The Freelance Lifestyle – What Jobs to Pursue

Today for The Freelance Lifestyle, I’m going to give an honest take on what kinds of jobs you should pursue – especially if you’re freelancing for the first time.

For the first time freelancer, it can be tempting (or even encouraged) to take the first job that comes your way. For folks like me who have been freelancing for a few years, you get a better sense of what to say “yes” or “no” to.

I hope that in this blog post, you can learn from some mistakes I’ve made, so you can avoid really shifty, shady, or downright nasty clients.

Trust Your Gut.

Your logic brain will tell you to take any job you can get because “it’s money.”

But if there’s something about the potential client that makes you raise eyebrows, pay attention to that.

Pay attention to these signs if you’re unsure about a gig:

  1. Does the client use language that makes your spider sense tingle? For me, that looks like anyone who makes sexist jokes, or talks about Christian topics in really uncomfortable ways. My primary audience is the exact opposite of these people. So if a potential client is using language that my primary audience would NEVER use, I note that.
  2. Does the client use an obscene amount of emojis? I’m not knocking against emoji use. However, I’m encouraging you to spot any communication from your potential client that’s less than professional. Especially if you feel that it’s detrimental.
  3. Does this client have a digital presence that’s easy to find? Some clients will share their website or social media link with you. THIS IS GOOD. Some potential clients may not provide this information, even if you ask for it. THIS IS SHADY. Do your due diligence and go to Google. Cross-check them. If the search results come up with something weird or unsavory, voice that concern.
  4. Does this client balk at the idea of signing a contract YOU wrote? If you don’t know how to write a contract that protects you and a client, I wrote a post a long while ago about how to do it. There’s also some good templates through the Artist and Graphic Designer’s Market.

If you wrote a contract, and the potential client doesn’t want to sign it or even READ it, make note of that. A good client will ask clarifying questions before signing anything.

If I missed something, or if you still have questions, let me know in the comments. I’m happy to help.

That’s all for now. Thank you for reading!

You. Are. Awesome.

Writing Comics 101 – A Comic Is More than Just Cool-Looking Characters

Thanks for joining me in the first post of Writing for Comics 101. Today, you’ll learn that a comic is more than just cool-looking characters.

Here’s a common problem I see among aspiring comics creators: they create this cool character that hits all the right buttons for trendy clothes, kickass attitude, and more one-liners than Mystery Men.

But what do these folks do with their cool-looking characters?

Absolute fuck-all.

Here’s the thing – nobody cares about how cool your character looks. And nobody cares what kind of powers or cool abilities they have.

Readers do not care about the superficial crap. Readers care about the journey the character goes on.

If you want readers to be invested in your cool characters, you have to know how to develop that character to make them go on a story.

Here’s a super easy process to help you flesh out this character. I guarantee that by answering these questions, you’ll not only make actually believable characters. You’ll also actually find a plot that writes itself.

Here are the questions you need to ask about your cool character:

  1. What’s your character’s background?
  2. What do they want?
  3. What do they fear?

That’s it.

You may have seen quizzes and templates everywhere, from Tumblr to Pinterest. These character templates will ask questions like “what’s your character’s favorite food? What’s their fondest childhood memory?” etc etc.

That’s all superficial crap. Those can, and will, change during the writing and re-writing process.

But if you get the answer to those 3 questions up top? Your character will be SOLID.

Here, I’ll use one of my characters to illustrate this point.

This is Auxaton.

What’s his background? He’s a mountain ridge elf, and a monk for the goddess Ahyahweh. His life is devoted to acts of community service, to help his people live in a cold environment.

What does he want? Well, recently ALL OF HIS PEOPLE have been kidnapped and enslaved. He wants to find his people so he can free them.

What does he fear? That he will lose his connection to his goddess.

And with that, we have a plot! A monk who has lost his people is on a journey to rescue them.

Now, folks who have studied film will say, “Wait, you didn’t address their need! Story is what a character wants vs what they need!”

You have already figured out their need – by asking what they fear.

What the character WANTS and what they NEED are two different things, but are usually tied together. For example, in the Disney movie Aladdin, Aladdin’s WANT is riches and a palace. He FEARS Jasmine discovering that he’s not a rich prince, but a beggar boy using magic to appear rich. His NEED is to stop pretending to be something that he isn’t.

So there you have it. Do this exercise and I guarantee that you will have yourself a character that’s worth exploring and writing about.

Stay tuned for more writing tips. And be sure to sign up for the email newsletter to know when the next Writing for Comics 101 drops.

That’s all for now. Thank you for reading!

You. Are. Awesome.

Claire and Tracy – A Sketch

claire and tracy work in progress art sketch

Today’s Throwback Thursday features Claire and Tracy.

These two starred in a story called Traveler’s Road. Unfortunately, the project has been shelved, and probably indefinitely, by the looks of it.

Why? Well, no matter how many chapter I wrote for the thing, they never came out right. So, the project is shelved.

Still, some good art came from it. Like this piece.

And now this is available as a hi-res download on Patreon and Ko-Fi.

This will likely be the last hi-res download on Ko-Fi, because it will be for written works only moving forward.

The Freelance Lifestyle – How to Keep a Client

In this installment of The Freelance LifeStyle, let’s talk about how to keep a client.

If you want to know how to GET clients, here’s last week’s post revealing my mind-bogglingly simple techniques.

So, now that you’ve used those techniques, you’re ready to keep clients!

Here’s how you go from portfolio to satisfied co-creator:

Be honest – let the potential client know if you have other commitments.

This is so you can let the client know that you and them will BOTH need to strike a balance between availability and actually working on the project. To this end, let the potential client know when they can reasonably expect you to deliver something. This is not the time for aspirational declarations.

I know – this flies WILDLY in the face of most freelancer aspirations of “set a deadline and then deliver the project early” or “deliver the project with extra bells and whistles a few days before the deadline!”

You are a human. And this is life. Things get in the way. Let your client know when that happens. Which leads to:

Keep that honesty in your communications.

I don’t care if you’re talking to your clients through email, phone, or Facebook messenger. Be honest with your potential client in the medium of your choosing (that means no sarcastic or meme-y remarks).

Do you have to share EVERYTHING that’s happening? No. Your client probably doesn’t need (or want) to know about your cat choking on a ballpoint pen cap before being eaten by a mutant boa constrictor. But if you are in a state of grief, just say, “Hey, things are really rough right now because my pet died.” You don’t have to go into details. Keep it simple.

Good clients will understand if you’re having an off day. Or an off week. (If they don’t get it, maybe don’t work with them any further. Just a heads up.)

Check in regularly.

“Regularly” can mean once a day, or once every couple of days, or once a week. As long as it’s consistent and NOT spam, that’s what matters. Don’t just drop off the face of the earth while working. (And clients, this goes for you, too. I’ve known a few clients who have just dropped off the face of the earth.)

Check-ins can look like whatever you need it to. Just keep up the communication.

Actually deliver what you promised.

You know that thing the client asked you to make? DO THAT THING.

Use whatever work flow method works for you. Pomodoro technique? Kanban board? A checklist? Use what works FOR YOU. (If you need ideas for how to structure your workflow, try one of Thomas Frank’s videos on YouTube. He does good beginner videos on productivity).

And as much as humanly possible – do NOT put the work off until the last minute.

“But I work better if I -”

No you don’t. You THINK you do, but you don’t. I have two sisters who are known stubborn procrastinators and I am the token sibling that turns work in early. I KNOW THE EXCUSES. They are just that: excuses.

You will make better work if you actually DO the work, one step at a time, one day at a time.

I tried procrastinating ONCE, in college – I pulled an all-nighter to make a painting that was due the next day. And I STILL didn’t finish it. It would have been better if I worked on that painting for even five or ten minutes a day for the week leading up to the due date.

Learn from that mistake.

Alright, I’ll end it here before this post gets any longer. If you have questions, leave them in the comments for me.

That’s all for now. Thank you for reading!

You. Are. Awesome.

How Do You Land Work as a Freelance Artist?

This is the question that has plagued Google and other search engines since the internet became popular. How DO you land work as a freelance artist?

Well, when you’re a freelance artist, I’ve really only found one or two methods that have worked above all else. You might want to sit down for this one, because it’s so mind-bogglingly simple and yet so difficult at the same time.

Here’s the two things you need to land work as a freelance artist:

  • a website
  • friends

That’s it.

No, I’m not joking.

A website will put all of your work in one place: your portfolio, your social media links, a sign-up page for your email newsletter, testimonials from people who hire you – ALL OF THAT. All of that goes on your website.

In my experience, people who hire artists don’t really give much of a shit what’s on your resume. They just care that you make good work, that you’re easy to contact and work with, and that you turn the work in on time.

Maintaining a website will help establish that you can do all 3.

“But how do I even get clients?” you might be asking.

You mean, other than having a website where people can find you online and look at your work?

Friends.

If you have good friends, they will be your first clients. Yes, you will likely need to discount your rates if you’re absolutely new to your field. But making work for friends (or your roleplaying group, or your book club, or whatever friend-group thing you do) will build your portfolio. Your portfolio is what will land you the work you want.

Do you want to be a character designer? Make character art for friends.

Do you want to be hired to make comics? Make zines illustrating an inside joke for your friends. (By the way, Chloe, if you’re reading this: “…apple pie.”)

Then, once you make the thing, post the thing on your website.

And then – get ready for this next part – ask your friends to spread the word that you’re available to work.

I have lost track of how many clients I’ve gotten over the years because a friend of mine said, “By the way this lady I work with is looking for an artist to (bleh).”

Is it really that simple? Yes.

Is this fast? NO.

Is the work worth it? YES.

If you’d like to see more posts about the Freelance Lifestyle, or if you’d like to keep up with my work, I have an email newsletter. It sends out once a week, and it’s the best way to stay in touch with updates on my blog and my webcomics.

That’s all for now. Thank you for reading!

You. Are. Awesome.