers, recently left her full-time job as an optician to focus on her career as an illustrator, surface pattern designer, and Skillshare Teacher. Read on to learn how she turned her side hustle into her main source of income.

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Tell us a bit about yourself!

I live in a small village in Kent, in the southeast of England, surrounded by orchards, woodland and beautiful countryside. I’m an artist, illustrator and surface pattern designer. I license my work on all sorts of things from greetings cards to cutting files and suitcases. I sell my work on print on demand sites, and I teach on Skillshare.

Walk us through your career progression.

I originally qualified as an optician, and have worked as one for many years alongside building up my art business.  When my daughter was small, I went back to art college and studied Creative Visual Arts & 3D Design, which I absolutely loved. I’m currently working on adding new art to my POD sites, catching up on my long to-do list, and of course I’ve got lots of new Skillshare classes on the go!

How did you get started teaching on Skillshare? What role does teaching on Skillshare play with regard to your career?

My good friend [and fellow Skillshare Teacher] Ohn Mar Win made me do it!  It was a steep learning curve to start with, as I’m ashamed to say I had never even made a video before.  But there is so much information and support on Skillshare to get you started, and joining the 30 Day Teaching Challenge is a brilliant motivator.  The more classes you publish, the easier it gets.

[Teaching on] Skillshare is a significant part of my business, and very rewarding. I love sharing the things I have learned, and it really makes my day when someone has enjoyed my classes and found them helpful.
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How did you make the decision to leave your job and pursue your freelance career?

I started my business as a way to make a bit of extra pocket money from my passion. As new opportunities and income streams became available, I gradually scaled down my days at work and put more time into my art career. I have now got to the stage where I don’t have enough time to do all the things I need to expand my business, so the time is right to concentrate on doing what I love best full time.

What advice would you offer to someone who is also thinking of leaving their full-time job?

Unless you’re in the lucky position of not needing an income, start your business as a side hustle. Take time to experiment and see what works best for you. As it expands, see if you can negotiate with your boss to work part time. It’s much easier to feel confident about your business when you know for sure you can live on what you make.

With all the opportunities available now, you don’t have to do just one thing as a career. You can mix and match. You can do a number of different jobs at the same time, even if they are unrelated. Teaching on Skillshare is a really good way of adding to your repertoire, and can be fitted in around what you already do.  I really believe that life is what you make it.