Monthly Archives: June 2011


If there is one thing I wish I could just beam into someones understanding is not to expect anything in terms of freelancing. More so, don’t expect anything to just suddenly be the thing that changes everything! Even the person who seems to become an overnight sensation didn’t just pick up a pencil, and the most amazing illustrations or comics come flying out.

Doing something that is successful, is great. It really makes you feel like it was worth it. Take Kool Aid Gets Fired, my comic. I did that 4 years ago, and it’ still doing well. A local comic store has probably sold close to 70 copies. For a mini comic, that’s actually pretty amazing. Add to other stores that sell it and when I do conventions, I’ve sold quite a lot of copies. All the reviews of it have been very favorable, save for one.

It even got written up in Pop Candy, an online column that’s part of USA Today. This translated into about 480 visits to my site, and 7 sales. But that’s fine. I haven’t gotten any jobs because of Kool Aid. But that’s fine as well.

I’m working on a Kickstarter Project. Our goal was first $1500. We got that in 3 days, so expanded the scope of the project, and in the end, we needed $2,250, and ended up raising over $4,300. Not bad.

Each time I have a success, it makes me feel great. But I don’t have any expectations that it’s the one thing that will suddenly open the flood gates to never having to fight for work, or better clients.

I do hear some illustrator friends talk about how frustrating it is that something they did, which still gets lots of attention, hasn’t brought in any additional work by catching someone’s eye. Yeah, that happens. With the Kickstarter, a few friends would suggest that maybe they could do something like that, only what they wanted was to basically get paid to draw. Kickstarter doesn’t work that way. You need a clear focused goal. Not just, I want money to do my webcomic/blog/take pictures and post them.

The fact is, you should be doing all that stuff because you want to. That you can’t go a day without drawing/writing/taking photos. Sometimes you have too, but the desire should be there.

In some ways, you shouldn’t have any expectations of what you will get from doing something, other then what you are doing. If you are writing a novel, you do want it published. But your expectations should be just to end up with a novel when you are finished. When i do an illustration, that’s all I’m going for. Same with a comic. Yes, sometimes I have flights of fancy. But I don’t ever think, Man this is the Graphic Novel that is going to change the format for ever. Why I might even get a Pulitzer Prize!

Heck I don’t even think, people are really going to love this! I just think, Wow! I wrote and drew a whole Graphic Novel! That’s amazing in and of it’s self, considering how often people fail to do anything.

They say it takes about 12 years, as a freelancer, to get to the point where you can call the shots on what kind of projects you want to work on, or pitch your idea’s for your own projects. Along the way, they estimate 80% of people taking this road in life, give up at some point, because it’s just to frustrating.

I keep that in mind when after finishing some huge project, suddenly find myself with nothing to do. At that point, my expectations are to simply keep drawing and pushing my talent and skills to the next level.

Red Flags

Learning to spot red flags is just a skill that everyone has to develop over time when you work in creative services.

I believe in using social networks as a way to get your work out there, and potentially get new work. An old co-worker from when I lived in Chicago saw me posting my art on facebook and contacted me. She was now the Art Director of a Legal Magazine, and started giving me work.

The chances of this happening are small, which is why you should use every venue that you can. But doing so will also attract more people you probably don’t want to work with.

Recently I was contacted by someone through an online social network, who saw I was an illustrator. He was in need of such a person. We talked, and over the phone, and he said he would send me an email later that day.

I got the email, which raised a bunch of red flags.

The first red flag was that without looking at my stuff, or anymore conversation, I was on the project, or at least talking like I was. The quicker they are to hire you, the more you should take a step back and wonder. More so when you are starting out, and have no name recognition. There are people out there that do love hiring people new at this, because they can take advantage of them.

If they contacted you, knowing your work and can tell you where they saw your work, that is a different story. Them just stumbling onto you, and after a brief conversation, they are telling you that you are the right person for the project, more so when you know you are not (but could do the work), is a red flag.

The second was the time in which they needed the work done. In this case, midnight. The tighter the deadline, the redder the flag. This guy’s plan was that we hole up at his office, and just bang it out, because he needed files by midnight, if these pieces were going to get to the printer on time.

Professional people that work with illustrators and designers a lot, generally have a network of such people they contact in advance of starting that stage of the project. Chances are, this guy could have been stepping outside of his job to try and show what he can do. He never said anything along the lines of “My old designer had to leave the project, or I fired my old designer”. Both of which are also red flags.

If you are ONE day from the completion of a project, and the designer/illustrator is getting on your nerves, a professional just bares it out, gets the project done, and then never hires that person again. There does get to be a point in a project where firing the person, is going to screw the project over.

The third red flag was that there wasn’t any talk on how much I would charge, or how much he could pay. It was all, lets get this work done! take a step back. Before you spend a whole day, holed up in an office with anyone I don’t know, I want to know for how much. And more then likely, I need half up front, just in case you forget about how I gave a whole day up for this.

Again, professionals always bring up the subject of money, even if it’s just, “Can you give me your rates?” While what to charge is a whole separate subject, being hired or given a project without that conversation, is a red flag.

Other things that raised red flags. Why did I have to come to his office? Does he have all the software I would need to do the project? What if I would need illustrator or Photoshop and all he has is Microsoft Office? Anything he would need, I would be able to do from home, and heck, we could even Skype and he could see what was on my screen. If the deadline is that tight, why waste time with me traveling?

There are many, many, many red flags. Each one is unique to the situation. For example, working in an office has it whole own set of red flags you might not encounter as a freelancer. Most of the time, it takes experience to learn to spot them.