Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Starving Artist

I have been working as a freelance illustrator for almost three months now. I enjoy what I do and feel incredibly lucky that I have the opportunity to do it with the incredible support of amazing family and friends. The job itself, like any other, has its ups and downs.

Illustrators are by nature, generally quiet and introverted people. They spend a lot of time working alone, whether at home or in a studio, where they lose themselves in the creative loveliness that comes with being an artist. It's great. I really like this aspect of the job. I currently have a studio space  as oppose to working from home as I feel more motivated when I'm away from distractions slash Netflix. Working in a studio is a lot like being back at uni, you have your own creative space but also have others around you so it doesn't feel so lonely.

I've been lucky enough to have had a pretty consistent stream of work since I went 'full time' freelance. However, I have noticed a trend from a few clients which, sometimes makes me question why I bother. This is the business of payment. Or in some cases, lack of.

Unfortunately, there is a trend in which a very small minority of clients will be reluctant to pay for work done. It's happened to me a couple of times now which is just a really frustrating process. Not being paid for a job is one of the most disrespectful things that someone can do to an individual working in this industry. Think about it, in any other every day scenario. It is essentially like hiring a plumber but not expecting to have to pay for the service. Or going into a shop and leaving without paying. Even worse is when they say things like "I can't afford to pay you right now but it'll be good experience," "it'll look great on your CV,' or my personal favourite "it's a great way of getting your name about." All equally horrendous for any creative to hear, I'm sure.

I knew when I started out, that with any business, freelancing is a risk. Unlike in a 'normal' job, you don't have the luxury of a guaranteed wage. Some weeks are better than others, naturally, but at the end of it all, illustrators still have bills to pay just like everybody else. Studio rent, materials, printing and postage costs can't all be paid for by 'experience.'

The comfort (for lack of a better word) to all of this is that I know that I'm not alone. I'm sure anybody working within the arts/creative industry will have experienced this at some point. Artists, actors, dancers, musicians. At times it can be pretty unfair. That is the sad truth about the nature of the business. The passion and drive to do something that you really love is ultimately what keeps you going. Would I give it all up tomorrow?

Probably not.