One thing I picked up from working at a corporate job was the importance of being organized. It saves so much time and energy and frustration. For example, I have a folder on my computer called Illo-clients, and each client gets a folder in there. Inside that each project for that client gets a folder. Sometimes I go farther and will have folders for pencils, references, and finals.
I work bigger then I need to. It’s easier to reduce then to increase. Some clients want actual size, and that’s what I deliver, but I still may work larger, in case I need a larger version later on. I also save a low rez, an RGB version, and the original layered Photoshop file.
I have a folder called Freelance Information. Inside are all my folders and files to deal with freelance work. Paid and unpaid Invoices, samples, resumes, and more. (Legal information, contracts and documentation, I keep in the client folder in the illo-client folder, since that’s organized by client).
The other day, I had to reorder business cards. The site I order from had my past orders, and I could just re-order. But I wanted to change the back information on one style of card. I had originally ordered these cards 2 years ago. But because I keep things organized, I found the PDF I needed quickly in the right folder, uploaded it, and didn’t have to recreate the PDF.
Same with samples. I have layouts for when I am up for a temp job that wants to see examples of photoshop work, production art work, layout and such. Just as I have samples showing illustrations. They are all laid out in an InDesign file, that I can add to as I complete an illustration. It’s part of my work flow. So when I need to send out something, I can just PDF those pages I feel the client would respond to best.
Also, it means I’m not left scrambling to pull something together. And I’m also able to customize what I send, rather then just send the same thing. I’m certainly not going to send every illustration I’ve done for a boating magazine to someone looking for a childrens illustrator, no matter how whimsical the art for the boating magazine was. I’m going to send those that are more story focused in execution then editorial. There’s a difference in what you might come up with for the assignment for each.
Keep in mind, not every thing you do is portfolio worthy. Also, not everything you show needs to be something you did for pay. You really don’t have to say who the art was for, but certainly showing a mixture of self directed work, and work for pay says, I am always working to improve my art, talent and skill.
Being organized often takes a few extra minutes once you are set up. Most people stumble getting set up. Just keep it simple to start with. Two main folders. Clients and Freelance Info. In clients, you break it down by each client. How you organize within a clients folder, that’s up to you. Time will tell if you need to add or subtract from your organization.
Same for Freelance Info. Invoices paid, Invoices Unpaid (I actually suggest getting some invoicing software if you can), promotional materials such as business cards, postcards, adds in trade magazines or shows.
Have a blank invoice ready to go, so you can send it with your final art. You don’t have to be fancy. If you are not a graphic designer, don’t stress over your invoice design. After all, an Art Director hopefully isn’t going to spend time sitting and looking at it, they are going to pass it on to accounts payable! Here is what my invoice looks like.
The only design element I put in was a graphic from this site, to tie the two together, and that’s the image at the top. It’s a nice graphic, it’s representative of my work, and it works well in the space. It also allows me to then break the invoice down into logical sections. There’s the to and from section, with all my information (TIP: Always make sure you spell the persons name correctly. No one really likes seeing their name spelled wrong). There’s the invoice number and the date. As a side note, you can use any system you want for numbering your invoices. I’ve yet to work with a company that gives me an invoice number. Sometimes you might get a purchase number from the company. Just add it and your invoice number. It’s really simple. And the date. The date is very important when dealing with clients who are late to pay. No date makes it easier for them to slide on payment. It doesn’t get them off the hook, but with no official date, they can try and slide things a few weeks.
I also include an option to pay via Paypal, and I’ve had smaller clients take this option. You pay a fee to get your money, but it’s pennies on the dollar. Some clients are quick to pay this way if it’s an option. No check to cut, no stamps, click, click, done.And when you get paid, take a few seconds to update your records.
Being a little OCD bout these details will save you a lot of time and frustration later down the road.