How to be Successful Freelance Artist or Designer?

From Creativity to Career

The dream of an artist is to follow their passion and establish themselves as a freelance artist, boosting their creativity and giving them the ultimate freedom (i.e. work from anywhere / anytime and at your own terms), which is the pre-requisite for a creative environment. However before you take a leap in this direction; you must understand the critical success factors involved in the visual art business, which has typical and unique characteristics. Let us explore various aspects, which can help you to establish your dream career as a freelance artist –

Product / Services

Define your products and services, based upon your strengths and skills. You may decide to have following multiple products / services in your portfolio –

  • EDUCATION : If you love teaching and good at explaining concepts related with visual arts, you can start your own visual art training school and impart visual art training to the students pursuing careers in visual art and design such as architecture, NID (National Institute of Design), NIFT (National Institute of Fashion Technology); hobbyists such as housewives, youngsters and kids. You may supplement your income as a part-time art teacher in animation institutes, art institutes, schools and colleges. Apart from face-to-face services, you might want to consider offering online training services and tap the Global market. Online teaching is gaining immense popularity, because one can learn while sitting at home at self-paced with connivance of anytime and anywhere. Above-mentioned services should give you a regular income to break-even your expenses, and may also lead to decent profit.
  • WORKSHOP AND EVENT : You can conduct fun-filled workshops for school students, communities, kitty parties, birthday parties and corporate events.
  • PAINTINGS : Try to sell customized or ready-made paintings using graphite sketches, soft pastels paintings, charcoal drawing, acrylic colours paintings, watercolour paintings, glass colour paintings, oil colour paintings and digital paintings. For bulk retailing of your artworks, get in touch with commercial art galleries and architects who are involved in interior designing of offices and homes.
  • PORTRAITS : Offer personalized portraits or caricatures services to the customers. Offer hand-drawn portrait from picture, live portrait sessions, caricature and painting sessions for weddings and corporate events such as team building activities and product launch events etc.
  • VISUAL MERCHANDISE : Extend visual merchandising services such as wall paintings, graffiti, wall art and theme-based decoration services for various occasions at shopping mall decoration, show room decoration, cafés / bar decoration and offices decoration. Shopping mall decoration in Mall includes mall facade, entrance arch, center piece, main stage, drop down for large atrium and drop down got food court.
  • PRE-PRESS PRINT MEDIA : Offer illustrations and digital art services for print media such as visiting cards, letterheads, posters and website graphics etc.
  • HANDY-CRAFT ITEMS : You can explore business related with customized gift and utility handy-craft items like name plates, pen stands, photo frames for gifting purposes for various occasions like anniversary’s, birthday’s, marriage’s, along with festivals like valentine, Diwali and new year etc.
  • CURATOR : If you have managerial capabilities, try to curate group / solo visual art exhibitions for the fellow artists and sell their paintings on commission.
  • ART RESTORATION : Art restoration is highly paid job, which includes touching up, cleaning and repairing the damaged portions of the artwork.
  • ART THERAPY : Get in touch with psychiatric / counselors and treat their patients with therapeutic art sessions. Visual art sharpens focus, cultivates patience, increases happiness, manages emotions and reduces stress. It activates both sides of the brain and helps in improving positive attributes and faculties. Creating and viewing art triggers a surge in feel-good chemicals i.e. Dopamine, Serotonin, Oxytocin and Endorphins.

Other important points to remember are to have an optimum product / service mix, which will help you to break-even your monthly expenses. Focus on B2B (business to business) business as B2B services generates more income as compared to B2C (business to customer). Also, keep abreast with the latest technology and emerging techniques; and invent new products / services, which can support your business consistently in the end.


From survival to prosperity, Marketing is the lifeblood of your business. For marketing, you have to adopt the right mix of direct (i.e. directly influencing consumers’ buying decisions) and indirect marketing activities. As compared to indirect marketing, direct marketing activities involves more efforts, is less expensive and more effective in converting the leads into business. Below are some ideas to market your services –

  • VISUAL ART EXHIBITIONS : Participate in the visual art exhibitions and create your network with artists and potential customers.
  • DIGITAL MARKETING : Display your portfolio on your website, social media and popular web portals such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumbler, Deviantart, Behance, Instagram and Linkedin etc. Engage your audience on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumbler, Deviantart, Instagram and Linkedin etc.
  • DEMO WORKSHOPS : Conduct free demo workshops in schools, community centers, parks and localities, where client are present in clusters.
  • CSR : Associate with big brands, NGOs and organizations involved in CSR (Corporate Social Responsibilities) activates related with visual art.
  • SMS & EMAIL : Allocate some budget for SMS and an email campaign, which can help you in spreading a word around.
  • PAY PER CLICK : Avail PPC (Pay Per Click) advertisement services from Google and commercial Social Media platforms. Identify occasions and target your advertisement to the right customer segment.
  • ONLINE WORK : Create your profile on commercial web portals and explore jobs such as 99design, Behance, Etsy, Guru, Pixpa and Upworks, Airtasker etc. and sell your products / services online.
  • INDIRECT MARKETING : For branding, try to allocate nominal budget on indirect marketing activities such as newspaper advertisement, posters, hoardings, banners and event sponsorship.
  • COMPETITION : Participate in competitions, demonstrate your artistic capabilities and make connect with like-minded people.

It is important to bear in mind that you should have focus on your core business, and avail digital marketing and website design services from digital market expert. Digital marketing double-edged sword and one wrong step can lead to irreversible damage. It is worth investing money with digital marketing professionals.

Most of the services in the visual arts industry are intangible in nature. Therefore, to increase the conversion ratio, substantiate sales pitch with relevant physical evidence such as online business star rating (on Google Business and other web portals), Youtube, portfolio, testimonials, infrastructure, facilities, delivery methodology and references from other customer.


Price should be neither too high nor too low from your competitors. Make customer comfortable by offering flexible and staggered payment terms. In the initial phase of marketing, you may offer a discount or a trial offer to attract customers and establish your business in the market. But in long run you should not slash your prices and compromise on quality. Costing of a product / service / project can be decided on either “Time & Material” or “Fixed Bid” price method. It is always good practice to add a buffer to the standard price and set aside money to cover unexpected costs during the art process.

Delivery Methodology

In creative industry, it is not uncommon to face a situation where projects stretch way beyond planned timeline and cost. A foolproof methodology ensures that the quality is met and the target dates are not missed, resulting in high customer satisfactions. Try to gain a strong word-of-moth for your products / services, which will decrease customer acquisition costs and will also give you repeat business.

Make sure that your business policies, terms & conditions, refund, after sales services are effectively communicated to your customers.


So roll up your sleeves and start creating a detailed plan of action by considering above tips. Have patience, work diligently, offer quality services to your clients and reward yourself with dream career as a freelance artist!


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About Author

Artist Surinder Shanker Anand

I live in Chandigarh – the City Beautiful, situated in Northern India at Shivalik foothills. Since childhood, I was blessed with innate artistic abilities. My artistic expressions are engaged with the subjects related to humans portrait and body dynamics, nature and spirituality. I like to sketch using pencil, charcoal, watercolor, acrylic, pastel, oil, mixed media and digital tool such as Wacom Cintiq Pen/Tablet, CorelPainter, CorelDraw, Adobe Photoshop, After Effects, Adobe Premier, 3Ds Max and ZBrush etc. to create digital artwork. Passion in visual arts lead me to start Shanky Studio, offering a wide range visual arts services such as personalized portraits, customized paintings, graphic design and one-to-one visual arts classes for the students aspiring for various design courses such as NID and NIFT. I have conducted visual arts & craft workshops for Elante Mall and The North Country Mall / VR Punjab and various schools in and around Chandigarh. Some of the activities were directly conducted by me for Marvel Worldwide Inc., Mattel Inc. (Barbie), Rovio Entertainment Ltd. (Angry Birds), Hamleys Toy, Hasbro Inc. (My Little Pony) and Cartoon Network (Dexter’s Laboratory). Shanky Studio is also engaged in various CSR activities such as such as free visual art class, visual art exhibition at no-profit and no-loss basis and free sessions design career counseling. By profession, I am software professional, having over 35 years of experience in the IT, primarily in Analysis/Design, Software Development, Delivery, Project Management and rest of the phases of SDLC. I have worked at on-site with American Express (TX, USA), Nekema Inc (NJ, USA), Premier Inc (NC, USA), Syntel Inc (MI, USA), Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd (Mohali, India) and Semiconductor Complex Ltd (Mohali, India); and managed various on-site/off-shore Global IT projects. I am Masters in Economics from Panjab University, Chandigarh, India, with Post Graduate Diploma in Business Management.