Facing (Some) Freelancing Fears — Part 2

Posted by on May 26, 2011 in Art, Resources | 7 Comments

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…

Hi Dar­ren

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.


My Reply…

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…

Hi Dar­ren,

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!



  1. Mitchel
    May 26, 2011

    Thanks for post­ing this Dar­ren — and thanks to Mar­cus for really open­ing up and shar­ing his fears.

    I found this post really help­ful! It is was great being able to see that my own fears are not mine alone but shared with others.

  2. Jack Eaves
    May 26, 2011

    Hi Dar­ren, thanks alot for post­ing this. The issues that you raised and dealt with in this blog post are things that i am con­stantly bat­tling with in my art, and life in gen­eral. It helps so much to hear your views on the sub­ject and is very encour­ag­ing for me. Thank you, again.

  3. Darren Yeow
    May 26, 2011

    No prob­lems guys, glad it was of help to you both — I def­i­nitely think that know­ing that oth­ers have gone through the same or sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion before and come out the other end is very help­ful for those who are still at an ear­lier stage of their career.

    Wish you guys the best in your own jour­neys, keep work­ing hard 🙂

  4. Carlton Tomlin
    May 27, 2011

    Thanks for post­ing these. You sent me the link at just the right time too. I cant let the envy/disdain for the amount of work or qual­ity of work from other artists be my focus, or blind me. When I sit down and really think, it is what I want to do, and every­thing else is a dis­trac­tion. I shouldn’t be envi­ous of oth­ers, but determined.

    You and I have grand goals for our lives, screw being realistic.”


    • Darren Yeow
      May 27, 2011

      No prob­lem Carl­ton, keep push­ing hard bro, and I’ll see you on the other side 😉

      - Daz

  5. Tim Auld
    May 27, 2011

    Hi Dar­ren,

    Nice job on this post. As a self-employed per­ma­cul­ture con­sul­tant I can say that many of the issues apply to me too. It’s worse because it’s not a well estab­lished pro­fes­sion — there are few books and men­tors to refer to. I decided to go balls out and quit my cushy game dev career anyway.

    The fear dropped away after about 2 days and now (besides the occa­sional con­cern about money), I’m lov­ing it! I do have sev­eral years worth of sav­ings to fall back on but I try not to. My designs were ini­tially dull to look at but I prac­ticed and drew on some con­ven­tional land­scape graph­ics texts. My lat­est design blew peo­ple away (printed at A0!) and now I’ve got a queue of work.

    I hated pub­lic speak­ing but now I’m get­ting up in front of peo­ple to give work­shops and explain­ing my designs, enjoy­ing it and get­ting great responses. I’ve been invited to speak as a guest at the Per­ma­cul­ture Research Insti­tute, which is per­haps the most impor­tant edu­ca­tional cen­ter for per­ma­cul­ture, for an urban design course, train­ing new consultants.

    Some­one has to blaze the trail, and you can’t do that with­out mak­ing mis­takes. The more you make the more you learn, so best make them fast! If you’re hon­est with your­self and your clients (with­out being piti­ful) about them you’ll get respect and improve out of sight.

  6. Matty
    May 28, 2011

    Thanks again Darren.


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