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What Does a Freelance Artist Do?

Freelance artists usually set up their own studio to work on commissions.
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  • Written By: Alan Rankin
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 07 November 2014
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A freelance artist is a contractor for hire in the field of art. He or she may work in any medium, but most freelancers work in graphic fields such as illustration, design, or photography. Freelance artists are not in the employ of a single company or organization, but hire their talents out to various clients. Many are self-employed, though some work with agencies or with a small group of regular clients. The field of freelance art can be both more challenging and more fulfilling than standard salaried jobs.

A freelance artist must be a highly self-motivated person, as he or she must effectively run a business as well as handle artistic tasks. Like all artists, freelancers must have innate talent backed by knowledge of popular artistic trends and styles. The freelance artist should have a highly flexible style that can be applied to a variety of assignments. Patience and people skills are also assets, as some clients may not know exactly what they want or may not be able to express their desires clearly.

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The most important tool of the freelance artist is the portfolio. This is a collection of the artist’s best and most representative work, assembled in a professional package for potential clients to view. Traditionally, a portfolio was just that: a large case containing a variety of sample prints. In the 21st century, artists can use websites to display their portfolios and woo clients. They should keep traditional portfolios as well, however, as some clients will see this as a mark of true professionalism.

A freelance artist can work for publishers, animation studios, and similar companies. The work must conform to the client’s needs and is often deadline oriented. The freelance artist must therefore be able to produce consistent, quality artwork on demand. While the popular image of the artist is of an individualistic, temperamental person who waits for inspiration to strike, the freelancer must be able to overcome these tendencies or at least set them aside until the job is done.

Entry into any field of art is challenging, as there are many talented people with a yen for artistic expression and the freedom that goes with it. The struggling freelance artist may be forced to take a regular job, art-related or otherwise, to make ends meet until the income from freelance jobs is sufficient. The freelance art field can be daunting, but for many the rewards are well worth the struggle. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, roughly 60 percent of artists in the United States are self-employed.

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ZsaZsa56
Post 3

@whiteplane - In most cases you will have to go out and find your own work. That is why it is so important for any freelancer to have a good website which is simple, easy to navigate, and makes their work look fantastic.

Any prospective client should be able to go to your site, see exactly what you can do, get a sense for your rates and find out exactly how to contact you. This is the 21st century. Anyone who does not have a good website is just shooting themselves in the foot.

whiteplane
Post 2

Where would I go to find freelance artists jobs? I cannot recall ever seeing one on Craigslist or one of the major job boards. Is this the kind of thing that ever actually gets posted or do most willing clients contact freelancers directly?

Ivan83
Post 1

I have been a freelance artists for about five years and in that time I've tried just about everything. I've done portraits, drawn murals, designed custom greeting cars and even did a series of paintings of a guy's sports car.

If you are going to succeed you need two major skills, ability and flexibility. You have to be an amazing draftsman and fluent with a number of different materials. It is great if your specialty is oil pastels, but you have to be able to work on a larger scale than this if you hope to make money. Also, you have to be willing to take just about any job. Some of these might be truly asinine, but that is how you make money and you work for the client. You give them what they want, not what you think they should want.

Beyond that, cross your fingers and get out there and hustle. It's not easy being a freelance artists. You have to make most of your opportunities for yourself.

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