Creative Independence: What It Is and How To Get It

As creative individuals, it is often a struggle to find the balance between pursuing your passion, doing what you love, and being realistic about what it takes to keep a roof over your head and food in the fridge. During the panel discussion, Creative Independence: What It Is and How To Get It at Find & Follow Your Passionprofessional freelancers and creative independents discussed their careers and what it takes to dedicate your life to your art form and make it as independent artists.

Eleanor Whitney of the New York Foundation for the Arts and author of Grow: How To Take Your D.I.Y. Project and Passion to the Next Level and Quit Your Job, moderated the discussion with panelists who included Gina Fuentes Walker and Santiago Felipe, independent and freelance photographers, Bobby Yan, freelance film and music video director and editor, and Mary Olive Smith, documentary filmmaker and owner of Flying Pup Productions.

NY Creative Interns Independent Creatives Panel

As professional freelancers, the panelists discussed both the positives and negatives of their given career paths. On top of being passionate, determined and self-motivated, one of the most importance skills to have as a freelancer, they said, is the ability to build a network and create meaningful and useful relationships with other professionals in the industry.  Bobby Yan said it is crucial to think of “every person as a key to something else.”

NY Creative Interns Freelance Film Director Bobby Yan

No relationship is unimportant
Each relationship can lead to a new opportunity. Some helpful tips the panel gave to help build a network are:

  • Utilize the network available at your school
  • Get to know the people in the industry
  • Exchange favors in order to build relationships with other industry professionals – if you have a piece of equipment or access to something that someone else needs, see if you could exchange with something you are lacking
  • Value internships – they are important because of the experience you gain and the relationships you build
  • Reach out to everybody you know – if you don’t know anyone in the field, you may know someone who may know someone who is

A freelance artist must be flexible and resourceful and possess a wide range of skills.
Creative independents must understand the importance of promoting themselves as a brand. All the panelists continually stressed the importance of taking business classes and learning skills such as budgeting, negotiating and valuing your worth. It is important to know the average salaries and rates in your industry so you are able to appropriately value your worth. Mary Olive Smith said that it’s important to know your value and demand what you are worth because if you don’t value yourself, organizations and other professionals won’t value your worth either.

NY Creative Interns Freelance Artists Panel Discussion

Working as a freelance artist can be hard because of the unstable salary and the constant stress of having to seek out your own work, but the rewarding feeling you are able to get knowing that you are able to make a living pursuing your passion is greater than any stable salary could ever give. I mean, if they can do it, so can you.

How do you make it as a freelance artist? Share your own creative independent tips in the comments. 

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