Why freelancing is the right path for progress.
As a freelancer working in Illustration over the past 7 years, I feel I reached a point where I'm able to pull off a good many of thoughts about Illustration as a career in different environments. After working for companies for a period of time, I decided to make a move and tried to see where working exclusively as an online remote worker would take me. At that time, I started to become aware that online work was a fast growing market, and I recognized a couple of the advantages in working in that environment. The only thing that made me nervous about the decision was the fact that I was following mainly my instincts, and I had no other way of finding out if those instincts were a given, other than diving into uncertainty. Sure that it wasn't easy, and during the first year or two after leaving the safe check at the end of the month, I was still wondering if that was really the right move, the number of commission requests I was getting per month were so irregular that they seemed to follow no logic, with no relation with the increasingly higher amount of effort and time consumed I was putting in each project and job search. But soon I realized that was just the initial stage - I started to notice a correlation between my efforts and a slow progress in number of requests per month. A shy increase in the beginning, but visible enough for my nervous system to be thankful! That made me confident enough to try harder and harder each month, and after a couple months in steady growth, I started to see a more significant average earning, and I was able today confidently, "Ok, it took off!".
After that initial relief and excitement of a new light, what came next? A big number of challenges and rewards that came right after I overcome each challenge. The main source for getting work has been an online platform where every client is able to rate the quality of my completed projects, and the nature of the professional relationship we had. That means a lot of things, a lot of new challenges that I didn't find working in a company. First and foremost, I knew that I had to do my best in every commission, no matter how big or small the gig was. But that in itself didn't mean a change in my behavior, as I try my hardest to deliver the best quality within my capabilities and in every situation. As the number of requests grew exponentially, I faced the challenge of committing only to projects I was SURE in the beginning I had the right skills to complete successfully, and to higher standards of quality. To achieve that, I knew that I needed to continue learning and improving my skills offsite, so most of the times I wasn't working, I was researching youtube tutorials, drawing trainings, always keeping up to date with what's new and good in illustration and design, besides other activities that seemed helpful and o improve my artistry.
I also found out, that which was particularly important, to resist to the temptation of collecting as many contracts as possible, so I could make loads of money - I just had to resist it, again for the sake quality, to keep my rating as high as possible. Although even overloaded with work and tight deadlines, I always keep in mind that I have to meet them, no matter what, whilst controlling several projects at once. And that challenge demanded something I consider very relevant and something I didn't found that much of while working with other companies: a high level of discipline. Because you have to accept you don't have a 9 to 5 job anymore, you're working with clients all in different time zones, and your daily routine has to adapt to it. Checking emails from 8 am to 12 am, being responsive at all times, and even if you took that Sunday off to go to the beach, you have to make sure you'll have internet access out in the wild, so you can reply your clients promptly. At first I admit it was somewhat difficult to keep up with, however nowadays not anymore: I see it as just one of my many routines, in order to maintain and secure what I love to do the most: Illustration.
So after establishing all the procedures and work ethics, what are the biggest rewards then of being a freelance illustrator? The first one that immediately comes to mind, maybe the most important and satisfying, is the variety of projects I found myself involved in. Each one requires a different approach, a different style, a different procedure. That I feel enriched me greatly as a professional. After several years on projects of very different scopes, I feel I'm now an illustrator with a much wider visual culture, work ethics and capable of leaving my clients very satisfied with the work I have provided. As a result of all that, I have become much happier with my profession and lifestyle.