Need NDA first? E-mail us at

    Tips for your first year as a Freelance Illustrator

    23 November 2020

    Drawing for a living whilst being your own boss is a dream for many artists. Freelancing can allow you to work at your own hours, and a chance to work for yourself. Switching from studio life to self-employment, or even starting the career from the beginning after graduation as a freelancer, both can be exciting but at the same time a little intimidating for many illustrators. Especially in the first year is the toughest. 

    To help you survive the first year of your freelance career as an illustrator, you can use the following tips: 

    Get organized early

    The need for getting organized is something many freelancers do not understand from the beginning. Keep the receipts of your work. It is not the most exciting thing to do, but it is indeed helpful. Keep track of the time you spend on a project. Your time is valuable, price it accordingly. There will be times when projects will fail or you will have to stop them midway. Negotiate for a kill fee. Otherwise, your time will be wasted. Make a contract that you and the client party both agree on at the beginning of the work. It will solve a lot of issues. Use online accounting software to keep track of your finances. 

    Do personal projects

    Working as a freelance illustrator, you may feel like you need to do all your works for clients in exchange for commissions. But that is not always true. Besides working for clients, you also need to work on your personal projects. It will not only enhance your portfolio, but it will also lead to commissions. Many magazines and other media buy arts that they find interesting and relevant to their production. 

    Don’t worry about having another job

    As we have discussed before, the first year as a freelance illustrator can be tough. Going straight into illustration and being able to earn much is impossible. So, working another job besides freelancing is the smart thing to do when you have bills to pay and family to feed. Also, working a day job besides freelancing can be beneficial for mental health. Going out every day to work and meeting colleagues and friends can make you sociable. 

    Make work you enjoy making

    Most people follow their career as an illustrator because they enjoy making art. But with time and for the sake of career, many people focus more on trends rather than their own style. While it is necessary to keep track of the current trends, it is more important to keep making designs of your own style. You can update your style following the trends, but making designs exactly in a way that others do it will take all the fun out of your design. Work for the commission, but remember to have fun out of it. Otherwise, you will lose interest in your own works. 

    The first year of a freelancing career is always tough. But following these few techniques, you will be able to have a stable year and a successful career.