Why don't I get enough freelance work? Are my prices too high? I see these types of questions on Deviant Art a lot. Whether you are just starting out or you have been freelancing for a while, there is a good chance that you can improve your workload and income by applying a little bit of self confidence and assertiveness.
1) Don't wait for work to find you.
Go find work. Read job ads. Find jobs that suit your skills. Also adapt your skills to match the jobs you find... That's very important. If you can provide a style or service that other artists can't match, that gives you an advantage. Make a list of freelancing sites and other sites with job advertisements. You can find some of them here: [link]
Keep track of which sites provide the BEST job leads for you and visit them regularly. Be prompt when applying for jobs. Some clients will take days to pick an artist but other clients will choose from the first few applicants.
2) Always strive to improve your skills.
A potential client is concerned with a variety of things. They often look for artistic skill, speed, reliability, communication and price. Generally, you don't have to be the cheapest if you are the most skilled (or at least more skilled than the others who apply for the same job.) The greater your skill, the faster you can produce consistently good work that will pay well.
3) Make sure your gallery shows your best work.
Eliminate weak pieces or pieces that your target clients may find offensive. If you are selling paintings, feature only paintings in the main part of your gallery. If you offer a variety of styles or media, organize them to make your portfolio easy to navigate. Your forum avatar should also reflect the type of work you do. When applying for a job, link directly to relevant pieces if possible. Some clients will not look through a whole portfolio to find something relevant to their project.
4) Be courteous and professional.
Use spell check and be careful with punctuation and grammar. Make sure that you clearly describe the work you will provide, the price and the anticipated completion date. It is important for the client and the artist to have the same expectations for the project. Reply to all client correspondence in a timely manner. If you get repeat business from good clients, that makes your work easier. Avoid rants, profanity or other offensive material in your profile, journal and gallery. Most experienced clients will have dealt with plenty of incompetent artists before they met you. Treat the client well and they will keep coming back.
5) PayPal is a good method of payment.
Reliable clients are generally willing to provide a percentage (maybe 25 or 50%) at the start of a job if you have presented yourself in a professional manner. Clients who demand work before payment may never intend to pay. Money orders, debit cards and Western Union can be risky and prone to forgery. I generally don't recommend giving out bank information, or other personal information unless you are working with a large reputable company that you trust. Don't work for points.
6) Look for jobs that pay a reasonable amount.
Some clients just want the lowest bidder. Clients like that aren't worth your time and effort. Charge more than minimum wage. Approximate how much time a drawing will take and figure out a reasonable hourly cost. Become confident with your prices and learn to pick your jobs well and present yourself effectively. Sometimes the only difference between a $1 job and a $50 job is your confidence level and how you present yourself as an artist. Don't work for free and don't work solely for a share of future profits. (In most cases, there will be no future profits). If you are going to do free work do something that can only be used by YOU for your portfolio.
7) As you improve, your prices can improve.
We artists, are sometimes insecure creatures who have difficulty charging a reasonable rate. This is a big topic and you'll have to find your own pricing, but at least shoot for minimum wage or higher. Re-evaluate your pricing and business tactics at least every year and find ways to improve. As you become accustomed to freelancing you may find that it isn't much different from a video game in which you improve your skill level through various repetitious tasks in order to achieve goals, rewards and greater skills.
8) Check out my journal entry about good artists and good clients: [link]
Strive to be a good artist and seek out good clients. Choosing your clients is an important way to improve your productivity. A disorganized client may prolong a project until it is no longer worth the pay provided. A good client paired with a good artist and a clear jobs description is a recipe for success.
9) Set financial goals and meet them:
Keep a spread sheet of every job, with the job description, price, start date, delivery date, payment date and client contact information as well as other notes ("good client", "bad client etc.)
Want to set a financial goal for the year? Make sure you set a reasonable goal and work toward it. Don't punish yourself if you fall short, just improve you skills and job seeking behaviors. Decide what your "goal" salary for the year and divide it by 365 to determine how much work you want to accomplish each day. Or you can divide the annual goal into weekly goals.
I keep a "work diary". Each day I write down the date and what I have completed that day and the approximate amount of resulting income (for example "<client name> <job name>: half finished- $50 billable out of $100 -$50 remaining"). At the end of the day I write the total dollar value completed that day. It is not a list of actual paid or unpaid amounts but the value of how much work I have done that day. If I am doing free revisions they have a zero dollar amount. This small amount of structure can really help keep you focused and motivated.
Hope that helps.