From Freelance To Salary: 5 Tips To Make Money With Your Art
Updated: Jun 27, 2019
If you are like me, your parents weren't too happy when you told them you wanted to pursue an art degree. As a parent myself I must admit, I wouldn't be either. Why? Because, Art is hard!
Creating art can be hard for many reasons, but the actual creating of the art is just one part of the money making process for an artist. Whether you are a graphic designer, industrial designer, or photographer the actual art is just the tip of the iceberg. You've got the job, now it's time to keep it. Here are five tips to help you make more than just art. Some of these might hurt a bit.
1. Your Boss Doesn't Care About Perfection
As the creators of any one piece, ad, or image we want it to be perfect. Guess what, most of the time your boss doesn't care if its perfect, he/she wants it to be effective. When you are working for a company, a client, or yourself normally the goal is to make a profit. This means that ROI ("Return of Investment" HINT: the investment is you and you need to yield a return) is king. This is not to say that you should lower your expectation for your own work, but it is crucial to know when the mission has been accomplished.
2. Drop Your Pride
This may be one of the hardest things to do as an artist. If you are still pursuing your art degree, practice letting go of your pride now. Trust me. Just because you got your first job in the art field, doesn't mean the learning is finished. It has just begun.
It is likely that you were hired to be part of a team, or perhaps you are working under another director or artist. What isn't very likely is that you were hired because your portfolio was incredible, unprecedented, or whatever other self-aggrandizing adjective you want use. You were hired because your art showed promise and your abilities could be used to help grow the company or brand (again we are back to ROI). You will not make money or a career with your art talents by fighting your director or client on what they want. Yes, you may have some insight that is of value, but approach this conversation with tact. A big part of successful commercial art is sifting through the wants and desires of your boss or client. Remember, they have a vision too, and it's your job to show them how that looks.
3. Learn to Sell Yourself
A picture is worth a 1000 words. But, what do you do when someone doesn't think they need the picture? Well, to put it simply, you need to show them (your boss or client) why they need what you offer.
If I'm being honest, I personally have found that many people and companies don't see the value of good art as a part of their business plan. Many clients and professionals, feel hesitant towards spending money on art, design, marketing, and photography. Don't be offended, this is the part they don't teach you in school. You must learn to sell yourself and what you create.
A good way to do this is simply by showing examples. Be proactive and suggest new projects, but be ready to explain their value. Nobody wants to pay you to for something that won't be used (ROI cough, cough). You should also be ready for a "no". Not getting the green light on your idea doesn't always mean it wasn't a good one, it might just mean that there isn't a budget for it within your growing company just yet.
Remember, just because you can make the art, doesn't mean your boss can use it. Learn how to show the value in your piece, your ad, your art.
4. Get Faster
This point relates to the first a bit, but I wanted to stress it. Some say "you cannot rush art". I'm sorry to say but, people do and people will certainly rush your art. Your boss or your client will have deadlines and can't afford to wait on the aforementioned perfection. I know this sucks, because much of the love for art comes in the process, the details, the toiling over the minor nuances, but the reality is...most people don't care about that when it comes to commercial art. This is why there is a difference between fine art and commercial art that is profit driven. They are very two very different animals, both of which require tremendous skill and effort to find success.
Learn to be more efficient in your creative process. Memorize all the shortcut keys for your creative software like Photoshop and Illustrator; please check out Photoshop Shortcuts for Mac and PC - Full List. Setup all your software to be most efficient for your creative focus whether that be photography, graphic design, drawing or even CAD. Learn to ask the right questions when brainstorming with your boss or client. Efficiency and speed does not only come from executing the art at a higher rate, it comes from every step in your work flow. Clarify the idea faster, create the idea faster, and refine the idea faster.
Don't sacrifice quality, simply pursue it more efficiently.
5. Don't Forget The Art
After all of the above, I felt it necessary to come back to where it all started, the art. I don't want you to get lost in the first four points. Yes, the ROI is important for your employer. Yes, employers tend to undervalue art. Yes, you need to be fast. You also need to be creative.
Don't forget about the art. It's very easy to get lost in the deadlines, the changes to your work, and the carpal tunnel..., but remember that you are an artist at heart. Though you no longer have the time to be perfect, you must still pursue perfection. That is what its all about.
If you want to make money and sustain a career in the creative fields, you need to adapt. Grow your skills and make them better. If you'd rather work at your own pace and only bring your ideas to life that's fine, but don't expect to make any money until your dead...and even that's a long shot.