It's been 1 year!
On June 1, 2005, I ventured out on my own for a freelance illustration career. I documented my year leading up to my corporate departure entitled: One Girl's Journey to Doing What She Loves (Becoming an Illustrator)
. I would of never thought the impact my journal would have on others. Hundreds of people have emailed me during and since my journey of amazes me how I helped and inspired people to make a plan and stick to it so they could have the career they wanted. I'm still getting emails! I was contacted last year by the publisher of the annual book Artist and Graphic Designer's Market, wanting to reprint my journal in their 2006 issue
, so my experience was shared with even more people than I had imagined.
Since June of last year, I have had a steady and welcoming stream of work (attributed to both my rep and my promotional efforts). At times I felt overloaded with work - like 5 different deadlines in one week - I don't know if I could go through another week like that, but I was never dissatisfied or afraid if I would have more work coming in. I have added 22 new clients to my client list and too-many-to-count pieces to my portfolio. It has been a challenge. There have been late nights (which I thankfully haven't have for several months - more about that later), uncreative and unmotivated days and distractions. Some days I couldn't work because there was too much demand for me to sit and draw shapes, animals and people on a doodle pad
for hours on end. But, I have never regretted my decision of leaving my secure, great benefit, full-time design job. I'm home with my daughter. Where I need and want to be. Sometimes you just have to take that leap of faith and see what happens.
One big issue I hear about from others wanting to go out on their own is money. It is stressful to not know when and if you'll have money coming in. I think since I started heading towards a freelance career while I had a full time job, helped me with that stress. I knew I couldn't leave my job until I had some money saved, clients who would call on me again, and the hope that I would have more work coming in. I've heard that it can take up to 3 years get your freelance career to where it needs to be financially. I may be the exception to the rule, but this was not my case at all. I had a very nice paycheck with my design job, but after leaving my job, the other 6 months of the year doing straight freelance, yielded work that ended up being about 1.5 times my annual salary. I don't say that to boast (or to depress you if you aren't there yet), but to let you know that there are illustration jobs out there. I think the trick is having a style that is applicable to many type of things (editorial, publishing, packaging, greeting cards/giftware, etc.)
I've continued promotion on several levels and have been able to take some risks with spending the money to try some different portfolio sites to test out and see how they work. I joined the ispot
this year and just a couple of years ago thought I'd never have the "extra money" to spend for that. I designate every Monday as "Marketing Monday" and use my time to update my personal website, my portfolio listings on other sites or gather names for my next postcard or packet mailing. By setting aside time each week, it doesn't seem so overwhelming and I feel like I have current and fresh stuff out there all the time.
I have also come to a point where I am finally able to manage my time. I have pretty much quite working nights (by that I mean when everyone's in bed) and the last time I stayed up working was about 2 months ago and that was until 11:00 one night. I get up early if I need to or work faster or more efficiently during the day. Things are always on my mind, but I feel like I have more free time and enjoy my time much more with this type of schedule than last summer which was new, unorganized and hectic.
Being a full-time freelance illustrator may not be as successful for me in years to come, and I realize that, but for now, I'm enjoying every bit of it. I end with a quick story. I'm sure a lot of illustrators never see how their audience experiences their work (for me, my audience is children). I was sitting in church a few weeks ago and a child in the pew in front of me had a magazine that I illustrate a monthly calendar for. It was so fun to see him stop at the page, look through it and giggle, then show his dad something on the page. He then began to scribble and draw on that page adding things to what I had already drawn. It was really neat to see the satisfaction in the the things I do from that perspective.