Becoming a freelance artist, everything you need to know

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Becoming a successful freelance artist is a long road to take and a route that proves to be a rocky one. Understanding your undertaking, however, takes away half of the stress and will clear your road ahead. LtL endeavors to create a transparent look into the artistic worldwide freelancing business. Below you will find a solid collection of articles that will help you on your way.

Hi! My name is Tessa, I’m a Dutch artist, specializing in wildlife and creature designs. I love to share my passion for nature, art and fantasy, and do that by creating this archive and community, alongside my company Tez Art & Design.

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Becoming a freelance artist

Becoming a freelance artist is not something one should take lightly. The sheer fact that you are here looking for business-related information proves just that. There is no such thing as an easy handbook or guide that quickly runs you through the ins- and outs of the artistic world. The chance of becoming a successful artist is greater than ever before, but the competition is as well. It’s an ever-changing business, and one thing never changed: It is an elitist business.

Do I need to become an elitist?

Rococo style art in Ca Rezzonico (Venice).
Painting by: Giovanni Battista Crosato (1753).
Image by: Sailko

Status in this world can bring you anywhere, but getting this status is quite the challenge. Someone that worked for Disney, Marvel, or Blizzard for example can take their art career anywhere from that point on. Even more so if they hone their personal qualities and utilize them. This doesn’t mean though that you need to have worked in a business like this to become a successful artist. It only gives you a big headstart when it comes to knowledge and fame, but then again: You need to be an awesome artist already to even get into a place like this in the first place.

So, do you need to become an elitist? Well, the word is a bit antagonizing. But yes, in a way. You do not need to work for a company like Blizzard though to get where you want to be. The elites in this world have some things in common that are not outside of your reach. You don’t need to tick all the boxes to become well-known and beloved by artists and non-artists alike. The elites among us worked hard to get where they are and are no different than you. If you really have a passion for artistry you can get there, and if you have enough patience, you will become an elite too.

Unlike before, where you had to have the right contacts with actual elites, like barons, kings, queens, and other rich patrons, you can now work your way up with a solid injection of knowledge, the ability to pivot whenever needed, and an overdose of passion. In this article, I will give you this knowledge injection.

What should I focus on to become an ‘elitist’?

  • Whether or not you have a passion for art – If not, don’t go any further. There is no easy money in this field.
  • Have your art fundamentals down.
  • Have your own voice, and a unique art style. Study other artists, pick the features you like most, and cook up your own thing.
  • Know how to touch your audience emotionally with your art.
  • A solid business plan. What are your short-term plans? And your long-term ones? And what do you need to get there in the time you reserved for it?
  • Know where to go to target your audience effectively.
  • Understand what things to watch out for in this field, like plagiarism, theft, etc.
  • Having a business mindset rather than an artist mindset.

Things you need to know

Art is a very broad subject. It used to be in the past with all the different styles that also evolved throughout time. Think of impressionism, art deco, Rococo, Renaissance etc. These days there is no one style that dominates. Unless you can ‘digital’ art a style. Which in my opinion is more like a category and far from a style. But we will see what the future will say of the digital age. The point is: Digital tools are just that: Tools. We can apply any style of art with it that we like. So it’s key for you to first understand what kind of art you would like to do, and then which branches you want to aim for. This can be:

  • Gaming art and concepts
  • Book covers
  • Film concepts
  • Book illustrator
  • Music covers
  • Wall art
  • Greeting cards
  • Etc.

You can specialize in specific subjects like:

You can develop more than one style if you like. But the more styles you have, the harder it is to target your audience effectively.
Illustration by: Tessa Geniets

  • Creature design
  • Character design
  • Prop design
  • Mech/tech
  • Cityscapes
  • Indoor scenes
  • Landscapes
  • Etc.

As well as specialize in a specific style or profession:

  • Anime
  • Realistic
  • Abstract
  • Sketches
  • Concepts
  • 3D
  • Animations
  • Youtuber
  • Teaching
  • Etc.

Look at your own qualities and ask yourself what you would really like to do. Go from there, inform yourself properly, and set up your own freelance business.

Copyright

Copyrights can be a pain in the ass, there are so many factors, and really, what is the difference between selling rights and selling the copyright? Understanding this and being able to confidently explain this to your client is absolute key. If you’re vague about it you will shoot yourself in the hand, and your clients may either take a run with your art, or not feel comfortable working with you because you don’t have your act together.

Becoming a freelance artist, the basics

So, how do you get started? What is it like to be a freelance artist, what do you have to keep in mind? Here are some very honest articles on exactly that subject.

Contract

The nitty-gritty of the business. Making a contract! It’s a pain in the ass, but once it’s there, you’re good to go. Inform yourself properly though on local rules, they may differ from the global ones.

Art and exposure

This topic could be covered a lot more broadly, but because the digital age makes that this profession is ever-changing, from year to year and even month to month, I recommend that you look at the experts in the field. A good example is Neil Patel (website and social media related) and Jacob Cass. Another good source is the Honest Designers show. You can find it anywhere you normally listen to your podcasts.

Protecting your art

Protecting your art these days is priority number one. Nothing so painful as you spend 10+ hours on your artwork and someone else takes a run with it and cashes in. Now with the NFT’s it’s an even bigger problem than before. And if you thought it are just random people that steal your art, you’d be wrong. There are companies out there that have no trouble doing so as well. But there are some things you can do about it:

Finding your audience

Finding your audience isn’t as simple as slapping your art on some social media channels. It’s important that you first know WHO your audience is. As a teacher your audience may be artists, while as an artist your audience may be non-artists. Every audience requires its own approach. You need to step in their shoes before you can effectively target them, and here is how:

Planning

Planning is hard, especially for creatives. And even more for creatives that are also freelancers. So how do you go about it? And what can you do to stay on track?

Conclusion

Being a freelance artist is a big challenge with a lot of responsibility. What do you walk up against? What else would you like to learn? Or what do you wish you’d known before you started your business? Please let us know on our Discord channel or Facebook page. We’d like Life to Legend to be as complete as possible.

We would love to hear from you!

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