It has been over a year since I graduated with my BFA, and while I am still trying to figure out the whole Children's book free lance illustrator thing, there are a few things that I have figured out that I wish I had known before I graduated.
1. Don't be afraid to experiment. School is the perfect time to experiment with different styles, different techniques. Look at the artists that are in the industry now, see the different ways people draw and paint. Some times one gets in to a rut by following the artistic styles of the students around them. Open your eyes to new styles
2. Don't be afraid to contact the artist that you admire. I know this is terrifying, I was told to do this while in school but was too scared to do so. Now I have contacted some of my favorite artists, and they have been nothing but kind. So don't be shy and just send them an nice email!
3. Going along with point 2 join Twitter. Twitter is a great way to get in contact with your favorite artists, and art directors.
4. Blog/Facebook page. This is a great (and Free) way to start getting your art out there, nearly every thing freelance is done over the Internet these days.
5. Listen to art Podcasts and Videocasts. This is a great way to learn from the best in the industry they will have on going advise, and with podcasts you can listen while you paint!
6. Build a strong portfolio that is specific to the area you want to go into.