Do You Want To Be A Freelance Illustrator? Part 1 of 3
Definition: Freelance means you work on a contract basis for different companies/clients instead of being an employee for a single company.
Freelance is not for everyone. It is not as secure as working for a studio but there are many benefits that can balance out the lack of security. I’m speaking from the viewpoint of someone who is based in the UK where I'm very fortunate not to have to worry about things like health insurance.
If you are new to freelancing then you will be finding out that it is necessary to wear many hats in order to run your business. I hope that some of the information here will be helpful. You may also notice that a few of the descriptions overlap each other sometimes. I welcome fellow freelancers to add anything that they think I may have missed out in the comments below!
Prepare your bonnets!
You are responsible for everything, the highs, the lows and the in between. There is no buck to pass and this might be one of the hardest things about this kind of work. You never really switch off and you can't really afford to either (no sick pay!). You need to be disciplined above all else in order to make your business work. Good time management is essential, keep a planner or diary. Top Tip: Remember to be kind to yourself and don't work yourself into the ground. Get plenty of sleep, keep hydrated, eat healthily, set sensible working hours and remember to take breaks. You are not a machine and you will burn out if you don't look after yourself.
To find work you will have to spend a decent amount of time searching for clients. You will need to send your portfolio out to publishers, game companies and magazine editors depending on what area you are interested in working in. It would be lovely if just posting your work on the internet resulted in all these people filling your inbox with exciting book cover offers and the like, but this is a rare occurrence. I have been using hireanillustrator.com for a couple of years and it has been very useful in getting my work seen by people looking for artists. The other option is also to find an agent to work for you which is not something I've done, but remember that they will take a percentage of your income for their commission (which is perfectly fair, but some will charge more than others). Top Tip: Don't stop trying. If your attempts at getting the attention of publishers or potential clients is not resulting in any replies, it could be that your work doesn't fit their vision or it might be they don't have any opportunities to suit you yet. Keep sending out your work every 4 months or so. Make sure your portfolio is up to date, consistent and of a similar caliber to artists who are also working for the companies you send your work to.
• Sales Person/Social Media/Marketing
You have to blow your own trumpet. It isn't easy and it can feel very awkward. I know that I wish I didn't have to think about marketing every day! It's all day every day, constantly trying to remind the internet that you exist amongst the tiny attention spans of the masses. Social media is always changing and this is what makes this such a big challenge. Recently Facebook have been slowly making it harder and harder for people to see posts unless you pay for them. For me Instagram and Facebook have been great but it can feel a bit like a constant uphill battle. The conversion for followers is apparently <1% of people who will end up becoming possible customers so the more followers you have, the better, as long as they see your posts! Ahhh, the endless cycle! Make sure you use the same name throughout all your social media handles. Keep your branding consistent and remember when you are representing your business, don't post anything that might put off potential clients/art directors, you know the usual, politics and religion... Unless of course you aim on making a living out of being a political cartoon satirist or similar! Be friendly and interactive with your fans, make them welcome and throw a give-away out there every once in a while! Quality beats quantity every time, along with tagging appropriately (not too many tags!), however if you can be prolific, this really really helps gain followers. TopTip: Give yourself a theme to work on, so you might paint monsters for a month, then the next month fairies, this will help with consistency and you can also make up your own hashtags for your themes!
Next week in part 2 I will be covering things such as accounting, pricing and customer service.
PS. Thank you for reading my first blog post!