Business Resources For Self-Employed Creatives

Recently I’ve started an email correspondence with a creative director who was laid off from a large agency. She’s looking for some freelance work to keep the bills paid and is thinking about possibly launching out on her own full-time. With the economy continuing to flounder stories like hers are becoming more and more common. I sat down to type up a list of resources for her and decided it would make a pretty good blog post.

The hard truth is that being a self-employed creative takes more than artistic talent. You also need at least a basic understanding of some fundamental business skills. Unfortunately that’s one thing they never seem to teach in art schools. I’ve been running my illustration studio for fifteen years now and I’ve had to learn an awful lot of things the hard way. Here’s a collection of some of the best resources that, over time, have helped me land better clients and boost my income:

The Creative Freelancer Conference
Every summer HOW Magazine invites designers, photographers, illustrators, and other creatives to come together and learn how to be better business people. I’ve attended the Creative Freelancer Conference for four years now and I can honestly say over that time my income has probably gone up almost 50% largely as a result of what I’ve learned there. If you don’t want to wait until summer, or just want to test the water, the audio from the 2009 conference can be purchased online for you to download and listen to at your leisure.

Business Blogs For Creatives
Two of my favorites:

Another site I’ve heard good things about (but haven’t had time to check out):

Freelancing Tips For Your iPod
If you want some audio to listen to in the car or at the gym, there’s some really good webinars for creatives for sale at

Online Subscription Services
Here’s a few pay-per-month websites I use that have really helped me grow and manage my business. In the past few months they’ve become indispensable:

Agency Access (recently merged with Adbase) – for helping me track down the right people to offer my services to.

Highrise – for helping me keep track of who I’ve contacted, who I still need to contact, and who I need to keep in touch with after they’ve expressed interest.

Harvest – for tracking my time spent on projects. (I’ve also started tracking my non-billable hours to look for ways I could be making more efficient use of my time).

Goodies from
A while back I pulled together a bunch of recommended resources from, and I continue to update it periodically.  Full disclosure: If you click the link and then buy something, Amazon will toss a few coins into my piggy bank.

Pulling Out The Big Guns
A few months ago I took leap and hired a business coach. Marcia Hoeck is a former freelancer-turned-design firm owner who gave me a ton of great insider tips and advice. It cost a lot of money but what a great investment! I blogged about my experience with Marcia here.

Bonus – PDF Notes
Finally, last November I gave a presentation at the CTN Animation Expo in Los Angeles called “Be Your Own Boss: Freelancing Tips and Tricks”. I covered such topics as how to know if you are cut out for freelancing, how to promote yourself, how much you should charge, and how to talk to clients about money. If you contact me I’d be happy to send you a PDF of the notes from my talk.

Did I miss anything? If you’ve got a helpful resource to recommend please mention it in the comments.