It is not unusual for me to receive emails from students asking questions about what it is like to work as a freelance illustrator. I do my best to answer, though it can sometimes take a little while to compile a response. Here is the most recent set of questions, that came from Sally, and my answers. I hope they might be of some interest.
Q1) When you set out into the working world, what sort of work/placements did you undertake to get to where you are today and for who?
I am purely self taught. Which was quite disadvantageous in a lot of ways, and meant I had to learn as I went along - both the skill set for illustration and the business model.
Q2) In the beginning, how did you manage financially? Did you have any work on the side?
It was a struggle. I did whatever work I could get, and received as much government funding as I could. There are often incentives for people starting up new businesses, and other benefits available for those on a low income. I know a lot of artists who have held a full time job and worked on their art career on the side. This is probably the norm when starting out.
Q3) What goals did you set for yourself when you began?
Initially it was simply to make a living at doing what I wanted. As that hurdle was passed then I have set myself further goals; both in terms of companies I'd like to work for, and particular products or assignments.
Q4) How much closer have you come to achieving them since you began?
I have achieved most of them, but as I say I keep moving the goalposts.
Q5) Have your goals changed?
Whoops, already answered this :)
Q6) Was freelance Illustrating your first choice?
Yes, absolutely. I wanted to be my own boss as much as possible.
Q7) Did you have a Plan B or alternative career choice?
I always thought I could go into an office job if I had to. I do possess a degree ( BA Eng.Lit.) and felt that would probably help.
Q8) If you could go back in time and do anything differently, what would it be and why?
I guess there are lots of things I could have done more efficiently/differently, but I am happy with the way life has panned out, and enjoyed getting here too.
Q9) Have any of your career choices been swayed by personal situations?
If you mean my personal life, then not really, but clearly I am interacting with other people all the time, and relationships with colleagues can affect work.
Q10) Did you move far away from home to follow your ambitions?
Distance from home has been irrelevant to work, development of the internet has been completely transformative.
Q11) What is the estimate annual income for this sort of job?
I am not on a set wage, so that is not easy to answer. Commissions pay a set fee, so how fast you do the job, and how many hours you choose to work have an impact. I would currently describe myself as having a good income.
Q12)What sort of hours do you work? Do you keep your work separate from your personal time?
My hours are more regular than they were, due to sharing care for my two year old son with my wife, Anne Stokes, who is also a full time artist. There is no real time off. For instance checking emails before I go to bed is 'work'
Q13) Do you have vacation time?
Rarely. Trips away are usually to conventions and the like.
Q14) What is your journey to work like?
A short flight of stairs from bedroom to office, via the kitchen for breakfast. Working from home is a real boon.