Womenize! Wednesday Weekly is our weekly series featuring inspirational women from games and tech. For this edition we talked to Sandra Süsser, independent freelance artist and life-loving book author. Read more about Sandra in this interview:
Hi Sandra! You have just recently published a book called Magie der Gewohnheit (Magic of Habits). How did you choose this topic specifically – and would you like to give us a little preview as to why habits are important?

Most people probably associate habits or routines with monotony, “being trapped” and boredom – exactly what we as creative people want to avoid. However, at first, routines are neutral. They are almost automatically occurring ways of thinking and behaving, which is how our brain tries to save mental energy. This is the only way we can deal with so many things at once or one after the other. According to a study, these habits make up at least 50% of all our daily actions. That means we are in autopilot mode half the day. It starts with little things like when and how you wake up (example: Do you press snooze or not?), how healthy you are (example: Do you do sports? What do you eat?), how well you work (example: Are you productive and concentrated or do you constantly look at your smartphone?) and so on.

But your identity is also determined by habits. For example, not only do you smoke (if you do), you ARE a smoker. All areas of life are determined by these mechanisms. So everybody, absolutely everybody, has habits and routines. Therefore the following rule applies: If you do not consciously determine your routines, they will determine you. In the latter case, you then become a slave to your bad habits. A good example of this and also the reason why everybody (creative people) should deal with it, is my own story:

Structure and healthy habits are things that I myself as a creative person have missed out on extremely. The result? When I was no longer in control of my habits (actions & thought patterns), I was no longer in control of myself and my life. I was struggling with severe depression and was about to end my life. Only when I recognized and changed my destructive habits, the rest of my life changed as well. Only through this did I manage to turn my life around 180 degrees. I evolved from an unfocused design student to a successful freelance artist, from a sports grouch to a daily training sports enthusiast; from a pessimist to a practicing optimist; from a whining victim to a realizing doer; from a doubting anxious person to someone, who faces life, despite doubts and fears and from an insecure and depressive suicide candidate to a life-lover. Finally, I wanted others to achieve similar results, not to feel the way I had and see what a massive impact habits can have. That’s why in my book “Magic of Habit” I have finally collected all my experience and accumulated knowledge from all these years and developed a system of three simple steps to help other creative people achieve their personal success – from one creative for creative people.

Many fellow artists share the dream of working independently. What challenges did you have to face along the way and do you have advice for others on how to get started with pursuing self-employment?

The funny thing: I actually didn’t want to become a full-time freelancer in the beginning. I started freelancing on the side, during my studies in 2018. Last October however, I was faced with sexual harassment at my job as a game artist, which made me leave it. At this point, I had to decide whether to search for a new corporate job or to pursue an independent working lifestyle. I decided to take the leap and it’s been a wild ride ever since. I had to deal with problems and challenges of all kinds: how to get my first clients and jobs, how to structure my finances, the problem with my ex-employer, unreliable accountants, expensive hardware failures, printing companies that failed me in many ways (which lead to the delay in the publishing process of my book), harsh critique, now Covid-19 and much more. Still, these and other challenges helped me to grow a lot as an artist and person.

My top advice for others on how to get started with pursuing self-employment would be this: Actually, don’t jump right into it head first. Dip your toes into the water on the side. Obtain contacts and first jobs until you get a reliable income on the side. I was lucky to find a somewhat steady paying collaboration very early on. But if you don’t have any contacts to begin with and no experience in the real world, it won’t work. Spare yourself the grief and the stress. If you need more tips, I have actually written a three-part blog post series (in German), where I dive into this topic in more detail and show artists step by step how they can successfully become self-employed.

Are there significant differences between creating designs and artwork for games versus the non-gaming industry?

Of course! First of all, I mostly do designs for board games and serious games nowadays, since I want to bring joy to people, bring them together or help them grow as a person. In general, my illustrations for the games industry are therefore much more cartoony, colorful, fantasy inspired and just more free spirited than the other designs and artworks I do. I can really show off my drawing skills as well. Clients outside of this area usually want a more „serious and clean“ look to their graphics and have a higher focus on typography and graphic design. Also, there is a much wider range of skills and knowledge I need to have designing games, since I often design whole game sets or very specific parts. I need to know how to design UI elements, characters, environments, props, rule books, logos & icons, creatures, boards, miniatures, playing material etc. – both in 2D and 3D and game design as well. With board games, there is also a bigger challenge of designing things for print specifically and games often have very peculiar parts. This makes the whole thing very demanding but also highly satisfying at the same time: There is always so much left to learn.

Thank you for your time, Sandra!

Sandra’s Links: Sandra’s Website & Blog | Sandra’s Portfolio | Sandra’s Instagram | Sandra’s Youtube Channel

WWW Feature by Sophie Brügmann