freelance artist drawing on paper

How to Be a Freelance Artist: Everything You Need to Know

Since the US’s creative industry is worth around $44 billion, getting involved in this market is an awesome idea. This is even more the case when you have a passion for art and the skills to develop your craft to professional levels.

If this describes you, it’s likely that you have wished in the past that you could make a living for yourself as a freelance artist. We’re here to tell you that this dream isn’t out of reach- you can grasp it in the palm of your hand with a bit of preparation, practice, professional skill development, and determination.

Read on to learn how to become a successful freelance artist in 2020!

Be Prepared for the Future

When beginning any new career, it’s important to be prepared for what might come. This is especially the case when freelancing since you can’t fall back on company support. Here, we’re going to talk about how you need to prepare before you begin to freelance full-time.

Have a Full-Time Job (or Savings)

In order to become a freelance artist, it’s important that you don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Beginning artists only make about $33,433 per year. While experienced freelance artists can make a much higher sum- anywhere between $55,575 and $94,498- it is going to take you at least a few years to reach this point.

In the meantime, you’ll need to have the money to stay afloat. This means having another full-time job before beginning your freelance work. You can use this job to sustain you while you hone your artistic skills and find a clientele.

It also is beneficial to have some money in the bank before you start freelancing. Make sure that you have at least $15,000 in savings before you quit your job to freelance full-time. This is the bare minimum and is only plausible if you already have clients lined up and have been freelancing on the side for enough time to hone your skills and make more than an entry-level salary.

Don’t Quit Your Job Too Early

While it’s tempting to immediately quit your job to begin freelancing full time, it isn’t a good idea to do so. Professional presences take years to develop, and throwing an entire presence away on the chance that you’ll succeed is a poor idea.

According to recent statistics, 20% of small businesses (including freelancing businesses) fail within their first year of operations. Even though it’s important to believe in your dreams, it also is important that you’re realistic and know this fact. Don’t let it deter you from freelancing, but make sure that you wait at least this year and see whether it looks like your freelancing business will be successful in the long-term.

Have Appropriate Materials

Before you can begin to create freelance art professionally, it’s essential that you have the materials you need to get started. While you as a passionate hobby artist likely already have many of these materials, it’s critical that you ensure that you have the most up-to-date technology.

Classic painting or sketching may be what you love to do, and that’s amazing! However, the current demand is mainly for digital artists, and this demand is projected to increase by over 4% by 2028. Even if you want to continue drawing and painting by hand, it also will benefit you to learn to use digital art tools.

Here are some of the most common 2020 software options (and their prices):

  • Photoshop (approx. $52.99/month), which is a classic for a reason- it’s available on both Windows and iOS and is quite stable with a variety of capabilities
  • Affinity Designer (approx. $49.99 one-time fee), which is an awesome price for the high vector support it provides
  • ProCreate (approx. $9.99 one-time fee, which is a bargain), an iPad-based drawing app (only available on Apple devices) with a lot of different brushes and vector support
  • ArtWeaver (approx. $41.16/month after the free trial expires), which has a large brush selection and a customizable interface

Digital art is also amazing in that it can be shared quickly. It can also be posted on sites like Redbubble and sold on a variety of products like prints, phone cases, tote bags, and more. You can also sell prints and products on your own website for more profit and a better brand presence. In this case, you’ll also need to budget for print materials such as high-quality paper, ink, canvas, and possibly plastic to make keychains and other items.

Develop Your Skills

Now that we’ve got the nitty-gritty out of the way, it’s time to begin the fun part of starting a freelancing career: developing your artistic and professional skills!

Since you’re already considering selling your art for a profit, you likely are already a talented artist. After all, you and those around you clearly know it to be a marketable skill! Despite this, however, there’s always room for improvement. You’ll need to practice a lot assuming you want to rise above the competition, which includes equally talented artists that have already begun to develop their professional skills.

Carry your art tablet (we recommend an iPad) around with you and use spare time to sketch. This is the perfect activity to do while in waiting rooms or even during your downtime and breaks while at your current full-time job. If you can’t carry your tablet, sketching in a sketchbook is also a great way to practice line art, shading, and stylistic experimentation.

You should also take part in art challenges like this 21-day art marathon. This is a great way to try new things and ensure that you keep your art fresh and exciting.

Set Up a Website

Now that you know how to practice your skills, it’s time to begin setting up a website. This site will ensure that people can see your work and decide whether your art style is right for them. It also is a great way to establish a brand and get the word of your art into the world, so read on for more information!

Have a Clear and Engaging Website

Did you know that you only have about 15 seconds to engage site visitors? Well, it’s true. If you’re unable to grasp their attention during this time, they’ll click away from your webpage and head over to other artist’s sites. You won’t even get the opportunity to showcase your beautiful portfolio.

Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to create a site that’s engaging and not confusing. Clear, bold text and easy-to-use page navigation are essential aspects of this. Your page will be user-friendly enough that people aren’t going to click away from it.

You also will want to include a couple of your best pieces on your home page. This will get people interested in your art and help them see why they should click on your portfolio.

Assemble a Portfolio

Speaking of portfolios, it’s critical that you’re careful and precise when setting up yours. Just as you would if you wanted to be a freelance photographer, it’s critical that you showcase your best work on your webpage. This means sifting through the things that you’ve created and deciding on between 10-20 of your favorite pieces.

These should be pieces that showcase your style to its fullest extent, are visually appealing and engaging, and have been met with positive reception in the past.

Include thumbnails of the pieces that can be clicked on for a higher-resolution image. You will want to organize these thumbnails on your site in a logical way. Place drawings of similar mediums, styles, colors, or subjects together so that people can get a feel for the exact things they want.

Create a Commission Page

Once you finish creating your portfolio, it’s time to create and link to a commission page. This page should include:

  • 1-3 sample images of past commissions
  • What sorts of art you will do (portraits, landscapes, real people, still life, etc.)
  • What sort of art you will not do (NSFW, anything that makes you uncomfortable, etc.)
  • How much commissions will cost the buyer and what may alter the pricing
  • The way that you will send your art to the buyer

Make sure that your commission page also includes a professional email address where potential clients can reach out!

Speaking of contacting professionals, if you need any help in setting up your website, feel free to contact us. Our freelancing experts are happy to show you some examples of pre-existing freelance art pages that have already been proven successful. We’re also happy to help you develop the portfolio that you need to shine among the competition.

More on Becoming a Freelance Artist

While there are many components to selling your art as a freelancer, keep faith in yourself. You’re in for an amazingly fun challenge that will hugely pay off in the end.

Now that you know how to become a successful freelance artist, it’s time to get started. Apply today to join the School for Freelancers. Our professionals will teach you how to develop the skills necessary to plan your freelancing career and develop the skills necessary to reach your maximum potential.

We look forward to helping you turn your passion into a career!

We greatly appreciate you taking the time to read our blog! If you found this useful please be sure to share it with your network! If you have any questions about our program be sure to contact us. Thanks again and happy freelancing!

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