Updated: Nov 15, 2020
Hi guys. I’m Audrey, and this is my first time blogging… kinda crazy. I’m hoping my posts will be helpful to other designers and creatives out there, especially for any future (or current) freelance designers & artists!
I thought this first post could be a good omen to why I’m working on a blog in the first place. These are a few key things I’ve been working on in the last year to prepare for the leap to being my own boss, and taking control of my own creative future. Some things take longer than others, but nothing worth doing is ever easy! :)
1. Figuring out what services I want to provide to clients
How I Started in the World of ART *place glitter confetti here*
Many people say that college (or in my case, art school) is a place where you learn a lot of new things about yourself. Exposure to new thoughts, ideas, and challenges can really shape you in ways you don’t think about until years later.
That being said, part of that self-exploration in art school includes what you’re interested in working on as a professional for however many years. If you’re lucky, you’ll stumble across that thing that you never stop thinking about and can’t wait to create something new with, let alone shamelessly shouting it to the world.
I knew graphic design was my general “thing,” but where was I going to apply that? I’ve always had a huge interest in the entertainment world, especially medieval & science fiction; I grew up watching my little brother play video games for hours just to listen and indulge in the storytelling that took place in a totally different medium -- (as dorky as this sounds, I would even watch video game playthroughs on my downtime in college.) I scoured thousands of concept art pieces (especially Star Wars’) and watched a ton of behind-the-scenes videos of how Game of Thrones’ special effects took place.
Needless to say, I knew I had these interests and an eye for art & design, but never really knew how they could be combined for myself. It took a lot of curiosity and digging to learn more about these avenues just for fun, and all of the amazing work that could be done. I’m here now, about 2 years after graduating from art school, and I’m still learning how I can apply my knowledge and talents to the kind of work I want to be doing for people across the country (and world.)
What to Make of Those Interests
Design & illustration is my general skillset, but over time I’ve trickled that down to more specific avenues that I’ve been individually researching, practicing, (troubleshooting like crazy,) and asking professionals in the field about:
Concept painting (primarily weapons and environments)
Designing title sequences (creating fictional stories to show concepts)
3D Concept Design (Cinema4D and Redshift)
Design/marketing for gaming & esports
Over time, I’ve found that there’s a mixed bag of reviews and whether it's better to be a focused expert designer on one or two specialties, or to be a “Jack-of-all-Trades, or “Wild Card” as I like to think of it as, and have a ton of experience in different areas that you can lend a hand or two in.
For me personally, it’s hard for me to be restricted to just a few things. I need to at least try everything my heart desires first before eliminating what I don’t care as much for. (And for the record, I think most if not all artists/designers should explore this idea. There’s just too much out there not to try!)
So, I’m still figuring out what all I want to be providing in my freelance business. But, if I play my cards right, no matter what, I’ll be working in the storytelling biz. Which is perfect ;)
2. Asking for advice
Network & Reputation
Anyone in the creative field will tell you that your network is your biggest tank in the war of employment… and I’ll echo that idea as well. In fact, my first job out of college was simply offered to me through someone I worked with at my internship beforehand, without really going through the application process. I’m beyond lucky for that opportunity, as not many have that luxury straight out of college. But, with that being said, it was because of my work ethic and a workmate noticing that work ethic who went on to do other things... and basically took me with her!
I’ve learned so much with every opportunity I’ve had thus far. But more importantly, I remember the people most who took me under their wing and spent the time to nurture my curiosity. Although I may not work with some of my mentors and colleagues anymore, I still keep in touch with them to ask questions and fill them in on what I’m working on to get any insight possible.
Not only that, but sometimes I’ll cast a wide net and post questions to my general network on LinkedIn. I get some great engaging answers, helps me look active on social media, and shows my network that I’m working on something (even if it is just thinking about relative things.)
It doesn't even have to be asking people you know/don't know directly about these things. Most advice I've found critical is on YouTube or podcasts (I use Spotify) of professionals talking about their experience with freelancing or their industry, and sometimes even find awesome interviews of people starting out just like me that I can take note of their decision making as well.
Which leads me to my next point...
3. Subscribing to great resources
Throughout this past year I’ve done a lot of digging throughout the interwebs – (and with my curiosity, it’s been more like digging to China tbh.) Over time, I’ve been able to develop quite a hefty bank of design and business resources that I refer to very often. Here’s a small list of my favorites:
TheFutur (Podcast & YouTube - business, design, typography, entrepreneur thinking)
ArtStation (concept art tutorials, assets, blogs, inspiration)
School of Motion (literally what it sounds like -- I have tons of courses from them!)
Creative Bloq (design blog)
Video Copilot (tutorials, free After Effects plugins, assets & project files)
Corridor Crew's YouTube Channel (VFX talks and walkthroughs)
Behance (design & portfolio curation)
Hoodzpah Inc. (design, portfolio, business... also they're just awesome)
True Grit Texture Supply Co. (design assets)
Creative Market (design assets)
Pixel Surplus (design assets)
Spoon Graphics (design assets & tutorials)
YouWorkForThem (fonts, presets, actions, graphics, etc.)
Matt Paint (best library of HD images for matte painting)
First, this is a great start to building a design asset library. Having a plethora of design assets (like brushes, textures, images, fonts, etc.) is essential for creative freedom, especially for personal projects to showcase what I want to be working on more. Secondly, racking up some great entrepreneur thoughts to apply as I improve my business (and staying current) is extremely important.
4. I'm documenting everything
Listen… I’m a dork for having office supplies for no GD reason… but buying a big fat bulky 3-clip binder with its own color-coordinated folders & binder clips for documents of newly-formed ASD&C, LLC had me drooling at the mouth.
I’ve always been good about keeping invoices, checks, and my LLC legal documents – but not soon after, I was creating a spreadsheet for income and estimated taxes, deductions (and every single receipt kept in a Google Drive folder,) and currently working on getting my estimated income numbers needed for full-time freelance life… And I’m sure there’s at least 10+ more spreadsheets I’ll be making in the near-future as well.
I’m also looking into a task-management app called “Things.” From the reviews and simple layout, it seems like a very intuitive and organized platform for both work and play endeavors. I’ll let ya know what I think about it after I try it :)
I know I have a longer road ahead of me to cover more of the business side of things, but for having a full time job while trying to get these things organized, I think I’m well on my way.
5. Listening to my heart and what I want out of this business
I think something that is so crucial to remember but easy to overlook (especially when being in the weeds of doing everything,) is remembering why I’m starting my own business anyway.
My parents can vouch for me in saying that since day one, I’ve always done my own thing and never really cared to follow any pack or herd. It never appealed to me to follow in other people’s footsteps and be another “number” in any sort of way. I went to a small private-Catholic school that was very sports-oriented and academic-focused, so my artistic interests truly had to be nurtured on my own. Everything I did to get into art school I did on my own time after getting my homework done & marching band practice. (Not to mention that I was the only art kid in my school for 6 years… so there’s that. Lol.)
When I wanted to experiment with video, I made and sold small art pieces to raise money for my own crappy little video camera. When I wanted to perfect my first frame-by-frame animation on Adobe Flash (what a *flash*back LOL), I begged my teacher for more time just so I could add music and clean up my first walk-cycle. (Ever since posting that on Facebook back in the day, my teachers, family, and church friends still bring it up!) When I wanted to learn how to draw human figures, I would draw them over and over & eventually creating a little portfolio of fashion designs, each one getting better than the last.
I’m so thankful for those challenges though, as it only strengthened my work ethic and made me the hardworking creative thinker that I am today.
I'll never forget my dad telling me stories about how as a kid/teenager, anything he wanted to have (bicycle, moped, car, probably other vehicles I'm not aware of,) he worked is A$$ off to get it, and when he did, he took the upmost care of it, because he truly earned it.
...my artistic interests truly had to be nurtured on my own.
So really, it's that independent spirit & intentionally straying-from-the-path mentality that I want to fuel this business with. Not needing to be handheld, told how to do my “thing,” and just keep learning to feed my curiosity along with clients (who are just people) that want to tell great stories too. Right now, I don’t know what this business will lead to exactly or where I’ll go with it, but I know that my success is truly dependent on me and willingness to amp my own game up -- and I’m so excited for that accountability.
I’m also thankful I learned at a young age that to be good at something, you have to keep practicing & fail (so many times) to get better. It’s just one of those things that you really can’t learn until you experience it for yourself.
And I can’t wait (to fail.) ;)