When Supplementary Income Replaces Freelancing: A Guide to Creative Freedom

By Bethany Johnson, Contributor, on June 20, 2017

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Many people believe that freelancing is the best opportunity for creative expression — but that’s not always the case. While pursuing an artistic outlet is definitely one of the many perks of freelancing, creative types often find that it’s just not enough. After all, as a freelancer your job is to creatively tackle someone else’s ideas. In other words, you only get paid when you can execute another person’s passion project, and not necessarily your own.

Here’s the good news: As a freelancer, there’s a way to both create whatever you want while getting paid a supplementary income. The answer is to set up a virtual shop with an e-commerce marketplace like Etsy.

Why Choose a Peer-to-Peer Platform

Let’s pretend that you’re a freelance graphic designer. A visual artist like yourself can create nearly anything to sell directly to an end-user. According to The University of North Carolina Charlotte, the average salary for a graphic designer depends a lot on the artist’s location. So taking your skills online can broaden your client base and increase your potential pay.

Need ideas for graphic design projects? There are personalized save-the-dates, birthday invitations, event brochures, baby announcements, school fundraising materials, customized pet artwork and countless other design projects to create and sell.

Earning Supplementary Income

If you’re ready to set-up shop on a platform like Etsy, there are endless resources that can be of service. Here’s a quick-start guide to help you begin:

  • Research: It’s wise to understand the inner-workings of your e-commerce site of choice. Do your research, and establish a support system and backup plan early. Contact your local government to see if there are any free entrepreneurship resources geared toward virtual startups — you may be surprised by what you find. Cities like New York and Louisville offer free courses for artists who want to learn the e-commerce ropes. Before trying to sell your products online, enroll in one of these helpful classes and soak up as much information as you can.
  • Choose a platform: There are many arts and crafts e-commerce sites to choose from, so take your time when deciding. Before jumping in, ensure that the platform you settle on has the best features for your particular products and services. Create an account and poke around your new little piece of online commercial real estate. Establish which payment methods to accept, and fill out your personal bio so that potential buyers can get to know you.
  • Create: There’s no better feeling than the freedom to create. This is the moment you’ve anticipated. Enjoy it. Design a product that you would purchase if you were in a consumer’s shoes, and have fun while doing it. You can create a dizzying number of products, or simply stick with your favorite two or three.
  • Turn your products into listings: Next, list your favorite procuts, including your most eye-catching, trendy, likely-to-sell creations. Write compelling, keyword-rich descriptions and include popular tags so that shoppers can find your goodies through a quick search.
  • Market yourself: Once you’re up and running online, you might be tempted to kick back and wait to make your first sale. Instead, get busy promoting your work among friends and family, and then to the masses.

Time to Grow

When your peer-to-peer design shop starts bringing in a modest, steady income, you’ll have a choice to make: You can either enjoy coasting along at the same pace, or you can grow. After hitting the major milestone of opening a shop, you may want to relax for a while. Don’t discount the healthy urge to slow down. If, on the other hand, you have dreams of combining your freelance business with your new supplementary income, you might want to plow ahead.

The artists behind the Etsy shop “Berkley Illustration” are great examples of what’s possible when you merge direct sales with corporate clients. In 2007, they launched their custom freehand illustration shop online. According to an Etsy interview with the shop’s owner, Ryan Berkley, the e-commerce platform got them noticed by dream clients like Nike and Urban Outfitters. So while your passion project could free you from some uninspired freelance clients, it can also deliver the perfect corporate client right into your lap.

Can you generate income with creative work of your own limitless imagination? You bet. Can it rival or even replace your current freelance income? Yes, if you’re willing to put in the up front work. Either way, you’ll scratch the itch to create whatever your unique mind can conjure up — the ultimate in creative freedom.

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