August 13, 2012

How to be a Happy Freelancer: Part 1

So I've been thinking a lot about my life, what I do ... why I do it ... and if I'm happy doing it - I think I am, no I'm pretty sure I'm happy, because if I wasn't I'd have stopped this crazy gig a long time ago.

I thought I'd share a 5 part series
on what I've learned in 5 years
of being a freelance artist.

It's hard.  And wonderful.  And completely unstable, but I can't seem to give it up. 

Going to work... in your house
Work in your work area.  Play outside of it.  

  • I eat only in my kitchen, never in front of my computer or drawing table
  • I don't work out in here any more, either
  • And it's not a place to hang out when I'm done

I have to feel like I'm going to work.  Working from home, your house gets smaller and smaller.  You start to feel like you spend all your time here and the cabin fever can strike at the worst moments.

Personally, I have to feel like it's not actually in the apartment.

I clean my studio on Sundays so it's fresh for Monday morning, and I keep lots and lots of plants around for clean air.

My studio is filled with just stuff I need:
  • art supplies
  • reference materials
  • wall calendar to keep deadlines in check

If I wouldn't have it in a cubicle, I probably wouldn't bring it in here.

[ Okay, with the exception of my giant pink foam skull.  I ♥ that thing. ]

And my dog gets to sleep at my feet, that's nice, too.

We're fortunate enough to live in an apartment big enough for us to have our own workspaces.

If you don't have this situation, you and your partner will have to come to an understanding about your work.

When you are in your studio, it's work time.

It was hard to tell my family "No, I can't do it right now, I'm working" when they knew perfectly well "Veronica is at home."

Be honest, tell them that you're really at work, they'll understand.

Walnuts, Pebbles + Sand

Don't give yourself too much to do in a day.

I used to have a terrible habit of making a To-Do list, and ALWAYS adding something whenever I crossed something off!  How impossible!

It also lead to the feeling that I NEVER accomplished anything!  When in fact, I had done a great deal.

For me, only 3 goals-a-day is manageable and they are executed well.

I heard this motivational speaker, Floyd Wickman, on the radio once:
"You have walnuts; those are the big things you HAVE to accomplish now.  Then you have pebbles; those are the things you have to get done soon.  Then you have sand; all the little stuff you don't have to do right now.
The glass holds as much as you can accomplish in a day.
If you pour the sand in first, then the pebbles on that, then the walnuts on that - they don't fit right, and the walnuts spill out.
If you put the walnuts in first, the pebbles next, then sand fills the rest, they fit together perfectly."

So yeah, walnuts -

tackle work in order of importance

  1. walnut // Pencil Frankenstein page 99
  2. pebble // put Talia drawing on eBay
  3. sand // tweak website coding

CRACK THAT WALNUT.  I could tweak my website ALLLL DAY and never get anything else done.

Don't put anything off - EVER!  Your time is super important!

In fact, your time is MORE important than people with hourly wages - because when you DON'T work you are making zero.

When people in an office don't work, they still make their rate.

So you can't afford to Tumblr right now! :D

At least not until 5:01.

Then go for it.

See you next time!  
Coming up:  Being a Great Boss


  1. OMG veronica I love this series! It reminds me about that awesome advice you gave my boy and a gift that has been sitting in my room that I still owe you


    but I will, its not perfect yet XD!!



    the end

  2. This is so interesting and makes me rethink how I'd like to work after school. I feel a lot less worried about trying out being a freelancer. Thank you Veronica for all the great advice!
    Really excited to see the rest of the series :D

    1. So glad you found it helpful!

  3. I also freelance artist, and Im suck at managing my time.
    I exactly know how you feel about NEVER accomplished anything..
    and I feel lazier and lazier each day.. I also having hard time choosing priorities
    Walnut pebbles, and sand.. i still doing it according what I like to do first according to my mood.
    because if not in the mood and I force to do my job which is drawing, the result is bad and Im not happy.. O_Oa

    1. Hm, if your projects have no deadline, it becomes SO HARD choosing which to do!

      *** This is my personal experience:

      Sometimes I force myself to "get in the mood for drawing" even if I don't want to.

      --- I can't let how I'm feeling affect my job performance. ---

      If it's Monday - Friday, between 9 and 5, I don't have the option to not be in the mood.
      I have to get in the mood by looking at inspiring artwork or just pushing through.

      Maybe that will work for you, too!

    2. thank you Veronica, I try my best..
      letting my self being the slave of my own mood swing made me like a spoiled brat.
      so many things I have to learn to have that professional personality.

    3. thank you Veronica, I will try my best.. I will try to have that professional personality to

    4. I know it's hard, happens to me all the time! But we can get past it :)

  4. Great suggestions! Also very upbeat, which is so important!

  5. Great observations and very positively presented!

  6. beautiful AND informative!

  7. I appreciate this article, makes the daunting more manageable. Any suggestions on out of studio? Internet vs local events, which are more worth the time. Do freelancers find a degree particularly useful or mostly for teaching? Thanks!

  8. I really appreciate you adding this. Daunting work seems more manageable. My problem is deciding events to go to and which ways to choose to sell my work. Internet vs local. Is a degree really necessary?

    1. Thanks Jaxx!

      Hm, there are valid arguments on both sides why a degree isn't essential. Some of my favorite artists are self-taught (Bruce Timm, Will Eisner) but at the same time, I don't think the money I spent on college was wasted at all.

      I believe a degree is for personal accomplishment - if you want one because you want one, go get it. Personally, I had an extremely enriching college experience at the School of Visual Arts, and I wouldn't do it differently.

      That being said, you grow SO MUCH when you're OUT of school, it's really your own hard work (in school or out) that determines how far you'll go.

      As for internet vs. local - you can always do a few local test runs to see how much money there is in a certain market.

      For instance, I tried doing our local art fair, but found it was too much trouble to be worth my time. Transporting the work, making posters etc - I have much better luck at Comic Cons, so that's where I tend to put my efforts.

      Try everything once, figure out where your work fits best and don't give up when you think you're on to something good! You can do it!

  9. This is sheer badassery. Not only do I place sand, pebbles, and walnuts into my bowl, I find myself adding assorted fruit and vegetables, and I wonder why I feel like my list of shi*& to do never gets shorter! I'll be keeping your awesome graphic as a reference guide. I'm a freelance writer btw, and am loving the freedom (in between bouts of terror and self-doubt that is).

    Much love,


    1. Thanks Annette! (haha my mom's name is annette :D )

      Don't let the self-doubt or terror get to you! I know how you feel, definitely been there - but remember that those voices are the liars!

      Those messages are a protective instinct - "if I don't try, I can't fail" but they are actually dooming you to failure by not trying! So don't listen to that crazy talk :D


  10. I loved this series and as I tweeted you about earlier, I'd totally be interested in purchasing a print of the first illustration in this post to hang in my office. Let me know if you're willing to sell me a print and if so, what you're asking for it. :)

    <3 Joyce

    1. Thanks! Yeah I'm going to do a postcard series of all three snakes, but I can make you an 8x10 individual print for $10 if you like :)


    2. Joyce27.8.12

      Woo Hoo! Yeah I would love it. I will email you as I didn't even realize this was posted until now. ;)