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.

Artist Representative for Illustrators: Pros & Cons

Should I have an Artist Representative or not?

Girl at a desk posing as an artist representative

Not a real rep, but an actress, acting as one. See how busy she is, finding you all that work?

An Artist Representative can be a good thing or not.

I am often asked, “Will, should I have a rep?”
I don’t really know if you should have an artist representative or not, or even if I should, but… I have certainly played this game with and without a rep. So I can make a list of pros and cons and give my opinion. So here goes.



Pros of having an artist representative

Can get more work

Can get better work

Can get different work

Can make more money on each assignment, because your rep will be charging more, or should I say, the rep is a better negotiator than you I.

Can avoid doing a lot of paper work.

Can avoid doing the collections part of the job.

Can avoid doing all that prospecting, finding work, advertising, marketing, constantly hunting for jobs. All that stuff that you DID NOT become an artist to do. Stuff your artist representative can do and probably wants to do.

It’ validating to have a rep, Makes you feel good about yourself. You can say, “I am such a good illustrator that I have a rep out sorting out all kinds of clients that want my artwork.

Can spend more time creating and being an artist.

So there are the pros, or some of the pros, the ones that I was able to think of.

Cons of having an Artist Representative

On the Cons side, well…

You have to pay for that rep, they aren’t going to work for free. That is usually 25-30%.

A lot of times you give up the right to find or seek your own work.

You don’t know if your jobs are being diverted. Sometimes reps will give work intended for you, to another artist that they represent.

Takes longer to get paid.

You may be persuaded to take jobs that are not a good fit for you. This happened to me and is the reason I parted ways with one of my earlier reps.

You will probably pay your rep a commission on any job you land on your own.

You are dependent on that rep, so if for any reason you part ways, you are done. You have given up so much control and now you have to either find another rep or get back in the game.

Your rep might be a crappy artist representative. A lot of the good reps are not eager to take on new illustrators. They have the ones they are comfortable working with and they are established and they may not even want you.

And there are the cons.

Advice for artists considering getting a representative.

I have three points of advice.

1) Don’t even think about hiring a rep until you’ve been freelancing, on your own for at least two and better yet, three years. Learn the ropes, work in the trenches etc. This will give you a good perspective. Otherwise you may not be ready for a rep. You could end up, tied to a looser rep. If they were willing to take you on when you were such a beginner, it may be because they were a beginner too.

A better illustrator can attract a better rep. Have some clients already, have some work under your belt and some experience. Learn the marketing, the negotiating, the communicating and the collecting.

2) If you are considering a rep and they are willing to take you on and you are going to join their group, ask them for a list of who the represent and for their contact info. If they say no, that’s a bad sign. I know of three or four that would say “No” and it’s because their artists art all mad at them, there are problems. A good rep will have happy artists working with them. You want to know if the rep will pay you on time, if they will actually rep you.

My first rep gave me the names and numbers of her artists and I only had to call a few to know that she was a good rep. Those artists said I was lucky that she was considering me.

And 3) Don’t ever give up your right to marked your own work. You can look at a contract and cross things out or ask them to. After being an artist for over twenty five years, I would NEVER give up that right. You never want to be sitting on your hands, waiting for them to find work for you.

Remember, that contract is ONLY to help and protect the rep, look at it closely and strike a few lines if necessary.

One of my favorite reps ever was JoAnne Schuna. She was kind, ethical and everything that you would want in a rep.


I hope this helps, I am sure I’ve left things out, and I hope some of you have some great things to add to this, if so, feel free to add your comments on this subject.


PS, today, June 6, is my best friend’s birthday. Wayne Andreason is 54 today. Happy birthday Wayne.

Keep drawing and painting and if you need a little help, there’s

The Secret Life of a Professional Artist and Freelance Illustrator

The Secret Life of a Freelance Illustrator; Professional Artist

People know nothing about freelance illustration 

a treasure chest full of treasure It’s amazing how many people know nothing about freelance illustration. I think most people assume you have to be crazy to be a freelancer – they’re probably right. Interestingly enough back when I had my highest earning years back in the late 90’s my wife would get comments from women at the park like: “Has your husband found a job yet?” or “It must be hard being married to an artist”. My wife would say, “you have no idea!” I think she enjoyed messing with them. People with good intent would drop little clues like, “I hear they’re hiring over at Home Depot”.

Being a Professional Artist or Illustrator was easier back then. 

Back then being a freelancer was a much easier feat than it is today. I’ve talked at length about the current state of freelance illustration in lectures and one on one. Today the freelance markets are fractured and constantly evolving. I know illustrators who are now bankers, or working at Home Depot. I know editors who are teaching school among other jobs, like at Home Depot. I know editors who are trying to become artists and illustrators. I know illustrators who are now graphic designers or trying to become editors, or work at Home Depot. I even know art directors who have been laid off and re-hired by the same companies to freelance graphic design. I know art directors and editors who have lost their jobs to down sizing and are still looking for their next job. At Home Depot. (the t is silent)

The World has Changed a lot for artists and Illustrators.

The world has probably changed more in the past 10 years than ever before, not counting war or ice ages and crazy stuff like that. I probably sounds naive and over-reaching but can you imagine any other technology that has changed the world in such a short time as the internet? Remember the last time your internet went down and you sat in fetal position sucking your thumb waiting for the horror to end? We can’t do anything without it!

Be happy, Say “no” to bad freelance jobs, and drugs of course.   

But I digress. Let me divulge some of my secret activities! Sometimes I don’t get dressed until the afternoon. I’ve skyped without pants (as far as you know) – maybe with you! – but I promise, not with your daughter. I go shopping on weekdays (sometimes at Home Depot) while the world is at work. I work longer and harder than most people with a regular job. I can’t remember the last time I put in fewer than 70 hours in one week, sometimes more than 90 – BUT – they were the funnest (most fun, but hey! I’m an artist trying to be a writer) hours I could imagine putting in. Most days I wake up pinching myself (dream metaphor) that I get to do this. It wasn’t always like this however. It took me about 15 years to learn that my life is so much better off when I don’t spend more than I make and I say “no” to bad freelance jobs. What are bad freelance jobs? The kind that make it hard to sleap and have you cringing when you wake up. I can’t tell you what they are because your bad jobs will be different than mine. And hopefully fewer.

The Lonely Artist; Freelance Illustrating has it’s downsides

I’ve wished I could stand around the water cooler and catch up on the latest chatter. I used to get really lonely painting all day (and got hooked on General Hospital for about a year back in 1993). I’ve called other illustrators randomly from the old directories just to strike up a conversation. I worked on Christmas day once because the client had to have it two days after or they were going to go with someone else. (to be read out loud with a whiny voice) I happened to get paid $13,000 for that job, it was for Sprint, and it only took me about a week to complete. I could do it now digitally in a few days and enjoy Christmas with my family and saved some of that money. And I once earned $20,000 for a phone call (remind me to go into detail on this one on another blog post). Best phone call ever! 2nd best woulda been when when the doctor told me I didn’t have worms. LOL.

‘Underindulgence’: the Key to Happiness?

I’ve learned to spend less than I make. This is probably one of the most important skills you can learn. Stress is a killer…no really…STRESS WILL KILL YOU. I’ve had about 3 really stressful times. And I wake up pinching myself wondering if I died all those times.

1) Back when I was stupid I got down to about $800 in my account for the entire month and I didn’t have any assignments! I was so nervous I made a few calls to art directors I had worked for in the past. A few of them gave me work and then of course I got a deluge of assignments the week after.

2) Back when I was really really stupid – we were spending more than we were making because we were making lots of money. It was right after a year where I turned down over $70,000 worth of freelance work because my plate was already too full in 1998.Yep – we spent all the money in our account and couldn’t get paid from any of my outstanding accounts for about 3 weeks. (Please don’t think I’m seeking any sympathy – in fact you should leave a comment with your best synonym for dumb ass)…Luckily I had been saving quarters, nickels, and dimes in a jar. I’m not kidding, I got that puppy off the shelf and counted out $90. Later that day I had my car filled up and groceries in the fridge. I Kept checking the mailbox but each day there were NO checks. We stopped driving unless it was absolutely necessary. Did I mention that our two credit cards were maxed? The following week when the fridge was empty I went for the back up plan – the penny jar! SHOOWEE – $20 later and I was back with groceries again – amazing how far you can stretch your last $20 bucks. Remind me to give you an in expensive recipe for black eyed peas. Eventually we got paid – crazy thing was that I was owed about $28,000 in outstanding checks but this is the lesson: Don’t spend it until it’s in your account and even then – DON”T SPEND IT!

3) Back when I was Ultra Mega Stupid – we got in over our heads again. (notice a pattern here? some of us have to learn the same lessons over and over) I had about a year when we were going through a really really dry spell for freelance – this was also a transitionary time – it’s a long story – but basically I had to learn all over again how important it is to save money. We survived! We downsized. We learned what we needed to have to be happy and what we could live without.

It’s not how much you make that matters, it’s how much you keep

The good news is that in the past 5 years I’ve had more money than I did when I was earning much much more. We wasted so much money back then. Now I keep enough money in the bank to pay all of our bills for about 9 months. This is enough time to really make drastic changes if things aren’t working out. Don’t tell my fam, they will find something or things we just cant live without and make me spend it all.

So there you go – the secret life of a freelancer isn’t so secret anymore – Ups and downs yes, but it’s the best JOB I’ve NEVER had.

I painted the image above a few months back for National Geographic Learning. It was one of about 8 paintings I completed for an educational project they had for ESL students. I was given the assignment from Cynthia Currie – an art director I hadn’t heard from in about a decade. It was really neat to get a job from her again – I hope she reads my blog so she can see how exciting it was – hint hint! :)

PS- Here’s that inexpensive recipe for Black Eyed Peas:
1 bag Black eyed peas
Empty peas into a pot, dig bag out of trash and follow cooking instructions on the package.

Can An Artist Survive Without a Rep?

Will Terry is an Illustrator without a Rep, Still.

Today is March 3, and I, Wayne Andreason, would just like to start by saying, HAPPY BIRTHDAY Mark Andreason and Kory Kennington.  I’m Mark’s favorite brother and Kory’s best friend. And happy birhtday anyone else out there who happens to have a March 3 birthday.

Artist, Will Terry has been repless since january 2010

CampFire Boy

Q- so Mr. Will Terry, you don’t have a rep, do you starve?
A- Well Mr. Wayne Andreason, No, I do not starve, in fact if I ever suffered from anorexia, I certainly one that battle. In case you haven’t noticed, I am a big guy.
Q- So how do you make money if you don’t have an agent finding you work?
A- I’m still a free agent and in a position to negotiate my own contracts with my clients. I used to have a rep and It was a good ride with Shannon Associates but due to creative differences we have now parted ways. It was great to work with that company and we did many wonderful projects together.
Q- How long have you been on your own?
Four years ago I declared my independence, severed the umbilical cord and moved on.  I was on my own and chose to embrace the freedom it afforded me.
Funny how, in the beginning, I SO wanted a rep to get me work and keep me fed, and it didn’t come easy. I had to prove myself before they would even look at me. It was like, you can’t get an agent until you don’t need an agent. I was glad to be a part of the team and it was good for me too. Have Paints Will Terry 
Q- What’s that supposed to mean?
A- You’re the one that came up with it. And it’s kind of stupid by the way. It’s supposed to be like my artist’s credo, (like a mercenaries creed) It’s supposed to sound like, Have guns will travel. Well any way, the thing is, If you, or any one you know, has a project that you think might be a good match for me please call or email me direct – 801-368-7568. And yes, my refrigerator is running.
Q- So have you been busy?
A- Yes, off and on. More off than it seems. When I am not working on something for a client, I try to keep myself busy with a self imposed project of some type. To better my skill or to create an app or work with on Folio Academy, or an e-book. I also teach adjunct at UVU.
Q- What about the (above) picture of the boy and the fire?
A- Thank you for asking, Since I am reminiscing, I wanted you to post this self imposed assignment, of the boy and the campfire. It is one I did while getting on my “free agent” feet and trying to get a handle on Photoshop.
Q- Do you like how it turned out.
A- You forgot your question mark.
Q- Whoops, I do that a lot, Do you like how it turned out
A- Yes, I was busy at night working on this painting trying to gain more control with Photoshop and was happy with the results. I was experimenting with the texture but I think that most of the painting worked out. If you have my book The Frog with the Big Mouth you might recognize the little froggy in the lower right. I was always jealous of digital artists for the ability to rip themselves off – you know, copy and paste, now I get to do it! And I do do it, all the time. Tee hee.

Q-So the campfire boy was a “self imposed” assignment?

A- Yeah, This piece was a “just for fun” painting. I still draw and paint, “just for fun” but back then I had to in order to get ready to send out digital art examples to my clients. (note to reader: So if you’re a client or a would be client, I’d love to chat.) I love the ability it gives me to work on details and erase unwanted paint and the control over color and value are undeniable. My personal email is will at willterry dot com (it’s in code to confuse the bots).

Q- So that was Will Terry, has paints, Will terry?

A- Yes.