I also come from the health industry. I enrolled in art school when I was still working full time and kept at it during studying. I had my 60-80 hour weeks to juggle both, but since art really gives me energy rather than taking it away, it was a good balance. In 2013 (at 40) I quit my job for an internship in an Healthcare Communications agency and in 2014 got a job as art director there. Last year in October, I reduced my contract to 50% and took the "half-leap" into freelance illustration and children books, giving myself 2-3 years to do the full leap, depending how things go.
So, I am moving in a very cautious, conservative way, which may be the one letter difference that we have in our profiles (I am INTP)!
This is what I can say from my experience so far:
Freelance illustration seems a very slow and "organic" career, built on networking and consistently producing new relevant work and putting it out there. In hindsight, 2-3 years is probably not enough to reach a reasonable income, but we will see.
It is a buyers market and is very specialized - so you need to decide where you want to work and focus networking and portfolio there - at least at the beginning.
At school, my business practices teacher used to say: "three things are important to succeed as freelance illustrator: do great work; keep deadlines; be nice to work with. The good news is...(dramatic pause)....you need only two of those". Since I do not trust my work to be great, I am focussing on the other two...so far it seems to be working out ;-)
Although I longed to work by myself at home and it´s one of the main reasons I wanted to switch to freelancing, I find my studio days lonesome and fostering all sorts of weird destructive thoughts. Especially when a day goes by, as many do, without any mail, message or other sign from the external world, just drawing and painting for your portfolio or for a spec project for hours on end. I am finding I actually enjoy the days at the agency much more than I ever did before and I am even thinking if staying like this - half and half- is not the best option after all.
But then of course there are the days when a client sends in an enquiry or you get a particularly nice message from a follower and you feel at the top of the world...
For this reason, I am finding that building contacts with other illustrators or creatives is just as important as building contacts with potential clients. Critique groups, creative meetings etc...are becoming a very important part of my mental health.
When I started freelancing last October I felt like I wanted to make a big leap and charge at the world. I convinced myself I hated agency work and at best I would have quit it and lived out of savings for a while. I would recommend resisting that urge. As @Lee-White suggests, taking it slow and easy seems a lot better in hindsight. The right clients are slow to come, reputation takes probably years to build and, what is more important, I am not under pressure to make it work at all costs. This gives me the ease of mind to work on spec projects (aka my own children books), "sharpen the saw" (I spent four days in July just drawing pages and pages of hands from animation screenshots....), avoid stalking art directors when you get a chance to chat with them and work steadily on my social media channels and portfolio.
But yes, this is the perspective of an INTP, which maybe sounds too much like "the voice of reason" sometimes! ;-))
I have only "negotiated" two contracts with educational publishers. Both times, the contract specified one round of changes on the sketches and one round of changes on the final art. In both cases, also the time-frame of the changes was specified (within one week from submission in each case). This turns out to be the most important point in my eyes, because you have a final deadline to keep, and if they would keep making changes on the sketches or failed to give you feedback in time, you would not be able to keep the deadline (which in educational is very tight).
On the other side of the fence (as art director in advertisement), I have negotiated with animators and designers contracts with two round of changes "before additional fees apply" and contracts with "unlimited changes as long as it does not change the brief" and contracts with unlimited changes (in which case, the deadline is the master - you have what you have when the deadline strucks). I have had to pay extra fees due to "workload beyond what foreseen in the offer" a few times, so that does happen quite normally (to be fair, I have also had to refuse payment due to sloppy or incomplete work a couple of times ...)
@gary-wilkinson Thank you for your feed back! Yeah I can see now that the perspective is way off.
@RHirsch Great suggestion on the feathers in the mouth! Thx
@TessW Thank you so much for the feed back. And I completely agree the perspective is way off! I was trying to push the POV from super close to the dead chicken to the Way far away background where the dog is being led into the forest. I'm definitely going to have to rework that.
I think it could be as simple as shortening the depth of the chicken coup and maybe placing the dad a bit higher. A trail of chicken feathers to the dog, might also help with clearing up the perspective, but you'll have to play around.
@nowayme I love this! The concept is great, and the drawing itself is well done. My only criticism is of the guy spinning the ball on his fingertip. To me he looks like an adult rather than a teenager.
There were so many shy guys in my highschool. In my graduating year, three different guys signed my yearbook confessing they always had a crush on me but were too afraid to say anything. I was like 'awww - I wish you'd said something sooner!' And I was super shy myself, but still I was the one to ask guys to dance with me at school dances. haha The struggle is real. ;)
Anyway - I can't wait to see it finished!
@tessw Thank you for this thoughtful post! I plan on taking cues from your post and doing some similar. The blue lighting is especially awesome and I have a perfect concept in mind that I have been wanting to do for some time. I will attempt to apply more "study" and "apply" illustrations into my practice it appears to be such a huge burst to creative growth. I love how thoughtful and analytical you are in your approach which I also am taking cues from and believe it to be such an awesome powerful skill to develop. Thank you for the post.