Leaving uni and starting out as an illustrator is both exciting and tough. Whilst it can seem daunting to leave a place where there’s structure and set objectives, and be launched out into the open, it’s extremely fun to begin to make a career out of something that you love to do.
Having a structure is so handy
I found that having a loose set of long-term goals is a great way to keep up the motivation that I had at uni, and allowed me to work towards something bigger.
Before I left uni, one thing that I found really helpful for planning my approach to my life ahead was to create an ‘exit strategy’. A 1-Year Plan consisting of a list of goals I would like to achieve within my first year – nothing too big, but things that I thought were achievable and realistic. For example: find a studio space, update my client list every month, contact those clients regularly, find part-time work with hours that would suit a freelance lifestyle etc. I found that having a loose set of long-term goals is a great way to keep up the motivation that I had at uni, and allowed me to work towards something bigger.
Finding that Balance
It’s great to have your ‘to-do’ list as you’re trying to balance the different and new aspects of your life. Balancing illustration, with a part-time job (and all of your life elements) is difficult, particularly in the beginning when your life has previously solely been university. It can be tough, and it can be a little demotivating, however I found it necessary for affording essentials like art supplies and for paying rent. You understand what work/life balance works for you as time goes on – and find a ratio that is beneficial towards not only your illustration, but also your happiness and mental health. And eventually, the ratio will shift towards illustration leading the way!
It’s great to have your ‘to-do’ list as you’re trying to balance the different and new aspects of your life.
Keep in touch with your friends
The friends and people that you have at uni will probably be in your life, in some way, for a long time after you graduate. At uni, one of the things I found so useful was that support network of friends that I could go to to bounce ideas off of, collaborate with and to just do creative things with; and after uni, this can still be the case. Since graduating, I’ve stalled at art fairs with friends, curated/taken part in exhibitions with friends, and have a studio with friends as well. And these experiences, not only allow us to meet new people, but also to carry on sharing thoughts and ideas.
Don’t be scared to get in touch with the people you admire
Getting in contact with the people and publications you’d love to work for seems like an intimidating idea – and it’s easy to get in your head about this. As my own biggest critic I completely understand this hurdle, I’ve been there as a fresh graduate and I always told myself that I wasn’t good enough to work for these clients. But don’t be afraid, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. That worst that can happen is that they don’t reply – which in that case, you can always get in touch again in the future. And you never know, you might surprise yourself and get some work!
Try not to compare yourself with other artists, and just have fun with the sorts of work that you love to make.
It’s so easy to get into lull’s and to feel disparaged with your work – and to treat yourself nicely with movies, walks and things that you love is a great thing when you’re feeling like this. But remembering to draw what you love, have fun with what you draw and to feel positive about your ideas and inspirations will help with your process, and ultimately get you the sorts of work you would love tor receive. Try not to compare yourself with other artists, and just have fun with the sorts of work that you love to make.
Building yourself up as a freelance illustrator (or whatever career you want to go into) is a slow process and it takes time and hard work – I tell myself this every day to stay grounded and realistic about my steps. It’s important to keep motivated and stay true to yourself. As long as you continue with the drive that you currently have you’ll be okay.