How to Find Work as a Creative Independent Contractor

By Angela Tague, Contributor, on October 23, 2017

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Being creative is exhilarating. Ideas spring forth randomly and uncommon perspectives are your forte. Making a living by creating art is possible — but who’s paying for creativity?

The question I’m asked most often by creative entrepreneurs in the writing, photography and artwork fields is how to find work. They question whether or not it’s possible to turn paintings into paychecks and manuscripts into mortgage payments.

I’m here to say, with resounding positivity: Yes. The transition from starving artist to financially secure creative entrepreneur is often a long, winding road filled with learning experiences that can sometimes feel like bottomless potholes. Buckle up.

Finding More Creative Work

When I first started out as a professional writer, I was employed by a local newspaper. I completed my assignments and every two weeks there was a paycheck on my desk. When I took the leap to self-employed status, I no longer had the security of a scheduled payday. Instead, I had to actively seek work each and every day.

I spent part of my working hours building relationships that would eventually blossom into working partnerships. Today, nearly eight years into full-time entrepreneur life, I still make time each week to procure my next project. As a creative, you’ll always be refining your products and services to align with your ever-changing abilities, interests and passions.

Sure, you can scour job boards for projects, but these don’t often cater to professional creatives. If you want to make ongoing, reliable income from your artistic skills, you need to build an audience of fans and potential clients.

Ideas for Growing Your Business

In simpler terms: Get comfortable asking for work and making proposals to prospective buyers. Determine who your ideal buyers are and where they hang out to help guide your journey. Then, use these ideas to close the deal:

1. Attend Conferences or Tradeshows

I’ve found that nearly any creative can benefit from attending a conference or trade show related to their industry. Writers attend writing conferences to meet editors, publishers and colleagues who can introduce them to paid work opportunities. Photographers attend seminars about technique and trends in their niche, meeting people from companies that are hiring freelancers along the way. Artists set up booths at art fairs to sell their artwork and meet admirers who might purchase in the future, including museum curators and boutique owners.

2. Use Social Media

Another approach is to set up social media accounts dedicated to your craft. The internet is a global platform where people can fall in love with your product, approach and personality. Once you build a loyal following, the opportunities and paid work will follow. As your creativity gets noticed, inquiries will flow in via messages, comments and emails.

Earlier this summer I landed a writing project about yoga simply by sharing an update that I was going to a yoga class over my lunch hour. A publisher was following me and knew I’d have a genuine interest in writing the article.

3. Increase Your Visibility

Make a conscious effort to gain visibility in your community among the people who would potentially utilize your products and services. Volunteer at the local art gallery, offer to teach a class at a community center or donate a piece of artwork to a local charity auction. Nobody will know what you offer, how to hire you or where to buy your goods if you don’t present it to them.

Every time you meet someone — a new neighbor, friends at the gym or a fellow shopper at the grocery store — mention what you do in casual conversation. When they show interest, pass them a business card. If you have physical artwork to sell, your online or brick-and-mortar address should be front and center.

I just gave my new yoga teacher my business card, and now she’s following my lifestyle blog. I gained a new reader — and one-by-one, your audience will grow too.

4. Branch out Online

If you’re hesitant or unable to get out into the community, you can network online to turn your presence into paid projects. Join Facebook groups and forums where you can discuss your creative venture. Don’t try to sell to these folks directly. Instead, build up your audience and friendships. If someone wants to learn how to paint from you or what camera gear you suggest buying, they’ll reach out, and you can offer paid consulting services.

Learning how to find work as a creative independent contractor isn’t black and white. There’s no magical website where you can click a link and get money sent to your PayPal account. You’ll need to invest time, effort and passion into building your connections and spreading the word about your offerings. Once people trust you and your business, the income will follow.

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