3 answers

How many free-lance opportunities can a painter get?

Asked San Jose, California

I very much enjoy painting and sketching and it is something that I would love to do on the side free-lancing. Painting is a way that I can truly express myself. #art #artist #drawing #painting

3 answers

Heather M’s Answer

Updated San Francisco, California

It really depends. If you have friends and family who know you paint, it can often be a good start to practice on them so you can figure out if you like it. You may have been creating art for fun or pleasure for a while now, but it gets to be a whole different ballgame when you're working on things commercially. You have to be very receptive to feedback and criticism. You may feel that what your client is asking for is the most ridiculous idea in the world, but it's your job to paint it!

As with any freelancing, it's often very competitive and it's challenging to get your name out there. Fortunately there are a lot of different websites and things now that allow people to post jobs and connect artists with work. I'd search Google for freelance sites and contract artist sites. I've never personally used any of these, however. I just know they exist. Similarly, you may find something in your local classifieds.

Another thing I see these days is artists posting work on Etsy and writing up that they'll do custom work, or artists posting auctions on ebay for custom paintings within certain requirements. Again, I haven't tried these things - I've just seen them.

The one benefit you often have with going through a site with its own terms and conditions is that there's often something to protect you from non-paying buyers and the like. Do you research when you join any site and be sure the terms are fair and you agree with any fees involved with selling your work.

When you're working on your own, an aspect that's extremely important and often overlooked is your business side. You need to research how to write up estimates, contracts, and invoices so you're getting paid for your work! For example, some folks set up agreements where half is paid up front and the remaining half is paid when the project is complete. A contract ensures that the client has entered a legally binding agreement to pay you for your services. The bottom line is, if you try to run your freelance operation on good faith alone, you will likely be burned. Definitely research all of your operation details ahead of time. Some folks even have a lawyer involved to be sure their contracts and documents are legally sound.

Lastly, if you're serious about freelancing, you'll want to create a website portfolio to showcase your existing work. Often clients want to get an idea of whether or not your style is on target with what they're trying to do. If you show a variety of work, you can prove that you're a flexible artist who can work in a variety of styles. If you have a website, you can also market yourself more easily.

Laura’s Answer

Updated Cambridge, Massachusetts

Since Andy and Heather covered a lot of ground regarding immediate opportunities of art freelancing, I'd like to share some related advice.

There are lots of freelance opportunities related to the arts. The first I participated in was being an artist assistant to artists with professional studio practices. What this can mean varies by the needs of the artist, but I've done everything from draft artists statements, press releases, prime, varnish and frame canvases, photograph work, photo editing, manage the artist's website, fabricate sculpture, etc. etc.. This can be a great way to gleam from someone else's studio practice while getting a little cash return. The pay isn't usually very good, but it renders a lot of networking opportunities as well as first hand experience of skills you can then turn around and use for your own practice.

Another freelance opportunity is teaching art workshops. Craft skills are very marketable workshop themes such as DIY screen printing, knitting, paper mache, pottery. etc.. Or foundation courses such as intro to drawing, intro to painting, etc. Community centers, art centers, and community oriented galleries are great places to propose workshops or to investigate if you're interested in teaching art on the side.

Further along when you've gained some art handling experience, preparator work is another super fun (in my opinion) freelance opportunity within the arts. What this means is that you are hired by a larger gallery or museum to prepare the space and install the work for an exhibition. Because exhibits often stay up for 1-6 months (or longer) prepartors are usually hired as outside contractors since there are wide gaps between installs. These gigs require a fair amount of past experience since you are responsible for the safety of the art work, but you learn a LOT about art installation techniques and exhibition design. These skills could also be transferred to home art installations.

Thank you for taking the time to respond and add more info :)

Andy’s Answer

Updated San Francisco, California

I think that you're actually asking a different question. Freelance employment is most often painting commission pieces for clients requesting specific subject matter. But if you're talking about doing things to express yourself then those will be for yourself. And while you may find others who want to purchase those pieces, that's not technically freelancing.

So you can definitely budget your own time to make sure that you have time for personal projects once you've finished your "regular" job. I know that many artists, including myself, work on personal projects on our own time. Those don't necessarily make us money, but it does fulfill personal creative urges.

There may be avenues to sell personal creative pieces, anything from galleries to comic conventions. Often you'll find that people will want to purchase specific requests that they have, but if you create some very nice pieces, you may find people who will buy those.

In addition to the business practices that Heather mentioned in her post, you'll also need to keep track of your taxes. When you make money, even freelancing, you'll need to report that income and pay taxes on it. Make sure to research how much taxes you'll have to pay so that you set that money aside, otherwise you'll find yourself with a big tax bill the following year and no money to cover it.

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