No matter what stage of life you are currently at, whether you are a high-school student or a retired employee, please don’t assume that it’s either too early or too late for you to begin building your art career. While having a degree in art or experience working at a studio gives you opportunities and a head start, they are not requirements you cannot do without.
I have been working as an illustrator for over 5 years at the time of writing this article and with my long-term client base I am easily reaching a stable income every month. It wasn’t always like this, however. The beginnings were difficult as I had completely no experience and basically no skill when I was first starting out. My first project I received ended while I was in the middle of working on it because my client realized how bad I really was. I was hired to illustrate a children’s book but after completing a few illustrations, the client politely let me go. Now when I think about it, I was lucky to even get a chance to try! I still remember how happy I was to land that first job.
Here is one of the illustrations to give you an idea:
Before getting that first project I had never actually sold my work to anybody. I did own a graphic tablet and a copy of Photoshop because I used to paint digitally as a hobby, wishing that I could one day become a professional artist. My university degree wasn’t connected to art and at the time I was still working full-time, on a contract for a translation company. In 2013 my work was nowhere near a professional level but it motivated me to keep trying to get more jobs and keep on improving my skill.
Shortly after that first failed job, my contract at the company I was working for ended and I was left with two choices: to look for another job which most likely wouldn’t be connected to art as my skill level was not nearly high enough to get employed full-time, and the second choice was to try and make a living as a freelancer. You can guess which one I picked.
I won’t lie, it wasn’t easy to find work at first. There were ups and downs, dry months and busy months, trouble getting the results I wanted while also trying to find the time to work on my skill and personal projects as well. Though I have done many illustrations I am not very proud of, I kept in mind that it was the best I could do at the time.
I used freelancing websites, such as Upwork to find jobs. Every day I would scroll through offers and apply to a few. Also, I made sure to make up for my lack of skill with a perfect work ethic and good communication with each client. I would always listen to my clients and do my best to provide what they wanted. It helped me build a strong profile with mostly positive reviews. The more reviews I got the easier it became to find new jobs.
Slowly, I started getting bigger projects and began building good relationships with my clients who would come back to hire me again. I have also improved my skill and was able to build a portfolio of work that led to more job opportunities. More often, clients would contact me and ask me to work for them, instead of me having to look for offers. I started earning more and gained more stability with my monthly income.
When I began working as a freelancer, I would earn $50-$100 per one illustration. At the moment I receive from $500-$1000 per illustration, which is 10 times more. I no longer look for jobs. Instead, I have a strong client base and I get approached by new clients directly. I Illustrated several children’s books, worked on movie production and mobile games.
The road is still not over and I’m in the process of becoming the artist that I want to be. I cannot imagine that anybody would be unable to do what I have achieved so far, in this day and age. It is not a necessity to go to an art college anymore, there are no requirements for age or gender. All you need is your passion and a drive to do what makes you happy. Everything you need to know is available on the internet – countless of art courses, resources, social media and services that will help you get started.
If you have been struggling with the thought that you might not be good enough or ready – you can stop right now. It’s time. Pick your brush and start painting your future.