A freelance artist is a contractor for hire in the field of art. He or she may work in any medium, but most freelancers work in graphic fields such as illustration, design, or photography. Freelance artists are not in the employ of a single company or organization, but hire their talents out to various clients. Many are self-employed, though some work with agencies or with a small group of regular clients. The field of freelance art can be both more challenging and more fulfilling than standard salaried jobs.
A freelance artist must be a highly self-motivated person, as he or she must effectively run a business as well as handle artistic tasks. Like all artists, freelancers must have innate talent backed by knowledge of popular artistic trends and styles. The freelance artist should have a highly flexible style that can be applied to a variety of assignments. Patience and people skills are also assets, as some clients may not know exactly what they want or may not be able to express their desires clearly.
The most important tool of the freelance artist is the portfolio. This is a collection of the artist’s best and most representative work, assembled in a professional package for potential clients to view. Traditionally, a portfolio was just that: a large case containing a variety of sample prints. In the 21st century, artists can use websites to display their portfolios and woo clients. They should keep traditional portfolios as well, however, as some clients will see this as a mark of true professionalism.
A freelance artist can work for publishers, animation studios, and similar companies. The work must conform to the client’s needs and is often deadline oriented. The freelance artist must therefore be able to produce consistent, quality artwork on demand. While the popular image of the artist is of an individualistic, temperamental person who waits for inspiration to strike, the freelancer must be able to overcome these tendencies or at least set them aside until the job is done.
Entry into any field of art is challenging, as there are many talented people with a yen for artistic expression and the freedom that goes with it. The struggling freelance artist may be forced to take a regular job, art-related or otherwise, to make ends meet until the income from freelance jobs is sufficient. The freelance art field can be daunting, but for many the rewards are well worth the struggle. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, roughly 60 percent of artists in the United States are self-employed.