Whether you’re hoping to gain regular clients as a sole trader or planning on launching your own creative design studio, the path to success as a creative freelancer is challenging. Even if you’ve been honing your craft for years, branching out on your own means blending creativity with business – a concoction many a rebellious artist has historically railed against.
Thankfully, the days of valorizing the starving artist motif are mostly behind us. Modern creatives are leveraging their wild imaginations to become successful entrepreneurs, and from their wins and failures, we’ve gleaned the following five tips.
Table of Contents
- 1. Talent is only part of the equation
- 2. Personal branding is important in the modern world
- 3. Never stop learning
- 4. Build relationships
- 5. Get comfortable pitching and negotiating fees
While important, your creative abilities won’t automatically win you success if you don’t hone your communication skills and business acumen. We’ve seen wildly talented artists lose contracts because they consistently failed to meet deadlines, and worse, failed to communicate with clients about these missed deadlines. Other artists are more conscientious but fail to negotiate contracts that truly represent the amount of time and work that goes into their creations. Do this, and you’re laying a poor foundation for growth.
The reclusive artist is another motif that sadly doesn’t have much of a place in the modern world. With the rise of social media came a greater need for personal branding, especially in creative niches. Few artists can get away without some kind of social media presence, but the good news is, once you’ve built up a large following, you can leverage these platforms to gain new clients, negotiate for better rates, and more.
Focus on learning something new every day. It could be about business, communication, branding, SEO, or your craft – the key is to make learning a daily habit. This will help you stay on top of the latest trends in your industry and it will also keep the inspiration flowing.
Even learning about topics that aren’t directly related to your work can be incredibly useful. We draw inspiration from the strangest places sometimes, so feel free to indulge your love of nature documentaries, old science fiction novels, or languages. The more you learn, the more capable your mind will be of coming up with unique ideas that will impress your clients.
Most successful freelancers will tell you that their best clients came to them as referrals from other great clients. These people have a ready-made understanding of your fees and a strong recommendation from someone they trust. Much of the relationship-building and negotiation process has been taken care of for you, and since you’re part of a shared network, it’s rare to have issues with late invoice payment and other dramas that often plague creative freelancers.
While there are a select few who get a thrill out of the negotiation process, many creatives suffer from imposter syndrome as it is. So, when they’re expected to put a price on their work, it can feel incredibly uncomfortable.
Many of us spend far more time than we should be staring at the fee we know is fair after factoring in our time and materials. “Can I really send a quote this big to a client?” The answer is, “yes.” However, you may need some practice to build up your confidence. Here, it’s worth turning back to point three and investing some time into learning how other freelancers calculate their fees and developing your communication and negotiation skills.
Keep the tips above in mind, and you’ll have a solid foundation on which to build your successful creative career.