Life of a freelance illustrator


Bart Aalbers, a terrifically talented and funny illustrator from Rotterdam explains what the pitch process is like for a freelancer. I'd say he got it exactly right.

Check out these videos he makes about his life.

Pitches Can Be Bitches



  1. Clients can be frustrating, but there are ways to fight for your ideas and set expectations that can save a lot of heartbreak. Also, just not dealing with picky clients like this will save all of the heartbreak.

  2. Just goes to show you that illustration and art direction skills do not always go together in the same bag.

  3. The “our budget is only $25″ is where I’d say “um okay then find someone whose time is only worth that much”. Unless I had a long-standing relationship with that agency that had resulted in many well-paid projects. I mean, shit, my prices these days tend to start way above that and I still feel like I’m underpricing myself.

      1. Oh, geeze, you’re right, I thought the tiny “ct” was a tiny “00”. Okay, this is the point where I say “lady are you on crack, come back when you’re serious”. Again, unless there is a clear history of these people paying me well on a regular basis, and probably me owing them some favors.

  4. replace “freelance illustrator” with “freelance designer” and then welcome to my life — but it’s missing the part at the end where, a month later, you see that they went ahead and used your work anyway, changed just enough so you can’t cry “foul!”

  5. At least they were paying for the pitch. Anymore, you get a lot of “There’s no money now, but we’ll take care of you when this incredible idea takes off” crap.

  6. I’m a client, and I’d like you to consider that creative types are good at expressing themselves, but sometimes if they spent half as much time trying to understand why clients are like this as they do trying to express how crappy they are, I would be a lot more confident about hiring them without a free pitch.

    So here’s a tip: if a prospective client asks you to pitch like this, don’t just dive in with some creative (“tadaaa – whaddyathink?”) – TALK to them instead. Ask them a bazillion questions. Don’t show them a thing until they have pretty much described for you every possible nook and cranny of the kind of angle, audience, stakeholder, politics and colour preference out there.

    In my experience, even if you tell people everything they need to know, they’ll just dive in with something almost, but not quite, completely wrong.

    1. I think you bring up the crux of the problem: To be a good freelancer basically requires high skill at opposite ends of the communication spectrum….to not only be able to wrest even the most nuanced, implicit details from the client’s brain – ofttimes ones that they’re not even consciously aware of – but then reduce, translate, synthesize, and express those findings concisely and elegantly through whatever chosen medium. It’s an acquisition and translation process as much if not more so than a creative process. Perhaps commercial art and design programs should start requiring their students to take counseling classes? There’s been crazier ideas.

  7. Learning how to tell the client what they want and then make said client believe that the idea was theirs in the first place is the most fundamental principle of freelance design.

    There’s four years of design skool in that sentence. 

  8. What seven years (so far) as a graphic designer have told me:

    The reluctance of a client to pay you for the work they hire you to do is inversely proportional to the number of asinine changes they will demand later on.

    The number of asinine changes later on is directly proportional to the number of people involved with nothing constructive to do and a paycheck to justify.

    And one more gem of wisdom I read somewhere this week:
    Work for full price or for free, never for cheap.

  9. This is why everyone should say “phuck-off!” when the client wants spec work.  If the client is unwilling to listen to reason and pay a modest fee upfront, then they are probably more trouble than they are worth, therefore should be avoided like the plague.

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