There are only so many hearts, stars and butterflies a guy can create without banging his head against the wall. I felt like I was abusing the talent I was given.
We all know when something needs to change. Society6 artist and biomechanic-inspired illustrator, Ben Kwok (aka BIOWORKZ), walks us through what he considered most important when making the leap from full-time employee to full-time freelance artist. He appreciates the opportunities he’s had and his roster is impressive–Red Bull, Disney, Pearl Jam, Urban Outfitters, Converse, Lucky Brand, Obey, Barnes & Noble and so many more. But while he was cutting his teeth in the agency world, he felt himself getting further away from his own personal style and decided it was time to make a u-turn. Here’s what he learned in the process.
Going full-time freelance is not an easy decision. I quit my job in August 2016 and it’s been an interesting journey so far. Before I committed to being full-time freelance I needed to get some things squared away. Like having enough money saved up in case things don’t go as planned. Having a sufficient passive income stream, and most importantly doing what I love to do with little to no compromises.
1. Get educated through podcasts
There are lots of podcasts out there that tackle almost every topic you can think of. So when I work, I like to listen to podcasts. I get educated and listen to interesting conversations. I learned about basic finances from the The Dave Ramsey Podcast. It’s great for anyone starting out in any business. Some good art-related podcasts would be “Adventures in Design” or “The Deeply Graphic Design-Cast”. A personal favorite of mine is “The Pen Addict” and they talk about pens…yes a podcast about pens and I can’t get enough of it. It’s important to keep yourself educated and constantly learning. If you’re not growing, you’ll be left in the dust.
2. Make sure you have enough money saved
To start, EVERYONE should have emergency funds saved up that you can live off of for 3-6 months while investing into retirement like (401k, Roth IRA, etc.) When you have enough money stored away, it gives you a lot of confidence to only take jobs you want versus taking jobs for the pay. The funny thing is that you will end up getting paid more doing work you love because you will create quality work and people will notice and ask for more.
3. Secure an income stream
Since I’m not working at a regular job anymore, I needed to secure some kind of income stream. This is something I’ve been working on for many years while I was working full-time. I’m a big proponent of Society6 and always tell my fellow artists to upload their artwork here because it’ll help generate passive income, increase exposure, and give you some financial stability. There are lots of artists creating beautiful work, but then leave it at that. Sure you can try to sell the original, but once it’s sold, that’s the end of the road for that piece of artwork. If it’s digital artwork, you won’t even have an original to sell sell anyway. Why not leverage your time and effort and upload the artwork to Society6 and have that piece of artwork work for you?
4. Build momentum
Think of your artwork like an investment instead of an one off piece of artwork you make and sell. The more artwork I upload, the more momentum I create in generating more passive income. It’s a snowball effect and the best thing is that you don’t have to do anything but sit back and collect a check every month. To be honest being a contributor on Society6 was one of the main reasons I had confidence to ditch a regular job and go into freelance full-time. Society6 generates income to take the edge off the monthly bills. You already put in all this time into creating beautiful artwork. Why not have your artwork work for you? On top of all this, I have gotten a handful of well paying freelance work through Society6 from random clients that see my work here. It’s a real win/win situation.
5. Fight for creative freedom
The most important reason I went full-time freelance was to have the freedom to create artwork I am proud of and living a fulfilling life. I strongly believe I was put on earth to create artwork and make the world a more beautiful place. I am grateful for my experience as a T-shirt Designer, but 95% of the time, I’m creating artwork I’m not proud of. There are only so many hearts, stars, and butterflies a guy can create without banging his head against the wall. I felt like I was abusing the talent I was given. I knew I had to honor my inner voice and it was constantly telling me to “DO WHAT YOU LOVE”.
I played it safe most of my life and it made me miserable. I’ve been full-time freelance for a little over a year now and things aren’t perfect, but I’d rather struggle working on artwork I love.
Photos by Lauren Maar of Maar Photography