My Top 5 Tips for Freelance Fashion Illustrators:
1. Write Your Mission Statement: One habit I picked up while working full-time was goal planning. It was part of our bi-annual reviews with our managers. We had to map out our goals and to-do’s from two weeks, to 3 months, to 6 months, to 2 years. It coincides with “defining what success looks like to you” and it is super important. If you don’t know where you are going or what you hope to achieve, how can you expect to attract clients who do? When you are direct, determined, clear and purposeful about your work, you are doing 50% of the work for the clients by showing them how brilliantly you align with their brand. For me, Travel Write Draw has always been about (you guessed it) travel, fashion, and illustration; it’s about where these three passions of mine intersect. My career mission is defined by these three passions and ultimately all the content I produce and clients I attract fall into this intersection.
2. A Structured Schedule: This point isn’t entirely specific to fashion illustrators, but it is however one of the most important pillars of my “survival guide”. When I first left my corporate job, one of the hardest adjustments I had to make (apart from not knowing where my paycheck would be coming from week to week) was not having an office to commute to 5 days of the week. The lack of structure was almost paralyzing. It certainly didn’t help that I was living in a shoebox in the West Village where my bed and desk were a half a meter apart. But once I moved to my place in Williamsburg, and gained 3 separate rooms outside my bedroom, life started to become more manageable.
I joined Classpass and every Sunday I would book my morning workouts for the week. Monday at 9 AM was boxing, Tuesday at 8 AM was pilates, Wednesday at 8:30 AM was hip hop yoga, and so on. By the time I finished my workout class and walked home to shower, my client emails were rolling in and ready to be answered. It might seem silly but having the structure of these classes kept me sane. They got me out of the house, cleared my head, made me feel good both physically and emotionally, and ultimately became the framework of my schedule. Whatever it is, be it exercise, walking your dog, meditation, or a coffee run, starting your week with structure will help you to stay in balance while weathering the unpredictable ups and downs of your freelance career.
3. Treat Your Instagram Like the Face of Your Company: This might seem fairly obvious at this point in the game, but your Instagram account is your new bright and beautiful LinkedIn. To be honest, I still have to remind myself that perfecting content or producing new illustrations just for Instagram, is not time wasted, but time invested in my profession. Your Instagram is the most outward facing part of your brand and the most easily accessed by prospective clients. For all the shit-talking and eye-rolling I see coming from casual Instagram users, what they are neglecting to acknowledge is that this is business. It takes skills to cultivate an audience, keep them, and ultimately monetize your feed. I owe SO much of my success to this platform and thank my lucky stars everyday that I launched my career at a time when social media became so prevalent. I don’t know how long this wave will last for, but I do know that you should make hay while the sun shines…which leads me to my next point.
4. Do NOT Forget Your Personal Work: I know I just finished talking about how Instagram is king and that you should absolutely devote time to making your feed as beautifully compelling and aligned with your mission as possible, BUT keep in mind that talent ultimately trumps all. If you’ve got the skills, and I mean real drawings chops, you will be able to weather every social media app rise and fall that comes your way. So what does all this mean?! It means keep drawing and painting just for you. Keep pushing your boundaries. Keep taking classes to advance your skills. Keep being curious and experimenting. Better yet, maybe these experiments can be integrated into your Instagram feed so you kill two birds with one stone. I know for my feed that there is a very specific type of drawing style that does well, but for me, it happens to make me feel a bit artistically stifled. You may have noticed a lot of my recent work is feeling looser and more gestural and that’s because I’m in a phase of experimenting. I’m craving evolution in my work and maybe you do too?!
5. Avoid Comparing: This seems damn near impossible at times when Instagram makes it absolutely clear (both numerically and otherwise) just how you are stacking up to the competition, but comparison will rob you of joy ALWAYS. Instagram can be an enormously inspiring and gratifying place or a torturous black hole, depending on how you use it. If it means not following other artists or following so many accounts that you can’t actually see anything (insert emoji with laugh-cry tears), do whatever it takes to keep this space healthy and positive for you. One thing I saw this year on an Instagram meme no less, was a little girl telling people to just stay in their lanes. But this has stayed with me, the idea of staying in your lane, because what is meant for you will come and what is not will go. If you stay in your lane and focus on your journey you will get to where you need to go with so much less interruption. Be proud of what you are doing and don’t forget to look back to see how far you’ve already come. Reading this post in full was already a step towards a future you desire.