A crash course in getting started in freelance
I have often found that freelancing is given a mythological association from those who do not understand the business side or the framework for the successful Graphic artist. Countless times, I have found that I state that I am a freelancer to be met with “it must be nice to be your own boss” or “can you help me get started”. And while there is nothing wrong with a person wishing to be a freelancer, especially as a graphic artist or visual artist is concerned, I feel it necessary to debunk and expound upon the needs and dedication for those considering self-employment as a Graphic Artist.
Understand that this is not a hobby
The first and most paramount detail when considering freelancing is this. It will be your full-time job. This is not a hobby for which you can pick it up and put it down as you see fit. As such, you will need to allot time everyday to work. Even if you have no contracts coming in, that time should be dedicated to seeking out leads and to building up your SEO and SERPs so that you will have contracts in the future. Those who treat Graphic Art freelancing as a hobby will make hobby money, sporadically. Yet, those who dedicate their time as they would to a job for this profession will find that they can and will make a living at it.
The market increases but so does the competition
If you are an artist and work at a local studio, then your competition is limited to the geology of the area. Even if you are on a global scale, the majority of studios only have a limited number of competitors and clients for whom they work. However, when you become a freelance Graphic Artist and work primarily online (which is where you will need to be if you wish to be successful), then your clients and your competition expand infinitely. Not only are you competing with the studio down the road, but now you are competing with other freelancers in England, China, India, the US, and so forth. This is where your portfolio comes into play. Showcase the 3D models, layout, magazines, logos, and such which are unique and worth seeing.
In order to break away from the millions of sites which are on the internet, you will need to have material posted on more than just your website. Posting content to social media is a must, as this increases the odds of you having your content shared, thus driving up the leads. Blogs and organic content should be used to help your SERPs. Be weary of using too many keywords and repetitive phrases in your blogs and articles as Google algorithms may mark you as spam if you do. If possible, the Graphic Artist Freelancer should have images, video, and 3D content posted in several high traffic areas. CGTrader is great for 3D models, YouTube is ideal for video, and Pinterest or Instagram is essential for images. Again, you must boost your presence on the web to gain traction and secure contracts.
Success comes from affiliation
There are no lone wolves in the freelancing world, no matter how many proclaim it. There is always an association with someone or something. When planning on embarking on the freelance path, think of which freelance site will be most beneficial to your skills, which blog sites will see the most traffic, if adwords or such would benefit your business, as well as how you will market yourself. Just because you are an online graphic artist does not mean that you can abandon branding and building your brand. Logo creation, your resume, a mobile friendly website, and a portfolio are mandatory. Put all these elements on your website, yes, but also have them spread to affiliate sites in order to get online authority and drive traffic/leads.
Although being a freelancer requires a level of dedication that the traditional jobs do not (in my opinion), there are many reasons why such dedication pays off. First, while there is the need for set hours, you can take vacations and days off without going through loops and hurtles of administration. Secondly, so long as you keep your records in order, the money has less hands taking a cut. You will be in charge of your taxes and reporting, so keep it legal. Third, there is a bit of freedom in where you can work. Remote work allows you to have a home office, sit in a coffeeshop, or on the beach. So long as the work gets done, your contractor does not care where you do the job.
The bottom line
When it comes to freelancing the bottom line is that it is a job. Yes, you have a bit more freedom, but you also have a bit more responsibility. Weigh the pros and the cons before you decide what is best for your career, and then commit fully to your choice.