Being an illustrator can be a tough thing, especially one in the realm of freelance. Clients can be difficult to work with, forgetful, demanding, absent, or my favorite; cheap. It's frustrating when I get asked to mimic someone else style or copy an idea by a client. Sometimes though, you work for someone who is the perfect client. They are open to your ideas but can give direction. They respect you as your own illustrator and hire you specifically because they like YOUR work.
I've found that more often than not, my work thats been focused in the cycling-community has been nothing but ideal clients. None more so than #DahWeasels. Over the summer I had been asked to do both a single color illustration for a shirt and a poster for the Gnar Weasels as part of the Kenda Cup Series. It was a super fun project and one of the first I was able to really play around with using Photoshop as a painters tool rather than a photo-editing tool.
Towards the middle of the NECX season, Ice Weasels was fast approaching to mark the end of the local race calendar. Having only been around NECX for two years, I only indulged in Ice Weasels for the first time, last year. It was everything I expected it to be; not overly serious, a fun time, people relieving the stress of the season and generally just having fun with a whole lot of friends. I raced the SS race in a cheetah onesie and nearly overheated to death. I was stoked to get asked to do the Ice Weasels poster this year.
The parameters were relatively simple: Feed into the upcoming Star Wars release, involve a weasel, and throw in some NECX specific inside jokes. (Droppah' Post, Khed??) I had a teacher my first year of college named Jon Matson who did a lot of work for Magic The Gathering and in his spare time did some INSANE Star Wars fan art. He was one of those influential teachers who made me believe I could do anything I wanted to if I put in the work. I was channeling him for this project; trying to be purposeful with my composition and especially when I started laying in the color.
When you create something you're proud of, people recognize that and aspiring illustrators should too. I'm lucky in my freelance to work a lot for good people but I've certainly dealt with a few non-payments and on two occasions having my work stolen. Don't undercut yourself. I'm so guilty of this and as I've been getting more consistent work I've been better at setting actual boundaries. If you're taking on freelance, do some research as to what you should be charging. Does it make more sense to do it hourly or in one lump-sum? Outline to your clients what you're doing for them and in what timeframe. How many rounds of edits is the client allowed before you charge them more?
Please for the love of all that's good, If you haven't done work for a new client, draft a contract and make your clients sign it. I'm fine giving the occasionally bro-deal or being lax about things If I know someone, but I can't count how many times I've been screwed because I've taken someone at their word and then had no paper-trail to prove their mismanagement. You can find stock contracts online that you can customize for your projects. I hate being formal or stiff when I work with people, but I promise you will be better off for it. If clients walk away from you after you present a contract, I guarantee there's a reason for that.
Don't make everything about work. Take on some fun projects that you might not otherwise do. Do some work for yourself. Reach out to publications you like and see if they need some quick spot-illustrations. Do a poster of Pauline Prevot riding a weasel-tauntaun. Freelance can be hard and frustrating, but I live for those projects that I like staying up late to finish. When you have passion for what you do, whether that be art, racing bikes, or your relationships, people will gravitate towards it and the rewards from it are so much greater. As always, Stay Rad!