10 tips to become a successful freelance artist

If you went to school for visual arts, worked hard to develop your artistic skills, or simply have a profound passion for the arts, being a freelance artist is a viable career option. From graphic design on billboards, to that tempting tin of tea you picked up in the supermarket, to the print you ordered online to liven up your living room, art is everywhere — and there’s an opportunity for you to be a part of it.

Not sure how to make the leap to a successful freelance artist career? In this guide, you’ll learn concrete steps and helpful tips that can point you in the right direction.

What does it mean to be a freelance artist?

Freelance artists work with a variety of clients instead of one company or organization. Some freelancers have a full-time job along with a “side gig” where they work as artists in some form. Others have made the leap to freelancing full time, whether from home or from an artist’s space, acting as their own boss with a flexible work schedule and all the other responsibilities that come with freelance work (more on that later). To be a full-time freelance artist, they need enough clients, contracts, or gigs to establish a steady stream of income since most freelance jobs are short-term, lasting only a few weeks or months.

Laptop on the wooden table image
Photo by Bram Naus on Unsplash

10 tips on how to find work as a freelance artist

Now, you probably have a good idea of what it means to be a freelance artist, like the various types of work you might get and the pros and cons of full-time freelance vs. part-time. So let’s unpack the steps to finding work. From freelance websites to job boards showcasing businesses hiring freelancers, here are some of the best tips on how to find clients and become an employed artist. 

1. Have a full-time job first

It might be tempting to get your degree and jump right into remote work as a full-time freelance graphic designer, but having work experience at a company is a great way to build skills. This goes beyond the skills of your craft and into navigating the dynamics of working relationships. Having a client is similar to having a boss because, ultimately, they’re paying you to produce the artwork in question. Starting with a full-time job will help you learn how to communicate with people in a professional setting, work on a deadline, and manage your time. 

Plus, establishing yourself in the field at a company boosts your credibility and the likelihood of someone hiring you for freelance assignments. Also, when you have a full-time job, you can start dipping your toes into freelance before going all in. Besides allowing you to straighten out your finances, this can help you decide if a freelance career is truly right for you.

2. Find your niche

Finding your niche helps you stand out from the crowd and market your specific skills effectively. As an artist, maybe you have a lot of different interests and skill sets, but you may find that some are more in demand than others, or your specialty knowledge in a certain market may attract a different, higher-paying client.

A pivotal part of your brand identity is communicating the product or service that you offer and what makes your offerings unique. So maybe you’re a photographer and you dabble in video work, but you’re going to first establish your freelance photography business. That’s great, but take it a step further and showcase your personal care product shots and scene staging to break through the market and attract more customers. 

3. Make an online portfolio

As a creative professional, a great way to attract clients is demonstrating what you have to offer. Back in the pre-internet days, a portfolio could be a tangible sample of work artfully organized in a folder, but now you can showcase your work digitally with a personal website. Website builders like Namecheap’s Site Maker require no coding, so you can set up your site ASAP. 

On your portfolio site, display the work that you’re the proudest of and create a section dedicated to your professional background. This can also help you find your niche by carving out a specific place on the web for you to display your unique creative vision.

4. Promote yourself on social media

Social media plays an important part in artist branding — with billions of users, it’s a fantastic way to promote your art and offerings. Through cultivating a social media presence for your artwork, you can find potential clients as well as an artistic community. All in all, it’s a wonderful source of connection as you build your reputation through positive interactions online.

5. Visit job boards

Create accounts on popular platforms like Indeed or Glassdoor and set up alerts for freelance or part-time work in your field. Check out specific sites for freelance artists, like Arts Thread or jobs.art, to foster even more connections and gigs. 

6. Establish a business plan

Just because you’re an independent artist doesn’t mean that you aren’t running a business — the business just happens to be you. A business plan can keep you organized, goal-oriented, and on the path to success. When you form a plan, develop long-term and short-term goals, timelines, the cost of operations, a list of services, and other aspects that can help you set your rates and attract clients. With a great plan in hand, you stand a better chance at success.

7. Consider strategic pro bono work

You can lend your creative skills to a family business or a not-for-profit organization, and in return, you’ll have portfolio pieces and work experience. While it’s important to be strategic when accepting pro bono work, it can help your portfolio grow to bring in bigger fish. It’s perfect for beginners, but keep your time spent in mind.

8. Don't forget the many hats you'll wear

Being a self-employed artist will come with a few other hats on top of your artist's beret. You’ll be networking, strategizing, and budgeting while meeting deadlines and producing high-quality creations. Yes, there’s a lot to keep up with, but the freedom is a huge perk, and like most things, you get better with practice. 

9. Develop a routine 

The freedom that comes with freelance is exciting, but all the flexibility can lead to procrastination, especially when you’re your own boss. Cultivate a routine that works for you and your needs. Maybe working in the evenings is better suited to your family’s schedule — that’s totally fine, but try to stick with a consistent schedule. 

10. Respect your time and take care of yourself

Your time is valuable, and this doesn’t only pertain to your working hours. Allow time for yourself outside of work. When you take care of your physical and mental well being, it has a positive impact on every facet of your life. When you have more energy, you can approach tasks with a level head and a creative spark. Schedule breaks for a walk outside every day or set up a day in the week that’s completely work-free. 

Types of freelance artists

Working as a freelance artist could mean being a concept artist, experimenting as a multimedia artist, or dabbling in the fine arts. There are a lot of types of freelance artists out there, including: 

Graphic designer. This type of freelance artist creates visual concepts using computer software. It’s a combination of art and technology used to communicate ideas in advertisements, magazines, websites, print marketing material like banners and brochures, and more. As an artist, graphic design skills are incredibly marketable because they are the foundation of any brand's strong visual identity.

Illustrator. At first, an illustrator might be confused with a graphic designer — after all, some elements of graphic design overlap with illustration. Oftentimes, though, an illustrator is more focused on the content within these graphics in both fine art and marketing capacities as opposed to just the layout. Illustrators may use computer software to generate their images, draw them by hand, or use a drawing tablet to hand-sketch illustrations and fine-tune them in a digital manner.

3D artist. Keeping in theme, the artistic work of the 3D artist employs computer software to generate 3D images. This type of artist has a highly specialized and sought after skill set, requiring good computer and specialty software knowledge. It’s useful for a variety of purposes, like ad campaigns, TV production, and product design. You can create models on topics you like, for example, cars, characters or spaceships. Someone specialize in specific topics (e.g. Hum3D), but others sell different types of objects on marketplaces.

Photographer. This one’s pretty straightforward. The photographer captures people, places, and things and offers their prints or digital images for sale. Hired for weddings, birthdays, graduation ceremonies, or portraits in a studio, a photographer documents the moments that make life special. They can also capture images for advertising purposes, whether hired to work on a specific commercial or campaign, take pictures of products for ecommerce sales, or simply capture beautiful images that others can purchase and display in their home.

Image of a person on the rock with a camera
Photo by Zukiman Mohamad from Pexels

Videographer. While photographers are in charge of still images, videographers are responsible for video production. A videographer can film anything from short films to commercials or live marketing events. Videography requires knowledge of filmmaking as well as technical prowess for capturing and editing those clips.

Painter. Primarily entrenched in the physical art world, the painter works on canvas, paper, pottery, walls, and other mediums to develop works of art. They could create beautiful paintings for sale in a gallery, work in a commercial endeavor to create art for many to enjoy, or even put their skills to work as a muralist hired for large-scale projects on buildings and in public spaces.

Digital printmakers. The buying and selling of digital works of art is incredibly popular, and digital printmakers are behind this explosive trend. This type of artistic expression can combine the traditional hands-on expression of art with technology. Many freelance artists sell these works online, print on demand, and ship out the art as it’s ordered.

Calligraphers. A calligrapher creates intricate and ornate handwriting using ink and specialized tools for exquisite results. Though this lettering art form that’s linked to formal invitations has its roots in pen-to-paper expression, it’s also become a digital art form.

Go pro with your freelance career 

Being a freelance artist allows you greater freedom with your time, creativity, and the work you choose to do, but it can take some time to get started. So regardless of where you are in your journey of pursuing freelance, take heart in the wonderful opportunities that await. With digital portfolios, job boards for artists, and social media acting as a platform for budding artists, the world is your oyster. 

And with Namecheap’s Visual suite of tools, you can craft that professional website in minutes while also using the Logo Maker and Card Maker to create your own professional brand. For a beautiful business card, import your logo into our Business Card Maker straight from Logo Maker, fully customize the layout to meet your needs, and create print-ready PDFs or get the cards delivered right to your doorstep. These low-cost tools are your friendly associates in creating your dream career. 


Nick Allen

Nick Allen

Nick Allen is a writer, photographer, and content marketer. He’s also the founder of BrainBoost Media, a boutique content and operations studio. With a wide range of interests, he enjoys reading and writing about sports, entrepreneurship, and start-ups.
More articles written by Nick.

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