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.

Writing for Comics 101 – The Beginning

comic script for the legend of jamie roberts page 3

I’m beginning a new blog post series. Called Writing for Comics 101.

I had an epiphany recently, thanks to some new work I do. See, I’ve been hired as the Chief Creative Officer at NeverEnding. (Find out more about NeverEnding over on their website.) This new work has gotten me in contact with artists, because we’re looking to grow the team a little bit.

So I’ve been talking with other artists a lot more often. That’s nice, considering that the coronavirus pandemic has shut down convention season. So my options of chatting with other artists got a bit more limited.

That said, I realized something talking with some of these folks, pre-virus and presently. The thing is, many of them start as comic artists…but then they get frustrated at the lack of readers, so they leave the business. Many of these artists have moved on to just freelancing in general. There’s nothing wrong with that! But it made me realize something.

You can be the most killer comic artist on the planet – but that doesn’t mean shit unless you can write well.

And the thing is, many of these former comic artists…are not great storytellers.

This gave me the inspiration to start the Writing for Comics 101 blog post series. I’m going to keep this series to 4 posts. If there’s enough demand for it, I’ll expand it. But 4 posts (not counting this one).

We’re going to talk about:

  • why a comic is more than just cool-looking characters
  • why one-liners will not save your ass
  • design tricks to make the reader actually read your page
  • how to STOP packing so much dialogue into your pages

I hope with this short blog post series that I can help my fellow artists get more confident in their writing ability. I KNOW you can draw AND write killer stories. You just need more guidance than Google can provide.

So stick with me. And be sure to sign up for the email newsletter so you can keep up with this series as it posts.

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.

Things I (Re)Learned in Promoting My KickStarter Campaign

By the way, The Legend of Jamie Roberts, Chapter 2’s KickStarter IS STILL GOING. You have until 11:59 pm EST on Feb 21 to back this project.

Not gonna lie – I’ve had 11 successful KickStarter campaigns. Once you’ve had so much success, you fall into a rhythm.

But I HAVE had one KickStarter campaign fail. I learned a lot from that failure, which makes it true that you learn more from your failures than your successes. Because when you’re successful, you develop a groove.

The thing about grooves, though, is that it’s easy to get comfortable inside of those grooves. It’s like when you walk in circles in the dirt – after a while, there’s an obvious path of where you’ve tread.

And if you want to grow, you have to take a step outside of that dirt circle.

I’ve re-learned a few things in promoting the KickStarter for The Legend of Jamie Roberts, Chapter 2 (which is STILL GOING until Feb 21 at 11:59 pm EST). Here’s what I’ve re-learned:

Make Use of Empty Space on Your Blog Sites

Ever since the demise of Project Wonderful, I’ve written off the power of ad spots on blog sites and webcomic sites. It’s easy to write it off, since it can be difficult to make money from posting ads in this era of ad-blockers.

Yet the original reason these became ads were to signal-boost SOMETHING. Someone wanted their product known, so they made a promotional image and paid someone to post it.

Well, I don’t (yet) have a network of peeps to reach out to and ask about posting an ad on their site and paying them for it.

But I DO have sites of my own. Sites for Johnson & Sir, Charlie & Clow, The Legend of Jamie Roberts, and THIS site. AND I have space on these sites that isn’t used yet.

So I made a button to promote the KickStarter, posted it on the sites, and VOILA – insta-ad. I’m still getting traffic on these sites, so the ad spots are seen by the peeps who go to these sites.

Reach Out to Folks Who Are Adjacent To What You Do

I have to thank Jamie (no relation to Jamie Roberts) for this one. I had almost written off this particular tactic.

The Legend of Jamie Roberts is about a genderqueer pirate. So Jamie (no relation) suggested I reach out to LGBTQ centers, and ask for their help promoting this KickStarter campaign. He sent me a list of LGBTQ centers in Ohio (which you can find here). This resource includes contact information for these sites.

I also had a flier for another LGBTQ center, from when I went to Flaming River Con. (One of the few positive things to come out of that show). So I reached out to this center, as well.

All told, I reached out to 5 or so of these centers, and only heard back from 1: the center whom I had a flier for. I think it helped that the contact spoke with me at the show, so they had a face to connect to the email.

So while perhaps blind contacting doesn’t work – what DOES help is keeping your rolodex of peeps you meet at comicons, festivals, and other shows. Reach out to those who are adjacent to what you do and ask if they can help signal-boost you.

Don’t Underestimate the Power of Fliers

I made a flier for my local comic shop to promote my KickStarter campaign. Then I sent it shortly after launch. I asked if they could print up copies and set them with their other fliers, and make a social media post, as well. And they agreed to help (I’m very fortunate that the folks at my local comic shop are cool dudes).

I DID notice that a few days after I did that, the number of backers and money raised went up a good 20-25%. Pretty dang good!

So don’t underestimate the power of fliers. Share them with comic shops. They’re usually more than happy to help indie comic creators succeed. If not? Find someone else who’d be happy to share your flier.

Those are what I’ve re-learned in promoting a KickStarter campaign into success. Next time I’ll make a post about how to run a successful campaign. I just realized I don’t have a post about that (yet).

Thank you for reading!

You. Are. Awesome.

Why Freelancers Should Have AT LEAST One Day Off Per Week

sleeping dragon sketch for blog post about why freelancers need one day off a week

I’m inspired to write this as part of my Freelance Lifestyle blog series for one big reason: because I think all freelancers should have at LEAST one day off per week.

The inspiration came after I watched a video from The Personal Philosophy Project about freelancing. I liked her other videos, but I wanted to see if there was something new in her approach to freelancing that I hadn’t thought of.

Unfortunately, in her video, she says, “freelancers never have a day off.”

NOT. TRUE. AT ALL.

Freelancers ABSOLUTELY need days off. The difference is that freelancers have to plan for them.

I have always made it a personal point to keep one day off per week. Even if I had to take a part-time job working retail or (most recently) at a gas station, I made it clear from the start with people that I keep ONE day of the week off. No exceptions.

(Part of the reason I left the gas station was because they were beginning to break that. They kept trying to call me in to work on my ONE DAY OFF. I repeatedly had to tell them no.)

I’m so dedicated to keeping one day of the week absolutely work-free because of one super simple reason:

To avoid burnout.

When I had the “freelancers work 24/7!” mentality, I burned out frequently. I had high anxiety and nearly had panic attacks. I would be irritable with everyone around me, client, friend, or otherwise.

It’s not the best way for you to shine.

Also, working 24/7/365 is the best way to make your home an absolute mess that you never clean. Working constantly is also a good way to never cook for yourself, or make time for your friends or pets or family.

You. Need. A Day Off.

What day of the week should you keep off? That depends on the work that you do.

My recommendation is to find the slowest day of the week in your work schedule, and make that your day off.

For me, for the longest time, that was Sundays. But now that I’m back to freelancing full-time (and a surprising amount of work is only available on the weekends), I’m considering changing it to Wednesdays.

But whether it’s Sunday or Wednesday, I fully plan on keeping a day off.

Because dammit, I need a rest and a recharge.

In this way, we are like phones: if you keep your phone running 24/7, it WILL overheat, slow down, glitch, and run out of battery FAST.

Same goes for you.

So I urge you, if you truly want to embrace the freelance lifestyle: Give yourself one day out of the week to just shut off and recharge. You’ll thank yourself for it later. I promise.

Thank you for reading.

You. Are. Awesome.