How To Find Freelance Artist Jobs

By Chris Kolmar
Oct. 10, 2022

Find a Job You Really Want In

When most people think of working in the arts, they associate it with the stereotype of the starving artist struggling to find regular work. This image is steadily changing as freelance art jobs become the norm for artists building their businesses and launching their creative careers.

This article outlines the logistics of the freelance artist career, including how to get started, where to find freelance artist jobs, and how much money you can make, as well as the general education and experience requirements for freelance artists.

Key Takeaways

  • Freelance artists provide creative, self-produced services or products to clients on a short-term, contractual basis.

  • To succeed as a freelance artist, start by registering your business, getting organized, and finding your niche. Then you’ll need to market yourself and build a good client base.

  • Publishers, online shops, and TV and film producers hire freelance artists, as do nonprofits, schools, and small businesses.

How To Find Freelance Artist Jobs

What Is a Freelance Artist?

A freelance artist is an artist who works for clients on a short-term, contractual basis. Artists can range from musicians to writers to graphic designers — if you’re selling a creative, self-produced service or product, you’re an artist.

Freelance artists can also work longer-term with some clients or be hired full-time through an agency that assigns clients. If you go this route, though, you’ll have a bit less freedom than a freelancer who runs their own business.

The Benefits of Being a Freelance Artist

The great benefit of being a freelance artist is that you can choose who you work for and what sorts of projects you work on. It’s easy to move from job to job, ensuring that you’ll always have variety in your life.

You also avoid the hassle of the conventional 9-5 grind, while becoming your own boss and manager.

Tips for Succeeding as a Freelance Artist

  1. Register your business. Registering your personal business as an LLC is a great first step into the world of freelancing. Filing your income as a business rather than an individual can confer serious financial benefits when tax season rolls around.

  2. Get organized. Just like any business, you should come up with a strategy for how you’re going to earn money. Decide what sorts of services you want to offer, how much you can charge for those services, and what resources you’ll need to pay for out-of-pocket to get started.

  3. Establish your niche. It’s important to find a specific niche in artistry. While you can dabble in several fields early in your career, finding a particular type of project that you excel in will lead to higher rates and more consistent jobs. As the saying goes, “niches make riches.”

  4. Market yourself. To be successful in any freelance role, a bit of self-promotion and digital marketing is necessary. Lucky for you, creativity is your thing, so finding unique ways to sell yourself should be a breeze.

    Creating a personal website or an online portfolio of your most impressive projects is a great way to let potential clients know that they’re dealing with a professional. If you have some HTML experience, you could try your hand creating a page from scratch using a CMS like WordPress.

    But there’s nothing wrong with opting for a simpler solution like SquareSpace, especially when you’re just starting out. Social media can also offer you a great avenue to offer and promote your services.

    Beyond that, be sure to network with others in your field to learn what they do to succeed and share trade secrets.

  5. Get a good client base. A few solid clients early on will help immensely. You need a few testimonials, as well as some steady income to hold you over while your business grows. Momentum is everything with freelancing, so always be looking for ways to turn your current clients into new ones.

    Building up your client base and attaining testimonials from happy customers is just as essential as building an impressive portfolio.

Where to Look for Freelance Artist Jobs

Many work-from-home freelance artist jobs are geared toward beginners working on building their portfolios. They may not offer much in terms of wages, but they are helpful for sharpening artistic skills and gaining the experience necessary to establish their careers.

So, where can a freelance artist find gigs?

Like everyone else conducting a job search, following online job boards guarantees that you’ll find some freelancing opportunities. There are also freelance websites specifically geared toward setting up freelancers and employers, to establish ongoing working relationships with clients and provide a range of work for an artist’s portfolio.

Here are some of the most popular freelance websites to get started with:

  1. Arts Thread

    Arts Thread is a network that helps creatives find inspiration, advice, and jobs. The Creative Jobs board has the option to filter by freelance job offers.

  2. Art Wanted

    Art Wanted is a free artist portfolio website that gives artists a space to display their work and appeal to potential clients. This website doesn’t charge a commission fee to clients, so artists collect 100% of the profits from their projects.

  3. Aquent

    Aquent is known for winning awards as a freelancing firm, and promotes innovation and challenging convention. The website’s search functions create matches between clients and freelancers.

  4. Fiverr

    Fiverr acts as a marketplace that connects businesses with freelancers. Freelancers can showcase completed projects and potential clients can contact them for work.

  5. Freelancer

    Freelancer allows employers to post projects for freelancers to bid on or make direct offers to freelancers they’re interested in. Artists complete a profile that showcases their skills and expertise and provides a platform to browse jobs.

  6. Guru

    Guru is a network of freelancers where users can create profiles with examples of past work. It includes a function for daily job matches and offers collaboration with other freelancers.

  7. PeoplePerHour

    PeoplePerHour offers an extensive list of available projects from businesses around the world. Users can keep track of projects at various stages with the website’s organization system.

  8. Toptal

    Toptal claims to connect the world’s top 3% freelancers with the world’s top organizations. A bold claim, but they are known as the largest, globally distributed network of business and design initiatives.

  9. Upwork

    Upwork emphasizes collaboration to help businesses acquire the most promising talent. Artists can charge by the hour or set a fixed rate for their projects.

  10. 99Designs

    99Designs specifically showcases the work of freelance graphic designers. Freelancers can work directly with clients through the website’s Projects function.

Companies That Hire Freelance Artists

Freelance artists are in high demand for companies that depend on marketing and customer engagement. This can apply to many different companies, as everyone relies on eye-catching graphics to promote their services and products.

Some examples include:

  • Websites. Every website has a team of graphic designers to establish the unique aesthetic for their company. Smaller businesses might be more likely to hire for freelance positions, hoping to work closely with an artist that will help them capture their vision.

  • Publishers. Publishing companies especially depend on multimedia artists to layout books, magazines, brochures, and infographics.

  • Online shops. Individual retailers and aspiring Etsy shops could certainly use an artist to conceptualize their brand and product designs. This might be more of a case where you have to reach out to a potential client and offer your artistic talents.

  • TV and film producers. Most TV and film companies will put out offers for freelance animators and concept artists for projects in their early stages.

  • Nonprofits. Many nonprofits try to keep their full-time staff lean, which means they often have freelance artists on call to help with their marketing, fundraising, and operational needs.

  • Schools. Schools often hire freelance artists to create logos and promotional materials, including photos and videos of events.

While most freelance art jobs will be offered by individual clients on platforms meant for freelance projects, it’s possible to branch out to other companies beyond that.

The world of freelancing grows with the number of websites and creative network spaces that crop up all over the internet. If you’re considering a career as a freelance artist, give it a shot.

How Much Do Freelance Artists Make?

For freelance artists based in the United States, the average annual salary as of October 2020 is $53,000. Some salaries have been reported as high as $120,000 and as low as $14,000. That’s a pretty extreme range to consider but there are a lot of variables.

A significant drawback to freelancing is the lack of structured, guaranteed payment. The nature of freelance work makes compensation for these kinds of employees quite variable. The money they make depends on the industry or type of freelance they work in, skills, experience, and location.

How Do Freelance Artists Make Money?

If a freelancer works independently or is completely self-employed, they can charge clients on a daily, hourly, or per-project basis.

Though this sounds like the ideal scenario (you’re your own boss, so you can charge what you think is fair for your art), it takes a lot of work to get there: An artist doesn’t often start out by creating their own business and successfully selling their art.

When a freelancer is represented by a freelance company or agency, the pay rates might be more regular depending on how they charge clients and distribute the cost to freelancers.

Educational and Experience Requirements for Freelance Artists

Despite freelance work being more flexible than other jobs, working as a freelance artist still comes with its own set of educational and skill requirements.

Educational Requirements for Freelance Artists

Based on research that we’ve compiled at Zippia, 63% of freelance artists usually earn a bachelor’s degree, most often in graphic design. Other common college majors for freelance artists include fine arts, animation, and design and visual communication.

A formal arts education is definitely the best way to cultivate a successful freelance artist career, but it’s also possible to find work without one. Artists can learn by apprenticing with more experienced artists or participating in art workshops. A solid network of other artists to critique their work and daily practice can help establish a strong body of artistic work.

The National Association of Schools of Art and Design advises that an artist’s talent and skill matters more than a formal education background. A skilled artist is usually one who presents a unique vision of a subject in their work; not necessarily one who is technically perfect.

Experience and Skill Requirements for Freelance Artists

Obviously, a freelance artist should have a fair amount of artistic skill and talent. Experience in illustration or fine art is common in building a freelance artist portfolio, which is the most important factor in impressing potential clients.

Beyond that, freelance artists have a range of other relevant skills that could make them stand out.

Zippia has put together a list of the most important skills for freelance artists, as they appear across various resumes:

  • Graphic design

  • Website

  • Photoshop

  • Adobe Illustrator

  • Product photography

  • Concept art

  • Layout

  • Video games

  • T-shirts

  • Business cards

  • Makeup

  • Product development

Most of these skills are related to traditional visual artwork and common programs used by artists, but they could also reference specific projects done for previous clients.

Flexibility in a Work-From-Home Freelance Artist Job

The appeal of telecommuting is the same no matter the industry you’re doing the remote work in. There’s no risk of getting caught in traffic on the way to and from the office, and you can avoid stilted interactions with coworkers.

If you’re a freelance artist, the flexibility of a work-at-home schedule frees up space for your own artistic endeavors. You can work on developing stronger artistic skills, building your portfolio, and making some extra money on the side if you have plans to launch a formal shop for your art.

Freelance work-from-home jobs often turn into small businesses as productivity increases beyond what you might see in a corporate workspace. For freelance artists, working on a project-by-project basis ensures that they regularly produce new work to add to their portfolio and showcase to clients.

You may realize that you have more plans for creative work beyond the part-time gigs you’re fulfilling. Do you have a larger project in mind that could bring a group of creatives together? The fluidity a work-at-home freelance artist job offers you might open up space for you to pursue it.

How To Find Freelance Artist Jobs FAQ

  1. How do freelance artists find work?

    Freelance artists often find work through the internet, hiring agencies, job boards, referrals, and continual self-promotion. There are as many or more ways to find freelance work as there are freelance artists.

    From musicians to writers, graffiti artists to graphic designers, freelance artists are everywhere and work in various mediums. Because they’re freelancers, they need to be tireless self-promoters, and most need to be willing to find work in a variety of places.

    Because so many jobs have opened up to artists through the internet and working on digital formats, it’s no wonder that many of them turn to digital job boards, like Zippia, to find their next assignment.

    A general job board is a great place to find work, but there are also specific job boards designed for freelance artists like Upwork, Fiverr, and others. Setting up a profile on these boards is a great start. Then, the more active you are, the more likely you are to find work.

    Some artists use hiring agencies to find work, especially agencies specializing in the arts, like Creative Circle and Robert Half. Other artists can sign on with agents who support their special artistic skills and vision. Not all freelance artists have this luxury, but a few of the top in their field find this is the best way to secure prime jobs.

    Finally, referrals are one of the best ways for freelancers, artists, and otherwise, to find work. Doing good work for an individual or a company is reason enough for them to recommend you to people they know, but they often forget to do that.

    The best freelancers remember to ask for referrals because this can be the best way to find future work.

  2. How much does a freelance artist make?

    The average annual salary for a freelance artist in the United States is $53,000. Of course, this all depends on the artist’s field and how much they want to work.

    Some freelance artists do it as a second job or just as a hobby and make only a few thousand a year. Some can make well into the six figures and beyond, depending on their skill and willingness to work long and hard.

  3. Is Upwork good for freelance artists?

    Yes, Upwork is a good place for freelance artists to find work. Upwork is an online platform where artists and potential clients can connect and discuss qualifications. The project, payment, and payments occur through Upwork, making it more secure and easier for new freelancers.

    Upwork has changed since its inception, and it’s no longer a place for just anyone who wants to get into the business. It is still a great resume builder for newer freelancers, but novices may have difficulty getting accepted.

    This is great news for employers trying to weed out the inexperienced and focus on quality hires. It’s also good for the experienced because they can pick the cream of the crop jobs. But for the novice, Upwork might not be the place to start.

  4. What can I write off as an artist?

    Artists can write off any supplies they purchase, educational materials, entry fees, equipment, promotional expenses, travel, legal fees, some entertainment, and more.

    Some freelancers do not have a lot of tax write-offs. A writer or graphic designer can have very few supplies to buy and may work from home, never encountering travel expenses.

    On the other side of the spectrum, a freelancer in the fine arts may have very expensive canvases, supplies, gallery fees, and other expenses that they routinely need to pay for to do their art and promote it. It all depends on the freelance artist.

    A professional tax accountant specializing in freelance artists and the self-employed may be a good choice to make sure you’re getting the most tax write-offs you can. The following are some tax write-offs you might be able to take as an artist:

    • Art supplies

    • Educational materials

    • Reference materials

    • Business insurance

    • Promotional or business meals

    • Travel expenses

    • Copying and printing expenses

    • Tickets to cultural events or presentations

    • Entry fees in exhibits and gallery fees

    • Equipment and software

    • Film and processing

    • Framing

    • Internet and phone expenses

    • Legal fees

    • Memberships in professional organizations

    • Office supplies and mail expenses

    • Promotional expenses

    • Studio or office expenses (home offices count)

    • Travel

    • Tax preparation

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Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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