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Creatives On Going Freelance: Words of Wisdom and Insights for Success

Creatives On Going Freelance: Words of Wisdom and Insights for Success
Published April 15, 2024 by the Behance Team

The decision to go freelance can be both exhilarating and daunting. Despite the challenges of financial uncertainty and the need for self-discipline, going freelance opens a world of unparalleled freedom and flexibility.

To shed light on this transformative journey, we've gathered insights and advice from seasoned creatives on Behance who have navigated this path. 

1. Take Small Steps 

If you're not quite ready to dive headfirst into full-time freelance work, start with part-time freelance gigs or side projects can help you build confidence, gain experience, and test the waters. 

“I started my career gradually switching from an office job,” shares illustrator Tatiana Vovchek. Tatiana started her career in UI/UX design and eventually became an art director managing a team of designers. “It was an amazing corporate experience but I always felt as if I wanted to be a creator rather than a manager,” she explains. 

Tatiana decided to pivot her career trajectory after relocating to Paris to be a web designer for a company called Holidog: “My boss believed in me and when I offered to create illustrations for our website myself without hiring an external illustrator, he agreed.” She went on to illustrate hundreds of articles and still continues to work freelance for Holidog as a freelance artist.


Illustrations for IT company by Tatiana Vovchek

2. Do Your Math 

If you’re ready to take the leap to going freelance full time, Tatiana’s advice is to take time to understand your finances. “I recommend everyone to have the financial safety pillow of at least 6 months of your expenses when you go full-time freelance. This will get rid of the anxiety of not being able to maintain a regular level of comfort.” 

“Preparation is the key word here for sure,” agrees Alan Cheetham, a freelance brand designer specializing in branding and identity design. When budgeting, he recommends factoring in 2-3 months out of the year for times where you may not have any client work or when you wish you take some time off. “Get a decent accountant,” he adds. 


Uberdank font by Alan Cheetham

3. Build Your Portfolio

Whether you're just starting out as a freelancer or already sprinting ahead, crafting a polished and relevant portfolio is crucial for attracting clients. Include projects in your portfolio that are in line with the types of freelance projects you’d like to be hired for. 

Don’t have client work yet or looking to branch out into a new field? “Showcase your style through test projects as if you've been given a brief,” advises Lee Cee, a freelance designer with over 15 years of experience spanning across fashion photography, motion design, 3D art and CGI. “This demonstrates your understanding of the industry's dynamics, including multiple stakeholders and rounds of changes. Freelancing is a rollercoaster, so be adaptable and patient,” he explains. 



4. Focus on Your Niche

As you build out your portfolio, identify your creative niche. “If you say you can draw anything then people will order nothing or pay little. Become professional in your niche and you will be known for it,” advises Tatiana. She naturally discovered her niche over time, focusing on animals and children’s book illustrations. Her commitment to developing her style within this niche has led to several repeat and long-term clients. 

“Work on your portfolio, regularly draw personal passion illustrations, and show your best work regularly to potential clients,” Tatiana adds. 


Selected Illustrations collection - 2023 by Tatiana Vovchek

5. Stay Focused on Your Goals

To navigate the uncertainties of freelance life, maintaining a clear vision of your goals is crucial. Illustrator Ellice Weaver has always had her eyes set on a career in illustration. After finishing her university studies, she moved to Berlin and began living in a van with her now-husband. “We had one goal: to be illustrators,” she recalls.

Ellice took her goal seriously: “In this two-year period, I drew practically every day. I took portrait commissions to cover costs and eventually got my first illustration job. It wasn’t that at the time going freelance made sense. I just kept going until it worked.”


The Kitchn - Valentines day by Ellice Weaver

6. Expand Your Client List

“Behance is a perfect place for showcasing your illustrations to a wide audience,” says Tatiana. Update your availability to let visitors to your Behance profile know that you’re open to freelance opportunities. Once you update your availability, your profile will also be shown on our Hire page so you can be seen by more potential clients. You can also list your Creative Service to advertise specific projects you’re available for. 

When you receive a freelance project inquiry from a client, you will be able to send a project proposal and get paid directly on Behance. Upgrade to Behance Pro to unlock 0% platform fees for all freelance transactions and earn more. 

Tiral Button With Padding

7. Build Relationships With Clients

Building and maintaining client relationships is essential for a successful and sustainable career as a freelance creative. “Building a reputation for reliability and creativity is key,” says Lee. “Platforms like Behance have been incredible for connecting with clients. Consistent online presence, word of mouth, and delivering exceptional work lead to a steady stream of projects.”


NIKE 3D LOGO | Cinema 4D & Octane by LEE CEE

Tatiana emphasizes empathy and willingness to help as the key factors to her long relationship with clients. “Client success is my success,” she says. “If I have a chance to overdeliver, for example, give my recommendations to marketing visuals of the product, prepare print files, make a reel with illustration process for the book promotion, or make professional photos of the product as I have a photographer background in past - I will be glad to help and do more!”

8. Strike a Balance

One of the greatest advantages of going freelance is having control of your time, but this newfound freedom can be a double-edged sword. Without the structure of a traditional 9-to-5 job, it's easy to blur the lines between work and personal life, so it’s essential to set up boundaries.


Airport illustration by Ellice Weaver

“The freedom of being able to work wherever you want to is great. I often travel and take my work with me,” shares Ellice. “I try to honor weekends when busy and also try to keep a workweek structure when it’s quiet.”


Digit Music by Alan Cheetham

Alan keeps a daily to-do list to keep his schedule in check: "I ideally aim to start between 9–10am and as long as I tick off my to-do list for the day, then I’m done. The way I see it, there’s always work to do tomorrow. That’s the beauty of work, it never stops. You just have to learn when to stop yourself. Burnout is not a friend of mine!"

This strategy has enabled Alan to make time for the things closest to his heart: “Striking a good work-life balance is all about finding time for yourself to switch off from the week to week work routine and to appreciate the simpler things in life and what’s generally all around you — your family, the outdoors, nature and a good old fashioned Great British pub!”

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