How I became a Freelance Artist

Since my youngest age, I have had a passion for graphic design and illustrations. Doing it full-time has always been my dream job. Since July 2018, I’ve been able to make a living out of doing what I love. Here’s my story on of how I became a freelance artist

Bio

I’m Lya and I’m a Freelance Artist and Graphic designer from France.

Since my youngest age, I have had a passion for graphic design and illustrations and doing it full-time was always my dream job. My family wasn’t very supportive of me wanting to become a graphic designer at first, so I went to university to study languages for a year before dropping out. 

I took a break from studies for a couple months before getting back into university to study Game Art. Video games have also been a big part of my life so I thought this would be the right field for me. But eventually after 3 years, I also dropped out before graduating. The environment was too stressful for me and I just didn’t feel like I could spend the next 10 years working in the gaming industry. These three years however did teach me a lot of the basics for illustration, graphic design and animation.

After dropping out for the second time, I felt like I was ready to start working and see where life would take me so I started offering Graphic design services to my friends and family. Eventually, my work started being noticed by content creators and influencers (from Twitch, YouTube…) and I started getting more and more commissions to the point I could afford to take it to full-time.

It didn’t take long for me to decide to give it a try, and it’s now been since July 2018 that I am able to make a living out of doing what I’ve always loved.

How was your university time?

I will skip the one year studying languages because there isn’t much to say about it. It just didn’t feel right for me. The Game Art school however taught me a lot. The first year taught us the fundamentals of illustration. I’ve learned a lot about anatomy, perspective and composition. The second and third year were more focused about Digital Art and how to implement art into video games. This was also when I started learning digital art and it was entirely new to me. My last two years at the game art school taught me a lot more about illustration, animation and UX/UI design. We had to go to school every two week, and work in any field related to either Gaming or Graphic design, the other. It quickly became very draining and hard to keep up. I was constantly struggling to balance out the huge load of work we had to do for school and having a job. That and school being too expensive for me to afford is what led me to drop out. I still think these 3 years have been a great learning experience for me on many levels.

Why did you choose a career as Freelancer artist?

I chose to be a Freelance Artist and Graphic designer because I ended up realizing that the only thing I couldn’t figure out was what field I wanted to work in. I love learning new things all the time and I wanted to find a job or company that would let me do all of that for people. Being a freelance lets me pick who I want to work with and what projects I want to work on (almost) freely. As I previously said, I’ve also always liked video games (still do!) so working with Content creators and Influencers is the best option for me as I still get to be somewhat close to the Gaming field.

What was your first job or nuggets from jobs you had that helped you get where you are today?

I’ve only worked for two small companies while I was studying Game Art, as a Graphic designer for both. The first company I worked for was a start-up delivery company that helped customers bring heavy articles to a location of their choice. This job helped me be a lot more open about communicating and made me realize that it was okay to give input and suggestions from my experience sometimes. I wasn’t paid for this job but needed it to pass my second year, so I stayed there for the minimum amount that was required for me to pass my year and then left. I was mostly doing designs that were meant to be printed, and Web design for them.

The second company was a way better experience for me. It was a real estate company that helped students, individuals and professionals find accomodation easily. On top of being paid this time, I had great co-workers and I was constantly working on new projects and learning new tools and softwares. My superiors were fully aware that I had 0 experience with some of the things they were asking me to do, but seeing the quality of the work I was delivering, they always supported me and gave me a chance to learn. I was basically doing the same thing I was doing for my first job, but in a much better environment. 

How did you prepare for the interview?

For both jobs, they were only asking for a portfolio. It could be physical or digital. I went to both interviews with my laptop, and showed them my Website, where my best pieces, personal and from school were showcased. At the time, I didn’t feel like I had any specific strong point, so instead, I wanted to show that I was all about learning new things and that I had already tried various types of art. My website had 3D work, Web design, Game art, Illustrations and Animation/Motion design. None of it was near a professional level, but it was decent enough to catch their attention, and the conversation then helped show that I genuinely enjoyed being a graphic designer, and that I was really motivated to work for them.

Things are changing very fast in the industry; how do you keep yourself updated.

Since my clients are mostly from Twitch, YouTube and Twitter, I mostly just keep myself updated by watching streams, videos, and browsing through my Twitter feed. Twitter has a large and very talented creative community/. This and Artstation are my go-to places for inspiration. 

Any advice about CVs?

Now that i’m a freelancer, i don’t really need to have a CV anymore, but when I had to have one for these two companies I worked with, I was constantly updating my CV because I had little to no experience and didn’t know what I could put there to have a chance at being hired anywhere. Looking back now, my best advice would be to be as honest as possible on your CV. It’s important to make yourself look good and highlight what you’re good at doing, but from my experience, recruiters will see and prefer someone that is honest about what they know and what they don’t rather than someone who pretends to know everything while not having anything to show in their portfolio. I also think that the most important part in a job interview isn’t necessarily showing how skilled you are, but showing how and why you’d like to be a part of the team you’re applying to be a part of. It’s ok not to know a lot as long as you show that you’re motivated and willing to learn!

Advice for someone looking for a Freelancer Artist job and lessons from jobs that you couldn’t get.

The art industry is rough. Most places will ask for senior artists with years of experience so getting started can be very discouraging. To me, Please don’t accept any job that refuses to pay you or promises to pay you later! I made the mistake to do that, thinking it was going to be a good learning experience and while I can understand this way of thinking, I can’t stress how wrong it is. There are many great small companies out there that will hire artists and graphic designers and pay them even if they don’t have a lot of experience. Some companies will make it sound like you’re the person they’ve been looking for but they can’t afford to pay you for the first few months you work there, and then end up never paying you at all. Make it clear that you’re only looking for a paid position, even if that means canceling a few job interviews. Be yourself, keep working, and don’t get discouraged! It will be worth it in the end 🙂

You may also like an interesting read like this: How I Created My Own Career as an Art and Antique Appraiser

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