Recently, I've been getting more and more requests for free work. It's flattering, that people want my artwork, and if the fact was that i was happily comfortable with my financial situation and that drawing was just a hobby, I probably would!
However, the reality is this- I'm freelance, but I've been a full time illustrator since I graduated in 2003 and went directly into drawing children's books for Little Tiger Press. If you type "Louise Ho" into Amazon, you'll probably actually find my books there. I've a BA in Illustration, and a Masters in Children's book Illustration. I'm registered with the HMRC as a self employed individual.
When you work freelance, you will at points find yourself without work- either while waiting for a client to get back to you about something, or in between jobs, it happens, you don't have work all the time, and I've never had an agent to fill up the little hours of my working day with lots of work. So during that time, I also drew for myself, it started as a hobby, but is now quite a solid side to my drawing business, I've always loved creating books although I had to learn a lot when the transition went to very limited to single edition hand crafted books to bigger print runs. However, I always retain a bit of my old practices, I make each book by hand before it's printed.
I started freelancing at a time when the internet and digital art was just getting into gear, physical portfolios and visiting studios/ publishers on foot was the norm in those days. It's changed a lot in the past 10 years and I've had to move with the dynamic. These days, a digital online portfolio makes communicating with a potential client so much easier and cheaper, but with a price, the range in competition for fewer jobs is much higher as well.
I go into bookstores these days, and rarely buy a book. But take a look, how many are actually illustrated these days? Most of them are photostock graphic design jobs. I realized the difference when i was in a comic book store, and I was so much more interested in the contents of the books because of the illustrated covers. It's a sector of illustration that is confined to narrow areas these days.
There's often a lot of raised voices these days when the subject of paid commission comes up. Personally for me, I do feel a twinge of unhappiness when someone asks me to work for free. It's my profession after all, and I don't mean it in a snobby sort of way- it's the thing I do in my day to day life to pay bills, feed and clothe myself, and prepare for my future. I worked hard from scratch to build up my reputation and business. If you have a job, and your boss or company asked you to do overtime for free, how would you respond? If your boiler broke, would you ask the boiler guy to fix it for free?
Basically, if you want something which you can't do yourself, and you're asking someone who does it as a profession, it's a professional exchange situation. Although I work drawing things, there are a huge number of people who can't draw who will ask me to do it for them. And then there are people who think drawing is an amazing skill they don't have, but don't respect that it takes time and effort to do. It's a sort of wave your wand and it's there thing. It's kinda not.
So- yep, I draw stuff - it's my job. I work most days in the week, usually about 8-10 hours a day. [They're not always well paid.] I love what I do, but there are never enough hours, days, weeks, months or years to do everything I want or need to do.
I'm working on getting a website made soon as it's becoming increasingly relevant that I'm going to have to make people aware of my working status. The simplicity of it is this- All the drawing I do is in some way connected to work. Even the small random pictures I draw for fun is part of my upkeep in honing my drawing ability. It's tiring, but a line is now drawn- my drawing is my career, please don't ask me to draw for free unless I offer to!
In any case, if you would like to commission me, please do contact me!
Although my rates will never be as low as some artists, I have 10 years experience as a working illustrator, and my rates are negotiable to briefs, both rates per project and rates per hour are negotiable to client.
I no longer take on graphic novel projects.