Life of a Freelancer - cool or not so cool?

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  1. #1
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    Life of a Freelancer - cool or not so cool?

    Today I've read these blog entries and they made me think.

    http://daarken.com/blog/2011/02/27/d...-one-and-done/

    http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2010...-face-instead/

    I pretty much started freelancing out of art school and ten years later I still do it. On the one hand I'm still thinking: Is this really the right thing to do? Don't I need a job with a monthly paycheque? On the other hand I got offered very good contracts which I didn't sign. Yep, it's a tad bit schizophrenic.

    My conclusion after these 10 years: As a Freelancer you are the king of the world or you are the only idiot in the room. The king and idot-situations happen frequently with unkown duration.

    The first 2 rules for me are: First: If you get big chuncks of money - save them for not so good times and second: keep your fixed costs low (very important for me).

    What do you think about the Life of a Freelancer?

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  4. #2
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    Well both of them are right, it is same situation with me(almost word to word). But i am loving it. Being your own boss is very satisfying, for me at least. Organizing my own time during day is also something i like. There are days when i don't wanna draw so i can relax on those days(maybe because of that i will need to work harder tomorrow, but it is good to have that feeling of freedom).
    At the end you can always have hope that one day you will have better payed jobs so you don't have to work as much as before.
    There are some days i think i am siting by my computer almost from morning till i go to bed(funny thing is that i usually do) and that some of those days are so repetitive that i am not sure what happened today and what happened yesterday.
    Also i find it very interesting what kind of project i will work next, it gives me boost, and creative energy.
    Will see to edit this post if i want to add something more to this subject

    M

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  6. #3
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    i seem to have a love/hate relationship with the freelance life. the constant lonliness, long ass hours, the drain of having to be 'on' all the time, never really making as much as i'd like, etc...vs...being able to draw all day long, coming and going as i please and ultimatley making a living doing something that satisfies my creative urges.

    it's not for everyone i guess....

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    I hated freelancing. I did it for a few years at the beginning, then took a corporate gig. I imagine most in-house art departments are pretty awful, but mine was (mostly) enjoyable and challenging. My immediate boss all that time was very good, so that probably made the difference. No doubt I was under-compensated compared to what I could've made as a freelancer after a couple of decades, but everything is trade-offs.

    It's all temperament, I guess. I'd rather take orders and not have to worry about things.

    I'm back to freelancing now, but thank christ I'm not the main breadwinner.

    I was once on the receiving end of a critique so savagely nasty, I marched straight out of class to the office and changed my major (sketchbook).
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haha, these posts make me feel like my experience so far has been way too good.

I'm 18, my portfolio is a step from mediocre, (really beyond mediocre if you compare to the pros on here) and work finds me more than I find work. (I actually haven't sealed a single big deal by APPLYING to somewhere yet. Only small projects this way) I study half-time and I'm still making more money than my parent is. And this is only months and a few bumps in my thread here on CA.org into it. I don't even have a .com domain yet.

Will definitely keep in mind this advice though, especially coming from someone like daarken

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    I've been freelancing for a little over two years now and the thing I find worries me is things like pension you know? Like, am I doing the right thing for my old age?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dile_ View Post
    haha, these posts make me feel like my experience so far has been way too good.

    I'm 18, my portfolio is a step from mediocre, (really beyond mediocre if you compare to the pros on here) and work finds me more than I find work. (I actually haven't sealed a single big deal by APPLYING to somewhere yet. Only small projects this way) I study half-time and I'm still making more money than my parent is. And this is only months and a few bumps in my thread here on CA.org into it. I don't even have a .com domain yet.

    Will definitely keep in mind this advice though, especially coming from someone like daarken
    Hey, just checked your porfolio, great stuff.
    I am 20, and worse then you. (You can check the facebook page link in my sig to verify)
    Also self tought. I have been selling posters of my artworks, greeting cards and notebooks for the past 6 months or so, with limited success. It has shown me how hard it can be.

    If what you say is true, then I congratulate you. Keep it up, that is some boss shit.

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    I think it would be very interesting, terrifying and stressful. Not that working for a company isn't those things but still. The nice thing about what I'm doing now is that work ends, and I can go home and mostly do whatever I want during my free time. On the flip side, there are times when I hate what I do and what I have to put up with, especially the drama that goes on with large groups of people.

    Freelancing would end the group problem, and it would hopefully be more interesting but you also have to rely completely on yourself and if you aren't motivated enough to get stuff done, then I expect it's a easy to screw yourself.

    Realistically, there will always be issues and crap, and stress no matter what you do because people have to find a way to earn money. I wonder if the best compromise would be to be able to do artwork for a really great company that allows for creativity but still provides benefits ect. But I don't know if jobs like that even exist. XD

    It will be years though before I can even think of freelancing. And I don't know if I'm the kind of person who can make freelance work for themselves.


    Edit: Though I also wonder if it would be easier if you were married and your spouse could provide a steady income/insurance then it would be easier to freelance? Or at least take some of the frantic edge of it.

    Last edited by Reutte; February 28th, 2011 at 03:43 PM.
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    I was full-time for many years, and now I've been freelance for many years, I have to say I've been enjoying freelance more than full-time. The company I worked for was pretty good for the most part - but freelancing is turning out to be more my style.

    Mostly I prefer the freedom - I like making my own schedule (I hate having to schlep somewhere every morning. I'd rather work during whichever chunk of the day I'm most awake and alert, which might be the middle of the night.) And I love being able to pursue work in any area I want - one of the problems at my full-time job was that the company shifted focus over the years from things I was interested in to things I thought were incredibly dull - and being an employee, I had to go along with that.

    Income varies wildly as a freelancer, of course - some years I make more than I did full-time, other years way less. I try not to spend exorbitantly so I can save the money from flush years to get through the lean years.

    Being American, health insurance is a problem, no denying that (I think I'll just try not to get sick for the next few years...) For "retirement" I have several IRAs... (like I'm ever going to "retire"... ha!)

    But over all, I think I like the freedom and excitement of freelancing. And being in total control. And the endless potential. If someone is afraid of risk, or if they need structure and direction, then I can see where they'd hate freelancing. Me, I find the riskiness kind of exciting and I thrive on chaos, so it works for me.

    (Also I have no problem being alone all day, in fact I prefer it. Being interrupted by people at my full-time job annoyed me no end. But some people work better surrounded by other people, so I guess they'd be better off full-time.)

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  • Quote Originally Posted by Pavel Sokov View Post
    Hey, just checked your porfolio, great stuff.
    I am 20, and worse then you. (You can check the facebook page link in my sig to verify)
    Also self tought. I have been selling posters of my artworks, greeting cards and notebooks for the past 6 months or so, with limited success. It has shown me how hard it can be.

    If what you say is true, then I congratulate you. Keep it up, that is some boss shit.
    I'm not in a position to give advice really, but I think its harder to find work as a character designer/artist than for a matte-painter/illustrator/set-designer/environment-artist.
    Everyone does characters, and nobody does enviros/props etc.

    Anyways, thanks for your words, you got good stuff too, i think you need to target a bigger audience so to speak though =)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dile_ View Post
    I'm not in a position to give advice really, but I think its harder to find work as a character designer/artist than for a matte-painter/illustrator/set-designer/environment-artist.
    Everyone does characters, and nobody does enviros/props etc.

    Anyways, thanks for your words, you got good stuff too, i think you need to target a bigger audience so to speak though =)
    This seems really odd to me. I'd rather do environments than characters, anyday.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Deadlyhazard View Post
    This seems really odd to me. I'd rather do environments than characters, anyday.
    I'd rather do environments too.

    Well, environments and general illustration.

    I want to try freelancing, I don't know if my work is there yet though... or if there is even demand for work like mine.
    I'm anxious about the technicalities, contracts and such. But then again, I tend to get anxious about anything new really.

    How did you freelancers start out...

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  • #13
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    Environments can be more fun actually (and I love perspective )

    Nice articles. I haven't yet reached enough level to do full-time freelance but I want to give it a try. There are many things which ended a bit different than the way I imagined them so I'm not going to get discouraged from the start. It can equally end up as horror and some really positive experience depending on the luck.

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  • #14
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    I am now pretty much ready to kill a man with my bare teeth so that I can draw all day, be lonely and never take vacations.

    We'll see what kind of tune I'm singing in 6 months, though.

    *** Sketchbook * Landscapes * Portfolio * Store***

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  • #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Misplacedhippos View Post
    How did you freelancers start out...
    Eheh, by getting laid off. (Okay, it wasn't just me, technically the company went out of business along with the rest of Silicon Alley...)

    Actually, that kind of worked out for the best. I kept contacts from my full-time job and they were able to send a lot of freelance work my way eventually. Though the first couple of years as a freelancer were pretty grim...

    You just have to keep pushing ahead, no matter how bleak it looks. And live on rice for a while.

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  • #16
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    I've been working since I was 15, I'm 55 now and I've freelanced for 30 years of that. The economy sucks right now, but I still make a decent living compared to a lot of people who sit in traffic for 3 hours a day. I pay for my own health costs as I go. I still sell paintings through galleries and I still work in games freelance. I really couldn't ask for more than that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dile_ View Post
    haha, these posts make me feel like my experience so far has been way too good.

    I'm 18, my portfolio is a step from mediocre, (really beyond mediocre if you compare to the pros on here) and work finds me more than I find work. (I actually haven't sealed a single big deal by APPLYING to somewhere yet. Only small projects this way) I study half-time and I'm still making more money than my parent is. And this is only months and a few bumps in my thread here on CA.org into it. I don't even have a .com domain yet.

    Will definitely keep in mind this advice though, especially coming from someone like daarken
    You are to young, some things change over years, or at least your way of seeing things as you do now

    Quote Originally Posted by QueenGwenevere View Post
    Eheh, by getting laid off. (Okay, it wasn't just me, technically the company went out of business along with the rest of Silicon Alley...)

    Actually, that kind of worked out for the best. I kept contacts from my full-time job and they were able to send a lot of freelance work my way eventually. Though the first couple of years as a freelancer were pretty grim...

    You just have to keep pushing ahead, no matter how bleak it looks. And live on rice for a while.
    Well it is different from person to person, f.e. i am living in country that was under dictatorship for 10 years(1990-2000) and after that it was really bad here, still is(maybe slightly better), so my only "window" into the world, and digital art, was this forums, or to flee country. Freelance was a "god-sent" thing, and i still don't believe in god, he he

    Quote Originally Posted by dpaint View Post
    I've been working since I was 15, I'm 55 now and I've freelanced for 30 years of that. The economy sucks right now, but I still make a decent living compared to a lot of people who sit in traffic for 3 hours a day. I pay for my own health costs as I go. I still sell paintings through galleries and I still work in games freelance. I really couldn't ask for more than that.
    He he, you are real deal!!! Hats off,
    best

    M

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  • #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dile_ View Post
    haha, these posts make me feel like my experience so far has been way too good.

    I'm 18, my portfolio is a step from mediocre, (really beyond mediocre if you compare to the pros on here) and work finds me more than I find work. (I actually haven't sealed a single big deal by APPLYING to somewhere yet. Only small projects this way) I study half-time and I'm still making more money than my parent is. And this is only months and a few bumps in my thread here on CA.org into it. I don't even have a .com domain yet.

    Will definitely keep in mind this advice though, especially coming from someone like daarken
    More power to you then. I started the same around the 2000s. One phone call and I got offered 3 jobs, it was a dream come true. Then the Dot.Com Crash hit home and it was the other way round.

    Down times happen. You probably want to have this job for say 30 or 40 years. Just try to build reserves und you will get through. I carefully listen to every advice from older peeps I get and therefore up until now I only had one (!) customer that never paid my services (and I had a bad gut feeling when I accepted the job, so I made two bad mistakes at once).

    Moreso I survived the last 2 years of economic crisis quite well. My personal plan is: always have enough money in the bank to survive one year without work (this idea I got from Bill Gates, hehe). Furthermore this helps to get to the really good jobs, because you can say NO when somebody offers you a slave wage job.

    Quote Originally Posted by Reutte View Post
    Edit: Though I also wonder if it would be easier if you were married and your spouse could provide a steady income/insurance then it would be easier to freelance? Or at least take some of the frantic edge of it.
    It definitely lifts some pressure and is a good way to go. One corporate earner and a freelancer can be a powerful combination. If you are alone a good sense of money will help.

    Quote Originally Posted by Misplacedhippos View Post
    II want to try freelancing, I don't know if my work is there yet though... or if there is even demand for work like mine.
    I'm anxious about the technicalities, contracts and such. But then again, I tend to get anxious about anything new really.

    How did you freelancers start out...
    In my experience you can get through even with mediocre skills, because what's really most important as a freelencer are your business skills. This mostly decides if you will stay near poverty or live a normal life. You can't count the many artist that don't have any business skills. And well IF you are a good artist you can end up to work for big corporations and earn the big money. Most beginners think their work isn't worth much and accept slave wage jobs or even work for free - the most common mistake and likely the way into poverty, misery and bitterness (oh I forgot loneliness, because who wants to be with a bitter miserable person?).

    I studied 4 semesters and learned there everything I needed. Because I was on a private art school I was very critcal of the education I got and after 4 semesters I realized that the next 4 semester would only cost me money. At the same time I got some well paid jobs and thought "what the heck" and left art school.

    To make a long story short. All my mates from back then graduated and became jobless afterwards. I on the other had never graduated, but found the right moment to start. I won't advise to do what I did, but this is how it went.

    My advise would be: graduate (or self educate yourself as deep as possible, there are many possibilities to do that nowadays), take a full time job, build a reputation and only then go freelance (if you find a nice woman with a monthly paycheque underway all the better). In a way the way QueenGwenevere went about. Because when you go freelance you will take some customers with you and this will give you a good head start.

    Another good article:
    http://whatever.scalzi.com/2008/02/1...s-about-money/

    Last edited by Sascha Thau; March 1st, 2011 at 03:03 PM.
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    It's okay. The freedom is nice. You need to be really organised financially though. Taxes, retirement, investments, incorporation, you have to have a handle on all that and have a financial plan to achieve your goals. Poverty isn't fun, and it's even worse if you worked your butt for ten years for the privilege of being poor. Don't take any low paying jobs, because you're just shooting yourself in the foot and ruining it for your colleagues.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Deadlyhazard View Post
    This seems really odd to me. I'd rather do environments than characters, anyday.
    I think it has got to do with how visible/popular characters are. Like the masses remember and love the characters, where as a good environment adds to the scene but isn't as "visible" so to say (e.g it doesn't overtake the characters in it). Like John K talked about how everyone want to be character designers rather than animators, and I would guess that more people want to be actors than directors, and so on.

    As for the question... Well, I never really got into the freelancing business that much, mainly because I have a bad self-discipline on most every thing (including actually finding them jorbs) but if I have to-do lists and deadlines that are not done by me, I'm much more efficient, so thus far an actual sit-in-office art job has worked better for me. But I would think that as I eventually gather more experience through the years, I'll get more back to the freelancing.

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  • #21
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    Haven't seen anybody mention the other important piece in the freelance game.
    Clients.
    Some of them are from hell, or moronville.
    And e-mail is a terrible way to communicate.

    I started full time employment awhile ago and I'll never go back to freelance if I can help it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by HunterKiller_ View Post
    Haven't seen anybody mention the other important piece in the freelance game.
    Clients.
    Some of them are from hell, or moronville.
    And e-mail is a terrible way to communicate.
    .
    True!

    But is there such thing as "too many job" in freelance? Or rather "god damn, i'm starving! - "will work 4 food" ?

    And pricing... as i understand, the prices are dictates by those, who offers the job, because there is sooo many freelancers in different countries.
    For example - US citizen don't do shit for 1$, but india citizen works one week for this amount of money (a bit overexposure, but i hope you get the point).
    What you think?

    And student loans... These are killers for beginner freelancers, i think. "Please, we want our 40k USD back!" WHAAT?!

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    Quote Originally Posted by HunterKiller_ View Post
    Some of them are from hell, or moronville.
    And e-mail is a terrible way to communicate.
    but some of them are actually really sweet, and than there's skype :)

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  • #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by HunterKiller_ View Post
    Haven't seen anybody mention the other important piece in the freelance game.
    Clients.
    Some of them are from hell, or moronville.
    And e-mail is a terrible way to communicate.

    I started full time employment awhile ago and I'll never go back to freelance if I can help it.
    I actually dealt with some of my worst clients while working full-time. (They were technically the company's clients, but I was one of the people who had to deal with them face-to-face.) And also some... really problematic fellow employees. Including one genuine psychopath who made me literally afraid to come into work. (He didn't last long, thank god.)

    Conversely, some of my freelance clients have become quite good friends.

    So it can work both ways.

    The advantage of freelance is that if you deal with a client-from-hell... guess what, you don't have to deal with them ever again if you don't want to. You can say no and walk away. You're not stuck in the same office with them, or having them foisted on you by an employer.

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    I have been having some similar thoughts for years now when it comes to artistry.
    They have to do with a very important question;

    WHY DO ARTISTS GET CONSISTENTLY UNDERPAID, UNDER VALUED, AND ACCEPT IT?
    This question comes with two parts, first; why so undervalued and second; why accept it?

    Before anyone gets silly, I want to stress that I am not making claims, I am simply wondering and questioning.

    I am about to finish a business degree in marketing and throughout my 3 years in university I have learned about the value of visual queues such as packaging, covers, art direction in advertising, layouts and colors of promotional material, etc.

    The visual aspects of a product are often a highly deciding factor, especially for things like book, video game and movie covers.

    If it does not stand out, then it cannot break through the clutter and that presenta a tremendous problem.
    When it comes to comic books, certain movies and all games, the visual aesthetic of the product is almost everything. It is all you see.

    It is not any less important then the companies financial choices when it comes to obtaining loans, accounting, HR, management of employees, public relations and all other aspects of a company with well paid executives at work.

    In fact I think that without amazing artists companies like Valve and Activision would not be able to raise the profits they did, no matter the competency of their chief financial officers, accountants, loan officers, marketers, HR people, etc.

    These well paid people all went to school for what they did for about 3 years for their bachelor and maybe an additional 2 years for a masters degree.

    Artists however have been working on art since an early age, and many have went to school for it as well.

    In fact, a talent at artwork is more rare then a business accumen. For example as I graduate in marketing in a few months I will face competition from 2 thousand students from my university alone, plus thousands more from the other schools and previous workers looking for new jobs, etc. We are extremely replaceable, and hardly unique.
    I know many many people that can market and manage and whatnot.

    But I don't know more then 2 peers that can draw at all.

    Why aren't artists worth as much as gold as a virtue of their rarity? Uniqueness? Unreplacebility?

    I can easily imagine a world where the artist is highly regarded, suited up, rolexed out, corner office chilling. I can see artists charging premium prices for their services, and being as highly regarded as any other people in a company.

    How many people can crunch a few numbers in accounting, vs how many can give the game Portal it's distinctive visual direction that made it what it is?

    It doesn't make sense to me.

    And it further makes no sense why artists I'm corps and freelancers alike are accepting low wages.

    Art should he a prestigious endeavor like it once was hundreds of years ago.

    At least that's the dream I see.

    Last edited by Pavel Sokov; March 2nd, 2011 at 02:21 PM.
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  • #26
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    I tried to freelance as an artist but I got almost no jobs, so I quited trying, maybe I just don't know how to get jobs as a freelancer, then thing is that I'm 100% sure I'm better than other artists who do get a job as artist, just the getting a steady stream of jobs is a mystery to me...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Christian223 View Post
    then thing is that I'm 100% sure I'm better than other artists who do get a job as artist, just the getting a steady stream of jobs is a mystery to me...
    Experience, quality, exposure/availability, attitude/reputation might be working against you. Employers tend to prefer artists who they know that they can deliver and know what to do (you have previous experience), since there's less risks.
    Though, looking through your sketchbook, the quality may have the biggest deal here.

    "I eat comics and poop stylization"
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