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Handling the ups and downs of being a freelancer

As a freelance illustrator, you’re probably familiar with the feast or famine workflow that comes with working in the creative field. One minute you’re swamped with work and struggling to keep up, and the next you’re twiddling your thumbs and wondering where the next project will come from. It can be frustrating, but there are ways to handle it and keep your business running smoothly.

First of all, it’s important to recognize that the up and down workflow is a natural part of the freelance life. It’s not uncommon for creative professionals to experience fluctuations, and it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing something wrong.

One way to handle it is to plan ahead and try to smooth out the highs and lows. For example, when you’re in the midst of a busy period, try to save up some extra money to help you whether the lean times. This can help you avoid the panic of not having any work coming in, and it can give you the financial cushion you need to take on new projects without worrying about making ends meet.

You can also increase your outreach. Sending out warm or cold emails to potential clients. Reminding them about what you offer. It’s important to do outreach even when you’re busy - because that client may not have a job for you at the moment, but may reach out months later when something appropriate comes up.

Another way to handle an inconsistent workflow is to diversify your income streams. Rather than relying on a single source of income, consider taking on multiple projects from different clients or offering a range of services. This can help you balance out the highs and lows, and it can provide a more stable income over time.

Here are a few examples of diversified income streams for illustrators:

  • Illustration for print and digital publications
  • Licensing artwork for use on products such as clothing, accessories, and home decor
  • Teaching illustration classes or workshops
  • Creating and selling prints or other physical products featuring your illustrations
  • Providing custom illustration services for clients in a variety of industries, such as advertising, publishing, and design
  • Illustrating children’s books or other educational materials
  • Providing editorial illustration services for newspapers, magazines, and online publications
  • Creating and selling stickers, cards, or other stationery items featuring your illustrations
  • Providing character design or concept art services for video games, movies, or other visual media
  • Providing illustration services for businesses, such as creating logos, infographics, or marketing materials.

  • It’s also important to stay proactive and keep marketing yourself, even when you’re busy and not actively looking for work. Networking, posting to social media, attending events, and reaching out to potential clients can help you stay top of mind. Making content for social media can also be a great way to remind people of past projects that you’ve worked on. This way, when you do experience a lull in your workload, you’ll have a ready-made list of contacts to reach out to.

    You also have to remember to enjoy the downtime. You never know when a surge of work is going to hit you again. I love spending time with my family, getting off my computer and into nature. Maybe work on that personal project you keep putting off. Sometimes the best work we create is the work we make for ourselves.

    Overall, handling the feast or famine workflow as a freelance illustrator takes some planning and effort, but it’s worth it. Having a positive mindset helps as well. By planning ahead, diversifying your income streams, and staying proactive, you can keep your business running smoothly and weather the highs and lows of the freelance life.

    Want more information about diversified income streams? Take my quick survey here and I’ll send you a link to download my free guide.

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