Interview with Digital Illustrator Richard Roberts
Richard Roberts is a US based illustrator and designer, known in the field for his work with Photoshop, and surreal style. He’s worked hard to build strong relationships with his clients, and has learned to adjust to the variable flow of freelance work.
He thrives on working on diverse projects and riding the wave of freelance projects, while always focusing on delivering high quality art – he’s proud of. He shows how focusing on art, while promoting your work, is a winning path for freelance illustrator success.
Q: How did you get into illustrating?
The story behind my venture into digital art is quite interesting. When I was thirteen I played online games like most other kids my age, and I came across a digital art piece on a gaming forum and was instantly fascinated. It led to me installing an early version of Adobe Photoshop.
For a few years it was just a hobby, but it grew into more of a profession once I knew it was possible to make a living off it. My school years were quite dysfunctional because of moving, which led me to finishing high school online. This allowed me to have ample free time, which resulted in me putting my full focus on improving myself as an artist and mastering my trade.
Although I have much to learn, my current knowledge and skills have got me to where I am today. Three years ago I started theotherstream my online portfolio and freelance company. Since then my freelance career has really taken off.
Q: How long did it take you to get on your feet as a freelancer? What were some of the challenges?
I would say about two years, at first it was quite hard to find work, as I hadn’t really established much of a name for myself. I had the odd job here and there to keep me afloat. I think the main challenge I faced was simply keeping myself in the mindset that I could do it if I tried hard enough. The biggest challenge would be the lack of clients at times.
Q: How did you land your first large client? How has your freelancing approach to gaining new clients evolved?
My first big client was Advanced Photoshop Magazine, which I emailed about possibly getting work. It was such a great feeling! Now I do a lot more emailing, contacting and pitching to get clients, and also I use social networking like Twitter, which are all great tools.
Q: How has participating in an art collective helped your career?
It’s given me more contacts with other freelancers who can give me some good advice. Also, being around various talent levels is inspiration to work harder and improve. It’s also a great way to build friendships, and its lead to more publications and exhibitions.
Q: Can you describe a day in your life? How do you get your work done?
I usually check email, news websites, other regular websites, while sipping my morning cup of tea. Then, I answer emails and draft to-do lists if necessary. I pick a time during the day when I know I can sit and work without being interrupted (usually in the evening) and once I get into the working mind frame, there’s no stopping. I set deadlines for myself even if there were none established by the client. This ensures that I’m working responsibly on a schedule.
Q: What are your signature pieces of work? How has your focus and style developed over the years?
“Supernova” and “The Reaper” are definitely signature pieces of mine. The reason is because they represent my style very fully and they were the kind of pieces that are just effortless to do (because they were so natural) and they turned out exactly as I had initially imagined them. The elements of my work (lighting, composition, quality) have all been fine-tuned over the years, which improves my work wholly.
Q: What’s been your experience freelancing? Are their some key approaches that have made a positive impact on your business?
My experience has been enlightening. It’s fun, challenging, and ever-changing. It’s something to look forward to every day and I almost thrive on the uncertainty of it. Being an artist, you can’t live a life of total certainty and predictability; that would be contradictory.
This isn’t to say I don’t have habits, because I do. But freelancing isn’t for someone who needs a reliable income. This idea has made the biggest positive impact on my business. Knowing that each job is a challenge and can be approached totally and creatively different from other jobs is key. But there is one thing that should remain the same, and that is quality of work. I always say that no matter how big or small the job is, the quality of work I will produce will be consistent.
Q: Did the business side of freelancing come naturally to you? Or is this something you struggled with?
I think it came pretty naturally. I’m a logical person, and I think that doing business should be very logical and fair. Of course, I learned with each client I had what to do differently the next time.
Q: Do you have a marketing strategy. If so, could you give us an overview of the activities you do regularly to keep up with marketing yourself?
I update my website as often as I find necessary. I also send out emails out to people I find may be well suited as potential clients. I use Twitter daily to make connections and try to market TheOtherStream to people who can relate.
Q: What’s next on the horizon for you?
Hopefully landing some big clients! That’s my goal; to really build my business.
Q: Any parting advice for illustrators looking to break into this field?
Hard work pays off and keep at it!
Richard Roberts on the Web
- Portfolio: theotherstream