Life as a Freelancer: One Year In

One year ago, I took a major leap. I left my salary job as a concept artist at a studio. The problem was, I didn't know what I was going to do next. In the back of my mind, I figured finding another studio job was probably my safest bet (considering my financial situation at the time). Let's also not forget that I have two Chinese parents that held success at a very high standard, and I didn't want to let anyone think that I've given up.

To many people, any stable job was a good job, so everyone encouraged me to look for work at a studio that offered a steady income, but I knew that wasn't for me.  Rarely does a studio (especially in the animation industry) allow you to express your creative freedom.  You have to draw whatever you're told, and even change your art style to better suit what they're looking for. All they want are for things to be done quick and cheap and that for me, was really draining. It took away my love for art and my passion to create. Every time I came back home, the last thing I wanted to do was to pick up another pencil, sit on a chair for the rest of the day and draw. 

What really pushed me to quit was my trip to L.A. To keep it short, I had a life-changing experience, and it really opened my eyes to the opportunities that I was missing out on. It inspired me to take a risk and start investing in myself (can't begin to emphasize how important that is). It also helped that my boyfriend and I worked at the same studio and we made the decision together to both quit the day we got back (yes I know, we're very dramatic), and that's exactly what we did.

Fortunately, he knew what he wanted to do the day he quit, and that was to start working on his comic. I, on the other hand, knew I wanted to do illustrations related to fashion and beauty, but was very lost on how to do so.  One thing I did know was that social media was very powerful, and seeing how people were able to strive and find opportunities from it gave me the drive to do the same. I started with less than 5000 followers on Instagram when I quit my job, and I made it my goal to build upon that. Every time I finished an illustration, I'd post it on all my social media (Instagram, Facebook, Behance, Facebook, Deviantart and Artstation) and as my illustrations started to improve, the more followers I would get, that lead to more exposure, which ultimately lead to more jobs and opportunities. Before I knew it, I no longer had to look for a studio job. This isn't the only way to transition into freelance, but it was what worked for me.

Below are a few of my earlier works that helped me find my style and realize my potential. 

Freelance isn't for everyone, you need to have a lot of discipline, a good work ethic, and whole lot of passion for what you do. You're essentially becoming your own boss, so if you think you lack any of these qualities, I highly suggest working on them before you decide to freelance full time. 

I know losing stability can be the scariest thing. The hardest part of freelancing is not knowing how much you'll make the next month, but once you get over that fear and just focus on the work, it can truly become a reality for you. I'm proud to say that I'm comfortable with where I am right now (and with my standards, that's saying a lot). It took me approximately 4-5 months to really get things together and running smoothly, but we all have our own journeys and obstacles we must overcome. You might take less time or more, and that's okay. Good things never come easy (which is why it's also important to have some money saved up, but you already knew that haha). I'll just end with saying; if you work hard, and you put in 100% of your effort, passion, and yourself in what you do, you can't fail. 

Finding My Style

One of the most often questions I get asked is how I developed my style. To be honest, I found it hard to give you guys an answer that you haven't heard before, which is, "just keep drawing, and your style will develop naturally". Rather than to preach to you guys I thought I'd share my journey into finding my own style instead. So yes, it is true, if you keep drawing, you will eventually find your style but like many people that was hard for me to believe because I just couldn't imagine it. I couldn't picture how I would like my style to look or even what direction I wanted to head towards. Developing a style has always been this huge dilemma for me because I felt like my style was a part of identity, whether it's art or fashion, It's how the rest of the world will perceive me.

If you look through my past work, it was clear that it lacked consistency and direction. There was one point where I thought the more realistic the drawing the better, then I strayed completely away from that and started doing drawings heavily inspired by graphic design, and it goes on. I would get so frustrated every single day because I simply hated everything I was creating. However, as tough as it was, and as many times as I felt demotivated, I didn't let that bring me down. I used that frustration as a drive to keep trying and continuously push myself to create something I was proud of. It took years but I am finally happy with where my art is at. I'm glad I went through that journey because it feels that much more rewarding knowing that I've surpassed such a huge obstacle.

So although it was difficult, what came out of it was a lot of growth and I believe every artist has to go through a similar struggle in their career one way or another to find a style they resonate with. 

[Below on the left is an older pieces that was heavily inspired by graphic design, which I still subtly emulate in my pieces today as you can see with the painting on the right.]

Here's something I would do back when I was trying to find my style, so maybe you want to give it a try too; every now and then, try to imitate another artist's style (one that you admire) just for fun! (and don't forget to credit if you post it). Each time you do, add your own twist/creativity to it, a little bit of yourself, and you'll see that the more you do that, the more you'll see YOURSELF shine through in every piece, and slowly it'll just be you (I hope that makes sense).

It took a really long time (pretty much 9 years) to get to where I am today, a lot of trial and error, frustration, breakdowns, and only now am I content with the work I'm producing. That's not to say my style will never change, in fact, it most likely will, but that's something I've learned to accept. I have to constantly remind myself to just focus on the now and how I can get better as an artist instead of solely on the outcome. So in conclusion, if you like drawing people, focus on getting better at anatomy, if you like painting landscapes, go out and paint more landscapes! Your style will come, I promise you :). I hope this can help some of you, if you guys have any more questions you want answered, feel free to email me or comment below! Thanks for reading!