What did I learn last year?
I honestly, just learned how to email people last year. And I’m still not good at it, but that’s really mostly what I’ve learned. Who knew that when you’re an illustrator, about half of the job is just emailing people?
Last year I started up my own business. I’ve now been about this for about one-and-a-half year and I can say, that when it is working out it’s a very fun and rewarding job, but when you go about three months without any work it can be the worst job in the world. When I started out my business I thought this would be a very exciting and busy year, figuring out how the illustration world works and visiting events, markets, making some new friends and being busy with other artistic endeavors. A difficult year for sure, but exciting! Instead 2020 was a very weird and erratic year, filled with some really high highs and low lows. I really feel like I’ve been thrown into the deep without anyone telling me the water is really scalding hot first.
The positive side of this year is that it has immediately shown me all sides of the coin. I think freelancing only fits a specific type of person, and is certainly not for everyone. Being an illustrator and freelancer is sometimes really difficult and stressful, and other times sometimes comes up which makes it worth it ten times over. I do think I’ve learned a lot this year. One of which is just emailing people, which is still something that is difficult and scary to me, but I’m trying to accept it a bit more as just part of the job. 2021 will be the year of me getting real good at emailing!
Other things I’ve learned are just things you didn’t learn at school. I’ve taught myself a lot of business skills. Got some help with learning how to do taxes. I also bought a book about calculating prices, how to make an invoice, and how to set up a contract. I joined a business program (if you are an Artez student, I recommend the Artez startersprogram!)
I really often think about the things I would’ve loved to know before I graduated! The year started and ended so strangely, and it was my first official year of freelancing. I really wish someone told me a lot of stuff I now know. Some advice:
1. Don’t expect too much! When I graduated I thought the school finals would be so important and a way for people to notice me and my work. In the end, it really wasn’t as big and life changing as I thought it would be. Nothing is really as important as it seems at the time. While that probably sounds sort of disappointing, I also take a lot of comfort out of it. I’ve really learned how to not take things too seriously. If something goes wrong: so be it, that’s life! You learn from experience. Bit by bit you’re working on becoming a real business, it won’t happen overnight.
2. You’re a business, not just an artist. I know, it is very romantic to think of yourself as an official ‘artist’, who throws themselves at their work and creates a lifestyle around that. Please don’t. Being an artist is a job like any other. You need to file taxes, know how to market, learn how to network. Please take care of yourself, plan in your work days on specific times (especially important in a pandemic), don’t take feedback too hard (need to work on that) and most importantly: learn how to relax! (also still on my to-do list: learn how to relax).
3. You need a lot of self-discipline. I don’t think this is something everyone likes to hear, but I really think that if you want to be a freelance illustrator (or just a freelancer in general), you need to be able to plan really well, to be a bit though on yourself and sometimes do things you don’t like. And really, start in school with this! Take yourself serious, realize you are here for you, not for anyone else.
4. No one reaally knows what they’re doing. Everyone is just doing the best they can. Grown-ups don’t really exist! The older I get the more I realize no one really knows what life is about, what they’re doing and where they’re going. Most of the time, your life will be just a happy knock-on of little coincidences. Really, as someone who worries a lot about expectations and fulfillment of them, I can truthfully say: try not to get too hung up about missed chances, people who are doing more or better than you and how you want things to be. Try to just see where life brings you. I know this is a fucking cliché, and it’s not as easy as it sounds. But realizing everyone is a mess, not just you, helps a lot.
5. Don’t be afraid to do something because you think you’re not good enough. You’re never good enough! There’s always something bigger and better. So better do it now. Don’t think you’ll get to it later, because later doesn’t exist yet.
6. Half the job is emailing.
ps. Recently i´ve been experimenting a bit with 3D modeling & enjoying it loads! My first 3D illustration. :)