Getting back on the horse -- any advice on overcoming imposter syndrome and acquiring new clients?

Between autumn of last year and now, I have been struggling to create work - which of course means no paid or voluntary work has come my way. I completed my Master's degree in early January, and went straight into job hunting... needless to say 7 months later and no luck.

I had always assumed freelance would be my downfall - the lack of structure is something I, as a neurodivergent creator, struggle with. However, getting no such luck with in-house work or any other job, I would like to try my hand at freelance illustration again.

For mental health reasons, I have avoided social media, even deleting my Twitter (or as it's now know 'X') account, so I feel I have shot myself in the foot.

Any advice on what to do? Feel free to have a peruse of my recent portfolio ( - honest feedback would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.


  • @Keva Epale Hello Keva.

    Thank you so much for the feedback and advice. You have definitely given me some things to think about.

    I really appreciate your kind words.
  • Hello @Katie M Green First of all, I think your work is beautiful! It has a strong identity without reading your words, I would never have thought you felt that way on your journey.

    All of us, as creatives, have experienced seasons of desert in our careers. It is just a phase before we change and find a new positioning on our path. I understand your feelings towards the industry and how challenging it has been. I felt that way years ago, and it weighed on me until I began reclaiming ownership of what it truly means to create in the era we live in. More and more talented people are emerging everyday which is a good thing. Now, from this standpoint, how do you thrive and make a living from your skills and talents?

    I have come to believe it is a pivotal choice of vision. What do you want to achieve as an illustrator? What is your vision? Could you pursue that vision even if it means there is no solid ground, no safety net, until you reach a milestone and breakthrough?
    You need to ask yourself these tough questions and think strategically about a plan. You have talent, and your skills are undoubtedly present. So, what is missing? What is not resonating with those you would like to collaborate with? And does it even need to to? You could be talking to the wrong demographic...

    Try to reflect on the projects you would like to work on and the brands or companies that embody the values you have. If none of them align, perhaps you can now consider becoming that brand as an illustrator.

    If I could speak to you as my younger self, first I would say,
    • "Give yourself a pat on the back for reaching out and asking for help!"
    • Then, I would tell you to have confidence in what you have and think of how to use it better. There is certainly some information, process, or roadmap you haven't yet unlocked.
    Reflect on the seven months you spent searching for a job. What have you learned during that time? What have you noticed about the industry that could help you move forward?

    Once again, your work is definitely what the industry would be keen to have. Therefore, perhaps your perception of the industry needs reframing. As far as social media is concerned, it is just a part of acquiring clients and projects. You should get back onto those platforms intentionally with refreshed sense of vision.

    Feel free to DM me or book a mentoring session on my ADP list if needed. I also have resources in my newsletters and shop.

    Best of luck, and keep creating. You may be closer to that breakthrough than you think.

  • Hi Katie, I can completely understand. I’m a Creative Coach and support many creatives battling with Imposter Syndrome. I would be happy to have a free call with you! DM me if you’re interested. Thanks, Yasmine
  • Hi Kate, I can very much relate.

    Imposter syndrome forced me to competely change my way of working. My main take is to find out which environment/people make you thrive. This will be different for everyone. For me, it was working less agency side and more with direct client projects.

    As an insight into how I've commisioned illustrators in the past... I would usally produce visual ideas for clients using illustration examples I've sourced, either online blogs or books etc (very rarely i find inspiration on Twitter/X). If that particularly idea was picked I'd then contact the illustrator direct or through an agent with a breif.

    This is within the branding/packaging food & beverage space. Interested to here how others get illustration gigs.

    Great work BTW. I prefer a specific style as it makes you unique to hire.

    Best of luck.
  • Hey Katie
    Truly belive this a mindest.
    Believe it on not, it's far easier to attain several freelance projects vs applying for fixed employment which requires greater effort and you proving your worth to an employer (also your earning potential is capped being employed).

    To avoid imposter syndrome, or doubting your worth, approach a few clients you would like to work with/ or extend to friends via their networks to work on projects to create a better portfolio.

    This will enable you to prove your design value. Also networking and or working on passion projects CAN and WILL lead to future paid gigs. This is how I started albeit whilst I was in a full-time agency role.

    Think of this like starting in a junior position where you're making teas/coffees, when in fact you are actually subtly promoting yourself to the wider world and extending that network and growing YOU.

    I understand you've just completed a masters so the last paragraph may make you feel like crying, but everyone has to start at the bottom, no matter what your status, age, skillset. Even after 10 years agency experience I had to prove my worth to my own early clients.

    Just checked out your website, maybe you can approach magazines, news publishers such as the Guardian, Stylist as your portfolio could lend itself easily to that type of work (commission based) and it only takes one contact to unlock a potential world :)

    The world is your oyster especially in today's digital world, you can have US / European clients as standard
  • Just get started.

    Imposter syndrome and occasional failing are normal in creative projects.

    Your portfolio looks great. In my opinion, you have a pretty unique style and you don´t show much flexibility. So as a small agency owner, I can´t really see that we could build long-term relationships working with multiple ongoing projects. I don´t mean it in a bad way.

    How I could use you? If I work on a project where I feel that your artistic style works for the campaign/brand.

    What does it mean? I can bookmark your portfolio. Best case I remember some of your works or generic style. In reality, I think it may not be the case.

    You could change that though. Be active on social. Be seen. Share about you and your work. Even if no client works create some personal projects etc. Maybe explore different styles (if you feel good about it of course) and show you can be flexible. Not every project needs to go to portfolio but some you do just to earn the money.

    Social media is exactly what you make out of it. Follow the right people or don´t follow at all. Best of course if you interact with others and people who comment/like/share your work.

  • It's not you – your work is lovely. This year has just been horrible. I've never had to struggle this hard to get bookings. Companies just don't seem to be spending. As for social media, I honestly I don't think I've ever landed a single piece of work that way. It's just too noisy. LinkedIn and this platform are fine but twitter and Instagram, absolutely not. Stay as far away from Twitter as you can, it seems to be getting more toxic by the day.
  • Hi Katie, it's been a very difficult start of the year for me too and other more seasoned freelancers so there's nothing wrong with you. Don't give up and try maybe to select some creative agencies/publishers - who might be a good fit for your style - and present yourself and your work. At the moment I don't think Instagram and X could help ... I agree they can just be negative for your (ours) mental health.

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