Business Advice for Freelance Artists


Being a freelancer is now a more attractive option than ever before. With the economy on the downturn a growing number of creative professionals are choosing to work for themselves rather than be employed by someone else. The career move is considered a brilliantly smart move for most.

Yet finding success as a freelancer means understanding that, essentially, you’re now the CEO, CFO and president of a microbusiness.

The arena is very competitive and is just gets more crowded with competition every day. So, if you want to do well, not only do you have to be creatively talented, but you have to be a shrewd businessperson as well.

Though the business side might not be as interesting for you, it’s critical that you spend some time making sure that you’re doing everything by the book. Here are a few business tips that will help you advance in your journey as a self-employed artist.

Create a Business Plan

As you may have already learned by now, being a freelancer is a lot like running a small business. So the best way forward before you dive in is to create a marketing and business plan. Get some help online about the financial aspects of projecting cash flows into the future and showing that the opportunity for growth does indeed exist in the field you are targeting. Set yourself goals for the next few years as well so that you can refer back to the plan at a later date to keep yourself on track.

Choose Your Clients Wisely

Your long-term success and livelihood depend on the clients you choose. It’s crucial that you take the time to vet them and hammer out details and expectations before you invest a single minute of your time in their project. There’s nothing worse than you investing weeks in work that you never get paid for. Of course there’s legal recourse for such an event, but you’d only stand to benefit if the agreements were correctly documented, which leads us to the next point…

Get Some Legal Knowledge

You may want to consult a commercial attorney when you’re in the early stages of setting up your freelance business. They can help ensure that you’ve dotted all your i’s and crossed all your t’s so that you’re legally and financially protected. Here are a few key things they can help you with:

  • Draw up contracts to use with clients or partners
  • Determine a structure for your business, which will impact the way you pay taxes
  • Figuring out your financials – business accounts, expenses, etc.

Trademarks and Copyright

This is one of the most important areas to understand as a freelance artist. You need to understand all the ins and outs in order to protect yourself from being exploited. First, know that trademark covers your name or business’s name and any image associated with your business. Copyright, on the other hand, covers the artwork you create.

More than likely, your clients will want contracts to stipulate that the work you do for them is a “work for hire,” meaning that after you hand it over, they legally own it and can do with it what they choose. One thing you should consider, and that should be detailed in a contract, is whether or not the client also owns things like templates and original files you created while working on their finished product. If you don’t want them to use your work to create more products, it’s important that the contract spells this out.

Reach Out For Support

Look to your local government to see if they offer any support for freelance artists like yourself. And don’t hesitate to tap into a network of close associates from other professions such as business owners, attorneys and accountants to help you out when you’re stuck with some business issue you have never had experience with. Think of what your friends and relatives do for a living and see if they can support you in any way.

Understand Taxes

Paying taxes on money you’ve earned while working for yourself is a little bit more complicated than the taxes that were deducted from your paycheck while you were an employee. Hopefully, your chosen line of freelance work has given you a higher income than working for someone else, but this may also have pushed you into another tax bracket all together.

Look into how the taxes on self-employed individuals are worked out in your country and follow accordingly. The last thing you want is problems with the government because you didn’t understand how you should pay your income tax.

The idea of working for yourself may have seemed ridiculously simple when you first considered it, but you have to remember that you’re now running your own company.

While working as a freelance artist can be lucrative and satisfying, the work will only be viable in the long term if you take care of the business end of your new business from the very start.

andrew-may-smlAbout the Author: Andrew May is a financial and commercial attorney and the founding member of May Law, a Chicago firm. He’s worked with clients that range from Fortune 500 companies to individual entrepreneurs. When he’s not working hard for his clients, Andrew enjoys sharing his expertise with readers by contributing to a wide variety of online publications. For more, visit

Posted in Business, Featured News.


  1. Andrew ‘ s article is on point. Most creative types shy aware from the legal and accounting aspects of their businesses as it is to confining for them and stifles their creativity. It does pay for you to invest in hiring a lawyer to set up contracts and also someone to do your bookkeeping on a regular basis. These two services will help you generate funds, protect your time investment on projects, and protect you from the governmental pitfalls of non compliance which can be very costly.

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