Author: Natasha Fitranda Putri
Edited by: Fanya Tarissa
Illustrator: Lisa Kalystari
Freelance or freelance worker are the terms commonly used to refer to a person who is self-employed and not necessarily committed to a particular employer in the long term (Dictionary.com). Fields, professions, and industries that are most common to freelancing include: music-making, writing, acting, computer programming, web design, graphic design, translating and illustrating, film and video production, and other forms of piece work (Scholz, 2012). Spending some time on TikTok during this pandemic, I found myself interested in the stories of freelancers who often shared about their daily lives, their creative works, and the process behind making them via the popular platform. Apart from admiring the results of their creative works, I was moved by these people’s accounts of the ups and downs of working freelance—another topic they shared multiple times on TikTok. After digging into the world of freelancing a little deeper, I encountered some findings on why working as a freelance artist might be a gripping idea to so many people, especially in this era of superb digital advancement, or why it might not to some others.
The ever-progressing technology development in our era presents more space and tools at people’s disposal to work more independently (Rosati, n.d). In the case of creative artists, this digital era gives them the benefit to maintain their careers more steadily. Rosati (n.d) wrote that a freelancer commonly enjoys the luxury to monitor their job mostly online, whether it is to manage their job demands, connect with clients or partnership, promote their work to potential clients, or even collect their payment. As someone who’s familiar with freelancer’s services, I found that freelancers often utilize their social media effectively to present their brand to the world – for it is where their market mainly lies. This social media platform is also the place where a freelancer and a client would connect and interact until they agreed upon a deal for the commission. For example, we can easily manage to find freelance artists opening their commission on social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Devianart, and even Facebook. Christopher (2020), in his article, stated that nowadays, artists and clients can be in completely opposite parts of the world and still work together seamlessly, which provides some insanely good, newfound opportunities, especially for freelancers everywhere.
As for the personal and more practical advantages of working freelance, according to Christopher (2020), freelance artists may have the freedom to choose the kind of work they want. They can also resort to the option of turning down clients whose requests, for example, don’t match their style of work or the services they provide as freelance artists. Besides that, freelancers are free to fix a flexible day-to-day schedule and aren’t usually bound by the 9 to 5 life every day. Most importantly, freelancers can earn money doing what they love most which seems like a pretty decent idea, right?
I also found it inspiring how broad-ranging the types of works that freelancers offer to create and how each of these freelance artists has their own unique styles or techniques that distinguish them from other artists. For example, a freelancer doing a commission for art with “anime-like” features and another freelancer accepting a commission to turn cartoon-like characters to look more realistic. These instances show that freelance artists have the freedom to show their true colors, their own approach, and methods for the piece they’re working on. Christopher (2020) further elaborates that sometimes freelance artists are able to obtain creative freedom with different clients and projects; other times, they get to bring someone’s imagination to life.
Furthermore, Chistopher (2020) shares more insight into some advantages one may earn when they’re working as a freelance artist. He asserts that freelance artists have a massive opportunity for self-discovery which means while doing their job, freelance artists may start to analyze and learn more about their habits, weaknesses, strengths, and beliefs, which all will help them to further improve their self-quality on the long run. Other than that, Christopher also shares a unique advantage as a freelance artist, which is the opportunity to have long-term or regular clients. Freelance artists may at times work with the same client repeatedly, and such interaction can help develop a grounded trust and confidence between the artists and the clients.
Although working as freelance artists may bring forth all of the advantages above, I noticed that it also comes with its difficulties. The most common issue a freelance artist may come across is an inconsistent working habit and an unsettled source of income. Picture this: as a freelance artist, every day they decide which job they want to partake in and which ones they’re going to turn down. But some other days, there may not even be any project available for them. This may not be much of an issue if they already have a good reputation in the freelance industry, especially once they have received good reviews from their past clients. But for smaller freelance artists, the challenging work environment may also be a tough issue to handle.
Furthermore, Barin Cristian Doru (2014) in his article “The top 3 challenges of being a freelancer (and ways to overcome them)” shared two other main problems commonly faced by freelance artists, namely running out of ideas or creativity and no financial stability. As a freelance artist, one must understand that they’re dealing with projects that require creativity and innovation. Though, such creativity also has to reflect what the client wants. This resonates with the argument that Christopher (2020) proposes that although being a freelancer gives artists an opportunity to practice creative freedom, at times it also has its own limits since the artist still has to follow the guidelines that the client gives. On the bright side, more often than not, this creative freedom gives every artist the chance to showcase their uniqueness and originality in the piece they’re working on. Another thing is that as freelance artists, they don’t have the upper hand of how much money they’d make in a month or even a year. The money they made depends on how many projects they’ve agreed to, and this of course may vary due to different circumstances.
Reading more about freelancers’ experiences further allowed me to understand that there are other crucial issues in working as a freelance artist, namely exposure and relationship maintenance with clients. Exposure itself refers to publicizing of information or an event (Dictionary.com). In this case, some clients may offer ‘exposure’ to freelance artists as a way of payment. When a freelance artist is offered exposure in exchange, they can expect not to be given money as the payment, but instead, the client will give a ‘shout out’ or a ‘promotion’ of their work to their audiences (friends, followers, and customers). This may sound pretty convincing if their previous client is as big as Beyoncé or even BTS, but even so, every artist has the right to think through whether the exposure offered is worth their works, or whether it will help them to make ends meet.
Another thing to note is that, as a freelance artist, their relationship with the client can be a tricky business. In contrast to other jobs where people work alongside their colleagues or bosses regularly, as freelance artists, most of the time, they are dealing with total strangers. These people can have different understanding of things, different ways to communicate, and of course different tastes and expectations. When working with a not-so-cooperative client in the past, in 2018, freelance artist Sean Williams shared his side of the story. He described the encounter on his Tumblr page that at first, all went well, both he and the client struck a deal and everything was going smoothly. After corresponding for some time, Williams started feeling like this client wasn’t giving him the respect for all the time and work he had put into his piece. For example, the client told Williams to re-do all the work one day before the due date, offered Williams to drop their agreement with less payment than what’s agreed in the first place, and even asked him to make a new design within a day. This encounter was very unfortunate for a freelance artist, and of course, anyone would feel small if they didn’t earn the respect they should have. Sadly, as much as we can’t choose our colleagues at work, there’s not much that a freelance artist could do to prevent encountering disagreeable clients every now and then. All in all, being a freelance artist can be both a gift and a curse. The most determining gift of all is that they can work doing what they love—and earn money from it! Though being a freelance artist comes with its own struggles, when there is a struggle surely there will always be a solution. Sean William, Tumblr-based freelance artist, for instance, attested to such a claim when he shared three valuable lessons he learned the hard way during his career journey. William (2018) stated that as a freelance artist, one ought to value their art, their time, and the client, but “do not let them step all over you.” And most importantly, for anyone interested in trying freelancing, know when to seize each opportunity at the right moment and have more faith in yourself.
Christopher. (2020). 44 Pros and Cons of being a Freelance Artist [Online]. Available at: https://www.selfemployedartist.com/blog/44-pros-and-cons-of-being-a-freelance-artist (Accessed: 14th July 2021).
Dictionary.com. Exposure [Online]. Available at: https://www.dictionary.com/browse/exposure (Accessed 14th July 2021).
Dictionary.com. Freelance [Online]. Available at: https://www.dictionary.com/browse/freelance (Accessed: 21st May 2021).
Doru, Barin Cristian. (2014). The top 3 challenges of being a freelancer (and ways to overcome them) [Online]. Available at: https://99designs.com/blog/freelancing/top-3-challenges-of-being-a-freelancer/ (Accessed: 21st May, 2021).
Rosati, Fabio. (n.d). Technology Opens the World of Online Freelancing [Online]. Available at: https://www.wired.com/insights/2013/04/technology-opens-the-world-of-online-freelancing/ (Accessed: 14th July 2021)
Scholz, Trebor. (2012). Digital Labor: The Internet as Playground and Factory. Routledge.
William, Sean. (2018). The Issue of Being a Freelance Artist (When working with non-designers): A story by Sean Williams (and future reference for other artists) [Online]. Available at: https://seanwillustration.tumblr.com/post/174012816030/the-issue-of-being-a-freelance-artist-when (Accessed: 21st May 2021).