Updated: Jul 2, 2021
Of all the questions that people ask me, "what advice do you have for someone who wants to be a freelance artist?" is by far the hardest one for me to answer. It is also the one that I feel least qualified to answer, because I myself am still barely just growing into that title.
So, I decided that I needed a more well-rounded outlook to this question, and came to this conclusion: I needed more opinions. Not just "more" opinions, but the opinions of people I highly respect and admire.
After all, I myself would love to hear some advice. I'm definitely not above needing it!
...Which leads me this post. Yep, I asked, via DM or email, 50 freelance creatives the same question that I find so difficult to answer. The same question that I'm sure all of us who have ever dreamed of going freelance, have wondered about.
I'm here today to share their answers with all of you!
I did, of course, parse all the responses myself for easy digesting. Here are some highlights!
Most Commonly Heard:
have some sort of plan, milestone and goal. - Kate Perkins @poopikat
BE RESOURCEFUL! - Sheena @shemeetscity
Creating connections is important. - @dreachie
(Put in the effort to connect with your fellow artists AND your clients!)
focus on what makes you happy & what you're good at - Vicki @thanksxu / Lillian @paperludus
Want more elaboration? Go read their full answers just by scrolling down!
Underrated (uncommon yet important) Advice:
You have to get over being a people pleaser. I know this sounds kind of harsh, but you have to be aware of what you’re worth and charge accordingly. - Emily Perkins @sketchmeemily
don’t be afraid to ask for help. - Ciarra Claire @artbyciara
inspire yourself. - Kate Perkins @poopikat
Expensive doesn't equate to better. - Michelle Mistalski @fmstudioart
Below are the full responses from most of the creators that responded to me! They all have different responses, priorities, interpretations of the question and of course, personal experiences.
Note: You are no different-- advice from professionals is highly valuable, but take everything with a grain of salt! If it resonates with you, great. If not, that's okay!
Without further ado...
Erika Wiseman @erikathegoober
| I would say before you choose to go full time with freelance, test the waters by opening commissions before quitting your job. Announce your commissions are open on your social media platform of choice and see what kind of a response you get. This will help you see if the rate you set is reasonable (you can always raise this later) and it will help you learn to communicate with clients!
Catherine Kay @katnippstudios
| Don't give up, keep learning, pursuing and creating, strive to be better, listen to constructive feedback, and grow your brand. As a Freelancer you are also a Solo Business Owner, I like to think of it that way, then you can get a cohesive & professional theme which can really make you stand out from the crowd and gives you your creative voice. Most importantly, HAVE FUN! Experiment, and don't stop looking for sources of inspiration.
Kate Perkins @poopikat
| My biggest advice for budding artists who want to make it as a freelancer is to have some sort of plan, milestone and goal. A plan should be finding out how to effectively get there, milestones should be achievable little weekly goals (i.e 3 drawings a week etc etc.) and the end being your goal (What kind of freelancer do you want to be).
After you've done so, inspire yourself and practice, practice and practice & start getting yourself out there (even before you feel ready). Keep trying to better yourself too & always ask yourself what you can do to make your works better. Once you've got that down, start opening up smaller commissions and keep building that portfolio.
Sara Paz @thiswhimsyme
| I think my biggest advice for budding artists is being resilient, problems and bad days are bound to happen but you have to keep your chin up and push through. You should build a relationship with your clients to make sure they keep coming back. And last but not least, you gotta make sure you put as much effort in your small projects as you put in the big ones - that’s someone else’s baby! 💛
Emily Elizabeth @sketchmeemily @letterbeecards
| You have to get over being a people pleaser. I know this sounds kind of harsh, but you have to be aware of what you’re worth and charge accordingly. My own tendency to please people and my desire to keep them happy has all too often resulted in a $30 commission that I spend 8 hours on, which is never worth my while. Being aware of how much you’re making per hour is so important. As you gain more experience, improve your skills, and acquire more job requests, you’re allowed to bump up your price as customers start competing for your work. Don’t feel bad about that either. If someone doesn’t want to pay you what you’re worth then you probably don’t want them as a client! Like my husband always reminds me: you can’t please everyone!
| I'm still a newbie trying to understand how freelancing works but one of the most important bits of advice is creating connections and engaging with other artists, doesn't matter what level they're at. Creating connections is important. You have to be disciplined and work on your time management.
Ciara Claire @artbyciara
| Be adaptable to change, take any opportunity you can, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
When I first started doing art, I had no direction, no education, just $300 and a new job in a new town.
I quickly started an art Instagram, because I saw that was a thing that was trending.
I started doing commissions for a very very low rate, just to get my name out there and have eyes on my page.
I started engaging in the local art community, and asked as many questions as I could.
I didn’t always get answers to them, some artists weren’t willing to share their information, and that’s fine.
I figured it out anyway through trial and error.
Asking questions just creates community and can get you where you need to go faster.
Give away free art. I did it. A lot. This is an investment. Art was meant to be shared. You shouldn’t become a hoarder of your own art.
If you’re creating things that are higher ticketed items, make sure you find an audience who can afford it.
For me, making art that speaks to the community of POC with my income was important. I couldn’t afford expensive art, but I wanted good art in my home that was in my price range.
So find your audience. Who is it you want to see your art?
Who is going to resonate with it, and make sure it’s worth it to them to support you financially.
I make affordable art because it’s important to me.
It doesn’t mean everyone should follow in my footsteps, but I wanted to make sure everyone who resonated my art could be able to impulse buy it.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
I do it all the time. I’m always learning.
Help comes in many forms. Find out ways you’re struggling, and put it out there. See if someone in your close circle is willing to help lift you up or take on that burden for you. Most of the time my friends and family help me for free in areas that I’m struggling, because they know what I do that is most valuable is the art.
Learn to let go of tasks someone is willing to do for free or for a cup of coffee so you can do the thing you do best...create art.
| I think the main thing is to focus on what makes you happy 💛 surround yourself with inspiration whether its from nature, a pin board, or some favorite artists instagram posts. Dont reference them too much but let them bring you joy and creativity~!!
Lillian Vu @paperludus
| Although it’ll be hard to stay true to what you’re actually good at; try to always incorporate it into whatever you are trying out. It’s play if you can’t draw as well and are more of.. Say, an abstract watercolor type of person.. Learn to draw, but don’t forget to incorporate that abstract watercolor! Because when you do; that’s what differentiates you from others. The uniqueness of your own style in everything that you do!
| I am quite new to freelancing. I quit my job about 3 months ago when I decided I wanted to take my paper shop on the road in my self converted sprinter van. This was an overwhelming decision for me but if I knew then what I know now I would’ve made the transition a long time ago. Being your own boss is the way to go! I spend most of my days sitting with my feet hanging over the edge of the back of my van taking in the view in front of me. No more 9-5, I just work whenever I feel like it.
My biggest piece of advice for anyone who wants to make it as a freelancer is that you need to be flexible, motivated, and easy on yourself. It is so easy to become obsessed with “work” when your new work is your dream. It is easy to fall in to that rabbit hole of “why didn’t I get this done today” or “how come I didn’t check off everything on my to do list” because ultimately that’s why any of us want to
| My advice for budding artists is to BE RESOURCEFUL! We live in a digital age where almost any question you want answered is available via blog, forum, youtube videos, online workshops, online coaching/mentoring, etc. One of the questions I get most often is “how do I start” - and I feel like that is a bottomless question that people ask to avoid doing the work. We all know what we need to do, it’s having the courage to take action and be ok with failing.
Rae Samuels @sweetlotusco
| My biggest piece of advice to any creatives or budding artist who want to become freelancers would be two things! I would say number one is to do your research on the different ways you can gain an audience as well as different streams of income. Getting your work out there on as many different platforms is important so that people can get to know you and your work! Building a presence online is just as important as building within your community. Is it possible for you to hold in person workshops or participate at fairs or markets? Find different ways to connect! The second thing would be to stay true to yourself and to your art whatever it is! Your genuine voice and story is going to be what sets you apart from others! Everyone has a unique story and it’s important to tell your story through whatever creative work you do!
Michelle Mistalski @fmstudioart
| My biggest advice is to not fully invest in expensive equipment right away. Hone your skills first. Those who love your work will support you and then save up for the investment in purchasing the equipment you want. Expensive doesn't equate to better. Being able to adapt to what you already have will be better not only for when you grow into an artist in freelance, but to help ease the financial burden as well.
A huge huge thank you to all of these amazing creators who were kind enough to speak with me! Recognize any of them? :) If not, definitely go check out their stunning work!
In the end, every freelancer can agree on one thing: the journey of freelancing is long and windy, you're bound to run into challenges and successes alike. What's left to do?