8 Golden Rules for a Successful Freelance Career

I’ve been a big fan of the Red Lemon Club  for some time, and it has been pretty cool to see Alex Mathers grow into quite the influencer over the years. I recently picked up his book, “How to Gain Illustration Clients” and it’s the kind of gold they don’t exactly teach you in art school. In particular, I love the 8 rules Alex outlined for having a successful freelance career. Here they are, not quite verbatim, but very much on point!


The importance of hustle

Getting customers, landing work, interacting with the network just takes work. Don’t get too complacent! Too many people underestimate how much work and consistent, plentiful action your illustration career requires. The competing noise of social media means you need to provide more value, and target your audience. Don’t worry about being pushy, or over the top. There’s no such thing as being seen too much as a brand. Don’t compete, dominate.


Discomfort is inevitable

Putting in the research, and reaching out is uncomfortable. If you want to build a valuable network, you need to rise above the conditioning of not taking social risks. If your heart is pounding, you are doing the right thing. Have the mindset of a fighter. Are you a spectator, or a warrior?


Have more options than you need

When you have client work, you take less action to market yourself. You still need to take action! Too many people try to generate clients when they’re panicking. It’s best to have as options as possible. Get comfortable with rejecting clients, because you are unavailable, and in high demand. Most of these clients will come back down the line if you keep in touch.


Make others look good

Help companies and people look good. People will feel the need to reciprocate. Do this, and you will be awarded in life with a great value network. When connecting with a prospect, think about how you can help them in some way.


The importance of follow up

Always keep a dialog! Follow Up, even if you don’t get a response. Sometimes you have a reach out a few times! Persistence turns everyone into an opportunity. Always be pushing to generate a close. Push your sales on people who benefit from you. If you annoy some people, who cares??



Consistently market your work, and your exposure will gradually build up. Do the right things consistently, even if it might not feel like you’re going anywhere. The number of opportunities from a large social network base is huge. But this means commitment.


Everyone is a potential lead

Everyone will point to a lead. If someone doesn’t appear to bring a prospect immediately, we neglect them, but we should really nurture the relationship. Everyone you know can somehow link you to valuable leads or resources. For example, what do you do if you have only one contact? You get creative. That one contact could have someone in their network who needs your services. If you do good work for them, they tell their network-and there just might be someone there who is your dream network. Nurture your relationships with a smaller selection of contacts.


Keep track

The real winners keep track of everything that gets you closer to a deal. Mark cold emails, tweets, instagram, and track and connect the results. You want to know what works, so you can maximize growth.

I’ve started to follow these and the results have been great. If you want to keep drawing and get paid for it, you have to do the grunt work. Get a free sample of “How to Get Illustration Clients”  , available on audio and PDF.


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