My main focus since graduating has been to take the time to set myself up as a freelance illustrator. I came out of uni knowing that this was going to take up a good amount of time, so I’ve been taking manageable steps to build myself up, until I earn enough to live on. I found a lovely studio, where I make work and bounce ideas off my friends. I’ve taken part in illustration fairs, curated a joint exhibition called ‘FUN’ and been lucky enough to grow my portfolio with a number of commissions. Working with Anorak Magazine and Studio Anorak was a highlight – both were real dream briefs, and gave me an insight into the sort of work I would love to keep being commissioned.
Find your feet
I’ve been trying to create opportunities and explore my work through different outlets, to understand where I can see myself fitting. For example, together with the studio I’m starting a website called Sketchbook Club Online, which will act as a resource for artists of all levels. It will feature draw-along videos, tutorials, material comparisons and articles from various artists explaining how they like to approach things. Discovering how you like to make work is a continuous thing – you pick up, learn and create new techniques as you develop as an artist, and your working method grows as a result. I’d learnt a whole bunch about myself, my working methods and style at uni, and these skills have stuck with me. It’s such a great moment when you find a way or a material that just fits.
Stay busy and be realistic
It definitely isn’t easy, but I knew it wouldn’t be. You regularly doubt yourself as an artist, and end up feeling like you’re a failure if you haven’t created work for three days. It helps to understand that becoming a professional freelance illustrator doesn’t happen immediately. Knowing this has meant I’ve been able to set myself realistic and achievable goals. It’s good to try and keep yourself busy in the first 12 months and continue the momentum from university, otherwise you can risk feeling glum, and it can be difficult to motivate yourself with your work. Contact potential clients, keep in touch with people, apply for competitions and fairs – you might surprise yourself when you get something out of it!
Client trial and error
Dealing with tricky clients was difficult to begin with, but you learn through experience. Whilst the majority of people I’ve worked with are absolutely lovely, there will be people that use you for information or never reply or pay you for finished work. It’s good to be honest, confident with your terms and conditions, persistent with emailing and make sure you know all of the information needed for each job.