Read more to find out how Alice re-established her creative career.
Becoming freelance is a big step for most people - it’s also different for everyone. In my own tentative and gradual journey to becoming a full-time artist and illustrator, I found reading about other people’s experiences really helpful so I hope that by relating parts of my own story I might be able to help you too.
Where it started wasn’t when I began to make money from my practice - really it happened back in 2011 when I decided to enter an illustration competition following a long absence from my creative practice. I ended up being one of the selected artists to have their work published in a book, which didn’t come with any financial reward but gave a huge boost to the confidence that I’d lost in the years since leaving art school. At a time when I didn’t really have any connections to the art and design world and my day job was completely unrelated to my degree, the competition was instrumental in helping me to think that I might be good enough to be an illustrator.
The term ‘portfolio career’ is used a lot but I guess it’s what I had as I worked towards being an illustrator full-time, and it’s possibly how I might work again in the future. I left my (permanent, full time) job in 2011 and took a risk by going to work a short-term contract as Programmes Coordinator at the Cultural Enterprise Office (CEO). Working for an arts organisation was great and I was able to gradually reduce my working hours so that over a four-year period I went from five days a week to three. I started to very gradually build up my freelance work - a mixture of applying for opportunities, speculative approaches and regular clients that I met through working in the creative sector. My ‘portfolio’ jobs complimented each other in that my job at CEO developed my organisational, financial and social skills and my freelance work nurtured creativity, innovation and artistic freedom.
A diverse practice
I didn’t study visual communication or illustration and I haven’t taken the route of finding an agent and working on books or editorial features but I’ve always had a love for design and I have the experience of doing my fine art degree. Under the title of artist/illustrator I’ve developed and found work painting murals, designing textiles, creating products for retail, delivering workshops, co-designing computer games and working as a visual moderator for events and public engagement. I’ve been surprised and excited by the directions in which my work has taken me. I think there is a real strength in defining what your practice means to you, and not just in the context of a well-trodden industry route.
I think one of the largest contributing factors towards maintaining my practice has been the relationships that I’ve developed with clients and other artists/designers/practitioners. In terms of clients I’ve found that managing expectations, professionalism and clarity when discussing and setting up new work has been instrumental in the of the success of the project and also in getting repeat business and word of mouth referrals. In terms of working with other artists – collaboration has become a big and important part of what I do. Collaboration has helped me realise projects that I wouldn’t be able to do alone, taught me new skills and provided me with both constructive criticism and friendship in what can be a rather solitary way of working.
As part of Alice's practice she provides advice sessions as our Illustration Industry Associate. She is also is one of the facilitators in Design Your Practice. You can make a free appointment with Alice here- Get in touch