…because we’ve never had much of a choice.
A few months ago, epic illustrator Noah Bradley and I teamed up for a live podcast + Q&A called “There Are Easier Ways To Become A Professional Artist” which, fortunately, inspired many artists to question the status quo in the professional fields of freelance illustration and concept art.
In our second rant-filled mash-up, we share our thoughts on the death of freelance illustration (as we knew it), how personal projects and storytelling are essential to any current creative career, health insurance for artists, taxes, spec work and why we quit our dream jobs.
So if you want to get revved-up, riled-up and ready to rock the world with your visual stories, click through and press play…
Who In His Right Mind Would Quit A Dream Job?
Noah Bradley is a successful illustrator best known for his illustration work on Magic: The Gathering.
I was a Visual Development Artist and Character Designer at Disney.
…and, yes, we both recently gave up our “dream jobs.”
…and we’ll explain why.
Before we go any further, I need to say that our intent is to empower and encourage artists, not to crap on anyone’s dream of working for the big clients.
Not everyone wants to relocate to Burbank. Not everyone wants to try to squeeze through the narrow-doorway to a career in concept art. …and freelance illustration, at least in the most general sense, is becoming less desirable with every passing day.
Freelance Illustration (as we knew it) Is DEAD.
All the nails aren’t in the coffin yet, but “freelance illustration” as we knew it is DEAD.
Now, I know I just said that we want you to feel empowered and encouraged.
…and a crazy statement like “Freelance Illustration as we knew it is dead.” might not feel encouraging.
…but it is.
…because the trends that are causing the freelance illustration industry to suffer are the very same trends that are making it easier than ever for artists to gather a paying audience around their own visual stories.
…but let me back up for a second because I kinda rushed past that whole “death of freelance” thing. Here’s what I mean…
Scarcity Drives Value.
Generalist freelance illustrators are ANYTHING but scarce.
There’s nothing special about generic “freelance illustration” any more.
Generic artists attract generic clients.
Generic clients offer generic work.
Generic work attracts more generic clients.
This pattern will eventually attract bad clients (if it hasn’t already).
This is the reality for most of the frustrated freelance illustrators with whom Noah and I interact on a daily basis.
Is Your Ship Sinking?
Remember stock illustration?
It was this huge deal back in the 90’s. It was just like stock photography.
Freelance editorial illustrators were freaking out because a bunch of their clients were “renting” stock illustrations from websites and catalogs instead of commissioning original work from individual illustrators.
Stock illustration won for a while.
Not just because it was cheaper, but it was SMARTER.
This was terrible for the freelancers but great for the customer.
You can’t really blame the clients for going with the cheaper, more convenient option if you’re basically offering them the EXACT SAME THING for more money and more hassle.
The “freelance illustrators” who have thrived (Noah Bradley, for example) have offered something that you can’t get just anywhere else.
Especially in the super-competitive worldwide-online marketplace, artists MUST offer something scarce. …something special.
…or they’ll sink.
So if you’re pursuing “freelance illustration” in the general sense and you feel like you’re on a sinking ship, maybe don’t tie yourself to the mast.
Maybe you should consider jumping ship.
…because there are lifeboats EVERYWHERE YOU LOOK.
We Want You To Feel Empowered:
We recorded this podcast to inspire and empower you to look around for the lifeboats.
…a safe exit from low-paying clients, under-cutting competition and generic work.
We want you to think for yourselves.
…to continually question “the system” that everyone else takes for granted.
…to take an active role in your own career and not a passive and/or reactive role.
…to listen to your heart and not what buttheads say.
We want you to connect and collaborate and innovate with each other.
…to leverage digital resources to tell the stories you’ve always wanted to tell.
…to “zoom out” and look at the trajectory of your career and make sure you’re focused on an attainable goal.
…or ask yourself if there’s an easier way.
…or if you’re actually better at something else.
…even if they look very similar.
…to be brave and actually quit things when it’s the right time to do so.
…to understand that as awesome as “the dream job”is, it isn’t everything.
Listen To The Podcast:
- What’s wrong with Freelance Illustration?
- How do you build a following online?
- Should you do free art tests?
- What do we do about health insurance? …and taxes?
- What’s the best, fastest way to build an art site?
- How can you start making money from your website today?
We’re Not The Only Ones (UPDATE – 10/23/13):
If you don’t believe Noah and I when we say that freelance illustration as we knew it is dead, maybe children’s illustrator/ indie storybook app pioneer Will Terry can convince you.
Will just released an awesome YouTube Series and an amazing blog post which provide a well-reasoned (and inspiring) explanation of the “death” of freelance illustration.
If Will’s logical presentation still isn’t enough, you should know that it has been validated by some of the top editorial illustrators in the world.
Watch his “Speech To Illustration Students” video series in the YouTube playlist above and then head to his blog to read Where Are All My Freelance Jobs?
Check out our previous live podcast: There Are Easier Ways To Become A Professional Artist
Comment And Share:
Is your freelance illustration ship sinking?
Which lifeboats do you wish you could climb into?
What’s stopping you from doing so?