Wow - it’s been an entire year since I went freelance full-time. I can’t quite believe how quickly the time has gone, or how much has happen in that time. This is a reflection on my experience of going freelance, how it happened, and my advice for anyone who wants to make creating a full-time career.
To begin with, I studied Creative Media at University. This was a last minute decision; I grew up wanting to be a writer, but I realised that I prefer to express myself in images rather than words. I took some amazing media and photography courses at college that gave me more creative outlets than literature, and so I went to university to study a mix of design, animation, film, photography and sound. I didn’t know where I wanted the course to take me after university, but I knew that I loved to create and wanted as broad a range of knowledge and experience as possible. Over the duration of my course I narrowed down my area of interest to specialise in design. This is useful as the majority of my work is now design, but from an art perspective the course was really useful. I didn’t learn any art or painting techniques - I developed those in my spare time around my classes - but I did learn about media, marketing and how to present my work. In many ways, those skills are just as useful for an artist. It’s wonderful if you can paint amazing pictures, but if you can’t display or communicate your work it’s much harder for it to go anywhere. I really recommend all artists taking some time to learn about things like marketing and business, it will help you so much in the long run!
After finishing my degree I knew I wanted to start a Masters course (I love studying!) I went back to my artistic roots and studied Art History. It was an incredible year where I got to visit weekly museums and galleries, study the masters, and learn more about the theoretical and historical side of art. I was still practicing painting outside of classes, and at the end of the year I had a good all-round knowledge of modern media, art theory, and practical skill in painting.
When I had graduated for the second time I went to work in a design role in Kensington. London is expensive and I started freelancing on the side. I was leaving the house at 7am and getting home at 8pm, then freelancing in the evenings, which quickly became draining and meant I had no time to paint. That wasn’t a good time for me, and I began to think about alternative ways of working. My freelance work began to take off. I was able to collaborate with the National Trust, as well as a digital marketing agency in Australia. I thought it was amazing that I could be in London, working with someone on the other side of the world, and it clicked that this was what I wanted to do.
Eventually I took the leap and went freelance. I had enough money saved to stay in London for a while longer and I spent some time learning as much as I could about freelancing by going to events and meeting other creatives. I also took a business course and took some time to gain experience as a freelancer, before diving right in and launching my art and design studios.
The dream was to spend 50% of my time working on design and 50% working on my art. I think it’s harder to build a repertoire and earn a living from art, so for a long time I was spending 80% of my time on design and 20% on art, which I wasn’t happy with. It’s impossible to improve your art if you don’t take the time to practice. Instead, I’ve been settling into a new work schedule which has been working really well. The idea is to start painting at 9am. I then paint for about 4 hours every day, take a break for yoga and lunch, and then design for the next 4 hours. It’s a nice, healthy balance that means I get to fit all of my work into my schedule.
I also re-vamped my studio space, which means I have more space to paint and to film. If I’m painting, I’m filming, which means I’m able to make a lot more content and share more of more work.
It’s working really well, but it took a lot of trial and error to find a way of working that suits me! I love the freedom of being freelance but it can be difficult to get used to. You have to plan everything yourself, motivate yourself, make sure that you are constantly pushing forward. You don't have a boss telling you to work and you don’t have anyone who’s going to do it for you. It does mean self discipline, but I love that it means I have complete creative control and can work how I want to. I can also work where I want to, in a local cafe, at a friend’s house, or in a whole other country. That, to me, is so amazing.
The advice I would give to anyone who wants to go advice:
Decide why you want to go freelance. Do you want to share you work? Do you want more free time? Do you want to work while you travel? The answer will influence how and where you will work.
Break everything down into small steps. Going freelance is a big thing and can seem overwhelming. Take it one step at a time, and you will get there!
Network. Taking the time to meet and speak to people doing a similar thing to me really made this process a lot easier, and they’re a great group of people who I still speak to, share my work with and get advice from.
Learn, learn, learn! There is so much to learn. Don’t think of that as an overwhelming thing, think of it as a positive thing. Even if freelancing doesn’t work out the way you want it to, you will still have a huge collection of new skills that will be useful for a job. Learn marketing, accountancy, social media, branding, web design, writing, everything you can and it will all help. You might even find a new thing that you love!
Have a question about freelancing or freelance illustration? Let me know in the comment or on Instagram (@theartofhannahroseshaw) and I’ll answer in a YouTube video!