How I went from self-taught doodler to Google illustrator in my twenties

Alex Mathers
2 min readMay 28


Pete, my office manager, cackled on the phone to one of our clients.

The vein on my neck throbbed harder.

‘I’m never working in an office again,’ I thought.

In my early twenties, I worked in an office as a property magazine researcher.

I knew that life wasn’t for me.

I just felt restricted and needed more of a sense of autonomy and creative expression.

I had been developing a portfolio of designs online for a few months, hustling on the side, looking to make online income from selling my designs.

All self-taught. All from lessons I learned on YouTube.

I made a few hundred bucks a month from that.

Soon after, I landed my first illustration client on Elance — with The Singapore Business Times newspaper.

That was all the validation I needed to ditch the job and go it alone.

So, at 24 years old, I did.

I’m now 38. I haven’t worked in an office since.

I’ve been making money with my skills on the Internet for 15 years.

No sane person would have suggested I go fully freelance without 6 months worth of savings.

I had more like 6 days.

But the yearning to break free was that strong.

I was forced to figure it all out as I went along.

No boss. No colleagues. Not even my family really understood what I was doing

The journey was not smooth by any means. I had many months where I was close to the red line and had to get creative about making money.

I had anxiety and avoided talking to clients.

Four years later, I was working for clients like the BBC, Wired Magazine, and Mars.

Google even asked to work with me.

And so I did.

Today, I don’t do much design work.

I teach what I know, but the same life philosophy that served me in those earlier years serves me today.



Alex Mathers

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