Friday, April 13, 2012

Taking The Plunge: Full Time Freelance pt. 2

(This is an update to pt. 1)

It's been 5 1/2 months now, so I think it's time for an update. First, the work is still rotating steadily, and I'm still enjoying it- phew! I've also learned a lot about myself as an artist, and about the job, since I started freelancing full time in November. Here's some of what I've experienced:

1. There's a lot of information out there on how to get started as a freelancer, but not much on what to expect after that. I see a lot of people having a crisis of "I've made it here, now what?!" I'm very lucky that I worked for a couple years as a freelancer part-time, so that I knew more or less what I was getting myself into, and developed a solid client base, but I see a lot of people who didn't have that experience struggling. So, I may have changed my mind about the advice I was giving, which was not to work full time while starting your career. That dual work experience may have had value I didn't realize before.

2. Every success and every pitfall hits twice as hard. I don't know if this is the same for everyone, but now that art is both my life and my job, it's harder for me to deal with rejection and missed opportunities. I've spent additional time pulling myself out of emotional lows created by things like not getting into Spectrum, whereas in previous years (I've been accepted and rejected a couple times each) it wasn't as big a deal. On the flip side, successes are even sweeter. When I finish a piece I'm super-proud of, I get an extra boost of energy and confidence.

3. Things you might not think of as work actually are work. By that, I mean that there's so much more to the job of freelance artist than just making art. Making this blog entry is "working." Updating my facebook is sometimes "working." Meeting people, going to galleries to look at art, doing research- all of it is part of the job. Although, I tend to still think of them as fun activities so they don't feel like work.

4. Having a working spouse (or partner/parent/roommate, etc.) seriously cuts down on money stress. No one is truly self-made, but I've heard the joke that "behind every successful artist is an even more successful spouse." Of course that's not true in all cases, but a lot of us do have working partners that make our freelance lifestyles easier, or possible. I think if I lived alone I'd still be able to feed myself on what I earn, but I doubt I'd have any money left over for top-notch art supplies, or a budget for the Illustration Master Class. Also, I've been doing it for a few years- the first year I freelanced part time I wouldn't have been able to support myself at all. Everyone's situation is different, so when I hear people talk about how easy it is for them, I always have to wonder what they're not telling me.

5. It's still easy to over-book myself, even with 50 extra hours per week. I just sort of have to laugh about this one. For the longest time I assumed I would get 2x or 3x as much work done if I had all those extra hours free to paint, but of course it hasn't worked out that way. I am producing more, but not 2-3 times more. And I'm not really stressed out about it. I figure if I'm accountable for 100% of my time, I'm accountable for every single thing I do or don't finish- there's no external force to get mad at for keeping me down. As it happens, I've spent some of my extra time on other important things, like going to the gym and cooking better food. I'd say those positive lifestyle changes have been worth it, even though they don't necessarily equal mountains of new paintings. In my next update I'll let you know if it's made me lose any edge in a market teeming with energetic 20-year-olds...


  1. thanks for the update!
    its really great to read this kinda stuff, I find it pretty inspiring.
    glad things are working out. :)

  2. Thoroughly enjoying hearing about your process Cynthia. Would love to grab drinks at Spectrum Live and catch up in person!

    1. Aw man, I'm actually not going to be there after all. :( I'm gonna be doing Artomatic in DC at the time, among other things. Will I see you at IMC or Illuxcon? I'd love to catch up!

  3. Number 5 really made me grin, because there is NEVER enough time to get everything done you need, especially if you're a freelancer AND mother. Cool observations, Cynthia.