Freelancing and Business Advice
I’m constantly asked for advice about Freelancing (whether it’s as an Illustrator, a Concept Artist or any sort of Art really). One fact that always rings true is that with every “nightmare client” or job “gone wrong” you’ll learn from such mistakes.
It will truly suck while you’re trying to handle the situation in the current moment, but next time you’ll be all the wiser and know exactly how to avoid such situations. You’ll learn how to better negotiate prices, what to look out for in contracts and how to better conduct an all-around smoother transaction.
No matter how many different sorts of companies or individual clients you deal with, there will always be a new obstacle or hurdle to overcome. This is because with each job comes new art directors, new contracts, new egos and unforeseeable problems. Sometimes it can involve something as simple as a client not giving the OK on a sketch and not knowing where to go from there or it can pertain to more serious matters of physical threats and or a breach of contract.
You may have entered into jobs without realizing that you didn’t agree to or sign a contract (which is bad for both parties involved). It’s possible that seemingly ‘minor’ aspects weren’t covered in the contract that can turn out to be major problems later on — an example being; how payment is to be sent and when it will be sent. This could cause some issues if you don’t accept paypal transfers and the client has no other means of sending payment. It may also be a huge problem if you’re assuming you’re going to be paid as soon as you finish the job, but the client is assuming it’s OK to send payment after they’ve completed their project and shipped it out for sale (which could be 6 months or even a year after you finished the work).
This is why I think it’s important that freelancers jump head first into handling the business end of their career. If you let an agent do it for you — of course things will go smoothly but you’ll continue to rely on someone else to do all the negotiating, talking, promoting and dealing with contracts. They’ll also take a percent of your profits and in the end, you learn very little if anything about dealing with the business side of the industry. Which in my opinion is extremely important and it’s something that can be helpful and affect more than just your current jobs. It’s also helpful to work directly with art directors so they know who you are as an artist and an individual.
It means a lot to really get to know the people you’re working with when working on a job — even if it’s a freelance job. This sort of networking and personal communication can lead to further job opportunities. The art directors or artists may end up at different companies and this could lead to future recommendations. It’s not to say that the quality of your work and meeting deadlines don’t say a lot about your professionalism but it helps to actually talk to the people you’re dealing with. Don’t let some middleman represent who you are or how well you know your business.
Learn everything you can…and although you can ask others, I would suggest you learn it firsthand. Whether that means hitting a few roadblocks, having to break contracts, possibly losing a little money, dealing with egotistical clients and running into some really shady characters. It’s the only way you’re truly going to become better at conducting a more effective Freelance and Business art career.
Mike Corriero —