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Working as an illustrator: What I've learned in 2019

Until a year ago, I used to have a job on the side. But at the end of 2018 I decided it was time to see if I could make a living doing what I love most: making fashion illustrations. So 2019 was my first year without a job on the side. Just living from my earnings as an illustrator. Spoiler alert: It worked out! In fact, it worked out so well, I wouldn't want to do anything else anymore. I really enjoy working freelance and being able to make my own business decisions as well. But that doesn't mean that 2019 was going smooth all the time. In fact, it was a bit of a bumpy road. I've learned a lot this year, and here are my most important lessons learned. They will probably be applicable for most illustrators, maybe even for most freelancers in general.

1. Focus on jobs that you really like! They'll give you energy while jobs you don't like will suck energy from you. I sometimes have to remind myself that I chose this career path because I wanted to do something I love. So I try to only do illustration jobs that give me energy and really fit my style. Of course this isn't possible all the time, because well... the bill also need to be paid. But it's something I'm really trying to focus on.

2. The business side of things is important as well. I've tried to make some improvements on my quotations, contracts and licences. It's a lot of work and not always fun to do, but it does give me more peace of mind knowing that the legal side of things is organised. The recourses or the Association of Illustrators (AOI) proved quite helpful.

3. Don't underestimate the meaning of doodling. As in, trying new things, new styles and making illustrations that don't need to lead anywhere. You're not going to put them on Instagram and they're not for a commissioner. They're just for fun: to experiment and to see where your mind will take you. I made very little time for this in 2019 and it's something I really want to spend more time on in 2020 because I noticed it can improve my creativity and make me to see my own work in a new light.

4. Finding a balance is difficult. I've underestimated the effect constant drawing can have on my body. When I draw for a long time without breaks, I start to feel it in my hand and shoulder. It helps to workout regularly and to take enough breaks in between. I really like going to Bar Workout (Ballet inspired) because it's great for your posture. It also helps to really have a weekend or take days off during the week when I'm working on the weekend. But finding the right balance between work, breaks and actual time off is still is a big challenge.

I'm still working on my goals for 2020, but the things I've learned this year will be reflected in them for sure. If you have any questions, let me know in the comments or via Instagram!

I hope you have a great start of the new decennium!




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