These days ain’t easy for artists. With a crazy load of opportunities comes the lack of self-esteem and it’s normal to feel lost, right? 

So let’s say you’re an artist and you actually believe in your talent. You don’t want to work for anyone else but yourself and it keeps you awake in the middle of the night thinking:

How the heck can I work as a freelance artist? 

You want to be your own boss, which means you need to impose some obligations to yourself, and it may seem a little scary. That’s one of the main reasons why artists hesitate to build their own businesses - the fear of not making it and letting themselves down.

Becoming a freelance artist always requires a lot of hard work, consistency, and perfect organization. Actions speak louder than words, so let’s check out the list of basic things you need to do when you dream to make money all by yourself.

You should do the following. 

1. Have A Full-Time Job First

You don’t have to do this, but you should. Working in a company will give you the experience you’ll never get by yourself. You’ll learn how to communicate with other people and clients, work on a deadline and plan your time in the most efficient way.

Do you think you can go from zero to hero?

Well, there’s a chance you might. But working as a freelance artist will need from you a professional background you’ll achieve only by working for someone else. 

Once you have a full-time job you need to be 100% sure you’re ready to quit. Building your personal appearance in business will take you some time, so don’t jump to conclusions too soon. Give yourself a while to find clients and don’t discourage yourself when there’s no real income at the beginning. 

It’s a process that may last a few months or even a year, so don’t be so hard on yourself, save some money from the job you still have and wait until it’s the right time to shine. 

worker illustration
Elia Colombo - The Optimist

2. Build Your Online Presence

No matter how much you don’t want to admit it (because you may think you can do better than that) - the Internet is the main tool you have to use to build your presence in the art business world. 

You don’t exist as an artist on Instagram? You don’t exist at all.

The first thing you need to do is to set up a professional, online portfolio. Doesn’t matter if it’s a top-looking website or just a simple blog - just do it, because you need to have a place to fill with your work that you show to potential clients. You should print the address on your business cards too! 

The next step is to connect your website with your business social media channels. Focus on creating a beautiful-looking Instagram profile, as it’s the most powerful tool for artists and influencers right now. In this way you’ll be able to engage fans around you, check what they react to and - what’s most important - acquire new clients!

Simple? Duh, but you can always read more about selling art on Instagram here

insta illustration
Sheila Fahma - Social Climber

3. Designate Your Room For A Studio

It’s hard to treat your workspace seriously when you’re always in your pajamas, right? 

Think of your room as the real office. Make sure you have a proper space to work in and every drawing tool close at hand. Keep it clean, well organized and don’t let surroundings distract you. Working from home makes it very convenient to easily slip out of your routine and suddenly start cleaning up the closet. Don’t do that. You wouldn’t do that at the office, right? ;)

You can always hang some motivational posters around you so you’ll believe that you can and you will work as a freelance artist. 

bear office
Eric Fan - Bearocrat

4. Plan Your Days

Congrats, you did it! You decided to work as a freelance artist.

So what now? 

Unless you’re a pedantic planner, you will feel lost at first. Too much free time with Netflix at your fingertips don’t necessarily serve hard working. EVERYTHING will seem tempting to you. Laundry? Totally. Combing the dog? Why not. Scrolling Twitter for a 5th time in a minute? Yes, sir! 

So here’s the hard part you need to work out for yourself: a daily plan.

Only working on a schedule will help you succeed as a freelance artist. You’re your own boss now, so it’s your duty to watch your time. And you know what they say - time is money, right? 

Right, so work out your daily routine so it becomes a habit. Divide your days into parts and make them devoted to different activities that need to be done, e.g. engaging with your followers on social media, uploading newest artworks on the website, looking for new clients, connecting with customers and working on orders.

time falls
Grant Shepley - As Night Falls

And to succeed in following your plan you need to... 

5. Be Focused And Constant 

Once you figured out some working-plan, you cannot let anything distract you. Avoid television, games, your mother’s calls or cute dogs playing outside. 

When you decide to work for 2 hours in the morning there’s nothing that should go in your way. Because letting any disturbance mess with your head is a direct way to failure.

Create the atmosphere of a total concentration. Everything’s good as long as you’re able to fully focus on creating. 

Art isn’t your hobby anymore, so you need to treat your work seriously.

coffee focus
Seven Trees Design - Coffee To Focus

6. Treat It Like A 9-5 Job

Well, not literally. But anyone who knows how to work as a freelance artist will tell you: it’s all about a commitment to the routine. You can start very early in the morning or be a night owl, as long as you stick to the schedule. 

Treat the beginning of your work as if you’re entering the office. You’re in? That’s fine - now it’s time to focus and deal with the job. It needs to be done, no one will do that for you. You can take breaks but remember - once you’re in your workspace - your excuses are gone.

Remember - you’re your own boss now - you need to look after your one-person company. Because if you don't - everything can fall into pieces.

working illustration
Pepetto - The aspirant to draftsman

7. Have Some Clients For Start And Be A Good Partner To Work With 

This one may be tough, but it would be best for you to have a few clients already on your side before going freelance. You can even acquisit them while you still have a full-time job. Build a relationship with them so they are sure you’re the right person to work with in the future. 

Be a good listener, be polite and try to understand everything client wants from you. Have a professional attitude, always respond quickly and communicate in a clear way. Never be late in sending back the project, always have your financial stuff done and make working with you a truly positive experience.

handshake colorful
Kas Design - Handshake

8. Find Time For Finances 

It’s the most boring point ever, but it needs to be done. If you want to work as a freelance artist in the right way you need to look after the money. 

First of all, save some money every day. Working from home may bring you a nice income, but sometimes it just… may not. You need to be prepared for some ups and downs in your career, so be reasonable when it comes to your finances. Don’t let anything surprise you in a bad way. 

Secondly, set up your price list. Make some estimates and never work for free. If a client tries to convince you that volunteering for him will get your career going - just delete his number from the phone. Don’t let anyone treat you unseriously. Ever.

Freelancing is running your own business, so you need to find time in your daily plan to deal with paperwork. Invoicing, accounting and taxes do seem crazy scary, but as long as you’re not able to hire a professional - no one will take care of that for you.

money illustration
louis ros - purse-sue your dreams!

And while talking about some extra cash...

9. Find Websites To Sell Your Work On 

Working as a freelance artist will mainly rely on collaborating with clients. It will take much time and energy, but there will be moments when you’ll be able to promote your personal work. 

The best way not to waste the potential in your art is to join marketplaces like Displate and let a group of professionals do the job you don’t have time for while dealing with commissions. 

Find an hour in your schedule, register on the platform and upload designs waiting on your disc to find a nice home. You’re just a few clicks away from a brand-new channel to distribute and promote your art to clients around the world. 

So while you’re working on a next commission or just having some free time - the Displate team will join forces to promote, print and ship your designs to the new clients. They’ll take care of any complaints and any returns, they’ll do everything to save your precious time and make your creative juices flow like crazy. 

Join Displate now 

Displate Art Prints On Metal by Daniel Coulmann

10. Be Patient

Rome wasn’t built in a day. And neither will your career. 

It’s very easy to become discouraged by the lack of motivation or when there’s no client to work for. You need to know that working as a freelance artist is a long-term process. Creating your personal brand needs to be done step-by-step and there’s no way to rush it. You will start selling your art and you will find new clients, but you need to be patient. 

Just wait and do your job and before you know it - you will have your days packed with work.

patient shiba inu
louis ros - be patient

A Few Tips From Displate Artists 

Always keep within the deadlines that you have identified with the customer-agency. No one will work with an artist who does not keep his word and does not follow the rules. 

Distribute time correctly. Always consider the time to edit from the customer. There may be many edits and this should be agreed upon in advance.


- Anton Semenov

Check out the interview we did with Anton Semenov here

Separate work and personal space/time
If possible, have a working space that is separate from your everyday living space. Plan when to work, when to rest and when to have free time. It’s easy to be sucked into the „always working“ mindset, but instead of making things more effective, it can drain your creative energy in the long run. Resetting your mind is an important part of the creative process and just as productive as replying to Emails, doing your finances or working on client work. In my experience, inspiration only comes when I fill my life with beauty apart from work and take care of my wellbeing.


Reach for the stars.

Oftentimes, great opportunities don’t just come flying your way. You have to reach for them. Be proactive! Contact companies you’d like to work with, reach out to artists you admire and ask for collaboration and always think of new ways to get your art out into the world. Rejection will be part of this practice, but you’ll be surprised about the new pathways that might open up in front of you. Have the courage to dream big!


- Jonas Jödicke

Read about Jonas' Jodicke and Pixie Cold siblings success story

For me, it's important to get outside the house at least once during the day, either for a walk or a coffee. A change of scenery stops me from getting into a creative rut.

Also, I like to keep my office very organized and tidy. It's worth spending a little each day on this, so it feels more like a professional working environment.


- Henry Rivers

As a freelance artist, it is important to maintain a work/life balance and everyone must learn time management.

For me working from home is so good because I have time with my family while earning and doing my stuff at the same time.

- Dan Fajardo

Read more about how to stay creative - tips from Dan Fajardo

We hope these tips will encourage you to consider starting to work as a freelance artist. 

Because you know what they say: do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life. 

Good luck!

good luck cat
louis ros - good luck

More on Displate Blog: 

Win Art Contests For Money: A Competitor’s Guide

Prints On Metal: A New Way To Market Your Art

How To Sell Art on Facebook: The Basics