Header: Abstract Composition – Rolando Barry
For digital artists looking to stand out from the crowd – you'll need to channel your passion, stop chasing likes and be a professional.
How do you measure success? It differs for everyone, but for most creatives, one goal is to make enough money from their work and live a balanced lifestyle. Whether it’s illustration, design, or motion graphics – building a career around digital art requires effort, patience and hard work.
With more online tools and resources at our disposal than ever before, artists and designers are now able to make a living from their creativity from anywhere in the world. It no longer requires heaps of time and energy to make money from your artwork, as many of the traditional barriers have been broken down.
However, this rapidly-changing technological age as a freelance artist can sometimes be confusing and overwhelming. Making great work is only one part of the process. The discipline required to establish and manage yourself as a professional digital artist is another story.
Find Your Own Signature Style
While all artists are influenced by others to some degree, carving out your own unique visual language is essential. This is often the hump that many digital creators have to overcome on their journey – and it’s an ongoing process for even the most successful artists. Many of the world’s leading creatives have spent years working hard slowly carving and evolving their own recognizable styles.
Finding this style involves constant exploration, trial-and-error and self-reflection. No matter what stage in your career you may find yourself, it’s important to always look back to your love for the craft.
Committing to, and completing ambitious personal projects (with deadlines) forces you to learn new techniques, programs and tools to evolve quickly. This appetite for exploration will keep you focused on creating something authentic that becomes synonymous with you as an artist.
Set a Standard of Excellence
Becoming a master of your craft will take time, but nothing beats consistency. You can't go to the gym and lift the heaviest weights on day one. But if you show up everyday (commit), focus on your form (craft), put in the reps (time), you'll get there much faster than those who simply dabble.
When it comes to digital art, it pays to focus on quality over quantity. Clients want to see polished work and collaborate with professionals, so building a reputation around quality goes a long way in the creative industry.
It can be challenging to balance patience and commitment as you improve, especially when you’re trying to find your way as an artist. However, focusing on quality doesn’t mean that you should avoid making mistakes, or that everything you create has to be perfect. You will create work that isn’t great – but the most important thing is your commitment to making progress. Be prepared to test your patience through the ups and downs, and eventually you'll smash through the creative barriers.
Diversify Your Online Presence
There’s no denying the role that social media plays in the modern artist’s overall exposure. Platforms such as Instagram allow creators to share their work with the world and connect with others. While engagement can be a powerful tool, developing an authentic online presence isn’t about chasing likes and followers — it’s about showcasing your work and unique skills, and sharing your voice.
Having a portfolio of high quality work on AvantForm is another effective way to grow your online presence. Once you upload your digital art and set your licensing terms, your work can be instantly purchased by clients — meaning you can make money in your sleep and focus on your craft in the morning.
Think of your AvantForm profile as your licensable portfolio, where you’re able to present your collection of digital assets to clients around the world. This also removes the needless back-and-forth communication and other non-creative tasks.
Keep It Professional
Producing great artwork is certainly one way to distinguish yourself in the digital world, but having a streamlined process and being self-disciplined are huge differentiators. Maintaining regular communication with clients, meeting deadlines and and managing your own projects go a long way — and they’re sure-fire ways to promote repeat clients and enthusiastic referrals.
Be prepared to develop your own administration processes. Bookkeeping, invoices and taxes are all non-negotiable tasks that you'll need to understand (even if you hand them off to accountants). The more dialed in these processes are, the more time you'll spend being creative, ultimately delivering better results.
Understand the Rules of the Game
No matter how good your work is, you have to be well-versed on the business side of things. It’s easy for clients to get the jump on artists who lack the basic knowledge of licensing, legal issues or pricing. After all, it's their job to run their businesses as effectively as possible. Learning these less-than-glamorous aspects of the freelance world can ensure you’re getting fair value for your time, effort and creativity.
Developing a deep understanding of licensing and pricing takes significant time and energy. There’s a trade-off between understanding the technical aspects of contracts and negotiations, and spending that time focusing on your craft.
AvantForm is built by industry veterans and by artists working in the trenches. We represent artists fairly while giving them flexibility and control over their work. We've removed the headaches of having to deal with the nitty gritty details and all the fine print, and pay our community of professional artists with the respect and money they deserve.
Push Your Artistic Boundaries
Remaining stagnant is the last thing that you want to do as an artist. If you're caught standing still and everyone else is moving forward, you're falling behind. Learning is a lifelong process, and in today’s digital age, there are more than enough online resources out there to help you continually improve your craft. There’s a lot to learn from other talented artists, illustrators and designers – whether it’s developing new skills, sharing stories or seeking advice from other members in the creative community. Don't be afraid to reach out to them, share your experiences, and ask questions.
Lastly, define your why first, and your what later. Why are you pursuing a career as a freelancer and embarking on a journey as an artist? Answering this question honestly can be the most rewarding way to take your first steps in the right direction, down an authentic path.
Despite the challenges that you'll inevitably face, knowledge is always one click away – and you'll inevitably rise to the top by having clarity on why you're relentlessly pursuing your craft. You will be the one that goes deeper beyond the surface-level YouTube tutorials, uncovering new ideas, and creating a meaningful sense of self-fulfillment.