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Chris1426's picture
3 pencils

What's your solid advice for starting freelance illustrator?


My name is Chris, I am co-founder of a successful company in the games industry. We are now 20+ strong company. Recently private events in my life made me realize I want to focus on my true passions more: artwork and music.

So I sort of decided to try my stab at freelance artwork which ive only done as "hobby" up til now. Ive studied graphic design, photoshop, illustrator, DTP and photography. Ive done numerous projects for befriended bands etc and worked in a portrait photo studio for 6 years before starting the above mentioned company.

Now I want to try and start up this new thing next to my company, be more creative and to maybe eventually work more from home and be more independent, instead of managing 20 people. Ive launched a modest site which I plan to grow in the coming time.

Obviously I have experience with running a company and doing artwork assignments. However I would like to hear from you what steps you'd take to get started, what not to forget, the importance of a simple contract (is there a good template?), to worry about rights and transfer of rights in the beginning or not... etc etc etc. :-)

I am looking forward to your feedback!!



Commenting on this Forum topic will be automatically closed on January 1, 2013.

YoungZM's picture
915 pencils

Deposits are your friend, ensure that you get them for any concept work you're doing because if you're spending time drawing for someone you're obviously working. One of the largest issues in any industry that makes things for us to play with or enjoy is that those making the art/ music/ games are doing it for "fun" and don't need payment. The other fact is everyone else thinks they're an artist and can do better. Customer service is important as is spending time coaxing out what your client wants from you. The more creative the project is, the more information you want from them. Signing off on drafts is important and is the contract end of how to act on indecisive clients who have signed off on them. You don't want a client to paint a clear picture of what they want, you do it- they approve it and then say that it isn't what they wanted so no payment is necessary. It happens far too much.

Side note, I like your work sir.

mara06's picture
2747 pencils

Wow, your work is beautiful. No kidding. I did have some trouble viewing all of it, though. Perhaps because I'm in a crowded cafe right now with everyone sucking at the WiFi teat, but it's awfully slow.

As to practical advice, I very much commend Zack for stressing the importance of a contract and a deposit, along with good client communication. You might want to have a look at AIGA and the Graphic Artists Guild. Both have helpful publicaitons. There's also a book that's been floating around for years, with periodic updates, that includes a CD with legal forms for designers, including a contract. I used one of those templates a long time ago to create my first contract. I've since amended it so many times I doubt you'd recognize the source. When you get a contract, USE IT. Don't do anything by just verbal agreement or e-0mail exchanges. Always follow up with the actual contract.

One thing I've run into along those lines is that I often create too cozy a relationship with my clients, to the point where they expect (and I give) much more than they're paying for, almost as if I'm doing a favor for a friend. Beware of that. The contract helps, but only if you USE IT.

Most print illustrators spend a lot of time courting galleries and magazines. Instead, I would cultivate printers, including "vanity" book publishers. Often, writers go to them with little sophistication about their real layout/design/illustration needs. I've had printers refer their clients to me because they know my work and are comfortable with the referral. That might be something for you to look into. Of course, some publishers/printers have their own in-house art departments, but not all.

Good luck! You're very talented.


Art D. Rector's picture
3162 pencils

Nice portfolio - agreed.

My advice? Keep your love as the hobby and make your money in the games business which - I'm betting - is a heck of a lot more profitable.

As always... jmho.

Alex's picture
397 pencils

If you don't already have it, get yourself a copy of the Graphic Artist's Handbook: ( ). It covers everything from copyright, to getting an agent (or going solo). It also has some example contracts, cover letters and other documents that will be handy starting points.

It won't answer all of your questions, but it will certainly help you out.

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