A couple years ago, I wanted to pursue fashion illustration as a career path. Fashion illustration was something I was really interested in, and it seemed to me that the people around me really liked the way I drew too (thank you positive reinforcement).
Eventually, event organizers of fashion shows and boutique shop owners started reaching out to me. They wanted me to draw at their event, which I was thrilled to do. The gigs started at around $200 per event—a very fair pay for a 20 year old. I was excited. Nobody ever paid me $200 for my work before. I didn’t even know this was a viable career path for myself.
Unfortunately (or fortunately) I never got past my 5th or 6th illustration gig. I didn’t understand at the time that it was my responsibility to make money as a freelancer. That meant in order to stay in business, I must stay profitable. I was taking every project whether it was for free or for $50. Somewhere down the line, 20-year-old me simply got tired when it came to talking budgets with clients. So I stopped.
I never made money as a 20 year-old freelancer, but I learned a valuable lesson. When you’re a freelancer, you become your own business. That means rule number one of freelance longevity: you have to stay profitable to keep the business (yourself) running.