With budgets thin and multi-platform coming as standard, clients expect ever more from freelancers. Multi-talented is the order of the day, so it's worth considering how to expand your skill set to open up new opportunities. For many illustrators, the lure of the third dimension is both appealing and increasingly accessible. "A recent client asked me for photorealistic 3D type illustrations," recalls London-based freelancer Charles Williams. "I managed to create some good stuff in Illustrator and Photoshop, but proper 3D input would have been useful. I'm going to start with Cinema 4D, although the interface scares me a little. It looks like the cockpit of a fighter jet."
Many of Williams' CS skills have been honed through trial and error, but he plans to invest in training to help overcome the steep learning curve for C4D. "I'm looking forward to being able to create 3D works without the use of a million layers in Photoshop," he grins.
For Brighton-based illustrator Will Scobie, bringing his work to life through motion graphics is the goal for 2011: "I want a better understanding of After Effects," he says. "I'd like to art direct a whole project, creating the illustrations and sharing the technical aspects with a specialist animator."
Based in Cologne, designer Magomed Dovjenko is also fascinated with motion: "It's a whole other world," he enthuses. "I love to see illustrations animated into amazing clips, and have always dreamed of doing the same with my work. It's time to step up my game."
Ipswich-based illustrator Simon Wild has ambitions to sharpen up his InDesign skills with a training course at local agency Condiment. "Good training is worth investing in," he believes. "It saves time, and really sets you up properly." Specialising in children's book illustration, Wild hopes that a stronger grasp of InDesign will open up opportunities in editorial design, and is also keen to expand his web design and type skills to take on more ambitious projects.
"Some opportunities have passed me by directly because of my limited technical know-how," he admits. "If I don't attempt to diversify, I could end up standing still."
It's a sentiment that rings true with Manchester-based Matt Booth, who built his freelance reputation on his Flash skills but now works across interactive digital media and, keen to avoid being pigeonholed, recently ditched his alias 'Flashtemple' in favour of simply 'Mr Booth'.
"Getting out of my comfort zone in 2011 is key for me," he explains. Although his main build tool of choice remains Flash, Booth intends to experiment with other technologies such as Processing and openFrameworks, in personal projects. "A good working knowledge in a range of technologies makes you a more interesting prospect for clients," he points out.
"The specialist skills that you need seem to change with client demands," reflects fellow interactive specialist Paul Wyatt. "Now it's all about integrating social media." For Wyatt, emerging tools such as Flash Catalyst and Axure are already proving invaluable for prototyping and wireframing. "I always try to keep learning," he continues. "If you don't, you might as well stop working."