Finding success as a freelancer doesn’t have to be complicated or difficult. With a little hard work and some determination, anyone can have a successful freelancing career as an artist. Being in control of your own workload can be awesome! Many who have found their niche in freelancing feel empowered since they can work anytime from anywhere.
But freelancing artists can struggle to find work from time to time and that may lead to a lack of motivation. In order to make a stable career out of artistic freelancing, you will have to shift your mindset from that of someone with a traditional employer. In fact, despite the challenges freelancing could be the greatest decision you’ve ever made.
If you’re looking for a way to get ahead as a freelancing artist look no further than these 5 tips. When you take this advice and use it to your own advantage you are setting yourself up for career longevity of being self-employed. Grow your business, continue your success, and heed some advice from others in your same boat.
1. Keep In Touch With Old, Current, And Prospective Art Clients
Could it really be that simple to find accomplishment as a freelance artist: keep in touch? Unbelievably, it’s true. Do you want to know why? Because most people are exceptionally bad at actually keeping in touch with former and prospective clients and others who can help their career flourish. Avoid toxic communication practices and build lasting relationships.
Keeping in contact with people you have enjoyed working with previously will help you to maintain your friendship and professional relationship. When you’re the person they think of if a new project comes up because of your personal contacts, you are then more likely to get work! So if there are people whose vision aligns with yours, keep in touch with them.
Think about your dream project and team! Likely, you’re imagining people you’ve worked well with in the past and those who inspire you. When you encounter people professionally who you would love to work with again, it’s important that you keep in touch with them. Building genuine relationships with people you enjoy working with is the goal.
Of course, sending holiday cards and birthday greetings is an easy way to keep in touch, but it isn’t super personal. Finding ways to stay in contact that allows for more personal and individual connections doesn’t need to be difficult. Reaching out to share your career news is an easy way to stay in contact. Sharing your own successes can be a great way to maintain a friendship.
Another great way to maintain your professional relationships is to reach out to them for feedback on your current projects. Not only does this keep you in their mind but it can also demonstrate what you’re working on and perhaps inspire them to reach out to you in the future. Share your work and talents with others.
Feel free to reach out with a personal handwritten thank-you note when a friend offers a lead or advice that helps you. The genuine communication of gratitude can go a long way in a time when everyone seems to be too busy to offer thanks and can help your relationships flourish.
A chatty email with a lot of questions that need a response may not be the best way to maintain relationships as those take a lot of time investments. Rather, sending a link to an article or sharing something that reminded you of the person, but doesn’t require much of a response can be a better relationship builder. Keeping in touch is all about maintaining relationships after all.
2. Make An Artistic Portfolio of Work You’d Like to Do
Every artist, whether a freelancer or not, has jobs they would like to be doing. Make sure that whatever is in your portfolio will help you to get there even if that’s not what area you’re currently working in. For instance, if you are hoping to create and design for video games, make sure that you are showcasing your talent for video game design throughout your portfolio.
As companies and individuals are looking for artists to hire, they look through portfolios to make their decisions. Be sure that your portfolio is an accurate reflection of who you are and who you want to be. It may involve working on your portfolio in your free time to get the pieces you want but remember all practice is good, so spending time creating just for you isn’t a bad idea.
Creating a portfolio for the work you want to do can help you find freelance work in a broader creative field and keep you busy. Just because you’re freelancing doesn’t mean you have to accept every job that comes your way, but if you’re continuously being offered work that isn’t what you’d pick, that probably means your portfolio isn’t accurately representing you!
Imagining what kind of art you’d like to create and get paid for, and then creating it for your portfolio can be incredibly inspiring to you. It is important to continue reevaluating your portfolio regularly. As your skills improve you should change out the work you are displaying. Even if a project is your personal favorite, if the design is weak, you should swap it out.
As you are looking for work, your portfolio is the first impression many will get so let your personality and style shine through your examples. Put your best foot forward and showcase what you have done and what you hope to do effectively through your portfolio. Be ready to discuss each piece and the motivation behind it.
If as a freelancer your best chance to find work is a great portfolio then don’t skimp on it! Make sure it’s the best it can be and represents you well. You never get a second chance at a first impression so let your portfolio shine. Before you know it, you will attract the jobs you’ve dreamed of having.
3. Don’t Show Desperation When Communicating With Art Clients and Prospective Clients
As a freelancer, there is a sensitive balance between wanting to show people your work and letting them know you’re available, and bothering them with your insistent requests for a job or a lead. Don’t be the kid no one wants to invite to a birthday party, it wasn’t fun in third grade and it isn’t fun as an adult either. Desperation can repel those you’re trying to attract!
Of course you want to be hired, but not at the expense of relationships. Finding the balance between confidence and cockiness is ideal. Always checking with people for job leads can reek of desperation, you want people to come to you because they want to work with you. There’s a big difference in attracting work and asking for work!
Passively putting yourself out there, getting your work noticed, and working on relationships with potential teammates and employers is indirectly accomplishing the same thing that begging for work does. But getting a job based on your merits and talent will ultimately make you feel prouder than annoying people into giving you a job to do.
Because freelancing is based so much on your reputation and quality of work, being desperate isn’t going to do you any favors. Networking energetically is fine, but understand when it is best to back off and let the work come to you. Seeking out volunteer work is a good way to get involved without sacrificing your reputation.
Your time and effort are worth something, and obviously, as a freelancer, you bring a lot of different experiences to the table. Just because one role isn’t the right fit for you doesn’t mean that you aren’t going to find something that is. Leverage your expertise for more money when you can, so you won’t feel as desperate when you’re looking for more work.
4. Face to Face Communication Show Authenticity
It’s very important for freelancers to remember that while it is to their benefit that they can work from anywhere in the world easily, that face to face relationships are important to a successful career. If you find that most of your work is coming from a specific geography, it is important that you figure out a way to go there in person regularly to meet with people face to face.
Getting to know people you work with is a great way to build relationships and get your name recognized for future projects that may come up. No matter how great of a work ethic you have, if the humanity piece of the puzzle is missing, it can be all too easy to forget about someone and pass over them when new opportunities arise.
Making yourself known doesn’t have to be complicated. Attend a few conferences a year and mingle with people you both know and don’t know. Go to lectures or take an art class. Getting to know people face to face can be a huge benefit to keeping a career as a freelancer.
Solid relationships with others are essential to success as a freelancer. That’s why keeping in touch is important but so is the face to face interactions. For as much as freelancing is a solo enterprise, there’s only so much you can accomplish on your own, so give credit to those you work with and spend time building relationships and friendships in person.
Freelancing in the art world doesn’t come about without some risk. Not every relationship you develop will amount to your dream job, but you also never know who your best connection might be. The principles of relationships can help you focus on the face to face interactions that will allow you to keep your dreams of freelancing alive forever.
5. Make Time For Your Own Art To Keep Motivated
Remember when you first started off in the art world? Every day was a new experience and you found inspiration to create your own work constantly. Often, in the early stages, artists put work out into the world just for feedback or to brighten people’s day. As they get into their careers a bit more it becomes harder to find personal joy every day. But don’t let this stop you!
Rediscovering the work that inspires you and brings you joy will attract more work and in fact, better work your direction. If you originally decided to freelance so you could always enjoy what you are working on, then don’t let a paycheck stop you from the work you want to be doing. You may have to schedule some time for yourself, but it will be worth it.
Even the most successful artists take time to find joy in their journey and create art that isn’t for work. Whether or not you will use what you’ve created for your portfolio or simply keep it as a way to inspire yourself going forward, making time for your own projects is a way to keep working on skills that you haven’t used in a while.
Set aside or schedule some time every week to take an art class and work on the art that inspires you. Making time to create for the love of art and not for the love of money can be a way of maintaining an internet presence when the work you’re being paid for can’t be shown yet. Looking out for yourself and establishing work to all back on is important.
Taking classes, continually building your skills, and putting yourself out there can be the solution to worrying about where the next job is going to come from. With constant artwork being created you will have the security of knowing that the right job will come along and you can pick and choose your opportunities wisely.
Bonus Tip: Save Your Money
If you are finding success as a freelancer, that’s great! But don’t forget to save a little nest egg and live below your means just in case the work slows down in the future. 2020 has thrown a lot of challenges and changes at people so having some money saved up may just be the saving grace you need.
Not only will saving some of your money give you financial security, but it will also give you the freedom of choice and the ability to turn down work if it’s not inspiring you. An easy way of saving money is as you raise your rates, put the difference into a savings account. This will build up your savings and give you the nest egg you want without sacrificing your way of life.
Freelancing can be a great way to earn a living as an artist, and when you focus on building your relationships with face to face interactions and keeping in touch, and building your skills by taking classes and working on art for yourself and your portfolio, you can remain successful and avoid desperation. Making it personal is the best way to succeed.
Even artists with career longevity can learn something new every day so don’t be afraid to lean into the unknown and grow as a freelancer. There’s always more knowledge to gain and put into practice as an artist! It’s not hard to get ahead of the pack and stand out artistically with a little effort and practice.