Let's talk about money...

Its seems every conversation I have had in the past 5 months starts with, ‘How’s work Em?’, ‘Are you managing to get by Em?’ ‘Oh Em, hows it going now you’re unemployed?’

5 months ago, I decided to leave my full time job and go freelance.

Was I crazy? Yes.

Was I turning down a pay rise to head into a world of uncertainty? Yes.

Am I happy I did it? Hell yes…

The main reason for this weeks blog, is to hopefully start a discussion about how tough it can be for artists to make a living and how much I admire anyone that has the guts and drive to go for what they want. It’s hard work and the dream of drawing nice pictures that people will buy for thousands is just that, a dream…

Leaving a stable job.

When I left my job I was earning just over £21,000 a year…

Shock horror I just told you my wage!

This is the part no one talks about, but if I can be open and honest to help any other artists in my position I will!

I was 3 years into the job as a concept artist, with my wage increasing every year from starting as an unpaid intern in 2014. On this wage I was able to buy a house with my Fiancé, put a deposit on a new car, go on nice holidays and basically enjoy my wage every month living in a cheap part of the country! It was great.

I wont go into more detail but I will just say I was offered another job for more money. Seems a no brainer right? The problem was the commute. When I went for an interview it took me 2.5 hours to get there and nearly that coming home. All the money in the world wouldn’t make up for the stress of doing that everyday. So I turned down that job, and I left my current job to go it alone…

So what do you do when you decided to drop everything and leave your job with bills to pay and no savings…

You panic.

No seriously I panicked.

Finding my Income.

I set myself an initial goal. Everyday I needed to make just £100. If I wanted to work just half of the month, thats absolutely fine, I just needed to up my game on the days I did work.

Now this might seem a lot of money for some new artists, on the other hand this may be short change for others. For me, this would replace the income I left behind and would make my decision worthwhile…

There seems to be some confusion with this, just because artists enjoy painting, doesn’t mean we should do it for free. Im here to tell you we need to pay the bills like anyone else. Offering us projects with the payment being ‘exposure’ is frankly bullshit. Mind my language… We are worth more, so take note.

I’ve found that as a Freelancer, I cant rely on one source of income. I try and stay constantly busy trying different things, creating and ultimately producing things people might want to give up their hard working money to buy. I don’t take this lightly. If anyone has bought a commission from me, you will see that I try my best to make every pence of your money valued.

I fill my time with multiple different activities, some earn money, some just take up time, all of which hopefully bring me closer to my goal. On one hand, its selling from a local craft fair and making £10 when the stall costs £25, on the other, its working for an animation studio for 2 weeks at £200 a day. It can be hit and miss…

Keeping Busy…

The biggest change that has happened in the past 5 months is how much value I put on my time. When working full time, trust me I worked extremely hard, but having a long lunch or taking my time on tasks, didn’t really affect me. I still got paid every month. Now, if I want to hit my daily goal, I need to be organised and I need to be productive.

What about being ill? Well I can't just call in sick anymore and still get paid. If I’m ill, I have to just suck it up and carry on and hit my deadlines. Oh, I need to have surgery on my wrist, before I would have been excited for an excuse to have time in bed watching Grey’s Anatomy, but now, I find myself wanting to put it off and live in pain just so I can buy gifts at Christmas.

The Ultimate Goal…

… is freedom.

I think thats everyones goal really, not just a freelance artists.

I have so many aspirations, I want to illustrate a children’s book, I want to teach, I want to build a new portfolio for an idea I’ve had for 4 years now, I want to do a Masters, I could go on…

All of these ideas will make me a better artist, but will not pay the bills and ultimately are the reason they get put on the back burner. They will all happen, I will make sure they happen.

I’m going to stop rambling now and get back to my freelance work…

My love goes out to everyone out there working hard, trying to make ends meet and for not loosing their light when times get dark. Luckily for me, my choice to go freelance has paid off, I’m now setting new goals. My hope is that this post has helped just one artist, sat alone questioning they choices and debating whether or not to get a 'real' job, to not give up!

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Emily Harvey Art | Manchester, UK | eharveyart@icloud.com

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