10 min 11 sec

Kiwi Coder Makes Extra $50,000/Year from Virtual Paintbrushes

A New Zealand-based software developer puts her digital skills to artistic use by creating virtual lettering brushes for budding digital calligraphers.
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What It's About

Virtual paintbrushes for digital calligraphers.

Business Model
Skills Required
Design & Calligraphy
Profit Potential

Words of Wisdom

Karin emphasizes that perfectionism is your enemy when it comes to getting a revenue-generating hustle off the ground. Fancy logos and swish websites are nice to have - but not necessary. She has found that her time is much better spent on the things that will offer value in the long run. For example, creating video tutorials on how to install brushes has saved her answering hundreds of questions, and gives customers confidence that the product works.

Fun Fact

Apple is one of Karin’s biggest fans, after spotting her handiwork with their Apple Pencil. Their PR team are keen to tell the world about her colorful creations, which has led to Karin being put in touch with journalists at the NZ Herald and Vancouver Sun who have both written articles about her work.

Notes from Chris

Episode 457
Karin Newport is a software engineer in New Zealand who enjoys her day job. But her analytical day-to-day work left her needing a creative outlet. She had always loved calligraphy, but her tiny apartment meant art supplies and canvases weren’t an option. Then, in 2016, that all changed. She got her first iPad Pro and Apple Pencil, downloaded the Procreate app, and started lettering to her heart’s content.

Using her technical skills, combined with an artistic eye, Karin began creating her own digital paint brushes to give her work the types of textures she was after. She loves bright colors and watercolor effects and wanted brushes that could capture that look and feel. She created brushes using the settings within an app called Procreate and realized that other people might find them useful too.

To test the waters, she made a basic website called iPad Lettering and posted a few brushes as free downloads. She thought: if 100 people download these for free, then maybe there’s an interest in them. One week and a hundred downloads later, it was clear that there was a demand. But would people pay? There was only one way to find out. She posted more brushes, this time with a price tag. Three hours later, she had her first sale. She jumped up and down in her apartment with excitement, realizing that she was well and truly onto something.

Now that she really knew that there was a demand, Karin started spreading the word. Instagram was where she got her artistic inspiration from, so that’s where she headed first. By splashing her beautiful lettering images across Instagram with the ‘ipadlettering’ hashtag, she quickly built up a following. She now has 153,000 followers, and her hashtag has almost 200,000 posts.

Karin brings this approach into all aspects of her customer service, and is always thinking about how she can create value. She offers free tutorial content, handy guides and grids, and even free brushes. She shares these with her growing email list of 35,000 subscribers, who can’t get enough of her ever-expanding range.

Her revenue is equally impressive. She brings in $50,000 a year, with nothing spent on advertising and zero costs outside of the iPad and Apple Pen she had already bought. She set up a free website (using Adobe Business Catalyst) and, although it’s not perfect, it’s all she’s needed to generate a significant income while holding down full-time work.


  • iPad Lettering: Up your digital calligraphy game—check out Karin's brushes on her website!

  • Procreate: The iPad program that Karin used to create her calligraphy creations and brushes

  • Adobe Business Catalyst: The platform that Karin used to create her website for iPad Lettering


Inspiration is good; inspiration combined with action is better. Now get back to work!

Yours in the revolution,

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Quote of the Day
"The main thing is to just start and not worry about the little things too much. I still have a crappy website 2 years later, but I run the whole thing myself and have to prioritize things. It doesn’t have to all be perfect for it to be successful."
—Karin Newport #SideHustleSchool

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