In 2020 I was much better at tracking my income. Out of curiosity I calculated the percentages of where my money was coming from.
Here are my thoughts on this income mix.
81% CLIENT WORK
I love client work. I love working with different people all the time and making their visions come to life. I’ve been described as a “magical unicorn of illustration” by one client since I really don’t mind being art directed. I’m never precious about the work - whereas other artists sometime get insulted when a client asks for changes. I find I work best when I can start with my own ideas based off of chats with the client, then use their feedback and ideas to really springboard the imagery into something even better. I really strive to make us both happy in the end. I want to get something I’m proud to put in my portfolio, and I want my client to achieve the results they’re hoping for from the work. I’m also not afraid to push back if I think an idea isn’t working - as it’s for the goodness of the work as a whole. I’m a true collaborator and I think it’s a major strength of mine.
However, having such as huge piece of my income be client work makes me a little nervous. I’ve been caught in a recession before and have watched as it all dry up. With client work you’re not totally in control of the jobs that come your way. This is also why people view freelance as pretty precarious. They’re scared of the feast or famine nature of the work and not being able to predict when or where their next job is going to come from.
This is why I definitely want to increase those other slices of the pie over the next few years. I’ve got to add more passive income to the mix. Passive income is a great way to have a lot of little streams of income coming in regularly. It’s steady income that takes away that hustle or starve mentality. A lot of passive income sources require quite a bit of effort up front, but once it’s done you just set it and forget it - other than promoting it of course.
9% GEEKY PET
My Geeky Pet print sales are pretty much passive income. They’re already made and I just ship them out with minimal time commitment. Usually this section of the pie is much larger, but with the pandemic raging I didn’t attend any comic conventions in 2020. This slice was purely made up from online sales and portrait commissions. Portrait commissions are so much fun to do, but since they’re personal use fine art there’s a limit to how much I can charge. I definitely feel I set my fees fairly for me and the client on this one. They’re at the high end price point of pet portraits, but I feel that the fun, uniqueness and value I provide through the art work justifies the fee. I can’t go lower as it wouldn’t be worth my time, and resentment doesn’t make for good art. I also make sure to reserve the right to sell the images as prints afterwards - extending the potential to make more from the image.
I also have a few things up on Tee Public and Redbubble but I don’t really spend much time promoting or building these. I think it’s hard to make a major time commitment when you make a sale and only make a couple bucks. It takes a lot to start getting volume sales, and so far I find it’s not worth my time. I’ve actually been thinking of outsourcing the labor of putting up new images.
Murals are fun! I love the physicality of them, the opportunity to get away from my screen. They’re also a great deal of work as they’re completely custom art and I aim to be paid properly for them. They bring great value in terms of beauty, branding and culture to public and private spaces. I think it’s a matter of finding a balance between homeowners who want a garage painted but don’t want to pay too much with businesses that have better budgets. It’s tough in this time of lockdown to know if offices will ever come back, or if working at home will be the long term shift. For now I’m going to aim on doing more public murals to build up my experience and portfolio. I want to add some more with lettering to really show off my skills. I also want to practice spray paint more as I haven’t totally got a handle on it yet.
I want to do another Skillshare course to add to my previous one ( Check it out: Watercolour Pet Portraits: Likeness, Composition and Costuming ) As my own audience grows I want to start offering my own courses through my website. I’ve got some ideas in mind for ones on hand lettering and building a creative business.
>1% WEBSITE PRODUCTS
I really need to start diving into my two decades of experience in the illustration industry. I want to add downloadable items such as contract templates, business tools, brushes, templates, e-books and other helpful items for people starting their creative businesses.
Stock - I want to spend some time going through old work and offer it up as stock imagery.
As far as physical products - maybe sell off some of my old acrylic originals, since they’re just sitting in a bin in the basement. I’d also love to create more drop shipping items. Physical items where the manufacturing and shipping are handled by another company. The time commitment on this is making the design, as well as figuring out what items to sell, and whether people will actually want them. So far I’ve had minimal results with my masks and prints.
OTHER INCOME OPPORTUNITIES
Licensing - I’d like to start building a licensing portfolio full of lettering and patterns. I definitely want to take some more courses on this to get the mix right since it’s a new industry to me.
Coaching - I’ve been practicing this a little bit with my friend who recently quit her job to go full time freelance. It really helps me realize how much knowledge I have to offer when I have someone else asking me questions. I could open up a few blocks of time for half hour or hour long calls with people where they can ask me anything to do with building their creative business.
Those are my thoughts on my income mix from 2020. I hope you learned something and perhaps even end up applying it to your own business. Let me know if you have any other suggestions for income streams.