Hana Shafi, Illustrator and Writer

FLARE #HowIMadeIt celebrates 100+ talented, ambitious and driven Canadian women with cool jobs. Want what Hana has? Here’s how she did it

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Hana Shafi Headshot
Hana Shafi; Toronto; 


Let’s say we’ve just met at a cocktail party. How would you describe, in a nutshell, what you do?

I’d probably describe myself a freelance illustrator and writer! [Fun fact: Hana created the gorgeous pink banner at the top of the #HowIMadeIt hub, as well as the widget at the bottom of this post.]

Where did you go to school and what did you study? 

I went to Ryerson University for journalism. Now I’m a part-time student doing a certificate in digital art production, also at Ryerson.

What was your first paying gig out of school? (In your field, or not.) 

Freelance writing for . I struggled with underemployment and freelancing right out of school, but This always had a place for me and my work

What was your BIG break? How did you land it?

I’d say my big break was when my went viral. At this point, I had been illustrating and writing for years, not sure when my work was ever going to get noticed. When I woke up to all those notifications and that piece was getting re-blogged hundreds, and then thousands, of times, I knew something big was happening.

Describe the moment in which you first realized, I think this is actually going to work out? 

After the piece went viral, and each piece in that series that I was continuing to illustrate kept picking up more and more attention, I realized that maybe my dream wasn’t so ridiculous or far-fetched.

What would you say has been your biggest failure or shortcoming, career-wise, to date? How did you bounce back?

After I graduated, I was unemployed, struggling to freelance for over two years. I’d send out a bunch of cover letters and resumes and when I heard back from none of them. But that entire time, I was continuing to create. That’s how I bounced back.

Name one piece of career advice you always give. 

Know your worth. Especially in creative fields, you’re going to face a lot of rejection and the only way you can continue to persevere in those fields is knowing the worth of your work and yourself.

What’s the worst career advice you’ve ever gotten? 

“Be sensible.” I’m not even sure what it means, but it always seems to be used in the context of shaming my generation for our underemployment struggles and desire to have fulfilling careers.

Did you deal with barriers in your field because you are a woman? If so, what were they? 

Absolutely. Especially being a Muslim woman of colour, there is simply not as much room for us in the creative fields. I saw these barriers first in journalism, where my social justice pieces were either rejected by editors (similar pieces written by white men were somehow more favourable) or if they were published, they were met with intense and relentless trolling. The biggest barrier was simply not getting work, despite racking up professional and academic credentials.

Are you making a fair income for your work? Why or why not? Do you have a side hustle for extra cash? If so, what is it.

I think I’m definitely still underpaid in the work I do. The work of artists is undervalued. But my situation is certainly improving. My side job is working part-time at Outer Layer, a small gift shop at Queen and Portland.

What’s the worst stereotype you’ve heard about millennials at work? 

That we’re entitled. Entitled to what? A livelihood, a shelter, a comfortable life? Capitalism may have deemed those things as luxurious or trophies to be earned, but those are actually our basic rights. Sorry that I don’t want to live paycheque to paycheque, perpetually struggling. We deserve better.

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