Freelance Alliance Spotlight: Drawing on my career as a freelance artist

(Continued from yesterday)

Of course quite apart from the obstacles you might create for yourself as a freelancer, there can also be difficulties with clients.

When payday is postponed

Firstly, there’s the slow payers. After an appropriate time and a bit of leeway, the shrewd freelancer knows that these end-users deserve nothing less than to be chased with regular telephone and emails, politely but firmly reminding them of their obligation to pay. Some freelancers also make use of the late payment legislation, when the previously agreed payment period (often within 30 days of services rendered) expires.

‘We’ve had a rethink’

Secondly, there’s the client who awards a project to the freelancer but attempts to abandon the process mid-project. Such a regrettable move highlights the importance for freelancers of making their individual terms of service unambiguous from the outset. For me, that means clearly communicating before I’m engaged that drafts/roughs and incomplete artwork are not free of charge. In fact, I insist that a partial fee will be charged to the client to account for my time spent in the event of a cancellation. Be under no illusion and don’t bow to client pressure - that time you lost with client A could have been spent making money with client B.

The client you want, who wants you

But I’m pleased to say that the majority of client projects I’ve thoroughly enjoyed, particularly those where I illustrated for children, as the primary audience that is! Last summer provided a good example. I was contacted by Eiry Thomas, a Cardiff based writer, who had seen my work on Freelance Alliance. Eiry had been looking for a suitable illustrator in the area, able to work on character illustrations for a series of children’s books that she had been quietly penning for many years.

Last year, Eiry entered the Brit Writers’ Awards and was shortlisted from 21,000 entries, reaching the third round in the Children’s Stories category. Even to a non-literary scholar such as myself, her writing seemed exceptional and I was delighted that she wanted me to work as concept illustrator.

But it gets better. Towards the end of last year, the Brit Writers announced that Eiry was among the 15 most promising applicants of 2010. Each won expert mentoring over the course of this year, with a view to the author’s work being taken up by a major publisher before 2012.

As luck and being well-positioned would have it, I’ve been asked to illustrate her first book! It’s great news for both me and this talented author. I’ll enjoy working on the illustrations and I think her readers will love her writing. Hopefully they won’t mind the pictures either.

Matthew Harding is a freelance illustrator and animator



20th January 2011

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