Unusual Top tips for freelancers from an expert illustrator

Words and pictures by Adrian Cartwright

Unusual Top tips for freelancers from an expert illustrator. illustration of a freelance illustrator cartoon character

Unusual Top tips for Freelance illustrators from an Expert illustrator.  These Top tips are unusual and not the typical set of tips that you’ve probably already read. These are tips for a freelancing Life. And are from my own experience over 30 years as a freelance illustrator in the uk.

Wether you’re a graphic designer, writer, or any of the many freelance professions out there, these top tips will apply to you.

If you have any top tips that aren’t the norm, then please leave a comment. It will be shared with all who read this post, and help other freelancers to be better freelancers. enjoy.

1/ Be Careful Acting on First impressions.

Always give the person enquiring about your work the benefit of the doubt.

I’ve had countless times where I’ve thought this is a dead end enquiry, only to be commissioned for multiple illustrations.

And other times where I’ve invested quite a bit of free time, only to get dropped multiple times with the same client.

The take away from this is… investing time listening and taking action on new business is part of being a freelancer. You can either lose your patience or win the commission.

Freelance illustrator Adrian Cartwright blog

2/ Desperate people normally SHOUT !

Remember this the next time a client gets all stressful or wants something done yesterday.

The situation isn’t your fault. They are feeling pressure because they’ve messed up somewhere and don’t want to admit it. Keep calm and don’t let them push you around or make you feel like you’re to blame.

3/ Freelancing is often a short term relationship with a customer.

Don’t expect to be besties just because they love your style.

Many customers who don’t value the benefits of a working relationship will simply Google Search the next time they need a freelancer to commission. And in my experience they don’t normally stay in the art buyers role for that long anyway, Just don’t expect everyone to remember you.

4/ Dress like your Customer

This is an old tip I learnt years ago…

If you have a meeting, and that includes remote video meetings like Zoom, Teams or FaceTime. Dressing in a similar style of clothing will help to give confidence in your service.  Obviously if your client is the opposite sex, I’m not suggesting cross dressing. But dress in an appropriate level of professional attire. If you don’t know how they dress, then take a look on their website… if there’s a “meet the team” page or similar showing photos, that will suggest the dress code the company wants to project. Failing that, dress as you would if the local TV station was visiting you to talk about your work.

5/ Take a break.

I know what you’re thinking… “ but…

If you’re a freelancer, chances are you work from home, on your own and don’t have a structured daily routine.

I mean you work until you are tired or hungry.  I’ve got loads on this subject, because I’ve done it all, from mini 2 minute breaks every 20 minutes to rest my eyes. All the way to taking a 2 hour lunch/exercise breaks to fit in my daily exercise (Swimming).

I know what you’re thinking… “ but then I’ll lose momentum or faff about getting back into my work “

Working hard takes concentration, and you can only do that for about 50 minutes at a time. Then you’ll naturally slow down, your mind will drift, and time will be lost that way. So you might as well take that break. Avoid neck ache and all the poor health associated with sitting all day.

Now after reading this post, and sharing it with lots of people….

go and water the plants, feed the cat, have a cup of Tea.

Adrian Cartwright swimming in the sea

6/ Don’t smoke in a meeting

This statement is meant for remote meetings, because I honestly can’t think of anyone who might think otherwise.

I know this sounds obvious to many, but I’ve been in meetings (remote) with clients who’ve happily lit up a fag and puffed away.

Sorry to the smokers out there, but it just doesn’t look professional.

7/ Ignore people who are rude about you and your work.

Ignore them with a Very BIG IGNORE letters, because they are simply intimidated by you or your work. They don’t want you there for some reason, but they are too embarrassed or scared to admit it. I’ve been a freelance illustrator of over 30 years, and this is my best bit of advice. You are better than them, it’s as simple as that.

illustrator in the UK

8/ Don’t be a sucker !
  “ do a good price on this, there’s more to come… 

If I had a dime every time I was told that line.

The same goes for “ can you do a free sample… 

I honestly think some people genuinely mean it.  *But read on to find out why you probably didn’t get the commission.

Free sample for a pitch:

1/ After you’ve given them your freelance service for free. Ask yourself, “if they thought there’s a good chance of using it, why didn’t they invest money paying you to do the sample? They’re not prepared to invest in it, so why should you ?

2/ If they have no financial investment in your work. And now have time to really think about the project. Often the original concept will evolve into something different following feedback from the pitch.
Is your FREE sample still relevant ?

Customer asks… “Do a good price on this, there’s more to come” :

This never ever comes true. 30 years, and over 2,000 individuals commissions, it’s never happened to me. If there’s more work, they will look for a good price, not loyalty. Besides, it’s probably a low budget commission and will never show your true talent in the first place.
Top tip…
Here’s a good come back, if they say “ do a good price on this, there’s more to come…” Suggest they pay you the going rate (Full price), but on commission of multiple illustrations, you’ll do them a discount. That way, you’re committing to a deal with them, but if things don’t go to plan, you’ve been paid for your hard earned work. That’s fair.
But seriously think about the chances of you being commissioned to do more.
Loads more advice coming soon… follow me on LinkedIn and other social media sites for new blogs and more.

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thank you.