How To Be A Freelance Artist: The Successful Freelance Artist Guide

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Written By Sam Davis Ph.D.

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As a freelance artist, you have the freedom to work on your own terms. But with that freedom comes some challenges. How do you find clients? How do you manage your time and finances? And how do you make sure your freelance business is successful?

In this guide, we'll share some tips on how to have a successful freelance artist career. We'll encourage you to work with – not against – other artists, while being your own boss. There are so many freelance artist jobs out there, you're bound to find the perfect project for yourself.

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Am I going to be a starving artist?

The key with any creative business is to understand that you're owning your own business that happens to use your creative skills, not the other way around. The business comes first.

This doesn't mean that you won't have days (or even weeks) where you're working on a project and not making any money. But it does mean that you should be thinking about your freelance business as a whole, rather than just each individual project. Don't take on freelance projects that pay poorly when you need money. Put your business – and your pocketbook – first.

How can I find freelance work?

Some of the most successful businesses are started by people who have a passion for the topic without understanding where to find work. A successful freelancing career is going to be built on solid networking, constantly meeting potential clients, and being flexible enough to say “Yes” to any job that you can do well.

A self-employed artist needs to be savvy. You need to know where the job boards are. You need to have a business plan. You need to regularly visit freelance sites with job boards and most importantly, you need to be able to craft effective bids and close the sale.

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Top Job Boards For Freelance Artists

If you want to make freelance art a full time job, you need to find the jobs AND get the skills to do them correctly. Some great places to start are:

All of these places also offer help for the full time freelance artist who is looking for some supplemental education on running a business.

Moving From Short Term Gigs To Future Work

One of the hardest things for many freelance artists is how sometimes there are plenty of freelance art jobs out there, and other times, the well is dry. Building a successful business is about learning to even out those peaks and valleys.

One way that you can create future work for yourself is by applying your artistic talents to several different fields. For example, you could use your art foundation to do:

  • freelance websites
  • online portfolio review
  • supporting other small businesses
  • providing marketing, social media, or promotional graphics
  • contracting for a monthly service for other businesses

There's a reason that SaaS is so popular – and you can apply it to your own client base.

SaaS, or software as a service, is a category of business that is gigantic. Netflix, project management software – pretty much anything that is a subscription falls under this banner.

Freelance artists can use this model by finding businesses that could use their art skills on a monthly or retainer basis. This could be for logos, illustrations, web design – you name it. If you provide a valuable service and have a great portfolio, it's not hard to find clients who are interested in your services on a monthly or long term basis.

Example: A monthly retainer for a local nonprofit

Many freelance artists love working with nonprofit organizations because they feel good about what they're doing. But you don't need to volunteer as a freelance artist: you can still require payment for your services.

I've seen a lot of successful freelance artists and graphic designers get in with nonprofits and stay for months of years. At my own day job, we pay freelance artists retainer fees for the year, and then we pay them hourly overages as they work heavy months for us.

It's really a win-win. We don't need to go out and find a freelance artist every time we want a brand done; and they get reliable income as a freelance artist. Freelance artist jobs aren't hard to come by when you know what you're looking for.

Why you need an impressive portfolio as a freelance artist

When you're trying to hook your next client, you really need to showcase your creative work for future clients. New clients are interested in what you've done, not what you could potentially do for them if only given a chance.

In other words, results are the best thing to showcase. So honestly assess what you have in terms of finished work, and then make sure to show it off. Point everyone back to your portfolio, and client work will start to trickle in the door.

In conclusion…

Being a freelance artist is about so much more than your freelance art. It's about being your own boss, working with other artists, and finding potential clients any and everywhere that you go.

Freelance artists are strong, capable, and savvy. Freelance artists are in charge of their own creative process, and they're able to close deals with potential clients.

If you're ready to join the ranks of freelance artists, make it happen! Check out what other freelances are doing, search for new clients, and build your portfolio site!

Want even more intel?

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