Job title Animal Portrait Artist and Digital Artist
Average earnings per month: £600
Number of side hustles: 3
Avg monthly earnings from side hustles per month: £200
Living situation: I moved back into my parents’ place when the pandemic started and graduated in 2020. At the moment I do not spend on rent, electricity, or food. My goal is to save enough to move out and pursue higher education.
Social Activities £ 30-40
Transportation: £10 (I do not travel much these days)
When I move out, I expect to my expenses to be:
Food: £80-90 (I cook all my meals)
I'm a 23 year old Digital Artist who specializes in Pet Portraits. When the pandemic started, I was pursuing my Masters and living at university. I had to move back into my parents’, and soon enough things were falling apart all around me. I lost a long-term partner and faced other difficulties at home, which triggered a six month long depressive episode. My sister pushed me to pick up digital art as a means to distract myself, and I bought a Stylus. Within two months I received my first commission and have been on an upward journey since.
My goal is to be able to save enough money to be able to make an independent life for myself and pursue more research studies. While making digital art wasn’t a childhood dream, I'd really like to keep doing it.
5:00 AM: I wake up in the wee hours of the morning, Indian Standard Time. In my experience, this is when I have noticed most engagement with my social media posts, almost all of which comes from accounts in the US or Europe. I completed a commission yesterday, but I waited overnight to revise the portraits with fresh eyes. I do minor revisions, send a portrait to my customer, and do a post on Instagram.
10:05 AM: The customer had already sent over half of my portrait when they booked the commission, and today I receive the other half. £22 into my Paypal.
11:00 AM: I'm saving for grad school in Europe so I need to keep making money, but I also have my studies to focus on, so I make a cup of strong tea and get to work.
2 PM: It's time for class with my student in London. I got the gig through an online teaching platform a couple of years ago. My student ended up doing quite well so the parents kept me on. He's a smart one, this kid. I get paid hourly. £8 per hour.
5 PM: I log into Twitter to check if there are new opportunities. I am a pet portrait artist. I started out with portraits of people, but learned, soon enough, that I hadn't developed a personal style refined enough to make my way through the saturated market. The shift to pet portraits came naturally. It also brings me joy. I send out a few responses.
8PM: I've gotten pretty seriously into skincare since I started making money. Today I'm buying a serum. It cost me £8
Total earnings: £30
Total costs: £8
7:00 AM: I check my calendar and see that a portrait is due in a week. I haven't begun yet. It's of a couple of dogs and a cat - a family portrait. This one will get me £130 and I've been paid half already. That's usually how I ask for payments, in two installments. I get to work.
9:30 AM: I have made some progress on the portrait, but once I'm done I won't have any more lined up. I need to look for one. I go on Reddit and post my portfolio on a few subreddits. Send responses to others.
12:45 PM: I received two emails from potential customers. We talk about money. One of them didn't want to go above £14. That's too little for the number of hours I'd be putting in. The other sounds interested, but no commitment yet.
4:00 PM: I'm seeing an old friend today after a year! Rush out to meet them and spend £10 doing so.
7:00 PM: Back at home, I sit down to work on the portrait a little more. Usually, finding a suitable background is the hardest part for me so I spend some time playing around with it.
9:00 PM: It's been an exhausting day. I put Bob's Burgers on the TV and fall asleep to it.
Total earnings: £0
Total cost: £10
5:30 AM: I'm up and checking Twitter for new commissions. I reply to eight different requests. I really need to book a gig this week. Three of them get back to me in the DMs, the others move on. I presume they've found an artist. One of them wants a memorial portrait of their cat. This one, for £54.
7 AM: The first instalment (£27) from the newest gig comes in! I have 15 days for this one. Now back to working on the family portrait for a couple of hours.
10:15 AM: The Reddit person has checked out my portfolio. They send an email asking if I can make a small business logo for £29. I accepted the offer. This won't take me long. By evening, I should have an idea.
2 PM: Meanwhile, I have to teach a class. £8.
3:30PM: I decide to work on the logo today, and send it to them, they've already paid me the full amount. This is not the kind of work I usually do, but I rarely say no to a gig, if offered.
6:00 PM: I'm done with the logo, I email it to them. They don't like it, and demand their money back. This is the first time this has happened to me. The thing about digital art is, there's no such thing as 'returns'. They get to keep my work and I don't get paid for it. I'm frustrated.
7:00 PM: Despite the new commission, it's been a disappointing day. On days like this. I wish I had a 'real' job. I try to get some studying done before I call it a day.
11 PM: I'm done with my readings. I decide to make a few pieces for my portfolio.
2 AM: I have been binging on Netflix the past 2 hours. I should be sleeping.
Total earnings: £35
Total cost: £0
10 AM: I woke up late today, which means I'll not be posting new work on Instagram. I usually feel guilty when I wake up late, because it means I've missed out on the crucial morning hours. I have a headache today. I make breakfast and strong coffee.
11 AM: I log into Reddit to look for gigs. I'm an English major, and have an academic background. This helps me take up gigs pertaining to proofreading, editing research papers. They don't pay very well, but hey, it adds up. I land a gig that requires me to proofread a Masters dissertation. Deadline? Three days. I'll mull over it. It also gives me something to put on my resume.
12:10 PM: I have decided to take up the offer. They're offering £25. I negotiate it up to £29 and immediately get to work on this.
3:30 PM: By late afternoon, I'm more than halfway through. It's tedious work really. I'm a passionate reader, but it is quite a task to look for errors in a text that's not very interesting to begin with. I'm also starving. Lunch! The post-lunch slump is real. I take a short nap.
6 PM: I decided to work a little on the family portrait. I haven't touched it today. This is the first time today I feel at peace. I never thought making portraits of pets would be a fulfilling experience for me. I've always wanted to become a writer foremost, and then make art, but as fulfilling as writing is, it can also be painful owing to its difficulty.
10 PM: The portrait is coming alive. The bases are done.
10:30 PM: I browse the web for books I'd like to buy, I shortlist a few but don't order any yet.
Total earnings: £29
Total cost: £0
6 AM: I wake up with the resolve to finish the family portrait. But I log into Twitter first. A customer has posted a portrait I made for them. Customer compliments really mean the world to me. I work hard on the portraits and pay attention to every stroke, every line, and every blemish. So it feels good to be validated. Plus, it encourages me to keep pursuing this. Despite the setbacks.
11:30 AM: Five hours later, the family portrait is done. I'll wait until tomorrow to give it the final touches and send it. I'm too tired to begin another portrait today.
2 PM: I checked my mail. Someone has sent me an offer to paint their portrait. They say they found me on Twitter, in one of my former customer's posts. I'm elated. They want two cats in a single frame. One of them has passed away. I always feel honoured when people choose me to pay tribute to a beloved like this. They say they love my style, and will pay £181. I jump with joy! This is the highest I've been paid for a portrait yet.
5 PM: It's raining outside. I've made tea, and I'm listlessly staring out the window, when my alarm buzzes -- I have a class later, with my student. I decide to brush up on the days assigned portions.
9 PM: I'm done with the class. This job doesn't pay me very well, but I do it because it's fulfilling, and I'm attached to my student who has grown wonderfully in the last couple of years.
10 PM: I'm quite exhausted. I get in bed and chat with a few friends, respond to messages. The TV's playing in the background.
Total earnings: £98
Total cost: £0
5:00 AM: I wake up early today. Got a lot of pending work. I begin by checking Twitter and Instagram. I realise I haven't checked my Instagram messages in a few days. This is the hardest part of freelance work; you've got to manage everything on your own, not just work. You have to keep up with messages and emails on not just one, but all platforms. I have six new message requests. Two from galleries in London which say they'd like to feature my portraits, and four from followers. One of them asked a few questions about the kind of tools brushes I use, I respond to all.
9 AM: Final edits on the family portrait. Some last minute changes in the background. I started out doing more realistic portraits but have since transitioned to semi-realism and occasionally take more artistic liberties. I send the portrait along with the invoice.
10 AM: My calendar says, I have two portraits due soon. So after breakfast, I sit down to work on one. There is a zen-like quality to making animal portraits. There's something to the repetition of brush strokes that brings me calm.
10:35 AM: While I'm working, money from the family portrait comes in! £65.
10:45 AM: My Stylus stops working abruptly. This kind of stuff makes me super anxious. I immediately start looking at options to buy another.
11:15 AM: Turns out, it was just low on battery even though the indicator didn't go off. Phew!
12:30 PM: I get to my studies. I am quite a passionate reader, even when I'm not studying academic texts. This week I'm reading Jeanette Winterson's novel, Written on the Body. It's an astonishingly moving commentary on love and grief, it thaws the frozen sea inside you, as Kafka would say.
3 PM: I have to finish the proofreading task today . Deadline closing in on me. It will take me a couple of hours, maybe three, I start reading.
6:15 PM: I have proofread the dissertation, and I sent the corrected version to my client.
7:00 PM: £29 in the bank!
10 PM: It's been a decent day, even if I got very little time of my own, I tell myself, this is the only way out. I need to save enough to be able to go to grad school.
Total earnings: £94
Total cost: £0
6:00 AM: I'm perpetually in search of freelance gigs, and my friends send me a message whenever they find an opening somewhere suitable. Today I woke up to messages from a friend about a couple of research gigs. They have to do with gender and sexuality. While I do have a strong interest in the area, applying to this would mean a full time job. Research is no easy feat. This would make it my only source of income. I keep my goal in mind and decide against applying.
8:00 AM: I have two more portraits due. I begin another. The hardest part in making these is starting, it's always daunting. It becomes a far more joyful task once you get on with the brushes.
12:30 PM: I log into Twitter to do the usual -- look for commissions, post my portfolio at relevant places etc. There's a viral tweet on Art Twitter today that says artists shouldn't be underselling themselves and charge a standard rate. I know a few quite talented digital portrait artists on twitter who have an educational background in art and have put in the years to be able to demand more. I don't have that kind of confidence in my work yet. I know I am fine but I'm only starting out and am entirely self-taught. As much as I wish to be able to charge over 73 p/portrait I'm not sure it will work out for me.
2:00 PM: It's time for the class with my student. We are doing English Grammar today. I make £8 pounds
6:00 PM: I put on music, and work on the portrait for half an hour, in order to relax.
7:00 PM: Then I order dinner for a close friend in a different city who is having a difficult day today. I eat mine, home-cooked, with family.
Total earnings: £8
Total cost: £12
Earnings for the week: £294
Costs for the week: £30
This has been an average week in terms of income so I’m neither upset nor particularly jubilant. When I started out a year ago, I didn’t think I could make money off the internet without a good resume. I was also severely depressed. Digital art was only supposed to distract me from the pit I was spiralling into. As it turns out, I can also make money, save enough to move out of my parents’ and pursue higher education. Currently, I don’t spend much. Nearly all of my income goes towards my savings. By the end of this year however, I would be applying to universities and moving out. Until then, I am trying to save as much as I can. I'm optimistic about earning more as my profile and online presence grows.