5 Important Steps to Becoming A Full Time Artist

  • SVS OG

    Art by Marek Halko

    How do you “go pro” as an artist? We see artists who are working full time, but we don’t always know the process they took to get to that point. This week, Jake Parker, Lee White, and Will Terry outline the five main steps they took to go from rookie to pro, and offer a framework for young artists to follow.

    Send us your questions for a chance to be featured on the show!

    Click HERE to listen and read the shownotes.

  • Wooo!! Awesome, I sent in a question! I'm excited cuz it's one Ive thought about for a long time that I don't think gets talked about enough.

  • SVS Team SVS OG

    Anyone have any experience with fiverr? Just curious to hear some real life experiences😁

  • Haven’t checked the podcast yet, though I wanted to say I love the magazine cover art from @marek-halko!

  • SVS Instructor Pro

    Just finished listening to this. Solid episode!
    The topic of Fiverr.com came up and it reminded me of a recent discussion thread here on the forums


    This one was about UpWork but the general gist is the same.

    Update: @LisaF just saw your question about Fiverr so I thought I'd tag you in this.

  • @LisaF I know people who use it to have photos edited on the cheap. I can't compete with the prices offered on there. Personally, I think it promotes cheap labour - to the detriment of the whole creative industry. My mate used it recently to have his website built and everyone was just hellbent on undercutting each other. I feel dirty just thinking about using it.

    After reading on the other thread about upwork and their work for hire policy just reminds of what a minefield of exploitation exists on these websites. Always read the small print, no matter how boring it is.

  • This got me thinking of my 5 Steps to Freelancing haha. It probably looks something like this:

    1. list all the creative jobs I’m interested in (storyboarding, concept art, animation, logo design, etc)
    2. try them one by one. fail them one by one haha. begin to understand who I am as a person and where I fit in the world.
    3. learn business and marketing.
    4. find mentorship and build a network in your chosen niche.
    5. transition out of day job into full-time freelance.

    I am currently doing step 3&4. Hoping I’ll get to step 5 next year 😆

  • @LisaF My experience was with odesk, I think it's now upwork. I have some friends who have stayed with it and have become successful. But I had an encounter with someone who asked for my price and after I gave him a quote he totally became unprofessional and accused me of trying to cheat him. He sort harassed me about it. And honestly, my prices weren't even high at all. It just didn't seem worth the stress of dealing with those kinds of potential clients for a small pay and so I quit using it altogether.

  • @LisaF said in 5 Important Steps to Becoming A Full Time Artist:

    Anyone have any experience with fiverr? Just curious to hear some real life experiences

    My experience with it has been from the buying side (for a good number of my clients) and just based on that I'd never post jobs that I'd like to get paid for. Fiverr's reputation from the hiring side is "we know it's too expensive to get a quote, proposal and pay for professionally, so let's get it cheap from here" and when contractors did a good job, if they tried to raise rates to more respectable levels, then the hiring party would just go back to Fiverr because it was "just good enough".

    I can't imagine trying to make living on Fiverr because you have no way to scale your income up.

    Upwork for whatever reason seems to at least command a greater pay scale. As @davidhohn mentioned in that thread it's 100% work for hire with no possibility for licensing opportunities.
    That said, I've actually got some decent paying jobs from Upwork, but only in the realm of things like making product labels or brochures or web design (things that typically wouldn't be licensed anyway - just work for hire project work no matter where you went).

  • SVS OG

    For my first ever children’s book on Upwork, I got paid $75 to complete a 32 page book within 1 month. I was still working in watercolor then. I wasn’t able to meet the deadline because it was unrealistic. The client berated me for over promising which was fair but she paid only $75, what did she expect? I sent the book to her, she hired a digital artist to redraw all my illustrations. The author then did not even credit me in her book which was a blessing because her book was rubbish.

  • @Nyrryl-Cadiz The more I hear about clients like that, the more blessed I feel to be working with the one I am. She did research on her own about what first time illustrators make for children's books, asked if I thought it was fair, and has always been open to my asking for more money if I feel it's needed (which I rarely do). She even compensated me when her firm delayed the project for three months.

  • SVS OG

    @lpetiti that sounds amazing. If only all self-publishing authors were that considerate.

  • @Nyrryl-Cadiz Oh my gosh I am so sorry about that Nyrryl.

    I think I've told you this before in dm, but my first children's book was on a shoestring on UpWork as well. But that was because the client was a family friend who want to gift their friend's firstborn child with a baby book, that I gladly did for $90. It was only 7 pages, I didn't give all my effort, they wanted a copyrighted character in it, and I didn't want to put my name on it, just in case that guy decided to bank it and I would get involved in a potential lawsuit.

    Because of this, when a lady wanted me to illustrate a "professional" 30-page children's book for only $60! (I bargained for $100), I reluctantly accepted under the assumption that this was just something she wanted to use to entertain her kids. On the fourth week of the project, when I requested our agreed payment in escrow (that she honestly thought was an advanced payment) she all of a sudden started talking about publishing the book and wanted to know if she was obliged to put my name on it.

    I tried to be diplomatic, but that only showed her true colors. After back and forth emails of me trying to be professional and reasonable, like negotiating a new price after she brought something up that was never in the original contract, as she name-called me throughout the conversation, I left with the money and told her she wasn't getting a refund. I left with $70. She later got some poor soul probably from Fiverr to illustrate the final version of the book. The art ended up being really nice, but it's clearly clip art, and the cover is really poorly put together. It doesn't even name the illustrator, it just has the author's name, not clarifying if they wrote, illustrated it or both.

  • @lpetiti I think the clients who are not like that are not writing children's book because they are passionate about it. They are just basic suburban parents who need to have their egos flexed and will throw any illustrator under the bus to get it.


  • @davidhohn Thank you for linking my thread.

  • @Michael-Angelo-Go my gosh that person has an ego on them, practically wants you to kiss their boots for even considering to “let” you work.

    This client I have is wonderful! She and her firm are super passionate about promoting literacy in our county.

  • @Jeannelle I'm really sorry that one "client" got reactive with you. Usually, when I offer a quote, whether I was lowballing myself or being honest, they always say "thank you for your time" or runaway without saying it to my face.

    I had one person approach me for a 10-page children's book and asked me how much it would be. I lowballed myself to $500 so they would bite the bait, but then they told me "well... I should do more research before making a smart business choice" translation: "I'm no longer interested".

    I think it was two weeks ago, but an older colleague I know told me that he knew a guy who wanted to make a children's book. I wanted to provide realistic rates by charging $150 per page. My colleague let the guy know my rates and then they said "meeting moved to new date, to be decided" aka never.

    I'm honestly surprised I myself haven't encountered a more hostile response. Choosing-beggars are always passive-aggressive, if not full-blown aggressive.

  • @Michael-Angelo-Go It always cracks me up when people start a soapbox rant with "No offense...". It's like the precursor to guarantee someone will be pretty nasty, but justified in their mind.

    I get what @Will-Terry is saying in the podcast about just getting work - you gotta do work to get experience and there's no way around that. I think it's worth being super cautious about this though for 2 reasons:

    1. If you lowball your clients, and you get people that accept those lower rates, it is psychologically difficult to re-define your value in your own mind once you get enough experience to be worth a larger sum. It's hard mentally to charge someone say $1000 for a project, then the next project that comes along SHOULD be $5,000, you have a difficult time feeling confident asking for what it's worth because all this time you've been charging 75% less than that.

    2. If you are getting work for lower rates and let's say you are doing an amazing job, those people will tell their friends "hey, I know this artist that does incredible work and he/she is super affordable" and in a year or two you might end up a word of mouth based client pool that is expecting super cheap art. So you then realize you're not making any money and getting burned out and NOW you gotta turn all these people down and find a whole new client pool that sees value in your work.

    I think there's a healthy blend in there. Obviously everyone has to start somewhere. But sometimes we accidentally paint ourselves into the starving artist role if we aren't careful.

  • @jdubz There was advice I've utilised from one of the SVS classes. Where you can keep your high rates but if they can't afford it, to offer a discount. When you invoice/quote them, quote the normal rate but apply the discount - and write it into the deal - so they know this is a special offer.

  • @sigross For me, I told them $500 was a discount because they were a self-publishing author and it was only 10 pages and that the normal rate was $1K.

Log in to reply