Freelance illustrators in London (the businesss of it all)

  • Hello everyone and happy New Year! I have finally landed with suitcases and cat and a small small heart full of fear and hope and ready to get this going in the mighty and confusing british capital. Ideally i would like to work as a freelance illustrator and at the moment i‘m working towards that as well as applying to jobs and sending portfolio to agencies and such.

    What i would like to know is if any of you are working as freelancers here (btw, big shoutout and let's meet for some lifedrawing or something if you want to) and if you can help me with some insights into the whole legal aspects of that position. Do i have to register as a sole trader and that allows me to do freelance work as well as make my own invoices and also sell prints online? Do i need an accountant? Do you know and recommend any resources that i can consult in setting this thing up?

    Thank you. Any comments, suggestions, concerns are welcome

  • Hi Irina and welcome to the UK!
    It's a shame I don't live in London or I would be taking you up on the offer of lifedrawing or a coffee!
    I'm afraid I won't be much help here as I'm not freelance, but maybe look into joining the AOI or other associations like that as they offer great advice and guidance with everything to do with illustration (invoicing, working with clients, putting together the best portfolio etc) it is pricey to join but probably worth it in the long run.
    If you feel as though your portfolio is ready to be sent out to get some freelance work then I'd start researching some companies that you think would benefit from your work - advertising companies, web design, graphic design houses, galleries - that you think you could work with, then send them your portfolio!
    My friend started her career of a graphic designer by finding local businesses that she thought could do with a new logo/shop front design/website etc and she mocked it up for free to show them, then they bought it off her and she immediately had something to put in her portfolio to show the next client. So maybe you could do something similar? Or even email your local council as sometimes they're looking for artists for advertisement material - especially libraries!

    I would also get on social media and follow all the agencies/publishers/book shops/artists from those agencies that you like and maybe tag them in your work to get their attention or simply ask an artist to get their advice?
    I'm sorry I'm no help with the accounting side of things, a lot of artists I follow on social media are freelance and I don't think many of them have accountants, they just learnt it all on their own so maybe you could save a bit of money doing it that way, or once things start moving for you maybe get some quotes for an accountants service and go from there.
    The HMRC here is very confusing, I tried to declare myself as self employed a few years ago when I was freelancing but it all got a bit messy and I gave up and got a job lol! But I think with some research its easily doable, there might be some information on the Citizen's Advice Bureau website.

    Let us know how you're getting on, sorry for the rambling message, it probably wasn't any help at all!

  • Thank you so much @hannahmccaffery. Not rambling at all and all advice is helpful 🙂 I just joined the AOI on a monthly billing basis. I'm currently looking around there hehe. Thank you so much again.

  • @hannahmccaffery @Phil-Cullen @sigross Can i write to the AOI asking very broad questions about going freelance in London close to Brexit and so on and how to register as a soletrader etc etc or they only do very specific answers?

    Im basicallzy looking for a guide of sorts on how to get set up for everything from a legal point of view, including what to do if i want to sell prints online or if i still get commisions from Romania etc etc

  • @irina Hey Irina, I was thinking of joining the AOI too. But yes if you're a member they give you full legal help with contracts and signing up with HMRC (I think).

    You don't have to declare until you have got £2000 in the bank from freelance work. You can do it anytime during the year as it's done a year behind. I've just sent my books to my accountant last week for 2017-2018. And I have to pay before January 31st. You get an allowance of £11850 for next year. That means you can earn £11850 before you start paying any tax. Basic rate is 20% up to £34,500. Expenses are tax deductible. Eg art supplies, computer equipment, SVS class fees!

    The other thing you have to consider here is National Insurance contributions. Which you have to pay as a sole trader regardless of income tax. It's all a bit daunting to begin with but it's just something you have to deal with if you want to be your own boss.

    I'm in an art community called Be Smart About Art run by Susan J Mumford, that has regular meetups and talks from pro artists. Just last week we had a tour of the London Art Fair and we got VIP passes to explore the show the entire week. So they're pretty cool. That's £10 a month membership. Worth every penny. Get's me out of the house.

    I'd be happy to meet for a chat and a coffee. I've been in London off and on for about a decade.

  • @sigross I never knew that you didn't have to declare anything until you had £2000 in the bank! So that's good to know thank you!
    Let us know how you get on Irina, as I'd be interested myself for the future if I ever go freelance!
    I hope Brexit doesn't cause any problems for you, it's still all up in the air at the moment isn't it so it may not happen yet (fingers crossed)!

  • @hannahmccaffery My mistake, its once you've earned £1000 not 2K that's when you need to register self-employed. You don't start paying taxes until you earn £11850 (2018-2019).

  • @sigross ah okay, is that if you earn £1000 just once that you need to register self employed or if you earn something like that each month?
    I find all the self employed stuff on the HMRC website so confusing!

  • @sigross Thank you. I will look into it and mybe join as well. I need someone to sit down next to me and advise me as if i were a kid with all this stuff. Like a tutorial of sorts because i never was selfemployed and am confused by all that. Can i ask how much is an accountant? and how do you do your books? do you just keep all receipts from prints you sell and from contracts and so on or things you buy for the usiness and so on? And just pass them to the accountant?

    I am at the moment trying to get my nino but it#s a pain because they keep messing up my name on bills and proof of address etc. It#ll sort itself out, just takes time

    I would love to meet as well. Will look into joining that community. Thank you so much

  • @irina Yes I have trouble with all the admin stuff and it took me ages to get my head around it all. I just want to draw and paint and take pictures! Admin is like doing chores. It's so boring.

    My accountant is pretty good and he saves me time and money. Costs £510 to do my taxes. For my books I have income, expenses and non-business. I just keep all my receipts in a box and divide them at the end of the year into Business and Non-business. I've started using adobe scan to make quick PDF's so I have less paper in boxes. You're meant to keep records of transactions for 5 years. Just in case the tax man audits you (check all your accounts from previous years). I'm thinking of using quickbooks for next year as that looks like decent software for keeping things in order. At the moment I just make a simple spreadsheet (date, what it is, Money in, money out) and hand that over to my accountant. Then pay the tax man and cry. But the upside is you don't have to answer to anyone but yourself.

    This is the next Be Smart About Art event: Building a versatile and multi-faceted creative enterprise: A discussion between gallerist Soo Turner and Susan J Mumford

    I'm on insta and twitter @sigross if you want to message me on there about meeting up.

  • @hannahmccaffery It's once you have reached £1000 then you have to declare your earnings by registering self-employed. Just to keep the maths simple. If say you were earning £1000 a month so you got £12000 a year from that. Next year you would pay tax on £150 (£12000-£11850 (your income tax allowance)). Which would be £30 (at 20% base tax rate).

    It gets more complicated when you include expenses too or earn over £34,500. Quite often though expenses can get higher than your earnings so then you don't pay taxes and even can get a rebate (Money back off the tax man).

  • @sigross Thank you. It is so confusing

    are you working freelance fulltime or do you also have income from a regular job?

    i#m not sure what to do when or if i will have commissions from outside the UK or what happens if i sell prints online, or go to art fairs or receive royalties from a book i do and so on.

    also, do you think joinging SCWI is important and helpful/worth it?

  • @irina I've always worked freelance doing creative stuff. It's only recently I'm putting all my effort into improving my skills in illustration. Most of my income comes from editorial photos/videos online, in mags and newspapers. Now I just want to make art and just use photography for research. I think it's worth the risk. Never know until you try! Working in newspapers is such a burnout industry as everything has to be published so quickly, being 24/7, just not for me anymore.

    One of the SVS courses on how to make money in illustration made me think. I considered going into editorial illustration but now I'm thinking this would just be more of the same relentless short turnarounds. So it's worth considering the lifestyle, process and how long it takes you to make something. So go to art fairs and see how they work. Consider how to get your work to market. If you get that book I suggested from The Printspace it tells you exactly how to sell prints online and social media approaches (its free). Also the SVS courses on how the industry works were invaluable to me.

    I don't know about SCWI, not something i'm familiar with. Maybe someone else is a member who knows about them.

  • Yeah, i got the book. But it doesn~t offer that much information apart from things that we already know. There are some good things on market but that~s about it. I don~t know *sorry for my lack of proper punctuation, i#m on a bizarre keyboard..

    what i think i need the most help with is finding an actual human being who can show me or answer questions on how to receive the monez i ask for from different things. Like for example if i receive money from royalties on a book i did in Romania every 6 months. Do i have to tax them here or in Romania? And if i go to a fair, do i need a permit to sell stuff? if i organize workshops or meetings where i ask for money for attendence do i need a permit for that? can i organize one in my house or in my garden? If i sell prints online do i only register as a sole trader after i reach 1000 pounds etc. If i make videos online that make money or bring in a monthly fee, i just add all these incomestreams at the end of the year? Or if i make patterns and trz to generate a passive income like this. How do i write a tax form etc etc etc Many questions that are easier to be talked about with a person. Over the phone with various organisations from companies to council to whatever they seem to have so little patience and benevolence ..

    It/s all things i/ve never dealt with


  • Have you seen any illustrators on social media that you think are in the position you want to be in earning wise? Do they attend fairs etc? If so, then you can always send them a message asking for their advice and i'm sure they'd be happy to help and point you in the right direction.
    It might also be worth looking into seeing a financial advisor if you have the funds, so they can try and explain the ins and outs of it all! Especially if you'll be receiving money from Romania.

  • @irina Tax wise it depends where you are registered to pay tax. For example, I get paid in dollars from two US agents so I have to fill out a US Tax exemption W8-BEN form and they register it with the IRS so I don't get a US tax bill. Earning internationally doesn't mean you have to pay tax in that country.

    If you want to sell patterns through something like an picture/stock agent then I think you have to register self-employed before you've earned any money. If you are doing workshops then you will probably need public liability insurance just in case anyone gets injured.

    All these things are classed as income on a tax form. Just add them all together minus expenses.

  • Just to add that I registered self-employed before I had any money coming in, as I got a grant to setup my business and got a laptop with the funding and a business bank account to put my earnings into. Worth looking into getting funding off arts organisations or sponsorship.

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