What You Need to Know About Being a Freelance Artist

By Nicole Tinkham

The decision to become a freelance artist is a huge step in your career. You probably dream of being your own boss and concentrating on your passion, however, there are many things to consider before taking the leap. In reality, freelancing is a ton of hard work. It requires you to get out there and network, find new clients, work as a professional, and be completely dedicated. Before you make any quick decisions to focus on freelancing full-time, know exactly what you’re getting into. Here are 10 things we feel are important to consider when making this career change.

1. It’s not easy

The number one thing you must take away from this blog is that freelancing isn’t all fun and games. It takes a lot of hard work and devotion to become successful. Remember, success doesn’t happen overnight. You won’t instantly have clients lined up ready to work with you. It’s important to not become discouraged and give up too soon. You can do it (we know you can) but it just takes time!

2. You have to make time to do what you love

By freelancing you probably think you get to do what you love every single day. The ultimate dream! However, you’ll quickly find yourself wrapped up in commissions with little time for your personal artwork. Some freelance work may be fun but you must make time for your own art. Not only does this keep you passionate about your work but it can also advance your career and improve your portfolio.

3. A well organized portfolio is a must!

Always have an updated, well organized portfolio ready to show clients. All work should be your absolute best and all pieces should be finished. Don’t just throw random drawings together and call it a day. Have some type of organization. Show that you can create specific things for specific people with a variety of subjects. You may want to check out 8 Tips for Making a Killer Art Portfolio for additional portfolio tips.

4. You HAVE to network

We can’t stress enough how important it is for your work to be seen by the right people. Art directors and clients won’t know how to find you if you’re not putting yourself out there. You want to do everything you can to get your work seen and that may include a little networking. Networking can be a little intimidating but you’ll probably find that you actually enjoy it. Build connections with fellow artists through meet-ups, conventions, events, etc.

5. Promote yourself in other ways

We’ve talked about networking but there are many other ways to promote yourself. Here are a few:

• Website or blog
• Business cards
• Artist trading cards (9 Unique Artist Trading Card Ideas)
• Social media sites (Linked In, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube)

6. You still have to be professional

You want to be an artist that’s fun to work with. Be on time, be polite, and always be professional. Keep in mind that you’re essentially working for yourself so you have to be on top of things. This may mean creating a schedule so you complete projects on time and stay organized!

7. Tools to have

When starting your freelance career, make sure you have these simple things.

• Reliable internet connection.
• Email that’s able to send and receive large files.
• A decent scanner.
• Access to Fed-Ex drop-off.
• Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Acrobat.

8. Never stop learning

We don’t doubt your artistic skills but there’s always something new to be learned in the world of art. When it comes to freelancing, the more skills you have the better. Go ahead and try new techniques, experiment with different media, and try out new tools.

9. Never stop looking for work

You may be on a roll with a few clients but that doesn’t mean you should stop searching for future projects. Being stuck with nothing on your plate is never a good feeling!

10. Don’t sell yourself short

You are a talented artist making a living from your artwork. It’s just like any other line of work. You work hard and should be paid for it. Don’t settle for minimal pay and free work if you can’t afford it.

We believe in you as you should believe in yourself! Remember to have CONFIDENCE. Have confidence in your work, your knowledge, your skills, and yourself. Freelance work is difficult. It takes a lot of time to build up clients and requires 100% dedication but it may be just the thing for you.

Share your story. If you’re an experienced freelance artist or just starting out, leave a comment with some of the struggles you went through and how you overcame them. You can also connect with us on Facebook and Twitter. We’d love to hear your tips!

6 thoughts on “What You Need to Know About Being a Freelance Artist

  1. Great post! I was forced into freelancing by the going out of business of the studio I worked for. It is lots of hard work! Forget about being your own boss. Now, you have lots of bosses, and they can be just as nice or mean as the one you left behind at your full time job…

      1. I work from a home office, mostly by email. I can stomp around and cuss without them knowing it, and reply in writing in a pleasant manner. 🙂 you usually just have to grin and bear it, because most clients are difficult in some respect-if you are working at a job, or alone. If I get too bent out of shape by ridiculousness, I just remember the summers I spent working at the mcdonalds or Burger King drive throughs! Then I get happy. 🙂

      2. Thank you so much for sharing. I’m sure many freelance artists go through the same thing and hopefully this helps them get through some of the difficulties they may face with clients!

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