Work as a Freelance Artist, Be Your Own Boss and Create Your Own Dream Job!

You’re an artist. That means you always think outside the box—in fact, you kicked the box to the curb.
You color outside the lines because boundaries don’t fit into your world.
You believe that life shouldn’t begin or end in a cubicle. But it absolutely can happen in a coffee shop, in your pj’s (although most coffee places prefer you get dressed first), or any place or time that turns your creative brain into overdrive.
If this sounds like you, you’re not alone.                                                                                                                                                                                                 Welcome to a vast tribe of nomadic creatives—those self-employed professionals known as “freelancers”.

Ah, yes, freelancing…the glamorous life. No boss, lots free time, total independence, the flexibility, the commute from your bedroom to your living room, and getting paid while wearing footie pajamas—all yours for the taking.
When I tell people that I am a freelance illustrator, I get one of two reactions:
“Ohhhh, you’re so lucky! No boss. All that free time, and the flexibility to work when you want.”
“Wow, that must be really hard, not knowing where your next paycheck is coming from.”
I’m not sure which response makes me cringe more.
In the first case, it’s not a matter of luck. I chose to work for myself so that I could take control of—and responsibility for—my own success. And I have a boss. It’s me! And I’m no pushover. Sometimes, I want to take a day off and this boss lady shrew gives me a hard kick to my back side and shrieks, “no friggin’ way, princess, you’ve got deadlines!”
Sure, the flexibility is great! And I earn every bit of it because I work hard at both getting and keeping happy clients. I actively find the work and then perform masterfully. When my agents find business clients for me, it’s up to me to keep them. I take responsibility for problems because there’s no one to pass the buck to. Clients want results, not excuses.  Remember that especially, if you choose the freelance world.
If I weren’t this disciplined, I assure you, I would have way more free time than I wanted—with no money to go along with it, (um, ‘cuz I wouldn’t be getting any work). If you are the type of person who can say “no” to a good time because you have work to do, then you’re probably a good candidate for freelancing. However, if you can always find a good reason not to “go to work”, then you don’t have the discipline or motivation—at least, not yet. Maybe a few years of working for someone else can spark it.
As for the second response, I gladly thumb my nose at these naysayers, because what they’re implying is that I’m not good enough to keep a steady stream of incoming work. I know that’s not what exactly they mean, though. These are the people who are not risk-takers. They want the guarantee of a regular paycheck. Hey, don’t get me wrong. I like that, too! I’m not a non-profit organization here—although it can feel that way when you’re just starting out. But if you do some good planning, deliver quality work, and service your clients brilliantly, you’ll not only get more work from them, but the word-of-mouth will bring more projects.
So, your response here should be: (1) “It’s not luck. I worked hard to make this work for me”  and (2) “I always have more than enough work so I don’t have to worry about a paycheck—or a layoff”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          (Yeah, add in this last bit to remind them they are at the mercy of someone else’s business management skills…heh heh heh).
So remember, If you want to succeed as a freelancer, you’ve got to have the heart  and soul of an artist, the discipline of a drill sergeant, the focus of a master juggler, and the stealth of a ninja. Which gives you the license to wear a lot of black.


  1. I would like to express my affection for your kind-heartedness giving support to folks that should have guidance on in this idea. Your personal dedication to getting the solution all around had been astonishingly functional and have continuously encouraged professionals just like me to realize their ambitions. The interesting key points signifies a lot a person like me and far more to my office workers. Best wishes; from everyone of us.

    • Renee Reeser Zelnick |

      It is such a treat to hear from readers like yourself. Being an artist and committing to it professionally is not for the faint of heart. I’ve been so blessed to have a strong career based upon service. While I serve my clients daily, I also serve my peers by sharing as much as I can to lead more folks to uncovering and expanding their own creative success. is CRAZY..crazy good!!! Thank you so much for commenting. In Gratitude, Renee.

  2. This is a terrific article Renee. I am visiting from Freelanced i am paper doll Eve there, a fashion illustrator s well. I tend not to read online, I don’t really have time for it either but I am glad I read this post, I enjoyed it and look forward to reading more on your site.

    • Renee Reeser Zelnick |

      Eve! I see your profile popping up on Freelanced all the time-
      Thanks for visiting me here as well-

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