Being a self-sufficient freelancer for over 12 years has had its ups and downs. I can name 5 things I’ve learned as a freelancer that have helped me discover how one can succeed in this competitive business world.

Being a self-sufficient freelancer for over 12 years has had its ups and downs. I can name 5 things I've learned as a freelancer that have helped me discover how one can succeed in this competitive business world.

I believe that it’s always good to learn from others – especially when you can take that and apply to your own business. If you’re just starting out maybe they can help you from struggling like I did.

1 | You Will Always Have to Reinvent Yourself

There will come times where some of the types of art you are doing will become oversaturated, or just not on trend anymore. For instance, I’ve tried reinventing myself several times in the template market for photographers.

When I first started that side of my business I was easily making over $1000 a week in sales. Before I retired from photography template design in 2015, I barely made 1/4 of that a month – really a lot less.

Think of ways you can always be improving what you do. Have a list of goals and ideas so you can try new things during your lulls. Maybe you want to learn calligraphy? Take a class and learn it. Practice it. Perhaps your next big thing will be doing custom wedding invitations using your rad, new skill! And, simplify. You don’t have to do it all.

2 | You Don’t Have to Take On Work for Free to Prove Yourself

As artists, we have all done this, taking on work for free. I am guilty. The bank account is low, and you’re wondering how you’re going to pay your car payment and still be able to eat for the week.

However, the minute you start underestimating yourself and work for free, or for peanuts, you’ll lose the respect of the client.

When giving your client an estimate for your services, you have to sell it. Make them think that you’re the bees knees and what you offer can’t be bought for any less. It’s important to put a lot of effort into why you deserve $100 for that job.

Present yourself as professional. In the end, you won’t be working ten jobs a month at $10. Instead you’ll be doing one job for $100.

But, before you respond to me that it’s easier said than done, this is when you come back to the client and ask them about their budget. Make a compromise. Maybe you state that you’ll do it for that price, but you have stipulations like, they don’t get the original native files, only a PDF (for example). Provide them with milestone pricing and let them see your first round and how amazing you are. That will convince them to spend more money with you.

3 | You Don’t Have to Compare Yourself to Super Successful Artists

Over the years, I’ve found myself wondering “why” can’t I be like so and so? I put in as much hard work as they do.

I’m going to tell you a secret. Some people are just damn lucky; that’s all. It doesn’t mean I don’t believe they don’t work for it. But, I feel that some people just know the right people or make the right impression at the right time.

I’ve had my experiences, but in many cases, they weren’t a good fit. The point is, I don’t give up. I have learned in these years, that just because every person selling you a class or seminar on being successful will not sell you a magic formula. You will learn something from them. However, it’s ultimately up to us as individuals and artists to go after what we want. How badly do we want it?

4 | You Should Show What You Want to Promote

I learned this in the photography world. If you only want to photograph high school seniors then just show high school seniors in your online portfolio. End of story.

I recently made the decision to rip off the bandaid and stop showcasing brush lettering on my blog. Why? Sure, I made money from it. But it confused my audience. What I want is to grow my coaching. Having brush lettering on here just didn’t make sense in the grand scheme of things.

So, make the decision to get rid of what’s not working, or what you don’t want to sell. You can still love it. It will be okay.

5 | You Should Appear Professional

Get it together. Have a legit business. Form an LLC or whatever type of company you want, legally, through your state.

Get a Federal ID number and get a business bank account. Something else that has helped me was finding an accountant.

I’m lucky to have worked with my amazing accountant for about seven years now. We work long distance and it works for us. Make a plan with an accountant that can help you keep better books.

Together, we use Quickbooks Online as our record keeping service. I can invoice clients through Quickbooks Online, receive payments there, and we have linked up my bank accounts so she can easily reconcile for me.

Have a contract, too. If you have to work with a lawyer, do it. You can find contracts online as well. Or, look into the book The Graphic Artists Guide Handbook: Pricing & Ethical Guidelines. It has good info on how to price and so much more.

What are things that you’ve learned about being a freelance artist? I’d love to hear from you!
Holly McCaig

About Holly McCaig

Hey you! I'm Holly McCaig and I'm super excited to help you love and ROCK your Etsy shop. I will help you have an amazing online presence so you can build a strong business and attract more customers to your shop. Let's do this together! Let's connect on Pinterest or Instagram, k?

About Holly McCaig

Hey you! I'm Holly McCaig and I'm super excited to help you love and ROCK your Etsy shop. I will help you have an amazing online presence so you can build a strong business and attract more customers to your shop. Let's do this together! Let's connect on Pinterest or Instagram, k?

2 Comments

  1. Tiffany on July 23, 2015 at 4:19 pm

    Really good tips. As a freelancer, I can relate to everything you said here. I myself had to learn (the hard way) that you can’t allow yourself to get comfortable, because people change and styles changes. I’ve actually been thinking about learning calligraphy as a way to expand my design skills.

    The biggest thing I’ve learned is that your success is not always based on your talent/skills. You really have to put yourself out there and get social with other people. You can’t do it by yourself.

    • Holly McCaig on July 23, 2015 at 4:21 pm

      So true, Tiffany! It’s like people that start a Facebook page and wonder why they aren’t getting new likes. Are you talking about it? You gotta talk about it!

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