Freelancing Vs. The Day Job

It is fast approaching to two years since I graduated from university with a degree in illustration and this time of year always makes me reflective. I’ve wanted to write about this for a while now and it wasn’t until I saw Martin Kirby’s tweets back in August that I realised how many illustrators are in the same position as me. For at least a year i’ve been giving myself a really difficult time, Telling myself I was less of an illustrator because I wasn’t doing it full time. But with a tight economy, A competitive market and statistics such as only one in ten authors earn full time living from their writing; You can see why many illustrators (and many other freelancers of different disciplines) choose to have another form of income. 

So I reached out to some of my friends who are not only talented and successful illustrators, but also have other forms of income. Their day jobs haven’t got in their way of doing what they love and not only that, They are making names for themselves in the industry. 

We hope that you enjoy reading these answers and that you find it positive and encouraging. We’d also love to know what you think, You can tweet us with our account names:
@gracesandford @KirbishArt @hartoworld @LornaScobie 

- Brian Hartley -
Brian is a freelance illustrator represented by Bright. His work is both magical and colourful and reflects the excitement of life as a child. Brian has worked on Education Books and Picture Books.

What is your job (other than being a freelance illustrator)?
I work full time as a game artist for a small studio in Leamington Spa, creating artwork for online games, apps and websites.

Does it require the same skills that are needed as an illustrator?
To a certain extent, yes. Both require me to use Photoshop and Illustrator pretty much every day. The main difference between the two is that my regular job often involves creating artwork that needs to stick to the client’s established style guides - especially when working with recognisable properties such as SpongeBob and Donald Duck - whereas my freelance work is more about clients liking the style that I’ve developed and wanting me to create artwork along rules that I’ve made up.

Describe your typical working week schedule (For both of your jobs)
To be honest there’s nothing typical about either :) My regular job can see me doing anything from 2D animation to menu design to creating pitch documents and my illustration is just as varied. Sometimes I’ll be working on roughs for client work, or tidying-up my website. No two weeks are the same.

How do you balance your time between both of your jobs?
Sometimes it’s difficult. Because my job is full-time, the only chance I get to work on my illustration is in the evenings or at weekends, so not only do I need to juggle the time I can find to work on freelance projects, but I also need to fit in things like eating and sleeping :P What I usually do is spend some time watching TV with my family and then, when they’ve gone to bed, try to squeeze in a few hours sketching or working on the computer. I try not to do it too often though - 4 hours sleep is nowhere near ideal ;)

List both a positive and a negative aspect of having multiple jobs
Positive - having a ‘proper’ job does give me a routine, which I find useful. It also gets me out of the house. Negative - trying to fit it all in and not go mad ;)

How do you make time for freelance work?
As mentioned above, I tend to stay up late if stuff needs doing. At the moment, this is fairly manageable as I’ve not been freelancing for long and the amount of work I get through my agent isn’t overwhelming. However, if more freelance projects came in, I’d have to have a rethink about how to manage my time.

If you could give your early graduate self any advice about freelancing and the industry, What would it be?
 I didn’t go to university, but if I could go back in time I’d probably give myself a kick up the backside and tell myself that time passes a lot quicker than you realise and that if there’s something you really want to do, you have to get out there and do it. For a long time, I was comfortable and didn’t have the desire to try to steer my career in any particular direction -  I was happy just to bob along and go where life took me. In fact it’s only been since I hit my mid-40s that it started to dawn on me that, if I really want something, I have to make it happen.
I’d also say that, whatever it is you do, try and be yourself. Sometimes it’s hard - but people, both clients and fellow artists, will recognise it. And because you’re doing what you want to do, you’ll be more passionate about it and will put more into it.

And finally, What exciting projects are you working on currently?
I can’t say too much about what I’m working on in my regular job, but we recently finished a Spongebob game and I was also involved in some online activities for a couple of Channel 4 shows. As far as freelance work is concerned, I’m currently working on roughs for a childrens book as well as some samples for an educational project which I’m hoping I’ll be involved with in the new year.

-Lorna Scobie-
Lorna is a freelance illustrator represented by Clare Wallace at Darley Anderson. Her work is highly imaginative and has such a distinctive style that couldn’t be mistaken for anyone else’s. Lorna has illustrated for Magazines, Colouring and Children’s Books and Fashion Labels.

What is your job (other than being a freelance illustrator)?
I am a designer at Macmillan Children’s Books.

Does it require the same skills that are needed as an illustrator?
A lot of the skills I use as a freelance illustrator have been super useful in my work as a designer at Macmillan. My day job requires me to be very creative and to be able to use photoshop and indesign well. It’s also very useful that I am used to working to deadlines and have learnt how to plan my time efficiently, as there is always a lot to do!
Whilst working at Macmillan I’ve learnt the importance of having good people skills and have a much better understanding of the publishing industry now that I work in it. So, what I’ve learnt in my day job has fed back into my freelance illustration and benefits that side of my work too.

Describe your typical working week schedule (For both of your jobs)
Monday to Friday I work at my day job in North London during the day, and my head is totally focused on the job, the people and the projects. I love my job working as a children’s book designer, it’s really interesting and very creatively stimulating and I really enjoy working with such talented illustrators, designers and editors every day. The day usually flies by. When I get home in the evening, I put on a new head which is my freelance one! I work on my illustration most evenings, even if it’s just sending a few emails or doing some roughs or some pet portraits. I try not to work on any final artwork during the week (unless there is a super tight deadline) because I do like to have some time to wind down in the evenings. It’s really important to me that part of every evening isn’t spent working, and that I get time to relax.
Most weekends I work on my freelance illustration at least one day (sometimes two) and get up really early to pack in as much as possible. This can feel a bit rubbish when it’s sunny outside, but that’s definitely outweighed by the fact I do two jobs that I really enjoy.

How do you balance your time between both of your jobs?
As my job is a designer takes place during set hours in the week, it’s relatively simple for me to switch off after work, and start work on my freelance illustration. Something that is really useful is that any research I do for my freelance work, such as visiting galleries, bookshops and illustration events, also benefits my day job as it’s all relevant. They support each other.

As my freelance illustration work is getting busier, I’ve realised how incredibly valuable a commodity time is, and I see my days in chunks of time made of hourly blocks. I try to fit in my freelance illustration whenever I can, around seeing family and friends and doing general life chores, as well as my day job. If I have an hour before I need to go out I will spend it doing my illustration, whereas previously I would of done something not so productive! I think you just adjust as you go along, and you make time where previously you would of lazed about!

List both a positive and a negative aspect of having multiple jobs
Positive: there is financial security with a salaried job - you know when you are going to get paid and how much, so it’s easier to plan and budget. In my experience there really isn’t this security with freelance illustration. Some months I have lots of work from freelancing, but other months I will have relatively little, you never know what’s round the corner so having a day job makes this less of an issue. Also, it’s really lovely to feel part of a company, and a team, and having a regular routine of going into the office.

Negative: When I have a lot of freelance projects on, it feels like I don’t always have enough free time to do things other than work!

How do you make time for freelance work?
I juggle my social life around projects and try and fit in work wherever I can at the weekends. If you are really desperate to do a project, there is always a way to make it work time wise, it just means being clever about how you use your free time.

If you could give your early graduate self any advice about freelancing and the industry, What would it be?
If you keep working hard, and keep talking to people in the industry, you will succeed!

And finally, What exciting projects are you working on currently?
I am so excited at the moment because my first book Jungle Paradise will be published on October 22nd. It’s an adult colouring book featuring lots of scenes and animals from the jungle. I’m also going to start illustrating a big book about animal diversity for Hodder soon. This will be written by the amazing Nicola Davies who I have admired for such a long time, and I cannot wait to start working with everyone at Hodder.

-Martin Kirby-
Martin is an illustrator and comic artist who creates stunning graphic novels online. His anatomy studies are flawless and his character designs are lively and diverse. 

What is your job (other than being a freelance illustrator)?
I currently work as a visual designer for a company that makes exam and subject revision aids for high school students. We make short, bitesize videos about given subjects that kids can use to help them understand or remember parts of their lessons, though we also try to make learning visually interesting and engaging. There’s some creative aspects to it (especially in English and History where there’s a lot of fun settings / characters to create and animate) but a large portion of it is just simple graphic design and development.

Does it require the same skills that are needed as an illustrator?
In a sense! Not for me personally though haha. We use a very simple vector style for our designs so that the information we give out is as easy to absorb, understand and recall as possible and that is very, very far removed from my personal illustration style! The role definitely requires some knowledge of composition / design / colour theory etc. though, so being an illustrator beforehand definitely helped with that.  I’m actually the only person on the team who isn’t from a graphic design background so I’ve really learned a lot while I’ve been here. Whether or not that has shown up in my own work though I’m not sure!

Describe your typical working week schedule (For both of your jobs)
Well, on weekdays I normally wake up at 6am and drop my GF off at work, then head into town myself. My day job is a very basic 9 - 5:30 Monday - Friday schedule, though there is some flexibility in there. The company has recently implemented the ability to work remotely some days, so I currently can work from home on Wednesdays which is really nice. I’m hoping to be able to do more of that in the future.
I normally arrive at the office around 8:15 so, after putting some (MUCH NEEDED) coffee on I tend to get about 40 minutes to work on personal artwork before the day starts. I tend to use all my spare time at the office for working on my comic, so generally this is what I’m doing then although recently I’ve started using this time to do warm-up sketches and studies, since I’ve been neglecting those too much! After that I get an hour’s lunch break at 1pm, where I usually get a chunk of comic work done. I get home around 6pm, where I usually make dinner and then spend most of the evening with my GF and our animals. She tends to go to sleep around 10pm, so from then I normally stay up until about 12:30am working on either my comic or other illustrations. The weekends tend to work about the same, only without the day job (obviously) and I get a bit more sleep :P

How do you balance your time between both of your jobs?
Precariously! It’s taken me a while to get to a schedule that I’m happy with. At the job I had prior to this I used to start at 10am, so I’d wake up at 5am and get the day’s drawing done then instead so that my evenings were free to spend with my GF. And, as I mentioned in the previous section, I’ve really just leveraged spare time where I can from my day job / personal life and used that to work on my art. I think that’s something that’s important, identifying what parts of the day you can free up to get some artwork done. Like for instance, I make my own lunches since it means that I don’t waste time heading out every day to buy something, I just eat and I’m good to go with some art (It’s also cheaper too!). I also sacrifice a few hours of sleeping to work more, though I’d advise being careful with how much you do this. Now that I work from home on Wednesdays I use the extra time from not having to travel into work to catch up on sleep instead haha.

List both a positive and a negative aspect of having multiple jobs
The positive aspect is absolutely financial stability, and I don’t think it should be overlooked. There are a lot of artists out there that see these amazing artists and they work full time freelance and they’re drawing all the time and it just looks like the best life ever! And I agree, it does! From the outside. The reality of it is that people who work freelance generally work for significantly longer hours to make significantly less income and with absolutely no safety net available to them. There’s no job perks, no insurance, no paid holiday, no sick leave, nada. I’m not trying to put it down or anything, if working freelance suits you and you can pull it off then that is genuinely amazing but it’s really not for everyone and I think it’s important that new artists understand the dangers involved with it. There’s a mindset that if you’re not working full-time freelance then you’re somehow less of an artist, and that’s absolutely not true. There are a lot of professional-level artists out there who also stick down a day job since in a lot of ways it frees you up to work on your own projects more. As it is, I personally don’t have to worry overly about bills, I can afford to pay my mortgage and I have money to treat myself now. It’s a huge weight off my mind and I can use my spare time to work on my own projects

The negative aspect is time. It’s always time. You constantly juggle your schedule and it can lead to some dangerous mindsets. For instance, every morning I tend to assess what free hours I have in a given day and remove all the ones in which I’m doing something. Immediately, the ones that are left I think “hey, awesome, that’s X amount of drawing I can do today, I can probably get aaaaaaaaalllll this stuff done in that time!”. Of course, I never actually -get- all that time, something always comes up and then I get cranky because “ahh this thing is encroaching on my drawing time, now I’m behind schedule!”. It’s easily done and it’s something I constantly fight with. I find myself having to check myself before I wreck myself a -lot- haha.

How do you make time for freelance work?
Ermmm I’m not sure there’s much I can add to this other than what I’ve said. My only tip would be sensible about it. Make time where you can, but don’t crowbar every single hour you can and stuff it full of art. Don’t neglect family / friends too much, don’t miss out on too much sleep and don’t deny yourself the chance to go out and do things now and then! It’s painful because you -know- if you just locked yourself away you could get that project finished and then hey! that would free more time up for this OTHER project but the truth is that’s an easy way to get depressed and start to resent your artwork. Stay refreshed and take time to enjoy your life and you’ll make better art as a result, I promise.

If you could give your early graduate self any advice about freelancing and the industry, What would it be?

It’s okay to wait. It’s easy to look at all these incredibly young artists who are doing these amazing things and think “I’m falling behind!”, but just because they’re doing these things doesn’t mean you have to throw yourself into something you’re not ready for. Their circumstances will always be different to yours. Always. It’s okay to take your time, practice your craft, figure out where you really want to go with it and then put the effort into getting there. It’s hard not to view it as a race, but it absolutely isn’t. Treat your life like a Ghibli movie, learn to fill it with pauses.

And finally, What exciting projects are you working on currently?
I am currently (always & forever) working on my webcomic, Freelancer, which you can read over at I’m fiddling with ideas for what to do after the current story arc and I’ve got some fun things in mind so I’m looking forward to getting stuck into those! I’ve also recently done some pages for The Pride, an awesome LGBT superhero comic that you should definitely check out and I’m involved in the 1001 Knights project which should be launching it’s kickstarter soon! It’s filled with a LITERAL INSANE PILE of amazing creators so you should keep an eye out for that also!

-Grace Sandford-
Grace is a freelance illustrator represented by Isabel Atherton at Creative Authors. Grace wrote this blog post so won’t be gushing about her own work. However, She does like cats, sweets, Doc Martens and spinning round in circles REALLY fast!

What is your job (other than being a freelance illustrator)?
I work two days a week at a Junior School Office as both admin staff and as an Arts Co-Ordinator which involves teaching art classes to children who are passionate about art and incorporating illustration into the school curriculum.

Does it require the same skills that are needed as an illustrator?
Most aspects of the job do not require the skills of an illustrator. However, Staff have been utilising my skills for certain jobs and I have been designing a lot more of the school’s print and web work because of this. I believe a creative person is essential in any successful business. For being an arts coordinator, My skills in illustration are essential as I can use my daily practice in the industry and apply it to education.

Describe your typical working week schedule (For both of your jobs)
I work at school on Wednesdays and Fridays between 8:30am and 5:30pm and sometimes other days if i’m needed for busy times (such as school plays, Christmas time etc). Those days are long as I have to walk 40 minutes each way to get to work as well, So illustrating is pretty much a write off on those days! However for the other days and during the weekends I have all the time to work on the business. This involves e-mailing, sending invoices, sending samples to clients as well as creating artwork. School holidays are a blessing as I can spend large concentrated times solely on illustrating without having to think about school.

How do you balance your time between both of your jobs?
When leaving university I decided instantly that I didn’t want to work at a day job full time. I knew i’d be financially poorer for it, But I knew it would drive me to create the career that I want without regretting further down the line (hopefully!). I very rarely illustrate or draw on my days at school as they are long and tiring days, I will always answer e-mails and do any admin though. With my days in the office I give myself as many hours as I need depending on what deadlines I need to complete. Sometimes the days are short(ish) and enjoyable, Whilst others are hectic, Long and intense! 

List both a positive and a negative aspect of having multiple jobs

Positive - You will always be able to pay rent with another job. That payslip is the same every month and the security of this is a blessing when your income isn’t as reliable or as constant as an illustrator! For my job in particular, Working with children has been incredibly important with my career. I illustrate and write for children’s books so I often show samples and sketches to the kids and get their opinions. They also say some complete gold that is very inspiring for story ideas.
Negative - You are spending less time on your own business and that is the toughest part, Especially when deadlines are tight and you have a lot of work on. But don’t panic, You’ve done it before and you can do it again (A note to myself there!) I’ve also found that some people, especially non creatives, see you as less impressive if you have another form of income. However, I am slowly learning to not care what other people think, especially people I hardly know! It’s a REALLY tough thing though and I’ve been told it comes with age!

How do you make time for freelance work?
I wake up earlier and earlier depending on deadlines. I also have my wonderful boyfriend who makes dinner and cleans the flat when I can’t find the time to do those things myself during the busy times. Then I lock myself away in the studio and put on many podcasts until I have finished the deadline.

If you could give your early graduate self any advice about freelancing and the industry, What would it be?
Don’t be so flipping hard on yourself, You dingbat! Yes you want this more than anything and I still feel that pain but these things take time. You have your whole life ahead of you. Keep creating work that you love and enjoy (and post it on ALL of the social media) and people will eventually get it. Don’t follow trends either, I’ve been tempted but i’m still sticking to my guns that I what and how I draw is right for me. (I think present me could also do with this advice stuck on my forehead as a constant reminder!)

And finally, What exciting projects are you working on currently?
I have literally just finished writing a picture book that I’ve been working on for months. My agent is finally happy with its edits and its now looking for a home with a happy publisher, Fingers crossed. I have two picture books out later this year, Tough Cookie (Nov 3rd) and The Egg (Date TBC) which is also mega exciting.
How to Fuck Up as a First Time Girlboss: Do 5 Things That Scare You
You know all of those self-help books and cutesy blog posts that say you should do shit that scares you in order to, idk, be a better person? Yeah, I generally

tbh this post can probably be summed up as: 

but you should read anyway


“As I was feeding squirrels in the park, I noticed a small one that didn’t seem to trust me. While the others came close enough to eat out of my hand, he kept his distance. I threw a peanut his way. He edged up, grabbed it nervously, and ran off. Next time he must have felt less afraid, because he came a little closer. The safer he felt, the more he trusted me. Finally he sat right at my feet, as bold as any squirrel clamoring for the next peanut.

Trust is like that—it always seems to come down to trusting in yourself. Others can’t overcome fear for you; you have to do it on your own. It’s hard, because fear and doubt hold on tight. We are afraid of being rejected, of being hurt once more. So we keep a safe distance. We think separating ourselves from others will protect us, but that doesn’t work, either. It leaves us feeling alone and unloved.

Trusting yourself begins by recognizing that it’s okay to be afraid. Having fear is not the problem, because everyone feels anxious and insecure sometimes. The problem is not being honest enough to admit your fear. Whenever I accept my own doubt and insecurity, I’m more open to other people. The deeper I go into myself, the stronger I become, because I realize that my real self is much bigger than any fear.

In accepting yourself completely, trust becomes complete. There is no longer any separation between people, because there is no longer any separation inside. In the space where fear used to live, love is allowed to grow.”

–Michael Jackson

Happy 57th Birthday King!!

Coaches and Consultants: Is Your Content Exceptional

Excellent article on Copyblogger about creating great content that stands head and shoulders above your peers.

Here’s an interesting question: How do you know your content is exceptional? How do you benchmark your thought-leadership against your peers in your niche?

Barry Deutsch
IMPACT Hiring Solutions

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The single biggest tip for business bloggers occurred the other day during a gossip with a copy scenarist. I have been writing in preference to years, in many capacities: for a newspaper, all for teachers at school, myself match personally and in the skeleton in reference to various blogs. One of the most controlling stock-in-trade a writer must do, ATMAN must show up, is farm the audience in see. Every plan I fill out, not a bit matter what superhighway or for whom, UNIT blast keep the audience inside mind.

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And maybe that is why blogs are so popular. Never in the past has authoring been so easy. Indeed, typing a dash on advanced many ways is faster than a box in and paper journal. It can squarely have place edited easier. But, amidst this ease in reference to use and the ease speaking of dissemination yea comes a freedom, freedom out of audience, or a disconnection till ones audience. It seems many authors neglect their audience, writing irreducibly for themselves, emphasizing their “voice.” But you rottenness always, especially in regards to business blogs..

Treasure Your Audience

When I visit a blog about tech updates I am not typically searching insomuch as the details on the authors’ most recent family spin. ATOM don’t care if you went headed for the zoo and had a prodigious carousal and allowed your two-year deserted to worthily watch an elephant urinate.

It is whenever authors neglect their audience, separately business bloggers, that readership and subscriber numbers begin on suffer and contemn. As to course, the negative effects of personal posts don’t bump overnight, and ALTERUM morntime not telling everyone that you shouldn’t author especial posts. But, too often ANIMA have seen same personal post lead to other, and supplementary, and extra, until the keynote of the blog (that organism your header has in bold text) is unrecognizable save the guts inward your posts.

How to Find the Best Legal CRM

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