Blogging & Income Report of a Freelance Artist - January 2017
Welcome to this very first art blog and income report! While I've been working as an illustrator for more than five years, it's only now, as of January 2017, that I'm focusing on my own brand, blog, and creative business and hope to go beyond work-for-hire and contract work.
This blog started from scratch mid-month during January. It's my first time owning a domain (I had a blogspot blog previously, which I hope to integrate soon!). 2017 also marks a change in my work life, with focus shifts and a future ahead that necessitates a fresh start.
So I hope that this series of blog reports, which I plan to publish on a monthly basis, can inspire and inform both old and new freelancers, artists and bloggers. Self-employment can be intimidating and I personally love reading not only big 'success stories', but stories about the struggles, up and downs, and 'regular' progress, which this will be.
Why I'm reducing my freelance illustration work:
There are four main reasons I was able to shift my attitude towards work in the beginning of 2017:
- Finances: After having spent the last year working on our own house (an investment of both time and money) my husband is back to his regular job. While still a lot remains to be done and he won't be working full-time, this does make me no longer the sole earner and allows me to cut back on work-for-hire freelancing. No further construction material costs need to be footed, and with that off our backs, we can keep to our usual frugal lifestyle. Less income needed - the perfect time to cut back and use that free time to try new things!
- Flexibility: That house mentioned above? We'll be selling it and the one-room we're living in currently sometime over the next couple of months. With all the insecurity of moving at an unknown point in time to a yet unknown location (Korea is a mighty confusing and ever-changing beast when it comes to apartment hunting), I can't accept any long-term projects. Not knowing when I'll need to focus on packing boxes and settle in a new place, not knowing when I'll have an actual space to work and all my equipment up and running, my usual routine of working freelance would be difficult to keep - and I'd never want to compromise client deadlines. Instead, for at least the next two months, I want to focus on smaller commissions and building my blog and online presence in general, so that I can stay flexible in my schedule.
- Security: With all that on the horizon, our loans will be paid back soon, too, which would make our monthly expenses a lot more manageable and require less income each month compared to the last three years. Everything would be more stable and less pressuring. I'd be able to allow myself to take a few days off each month to focus on my own projects instead of client work, and pursue my passions - writing, drawing, sketching, blogging, photography... so I'm building towards a future of more personal projects I'd want to present online.
- Health & Personal: I really need to take care of my health after a bit of a collapse in October last year. Frankly, freelancing has been exhausting over the last couple of years. It's a constant up and down, and living in Korea while working internationally had me keep the strangest hours thanks to deadlines in different time zones. Not sleeping was way more fun in my early twenties! ;)
I also really want the time to go out and explore this country I've moved to, study Korean without feeling bad whenever I neglect work and And draw comics. And just sketch. All the things!
Why start a blog as an illustrator or artist?
While an internet presence isn't necessary to get jobs as a freelance illustrator, it is where most of my fun work came from. The kind of work that I love to do, that I want to present in my portfolio and develop further.
My 'work for hire' freelance jobs came via my old, simple online portfolio and previous work connections, but what I call 'commissions' all reach me via my social media. Blog header illustrations, picture books, portraits, custom branding and packaging design - these are the kind of jobs I want to pursue in the future, too.
January 2017 Blog Report
I purchased this domain and my Squarespace hosting on a whim in January - just after I'd handed in another storyboard project at 4 am local time. There I sat with that empty slate of a website - and felt such a rush of energy and motivation! I knew that this was what I'd be able to focus on this year, and I anticipate every second of it.
These reports are to hold myself accountable, to keep me on track and allow me to look back on what I've accomplished. *cough* Not yet much.
January 15 - 31 Statistics:
(Don't laugh, these are tiny, tiny numbers!)
Total Blog Posts: 3
Bounce Rate: ~45%
I didn't yet have Google Analytics installed, and Squarespace's analytics don't go back in time in detail, so this is all the data I have.
- 45% direct
- 19% instagram
- 17% facebook
- 13% twitter
- 0.5% pinterest
Illustration Income Report
I won't be reporting my work-for-hire freelance income here. I think of that as a job like any other - I might be drawing, but that's just the skill I'm using. This might as well be income from working at a company, or in a coffee shop. The actual projects aren't relevant to my art style or portfolio, I often sign NDAs and the whole goal of 2017 is to cut down on these. I still had some left-over projects in January, but have stopped accepting new long-term work, so I hope to have more time for side-projects and my shop next month!
What I will be counting are illustration commissions coming in via this site or my social media, that are based on my art style or previous works (blog illustrations, custom branding, picture books, editorial pieces), and Etsy sales - all things that I'd refer to as a side-income, thanks to blogging and social media.
Again, these are baby steps! :)
Commissions Income: 474 $
Etsy Income: 69 $
For a total of 543 $ - ouch, not even a quarter of my freelance work, but we'll get there (I hope! One day!) as I can invest more time here. Until these numbers go up, I'll keep two of my regular freelance jobs, though.
Blog Income - as of now, I'm still in the progress of figuring out how I want to monetize the site itself. Nothing to report, but I hope that changes in the future. If only I can get the costs of hosting and my domain back, that would be great! For anything more, I'll probably never have enough pageviews/visitors, since I'm blogging about a bit of a mixed bag of subjects.
February 2017 Goals
Blogging and Site Content
Since this blog is new, my focus for February is content creation. There's a long task list to go through:
- Blog posts - showing the different subjects I'll be blogging about (business reports, artist life, freelancing advice, illustrations making of, monthly favorites, life in Korea...)
- Choosing a template that works (really don't like the first one) and setting up the site as a whole - about section, disclaimers/copyrights, all that stuff.
- Uploading and organizing pictures in my portfolio category.
- Create free printables.
- At least one giveaway on Instagram. (currently happening!)
- Figure out Pinterest. :)
- Figure out affiliates, for the future.
Etsy & Commissions
- Accept smaller commissions and focus on those.
- Create printable stickers and coloring pages for my Etsy shop.
- Re-shoot some of my old (horribly dark) product pictures and get the hang of Etsy SEO.
Art & Illustration
- Drawing for myself. Diary entries, scenery, portraits... practice and have fun!
- Learn something new: Hand lettering! I love calligraphy but know nothing about it.
- Participate in at least one drawing challenge. (Eyeing the #illustrationfriday one)
That's it for my very first report! My blog was only two weeks old, and I hope my next report (I'll post that one at the beginning of March) will have some better numbers. *knocksonwood*
If you're a freelancer yourself, I'm sure you know the feeling of wanting to create something for yourself. I hope these reports will show a positive development and can motivate you to start a blog, too!
Read about my artist journey here - how I became a freelance illustrator working from home after moving to another country.