Many artists want the freedom and flexibility to work on their own terms. They look to steady freelance artist work as the marker of success. Many artists, however, struggle to reach this stage of their career. Why? They embark on their journey without a business plan.
To succeed, you must first know your niche. Whether designing, writing or making tactile pieces, your unique artistic stamp will be what attracts clients. While you won’t get the dream commission the day your website goes live, it will never arrive in your inbox unless you identify your ideal client, create a website and build up an online portfolio that displays your talent. Paired with the right digital marketing strategy, a freelance website helps expand your reach to potential customers and engage your target audience, bringing you closer to your dream career. In this article, we will go over the steps you need to achieve success as a freelance artist and how creating a website can help with that.
What is a freelance artist?
Unlike an employee working in-house at one company, a freelance artist typically works with one or more clients in a short-term capacity, either selling existing artwork to potential buyers or working on commissioned projects.
Many artists pursue freelancing to develop new skills, grow their portfolio, and draw in future clients across their chosen field. For example, if you’re a graphic designer but don’t want to commit to one output, you can take on a range of freelance gigs, designing everything from logos and business assets to websites and advertisements.
Best job sites for freelance artists
Freelance websites and online marketplaces can help you market your work to potential clients. Some freelance websites let you sell art online, while others operate as job boards. Considering both types, we recommend checking out these websites:
You can bid on projects and find new clients on Upwork’s freelance marketplace. It caters to all types of freelancers, but you’ll also find posts specifically for visual and creative artists.
Think of Fiverr’s marketplace as your initiation to freelancing: While this platform lets clients easily search and book freelance artists, the gigs themselves often pay less than those on other sites.
99Design is a website specifically for digital designers. You can apply for jobs or compete for gigs via design contests. This job site also focuses on digital illustration, such as for book covers, logos, cards and web design.
DesignHill’s creative design marketplace includes everything—logo, graphic, and web design. If you make graphic t-shirts, customers can shop your designs using the platform’s custom clothing creator.
You’ll find many different job opportunities on Freelancer, including social media, graphic design and content writing. Some major companies hire on Freelancer, so it could be a good way to add quality work to your portfolio.
Creative staffing agency Aquent helps connect talent with companies on a project basis. If you create or design video games, you’ll likely find interesting opportunities here, as they have a strong presence in the gaming field.
Showcase your animation, illustration, print, and other design work to your target audience on Dribbble. You can find gigs on the company’s job board or promote yourself to recruiters and individuals looking for top designers.
If you're a digital artist and want to make and sell your own NFTs, Rarible is a popular marketplace to start. They offer low initialization costs and "lazy minting” —a good set-up (especially for beginners) which allows artists to pass the minting fee on to the buyer.
Steps to becoming a freelance artist
No matter which type of freelance artist you plan to be, it takes seven steps to set up your business for success:
01. Create a freelance business plan
Your business plan should align with your goals as a freelance artist, whether you want to work fewer hours than you would in a full-time role, increase your net income, or put your name in the spotlight. Aside from determining your smart goals, answer these business plan template questions:
Which services or products do I offer?
How much does my production cost?
What professional responsibilities do I have?
How much should I charge my clients to cover my costs and make a profit?
02. Register your business
As a freelance artist, you must complete the administrative tasks of starting a business. At this stage, you will need to consult your regional tax authority to formally register a business. For example, in the U.S. you have the option to set up your freelance business as a sole proprietorship or limited liability corporation (LLC). While navigating your business’s finances can be tricky, you should consider hiring an accountant to cover your bookkeeping essentials. This way, you can quickly and accurately report your income and taxes to the IRS.
03. Get your first clients
Starting with one or two small clients can often allow you enough income to build up your brand reputation. Look for potential customers within your personal and professional networks. Perhaps a former employer or friend of a friend needs a digital artist for a small project.
In that case, you can offer these first clients an adjusted rate in exchange for promoting your services via word of mouth or writing an online testimonial.
04. Establish your online presence
The art world requires you to visually display your work, so you’ll want to make a great website - make sure to choose the right type of website too. You’ll also want to post frequently on social media platforms like Instagram, TikTok and YouTube to increase your chances of meaningfully engaging with your audience. With Wix, you can do both: The Editor allows you to easily integrate your social media feed across your web pages.
05. Build your portfolio
Since you’ll want to direct your clients to an easily accessible, professional showcase of your work, carefully curate an online art portfolio. If you don’t know where to begin, look at other art blogs and portfolios for inspiration and keep the following tips in mind:
Choose projects that highlight your unique artistic style.
Focus on projects that show the range and depth of your skills.
Use one of the best website builders for artists to create your portfolio.
Clearly list your contact details or include a lead capture form so clients can get in touch.
06. Set your schedule
Many budding freelancers often start without a schedule, eventually finding themselves working evenings and answering emails on weekends just to catch up.
To avoid this, set your hours ahead of time and stick with it. Consider how many hours you need to work, decide your working hours, then let your clients know. If your clients work a 9-5, you may want to choose a similar schedule.
07. Network, network, network
As a freelance artist, your network is your bread and butter. When you start, connect with as many people as possible. Build bonds with previous coworkers or employers, other freelancers in your field and anyone you meet who might need your services in the future. This means networking both online (social media) and offline (meetups, events and conferences).