How To Make An Art Of Being a Freelance Artist

An art career can involve working at home

Whether you’re a fine art tutor teaching from your own back garden studio, or an illustrator taking commissions from multiple clients, an artistic career can often involve home working. But it’s not all creativity and free spiritedness. Planning, admin and other less exciting tasks take up a lot of time and working for yourself means being incredibly disciplined.

Artist's hands with paint on them

Keep your hands in Art









Brush up your skills

Even if you aced art college and you have an impressive professional portfolio, it’s important to keep learning even when you don’t have colleagues to interact with face-to-face. Sites like Folio Academy provide online resources so you can keep your hand in.

Don’t waste time

Inspiration can be tough to come by, and it’s tempting to avoid sitting down to work when you’re experiencing a block, especially if it’s a piece you’re intending to sell without a fixed a deadline. It’s important to make sure you keep busy, though. Use this time to do some admin, or try a little exercises to get your creative juices flowing. It’s best to plan your week in advance, but there’s no harm in juggling a few tasks around if you need to when it comes to doing your best creative work.

… But do take breaks!

Equally, it’s easy to get obsessive when you’re in the zone and the ideas are coming thick and fast. Don’t be afraid to step away from the canvas for 10 minutes, though, and have a cup of tea. Burnout is the last thing you want.


Attend gallery openings. Sign up for conferences where they’re showcasing the latest digital illustration packages. Ask friends if their companies need to outsource any graphic design work.

Showcase your work

Make yourself profiles on sites like Etsy. Be clear about your skills, your availability, pricing structures and if you’re capable of a diverse range of styles, show them all if you can.

Find other income sources

There may be times when your art can’t earn you a living, so try and have back-up plans for those “dead” periods. Extra income sources such as paid survey sites can be a real life-saver when your bank balance is looking peaky. Sign up for a few and fill out surveys as and when you have a free moment.

Stay positive

People may laugh and sneer when you tell them you work at home as an artist. What they don’t understand is that this can be a satisfying, lucrative and highly legitimate career if you’re willing to put the work in and be savvy about business opportunities.

Follow your dream to be an Artist/Illustrator

Should You Follow Your Dream?


Young artist, dreaming of being a pro

When I grow up, I’m gonna be an artist.

What kind of question is that? Of course you should follow your dream… I mean, of course you shouldn’t follow your dream. I guess it depends on who you ask. Or what your dreams are. I’m often asked questions like this by my students, and others. They often want to know if it’s possible to follow their dreams of becoming a professional artist/illustrator and can they make enough money to support themselves.

Yes, it is possible to succeed.

This is an impossible question to answer in a few short sentences. It’s also probably impossible to answer with a simple yes or no. But Yes, it is possible, is it likely? Or will it be easy? Is it right for you? That is the real question. So I can’t answer Yes, or No. What I can do is offer my insights and, I would also council students, beginners and wanna be professional artists/illustrators to get opinions from other sources (until someone tells them what they want to hear. lol Or rather), until they hear enough of the answer that resonates with them.

How bad do you want it?

 First, I believe that most successful artists have an internal drive to create. A need. A burning from within to draw, paint, sculpt, write, play, or whatever. I also see that this desire is stronger in some than others – think of it like “the force”. And then there’s that need to make money for survival. These two needs are often at odds with one another. Parents send their kids to school to prepare them for careers and everybody knows you can’t make a living as an artist…or that the odds of making a living as an artist are pretty slim.

Statistics can be misleading

 If you only look at the figures it’s totally impractical to choose art as a career – score one for parents, my aunt Georgia, those negative school teachers and all the other naysayers, but statistics can be misleading.

Lets go off on a tangent…

small garter snake

When I grow up, I’m gonna bite a 16-24 year old moron.

In the United states there are approximately 8,000 poisonous snake bites each year. So if you live here you have a one in 43,000 chance of being bitten by a poisonous snake. However what if you’re a home body – couch potato – a slug who lives in the city and never goes out? Are your chances the same? “yeah but my friend got bit by a rattle snake once.” Also, would your chances go down if you never pick up snakes? Included in the 8,000 statistic are all of the 16-24 year old boys/men who “feel the need” to pick up snakes. In fact more than half of the 8,000 people bitten each year are morons who picked up poisonous snakes. So are your personal chances of being bitten really 1 out of 43,000? You have a much lower chance, taking these additional facts into consideration – Because you, or most of you, don’t pick up poisonous snakes. I may run a little greater risk as I do a lot of hiking in the foot hills around hear with Will Terry. We call it the Board Room. And there are a few rattlesnakes, out here. And we have seen a few. “Yeah and my dad got bit by one once up on Mount Nebo.”

Does this apply to your chances of “making it” as a professional artist?

I think you need to take a hard look at yourself because in the end only you can answer the questions that can get you past the statistics.Are you always creating? Drawing, painting, etc? Is it the most important thing in your life? Or at least, one of the most important things. Are you happy with the idea of yourself doing something other than an art career? Do you give up other activities to pursue art? Do you identify yourself as an artist? Do you treat socializing on weekends as a sacred ritual or can you give it up to perfect your art projects? Do you have artist role models? Are you motivated to pursue entrepreneurial projects? Do you believe you can “make money” if you have a good product and are willing to work hard? Do you feel free to do what you want in life without the blessing of your parents, friends, or Aunt Georgia? Do you like to improvise and experiment or feel the need to follow instructions on projects to a fault? Do you over-estimate your artistic abilities?

Is it something you LOVE? And will you continue to love it eight hours a day?

artist loving his arting

When I grow up, nah, I’m an artist, I don’t have to grow up.

These are just a few questions I think you need to be able to answer in order to know if your odds are better or worse for being able to “make it” as a professional artist. I believe that some have a much better chance simply because of their life style, habits, and choices, while others have a horrible shot at it because it’s just not that important to them.

In the end one thing’s for sure: There are a lot of people who regret not following their dreams and there are a lot of people who have regrets about following their dreams. Each probably feel they should have taken a different path.

Most people change paths several times in their life any way, so maybe you should give it a shot. You will have a better chance if you really dedicate yourself to it, rather than just give it a shot.
I say, If you want to be an Artist, DO IT. It isn’t skill so much as it’s sticking with it, and doing it, and never giving up. Art is an acquired skill that can be learned and improved upon. So if your willing to learn and improve and keep on doing it, you can succeed.

So, Yes it IS possible

Should you follow your dreams? I don’t know. Can you become a professional artist, YES YOU CAN. Is it likely that YOU will succeed? Will it be stressful? Will it all be fun? Will it be hard? Will it be easy? It will be worth it. 

Off the record

Wayne holding a great basin gofer snake

When I grow up, I won’t feel the need to pick up snakes. PS this is Not a poisonous snake. I hope.

I was a 16-24 year old boy/men/moron who “felt the need” to pick up snakes and I had a pet rattlesnake for awhile. I did handle him a few times til I took her back to Mount Benlomand where I caught him and let her go. Statistically, that month, I had a lot higher chance of being bitten by a poisonous snake. And oh yeah, I don’t really know if he was a girl or if she was a boy.

How to Price My Artwork; Am I being ripped off?

I am often asked how to price my artwork; Am I getting ripped off?

Pic of Wayne Andreason at drawing table.

Wayne Adnreason: Will work for food?

To price my artwork and to get ripped off are 2 different things. Getting ripped off is when one of the parties in the agreement, doesn’t deliver on their end of the bargain. That can does happen. And if that happens to you, then yes, you are being ripped off.

If you agree to paint an illustration for $10 dollars, like for a friend or family member, and you end up spending way too much time on it and it was harder than you thought it would be, and you ran out of pthalo green paint and ruined your moms carpet in the process, you might feel like you were under paid. And you were, but you were not ripped off. Well you were ripped off, but only by your lack of ability to negotiate a fair price. Even then, you gained some education so you may have gotten the better end of that deal too.

How can I avoid being ripped off, I mean, price my artwork for a fair price?

You can’t get ripped off if you have negotiated the price. In this case, you feel ripped off if you are not being compensated for you time and effort. So first of all, set the price where you would agree to do it. You can allow yourself to be under paid, but that is bad negotiation and you are only being ripped off by yourself. You should want to make money as an artist, so it is important to figure this out.

When i price my artwork, I like to identify my motivation.

  1. Is it a service project, like for a family member or a friend?
  2. Is it a job you want to do for the money? Hey, we all need money. Some people will say that that is a sellout, but that is for another discussion.
  3. Or is it for a portfolio piece. Every piece should be considered a potential portfolio piece. Until it just doesn’t turn out, then you can sneak it into the trash like most of my figure drawings.

Family and friends seldom understand the value of your art

If it is for a friend or family member, you will probably be under paid.  They don’t understand the time it takes and especially THE TIME AND EFFORT IT TOOK to develop the talent. You are not being paid for the time you spend on your artwork, but for the years of practice and learning and developing your skill, so you could create such beautiful artwork.

How can I price my artwork for family and not be ripped off?

First of all, before I even look at what they want me to do, I say, “you probably won’t be able to afford me.” Even in a joking manner that helps them realize that you probably won’t do it for free. And I like to say that I can do anything that they can afford.

Then I take a look at what they want and tell them I’ll get back with them. Especially if it is something I would like to do.

Then play the price my artwork game

I ask myself these kinds of questions. First, would I do it for free? Probably not.  Would I do this piece for free for a stranger? NO! Would I do it for $200? How about $500? $1000, $5000? One million dollars? Find the price where you would gladly do it. If it is a commission you know you are going to hate, the price should be higher. You may hate it but at what price would it be worth it?

Pad the price

Once you have that amount in mind, add 10% or 20% or even double it. This helps if you run into problems like running out of pthalo green or if you have to replace your mom’s carpet. And besides, you can always cut them a deal after you have finished if you feel you were paid too much. No one will be angry if you say “Hey, that was a lot of fun and it went smoother than I thought it would, and besides, I am Just not that valuable as an artist, so here is some of your money back.”

Now you negotiate with them for the final price

This can be the hard part, but it’s a crucial conversation and you need to get good at it.

So you say, “Friend, (or family member) I would do that for X amount of dollars.” Now they will probably think that they are being ripped off. Remember, you are not ripping them off if they agree to it. You may be asking more than they feel it is worth, but you are negotiating, not steeling. Let them know that that is what you do, and you need so much money to survive. Since you would be willing to do it for less, you can how negotiate down a bit. Give them the Friends and Family discount. Remember, you are negotiating here. If you have padded the desired amount you can come down if you choose, on the price. You can say, maybe we can simplify it, or something.  Let them know that you want to help them but it needs to be worth it for both of you. Win win. But you need to let them know you can’t afford to spend days working for peanuts.

Don’g Give Away Your Artwork

Only you can know determine what you would do a certain job for, or what it’s worth to you. Some would like the government to do make that decision for them, and mandate certain rules and laws for all of us citizens that should be capable of deciding for ourselves what our time and talent is worth.  That too is another discussion.

It is a good rule of thumb for artists, to NEVER give artwork to fam and friends. Because if you do, you will have set a price, you will have demonstrated that your artwork has no value. Let them pay a fair price for it, and they will know it has value and they will value it. It is more likely to be framed and hung up if it cost something too . Did I say never? Well there are times to give it away, so I didn’t mean NEVER, literally. Rule of thumb.

You may be working to learn, or just trying to build you portfolio, get published or maybe you love charity. In fine, you are not being ripped off, but you may be under cutting yourself.

~Wayne of Folio Academy, art lessons online.