May 27, 2021

5 Habits of Successful Freelance Artists

Due to the many changes in society today, one being the worldwide pandemic and all the shifts it has caused in both our individual lives and as a collective – more and more people are deciding to dive into the world of freelance. According to an article written on, there was “an increase of 2 million freelancers from 2019 to 2020 – which is an 8% increase.” So, if you are finding yourself in a position where freelancing is a necessity, here are a couple of habits to start building that are practiced by successful freelancers today.

Freelance art is where your passion becomes more than a hobby.


According to Steve Gordon, owner of RDQLUS Creative, in a book cowritten with Laurel Saville called 100 Habits of Successful Freelance Designers, he states that it is important
“…realize what kind of person you are and how that will affect your expectations, hopes, and preconceptions in business as an independent…I knew early on that I was going to eventually venture off and do my own thing. Being aware of this helped me get the most from my jobs and also curb behaviors that could have been mistakenly seen as an attitude problem or pinned me with hard-to-work-with reputation.”

We all have strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, it is highly imperative to have an understanding of ourselves and how we use these strengths and weaknesses because it can either build our future or sabotage it. When we identify these, we can then understand how to use the skills have acquired and apply them in the right areas. These can involve communicating effectively with clients, and/or collaborating with other freelancers to get a project done.

The tools of a freelance artist.

Work & Getting Paid in Freelance Art

For many of us, freelancing may be a romantic dream. An opportunity to work at home in our PJ’s, or a resort somewhere by the beach, an image of a fancy free-spirited lifestyle where there are no bosses that run us into anxiety, and we have lots of free time and make lots of income. Although very inspiring, it’s unfortunately not quite accurate. The truth is if you choose this lifestyle, there is one habit that is extremely necessary to become a successful freelancer. In the words of popular TV personality Ru Paul, “You betta work!”

If you are a freelancer, you are your own system of income – which means all the work responsibility that surround that system. If you don’t set up your system of what work you do for what price and how you get paid – the dream of freelancing at home in your PJs will soon turn into a nightmare. Therefore, a good habit to start building is the mindset of working. Seth Cheeks of CheekyDSN says, “You must know how to grind, grind, grind, as in work very hard and very smart. This may call for giving up weekends in the beginning and working more than you’ve ever worked for an employer.” Media mogul, Gary ‘Vee’ Vaynerchuk, says “If you want to have one of the best lives in the world, which is live life on your own terms, you have to pay your dues to get there.”

And it goes without being said, get paid for what you do. This is going to be your living, and if you use the time to make free art, you are giving up time you can be working on art that someone will pay you for. At first it may be daunting to set your own rates, but with time and research, you can set a rate that you feel best in. Freelancing is not free, and neither should your art be. A great resource to look into for setting up a system of income for freelancing is The Money Book for Freelancers, Part-Timers, and the Self-Employed by Joseph D’Agnese and Denise Kiernan.

Networking as a Freelance Artist

Freelancers must network. They must meet others and promote what they do. Maria Brophy, author of Art, Money, Success states, “If you want to sell more of your work, you have to set the intention to DELIBERATELY CONNECT with the right buyers.” This applies to freelancing as well because, as an artist, you want to sell your services and it is important for business owners and other professionals to know what you can do and how you can help.

Networking is what will help you find clients. And it’s not just the official kind of networking too –where you have to attend an event, have your business cards ready, and share your elevator pitch. Although this is still a great practice, networking can also be done through normal conversation. You are at a get-together where you start a conversation with someone who is thinking of starting a business. You do graphics and offer to design their logo. Immediate repor. You can be at an art festival, or neighborhood event, or meet a friend of a friend. When you engage in genuine conversations, these subjects pop up and it’s best to be ready to share how you can help your acquaintance succeed in their ideas.

Freelance artistry is fun, but it also a big commitment!

Hobby Vs. Freelance Business

For those who have been drawing as a pastime and looking to take it into the world of freelance, this is a habit worth restructuring. Because hobbies normally are done during free time, remember that when it comes to running your own freelancing business will work just like that – a business. And if you treat your business like a hobby, you will soon see how expensive it is to sustain. Much like a job, freelancing is still a block of time in which you must find clients, promote your work, do the work that’s asked, and get paid. If you desire a life that you can design yourself, you must design the system that pays for it and treat it seriously. However, to help sustain creativity, making art as a hobby should also be a priority. Make sure to set a block of time to be creative as well, but don’t let it interfere with the real work.

Curious about a career in graphic design? F.I.R.S.T. Institute’s Graphic Design and Web Development program allows students to launch their art careers in just 11 months — on campus, or online!

Article by Marianne Catangay, Graphic Design & Web Development Instructor at F.I.R.S.T. Institute.