Facing (Some) Freelancing Fears — Part 2
Welcome back to Part 2 of Facing (Some) Freelancing Fears. It’s a continuation of part 1, which you can find here.
Apologies for the delay, I hope this helps you out if you’re thinking of going, or are already traversing this path.
Marcus Hits Me Back…
Thanks for replying so quickly.
You’re definitely right about getting comfortable, I had a 2 year contract that ended a while ago and I got pretty lazy with that job. I stopped pushing my art skills and business development during that period, so that when it came time to start freelancing full time again, it was almost like beginning again. It is definitely something I need to be mindful of this time around.
I also agree with the savings, 6 months of income reserve is definitely something I will aim for. I recently bought an eBook from Illustration Island which recommended 3 months, but 6 months would be best given my circumstances. I’ve got my finances in order, so my savings are steadily climbing. Definitely going out a lot less, drawing more and saving more money in the process.
Regarding my fears, I think it comes from a few things, I’m not totally sure.
Maybe it’s my passive nature? I wasn’t particularly good at contact sports like football, because I would feel bad for knocking someone down and would literally stop to help them back up. It landed me on the bench a lot. I guess it’s why I got into golf.
When I was young, I was almost always alone, so I guess I like solitude. That solitude is perhaps what makes me fearful of getting into the whole commercial art scene I suppose. I fear my work is not good enough, that its not original. I dont have a style. I have always envied those with such an individual style. My art has been mostly self taught and it’s a lonely world to live in where I’m my only critic and my only client.
I recently went to book publisher to see if I could get some work. They loved my stuff, and I need to make a portfolio for them. So I have created some art to put into it…but not enough for a full folio, and I don’t know if I can motivate myself to continue adding to it.
It’s my fear sabotaging me again. It’s so full on, I don’t feel like I deserve that kind of chance — I’m not established, I don’t know enough about art, I feel like I have just fluked my way to this point. It feels like I don’t know if I have done things the right way…people like my pictures and I don’t know why, so I don’t know if I can produce more good work. I see other artists emerging slowly, having exhibitions, going to schools…I have done none of this.
Do you know what I mean by a fluke? Like I have no real training to fall back on. I went to Julian Ashton’s art school for 3 months, I found it really hard because it was so slow and it was very much all about drawing things perfect which I got bored with. I appreciate Ashton’s, but it just wasn’t for me.
Hi again Marcus,
No problems about the reply…you sound a lot like me earlier in my career. So, let me try to address each point you bring up.
Firstly, I think it’s great that you’re reaching out to others, trying to learn, reading books and teaching yourself. I think it’s important to recognise that, for people like us, a lot of this comes from an underlying feeling of “I don’t know what I am doing!”
You never quite feel that you’re worth what you are charging, even if it’s not that much, because you haven’t been schooled in art, it’s like you’re not worthy, so it makes you eternally curious and you grab onto and remember things other artists say, snippets of information, here and there to somehow build up your understanding and confidence on how things are supposed to work.
As a self taught artist myself, I completely understand where you are coming from. We simply don’t have the voices of our teacher’s to help guide our path early in our careers, we don’t have the luxury of asking ourselves what they would do in this or that situation.
The truth is, it’s a blessing in disguise and as long as you are mindful that you will always feel like you don’t know enough, it will serve you well in your career. I’ve been through and felt everything you listed, so find some comfort in knowing that you’re not alone. 7 years ago, I somehow lucked out and someone started paying me $300 a week ($14,400 p.a. — no pay for time off or breaks…all of it invariable went to more art books hehe) to work as a concept artist. Not much money but I wasn’t going to complain as I’ve never been trained! I have even less schooling than your 3 months, so you’re already ahead of me
The first 3 years of my career, I still felt everything was a fluke despite the fact that I was by that stage a senior concept artist and then an art director presiding over other artists who did have qualifications. Was it scary? Did I feel like I didn’t deserve it? Was it a fluke? I felt all those things. I did things one way, and people seemed to like it, but I didn’t know if it was the right way or not.
In my spare time, I read interviews with successful artists, listen to them talking on mp3 interviews and watched a ton of training DVDs. The underlying thread I noticed, was that everyone, I mean EVERY single artists, proceeds with their work in a slightly different way, everyone works their way because it works for them and it allows them to end up with a good end result. That alone, the knowledge that there IS no singular “Right Way” was and still is empowering for me and should be for other artists too.
You do things one way, and it works but you’re not sure if it’s the right way? Let me tell you right now, not even knowing how you do your art, it’s the right way, because the end result is the thing that matters. You could be the first person to drag their dick in the sand to come up with their art and it would be the right way, because you end up with the art you want and need.
So you help people up who you’ve knocked down? Hell, you sound like a good individual mate, the world doesn’t need you or me to knock someone else down to bring myself up all the time. There is of course an element of competition out there in the freelancing world, but that doesn’t mean you need to be an aggressive asshole. I (and I’d venture to say the majority of commercial artists) don’t feel the need to stomp on other people to get jobs. I simply go out there, say my piece, try my best to convince someone that they need my skills and convey that I am a pleasant enough person to deal with, so that people won’t hessitate to do business with me. If someone likes and trusts you (and can afford you!), assuming you can do good work, that’s all someone needs to do business.
I do differ in some ways from you regarding to competitiveness though. I am a highly competitive dude, I always have been, but I used to HATE competition, just like you. If someone else liked the same girl, I’d pass. If someone wanted to go for the same job, I’d pass. I was competitive, just as I believe most people are competitive, but I was also deathly afraid of failure. At some stage, you have to just sit down and go, okay, so if I do fail…what’s the worst that will happen? The world won’t end, you’ll pick yourself up from rejection and go to the next thing, and the next thing after that. I learnt to do that earlier in my career, but it’s a skill, and skills can be built, it’s no natural talent. I hated public speaking, so I did more of it until I wasn’t scared of it anymore, same thing.
If it will make you feel any better, I’m still plenty fearful about things, but the difference is that I’ve been through all this enough times to know it will end okay, it’s how you manage fear that is the deciding factor between quitting and carrying on.
Taking it a step further, I actually think fear is good to an extent, it means that we will not go into something unprepared. It only becomes a problem when it stops us from doing something, that’s when you need to rein in fear and recognise that most of what we fear is inexplicable and really…not that bad if we were to screw up. People put too much stock into — oh if I fail my life will be over. My take is to just do it, like Nike says.
Style? Do you have weaknesses? Yes? Then you have style. I once heard that our style is determined by our weaknesses and limitations. With my art, I have this crazy wonky-ness to all of it, it has become recognisable as my style, but you know where it began? It began with me being crap at copying someone’s facial features accurately. It was always a bit crooked, so one day, instead of trying to get everything perfect, I said screw it and made it even more wonky — I had more fun, it captured people’s likeness and I stopped worrying about whether I had style or not. It grew out of my perceived limitations and yours will too, just give it time and don’t pay it any mind. Draw your influences from far and wide so that no one particular artist influences you to become a clone.
Passive natures, I don’t really believe in (and I could be wrong mind you!), I think just about everyone has a line in the sand, that once stepped over will force someone to become pro-active, trouble is, you need to find out where that line is. Someone says they’re a pacifist — you put a gun to their daughter’s forehead, you’ll see someone coming to end you. It’s all in recognising where our battle line is, and we all decide for ourselves where to place this line and how to act once we cross it.
Final point — you’re an introvert, you’re quiet, you prefer your own company and you’re happiest being when you’re alone and arting.
Me too buddy, but that hasn’t stopped me from speaking in front of large audiences, teaching art at university with passion, it hasn’t stopped me from writing in my blog and getting my opinon out there, nor has it stopped me from writing for some of the most well known digital creative magazines on the shelves, it hasn’t stopped me from wanting to drive my art beyond the pale of the common artist and it hasn’t stopped me from knowing that I matter and that I can cause a difference in people’s lives…just as you can. That introversion of yours shouldn’t stop you from doing any of those things either, all you need to do is to believe that you can do them all and much much more.
If you have no firm goal or direction for yourself, anything outside your comfort zone is scary and unreachable. When you are able to train yourself to look beyond all that, to the dream you have for your life, and when you want to achieve that dream with all your heart, obstacles will crumble, you’ll become competitive, you’ll become extroverted, you’ll push past limits you didn’t even realise were limits.
But you have to start by knowing what you want, and doing everything to make that the sole driving force behind your life.
Okay, real final point this time — read some books on extraordinary people, I do all the time, revs me up, pushing me on, makes me feel like I can do it all despite people’s assertions to be realistic. You and I have grand goals for our lives, screw being realistic.
Final Note from Marcus…
Thanks for that, I am so grateful for your detailed response, I see you care deeply for your art. I don’t really have much to say now, just taking it all in. I feel like shaking your hand lol. I’m going to do some drawing.
Thanks again, Marcus.
Well, that wraps up the advice I had for Marcus. Just keep in mind, this is my own point of view, there are plenty of others, so seek them out and continue to grow.
I sincerely hope this has helped some of you out there and answered some questions for you.
If you guys or girls care to share any of your own experiences or point of view about this topic, please do so beneath, I’m sure many people would benefit from it
Catch you on the upside!