Ahhh, the glamorous life of a freelancer. Everyone wants to be a freelancer right? Make your own schedule, sit around all day playing video games, wake up at 3pm and party until 5am, finally pursue that lifelong dream of learning how to make sock puppets with your free time…that’s what the life of a freelancer is like right?
Wroooooong. Well, mostly wrong, I do play a lot of video games. I must admit, I had some of these preconceived notions back when I was young and inexperienced. I’ve come across a lot of people that think freelancers can pump out one painting a month and just sit back and enjoy the rest of the month doing whatever it is they do…like I dunno, collecting coins and eating rice crispy treats. Ok ok, I do have a Domo-Kun piggy bank full of shiny coins and I do enjoy the occasional rice crispy treat, but you know what I mean.
I think Chuck said it best in his post about the life of a freelancer, although I have Chuck beat in terms of commute. All I have to do is sit up in bed, slightly move to my left and pick up my computer. I can then sit in bed for the next 12 hours working and then, you guessed it, put my computer back down and go to sleep.
I won’t repeat anything that he already talked about since he is 100% correct. What I do want to do is give students a better understanding of what the life of a freelancer is really like and give them a peek at my daily schedule.
Being a freelance artist is not easy, there is a lot of work involved. People always ask me how I balance my work life with my personal life, and the answer is I don’t have much of a personal life. If you want to be a freelance artist and be able to provide for your entire family, be prepared to give up a lot of your personal life.
There was one point where I went 6 months without playing a single video game. I can almost feel your sarcastic responses, but for me that is a big deal. I’m sure there are artists out there who make enough money from a couple paintings that they can sit back and relax, but I am no where near that status. If you are a regular Joe like me, you gotta work your ass off.
All of the orange entries are paintings that I have to finish for that given day. One thing to keep in mind is that even though there might only be one orange entry, it can mean that several paintings are due for that project.
Today there are 3 orange entries, but in reality I have 8 paintings that I have to finish. The other day I finished 9 paintings in one day. I am currently juggling projects for 6 different clients.
Depending on my workload, my work week can be anywhere from 40-120 hours/week. Yeah you can make your own schedule, but you still have to put in the hours.
Chuck mentioned how he feels guilty about taking a day off, that is completely true. I think in the past 4 years I’ve only taken maybe 4 weekends off. Even when I’m on “vacation,” a.k.a. at a signing event, I am still drawing and signing cards all day long. Sometimes I have to take work back to the hotel because my playmat queue gets too long.
Some people may say “you should be grateful you are getting that much work, stop complaining,” or, “stop taking so many projects then.” Well, if I don’t take that many projects then I can’t pay my bills. I’m not trying to be ungrateful or complain, but simply show that freelancing can take up a lot of time. I actually count myself lucky that I get this much work and I wouldn’t change it for anything.
One good thing about this much work is that I can support my family, but the downside is that by the time I had reached 28 I had developed carpal tunnel in both wrists and cubital tunnel in my left arm. What really worries me is that it only took 4 years of working for me to develop that much damage. How much longer will my career last? What will I do if I can no longer paint? Just something to think about and to keep tabs on. Make sure you have good work habits and take frequent breaks. I’ve talked about this many times before, but it is really important. Take good care of your wrists. If I can prevent other artists from damaging their wrists then it is worth beating a dead horse…with a stick…with a nail on the end.
Now you may ask yourself, what is the moral of the story? If you want to pursue a career as a freelance artist be prepared to work, a lot. Don’t let people tell you being a freelance artists is a breeze or that it isn’t a real job or that you will starve as a freelancer. I know when I attended state universities if you mentioned that you were an art major people would stifle a snicker and turn their nose and probably say something like “art isn’t a major” or “ah, that must be an easy a.” If you have the drive and dedication you can live very comfortably as a freelancer, just watch those wrists.