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How Nicky Laatz Designed Her Way to One Million Dollars

Marc Schenker March 31, 2021 · 8 min read
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Nicky Laatz is the most successful graphic designer and shop on Creative Market. She’s the first to reach the lofty milestone that everyone else is arguably also striving for: surpassing $1 million USD in sales. How did she do it? This entrepreneur/stay-at-home mom runs her successful business from her Cape Town home in South Africa. Over the years, she’s perfected the art and science of not only designing wonderfully creative products that people want to buy, but also marketing them in a savvy way to increase their appeal and increase her revenues. So what are Nicky’s secrets for success? We recently caught up with her to learn more. In this piece, we’ll look at some of the inspiring tips and tools that empowered her to:
  • Create desirable market trends
  • Set the standard for product marketing
  • Establish her unique niche within a competitive market
  • Regularly create new products to maintain her momentum
  • Tie all that together to build the first million-dollar Creative Market shop

Take Charge of Your Brand With Memorable Work and Products

Having an identifiable personal brand is important to success, but Nicky points out that it’s not absolutely crucial to make or break somebody’s artistic career. While having a personal brand is definitely useful because it helps people to remember your work and build loyalty, it’s not the end of the world if you don’t have one immediately. Still, according to Bop Design, 45% of a brand’s image can be attributed to what it says and how it says it. So if you do eventually develop your own brand, it’s of the utmost importance to deliver to your customers what they expect and deliver on that promise. “I think an identifiable personal brand certainly helps people remember you and your work, but I don’t believe it will make or break you as an artist in the long run. If your quality shows through, your ‘brand’ develops itself without you trying. To get a good head start though, having a branded look that reflects your work is very beneficial in forging ahead,” she says.
When it comes to branding, she recommends the following:
  • You can inadvertently create your own brand simply by the excellent work you create and show.
  • Create momentum around trends. In Nicky’s case, her script-style fonts have come to influence Creative Market’s Popular page though she didn’t consciously try to start that trend! However, momentum was created around that developing trend, so Nicky went with it, and it took off.
  • Make time to create the items that you as a designer truly enjoy. While creating popular products is well and good, artists need to balance the two.
nicky-latz-open-a-shop

Awesome Product Images Go a Long Way

Screenshots are absolutely crucial to successful marketing! Using images in general to sell products online is a winning formula: According to an Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition 2012 report, 75% of consumers list the quality of a product’s image as the most important factor in a buying decision. Nicky says, “It’s half the job of making your item sell. Even the most experienced designers need shop owners to help them see how the product can be used.” She approaches the process of getting awesome screenshots in an insightful way. Here’s her results-oriented process:
  • First, you create your product.
  • Second, you imagine how you can use that product (In other words…for which media or end-products would it be best suited?).
  • Finally, you should put TLC (tender loving care) into your creations to come up with some examples of how their screenshots will look.
In spite of Nicky’s marketing success, though, she’s wary not to fall into the trap of always trying to please everyone all the time. In her experience, it’s the fastest way to lose one’s passion for design—and no designer wants that! She says, “I always like to think there are no true mistakes in terms of how you showcase your product, as long as you’re having fun and you’re happy with what you make. Of course, not every single product will appeal to the masses, but there will still be plenty of other people who appreciate your finished product just as much as you do. That’s important to remember, because that is how you keep loving what you do. If you keep trying to please 100% of the people, you will run out of design mojo very very quickly.”

Research the Market so You Understand Your Competitors

If you’ve ever felt embarrassed or awkward about keeping tabs on your competition in the marketplace, then stop. In Nicky’s experience, it’s a great source of inspiration to find new ideas, find out what people want to use and buy, and even learn about other designers.
She suggests doing the following to understand your competition:
  • Browse the homepage of creative marketplaces like Creative Market to stay informed about what people are interested in
  • Browse additional category pages to get an even deeper sense of what’s popular
  • Draw inspiration from demand the marketplace isn’t currently meeting
Looking at the market also provides opportunities to create new products or styles that are in demand, but currently aren’t being made. “If I see a need for something that’s hard to find, and it’s the kind of style I love making/looking at, I’ll jump in and it will be a joy to make (even more so knowing it will be needed),” she says.

Never Stop Learning

Amazingly, for all her success, Nicky is a self-taught graphic designer. This makes the point that you don’t necessarily need an expensive, formal education in design to be extremely successful as an entrepreneur. Nicky’s been constantly learning her craft for the last two decades. She asserts, “I’m a self taught designer and still learning. It’s been a 19-year-home-school experience, and I love every new exciting thing I figure out how to do!”
To perfect one’s craft, one has to be receptive to inspiration, too. Luckily for her, she sees inspiration everywhere…literally. Here’s what she does and what you can do, too:
  • Take in all sorts of info about color palettes, shapes and pretty stuff that you see in your daily life.
  • Retain this info (It should be automatic if your design passion is high).
  • Use all of this inspiring, visual info as a creativity catalyst when you’re throwing yourself into a design project.
Nicky’s approach is learning as she goes, but she’s open to taking some online courses in the future (if time allows, of course!). “I tend to learn on an as-needed basis, inevitably finding the solution/tutorial/video to the particular thing I want to do in the moment,” she confirms.

Running Your Shop Like a Business

You don’t have to do everything yourself if you’re an entrepreneur. You can delegate tasks to others that aren’t your strong suit. This can be people in your network, professionals or others who are trustworthy. Some creatives just need to be able to separate business from the enjoyment they get from creating. In Nicky’s case, she’s able to focus on the creative and design side of things, which are her strengths, because her kind husband handles the financial and tax side of the business. “Yes, my husband has kindly taken on the financial/tax end of the business,” says Nicky, “which has been a god-send. It has allowed me to just do what I love doing: be creative.”
Nicky has these pointers for designers running the business aspect of their careers:
  • Don’t think you have to delegate everything. Nicky doesn’t delegate her artwork, design or production to anyone, feeling most confident when she does everything herself.
  • Balance both the design and business side of things for maximum success.
  • Don’t be afraid of relying on only the basics like your email inbox and messages (which you should check regularly to stay on top of client communication). Task managers and productivity tools may help, but they’re not always necessary.
Check out this video, where Nicky explains how and why she decided to get started as an entrepreneur:

Be Disciplined and Always Launch New Products

Nicky is always making new things. Let’s not forget that she’s a creative, first and foremost. However, having a disciplined work ethic is essential to making a good living, which has taken her far in her career. Here’s what Nicky advises with regard to creative output:
  • Have at least one new product finished and launched in any given month. You can always be making products, but it’s imperative to actually launch them regularly.
  • Keep up a steady rhythm of new products that you launch.
Don’t think that customers will just keep coming back; if they keep visiting your store and see you haven’t made anything in a while, they won’t return they’re less likely to return.
Nicky declares, “It’s good to keep things rolling and fresh in order to keep your customers coming back to see what you’ve made next. If customers keep coming back and they see you haven’t made anything in a while, they’ll stop coming.” If you’ve been as inspired by Nicky’s philosophy and story as we’ve been, then open your own shop today, and experience firsthand how rewarding being a successful entrepreneur can be! nicky-latz-open-a-shop
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About the Author
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Marc Schenker

Marc is a copywriter and marketer who runs The Glorious Company, a marketing agency. An expert in business and marketing, he helps businesses and companies of all sizes get the most bang for their ad bucks.

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65 Comments
  • That's incredible @Nickylaatz Congratulations! 6 years ago
  • What an inspiring story @Nickylaatz ! I think I got teared up too watching the interview / story video. I'm always blown away by how you keep releasing such awesome products so often! I seriously think you must kern fonts 18 hours a day ;) (What's your secret???) In any case, keep lettering, keep painting, keep designing, and keep kerning! I absolutely love your work and always look forward to see what you're going to release next. (Your screenshots are always my favorite!) A huge congratulations on your success, and here's to the next million! 6 years ago
  • congratulations nicky, you're amazing!! 6 years ago
  • Congratulations! Incredible milestone! 6 years ago
  • Congratulation on your million dollar milestone :-) 6 years ago
  • Congratulations on the success Nicky! Can't wait to see what you have coming in the years to come. :) 6 years ago
  • So inspiring to see a South African, (from PE nogal) making such a success out of this. Your screenshots always catch my eye! You've obviously focused and worked really hard to get here. Thank you - you've inspired me to keep at it! Congratulations and enjoy the glory! 6 years ago
  • Congratulations Nicky!! I love love love your work! 6 years ago
  • @Christopher King [@Carol Gonçalves](user:913665) @Design Something @Mukhlasur Rahman Gosh guys, thank you so much!:) I'm so humbled by the folk here at Creative Market. @Beth Rufener Thank you so much...I'm afraid this has got me all in waterworks again :) LOL - I have had my kerning-zombie days, but so worth every moment in the end :) LOVE your lettering Beth - always ogling at it on Instagram and pinning it on my inspiration boards :) xx 6 years ago
  • @Matt Borchert Gosh, thank you SO much Matt! :) [@Karené Wedekind](user:1094794) Thanks so much Karené, so awesome of you ! :) 6 years ago
  • Congratulations @Nickylaatz ... you are an a-maazing inspiration!!! ~xox 6 years ago
  • Congratulations @Nickylaatz ! I love your work and I'm so happy for you. You are such an inspiration! 6 years ago
  • Congrats @Nickylaatz! What an amazing story. Keep up the great work. 6 years ago
  • Beyond thrilled for you @Nickylaatz you are 1 in a million. Congratulations! 6 years ago
  • @kelleyjohnson @aaronepstein @secondfret I don't know how to put into words how awesome it was meeting you lot earlier this year :) I'd like to say a HUGE HUGE thank you to each and every staff member at Creative Market, for grafting like they do, caffeine-fuelled, behind the scenes, making everything work so seamlessly and effortlessly on the outside for all of us :) I'm still so amazed by this heavenly machine called Creative Market every day. Thank YOU! 6 years ago
  • Congrats @Nickylaatz you are awesome 6 years ago
  • Wow! congratulations @Nickylaatz! 6 years ago
  • Congratulations Nicky !!! I love your font :) 6 years ago
  • Gahhhh 😍 I'm so excited to see this being shared with the whole community! @Nickylaatz you've already been such a HUGE inspiration to thousands of designers around the world. This milestone just helps amplify the amazing work you've been doing all along. We're all so incredibly thrilled for you Nicky! Thank you for being willing to share your talents with the design community, it's a gift you should be thanked for a million times over. 6 years ago
  • Huge congratulations @Nickylaatz! You are an absolute inspiration to us all and completely deserve all the credit you get :) 6 years ago
  • I'm pretty much saying this on every page right now. CONGRATS @Nickylaatz! Every time I tell people what I do for a living, I share your story. Every, single, time. Our talented and hardworking shops are the number one reason I love working at Creative Market. You're an inspiration to us all! 6 years ago
  • Oh my goodness...congratulations, @Nickylaatz! I have more than a few of your products in my own catalog of design tools :-) I am simultaneously proud of you and jealous as well! Talk about goals! 6 years ago
  • Your passion and energy are so contagious! We're thrilled to celebrate this milestone with you @Nickylaatz ❤ 6 years ago
  • Congratulations @Nickylaatz!!! It is so awesome and inspiring!))) 6 years ago
  • @Nickylaatz congratulations! Such an inspiring story, I really liked the interview video on hitting a million. Keep up the great work. 6 years ago
  • @Nickylaatz Congrats on your success! Creative Market wouldn't be what it is today without your creative contributions. 6 years ago
  • Congratulations @Nickylaatz your work and the story is very inspiring! 6 years ago
  • Congratulations @Nickylaatz! It's amazing! 6 years ago
  • Anonymous
    Congrats @Nickylaatz!! I'm sharing this story with every creative I know. I hope you never stop doing what you love. 6 years ago
  • @Sam Parrett Thank Sam :) I so appreciate that!! @Josh Johnson The appreciation goes both ways, 200%! You.guys.rock. :) 6 years ago
  • @Lizzy Martin Never, ever! Thanks Lizzie! @Gerren Lamson Ditto!! I'm so appreciative of you guys :) xx 6 years ago
  • Just a repost on a previous post I just made in the discussion forums, as it fits here too :) I just want to say a thank you to all the folks here on Creative Market. Anyone thats been here , even for a short amount of time, feels the warmth of the community here - all looking out for each other, all wanting the same things for each other. Its a wonderful thing to behold everyday, something I appreciate everyday too :) Thank you for all the kind messages...really , it was all so much more overwhelming than I can explain...it lead me to tears! Thank you guys , for all the lovely messages :) xx 6 years ago
  • @Nickylaatz Congratulations! :)) Keep up the great work! 6 years ago
  • Congratulations @Nickylaatz ! Incredibly beautiful and inspiring work. Your story makes us believe that success is possible, it is important to love what you do! Thank you! 6 years ago
  • Congratulations!!! 6 years ago
  • Wow! This is amazing! 6 years ago
  • Congratulations @Nickylaatz! You certainly do have an awesome brand! I know I always buy your work when I see something new out and the way you present it had a lot to do on how I discovered you. And Marc Schenker - what a great, feel good article! 6 years ago
  • @Nickylaatz Congrats! :D 6 years ago
  • Congratulations @Nickylaatz For the best and inspiration :D 6 years ago
  • one of my favorites stores since... forever in this market place!! congrats Nicky! so proud and happy ! You deserve it! 6 years ago
  • Congratulatrions @Nickylaatz Well deserved. Years of more success to come for sure :) 6 years ago
  • Woot woot! Get it girl. Excited for this milestone and your continued successes! Your story is a tribute to the power of creativity + a lot of hard work. :) :) 6 years ago
  • Gosh guys, thank you soooo much for all the lovely comments :) I'm so blessed to be a part of such a wonderful community of people. 6 years ago
  • This is SO inspiring!! thank you guys for sharing this incredible story and thanks to @Nickylaatz for being awesome! 6 years ago
  • Congrats Nicky! What an accomplishment! You are so very talented. :) 6 years ago
  • Congratulations @Nickylaatz. You're an INSPIRATION to all budding designers and artists!! Thank you for being who you are and doing what you love. People like you make this world a better place. 😁😇 6 years ago
  • @Nickylaatz Congrats on your BIG success! You are huge inspiration for us!! 6 years ago
  • Congratulations and keep up the hard work! Stunning resources! 6 years ago
  • Congratulations on your fantastic, well deserved Milestone ;-) 6 years ago
  • @Nickylaatz Huge Congratulations!!!! It's so inspiring! 6 years ago
  • congratulation ! 6 years ago
  • Ahh, and Nicky does not bother to answer questions from her customers. 6 years ago
  • To read your story and watch your video was truly humbling to me. Knowing that you did it working from home and being a mom is just the story I needed to hear. Sending much positive energy your way for continued success and contentment. 6 years ago
  • Congratulations Nicky! You are the inspiration to all of us, and although we are not making the same products, your work and consistency is pushing us to do more, better work every day. Thank you for being the part of this awesome community called Creative Market. 6 years ago
  • Congratulations, @Nickylaatz!! What an inspiring story!! :) 6 years ago
  • @Rachel Rendo - Sorry about this! We're on it. 6 years ago
  • Congratulations! What an incredible talent! 5 years ago
  • @Nickylaatz Congrats! You deserve it, your work is so amazing! and truly inspiring story :) 5 years ago
  • Congratulation! @Nickylaatz 5 years ago
  • wow that's soooooo cool! @Nickylaatz you really deserve it! And that video guys... it really touched me! It made me cry hahahah You created such a great community and I couldn't be happier to be part of it! It took me more than a year to finally upload my first product... how stupid I was to wait so long! 5 years ago
  • Anonymous
    Awesome 5 years ago
  • Did she do all that on her own, though? I really would like to know if she had help. Physical help, online help, somebody helping to get things done. I often feel so frustrated imagining that it's what's missing for me but I also sense that that thought is limiting me. Any thoughts? lol 5 years ago
  • just WOW!! guess that´s every designer`s dream! you are an inspiration! :) 4 years ago
  • Congrats @Nicky Laatz I'm inspired 2 years ago
  • Love to see how passion for creativity dovetailed into one million dollars, congrats! 2 years ago