Freelancing Tips From A Seasoned Pro

Peter Beach has been working as a freelance illustrator for over 25 years. His work is top-notch and he’s served some of the top clients in the biz. Recently Peter started a blog devoted to sharing his experience and advice with other illustrators. He wrote the following to me in an email:

I’ve been freelancing full time illustration for a long time now and feel it’s time to give back – I’ve recently created a “Business of Freelancing Tips and Opinions” blog (http://pbeachtips.blogspot.com), essentially aimed at illustrators but can easily to apply to multiple creative disciplines. My single goal and passion is to disseminate the information to as many illustrators, graphic designers, and creatives as possible.

His first post, “pbeach’s 17 practical tips and opinions…“, is some of the best advice on freelancing and self-promotion I’ve read in a while. It’s full of valuable nuggets that others have taken a lifetime to learn. Drop everything and give it a read!

This and That: Money Edition

Need to waste some time on the internet? I’m here to serve.

With the economy on the skids people are thinking a lot more about money, and tax time is approaching fast. So even though this is an art blog several of the items below relate to money and finances. Hey, why not?

The Credit Crisis VisualizedThis brief 11-minute animated film does a great job of explaining how we got into the financial mess we are in.

Now That’s A Business Card — Check out this sampling of 60 very creative and very stunning business cards.

10 Tips to the Perfect Portfolio WebsiteWorth reading. How does your website stack up?

15 Key Elements Every Website Should HaveMore tips for designing the perfect website.

25 Useful Financial Rules of ThumbHere’s some great tips to keep in mind after you bring home the bacon.

50 Tips for Do-It-Yourself Savings Around the HouseMore good advice on pinching pennies.

How to Handle Tightwads and Charge What You’re Worth — It feels great when you save money, but not so great when clients get cheap on you. Here’s some great advice on handling tightwad clients.

NEA Should Spread the Wealth — I’m highly skeptical of the idea that the government should be spending money on the arts, but for those of you who feel otherwise this idea seems to me like it would be a great way for the government to promote the arts while also saving money or even profiting from it.

Drawing Facial Hair another great tutorial from Tom Richmond.

Sketchbook Pro 2010 — My friend Robbie Halvorson sent me a heads-up about Sketchbook Pro 2010, the newest release of the popular drawing/sketching software (due out in April). I’ve never used Sketchbook Pro but have heard so many people rave about it that I’m thinking seriously of giving it a go.

Facebook For Freelancers?

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In case you’ve been living in a cave, Facebook has officially exploded onto the internet scene and is now THE social networking site for, well, anyone with a pulse. I’ve been on Facebook for a while now, using it both personally and professionally. While I enjoy catching up with friends and keeping tabs on a few other artists, I’m still trying to figure out if Facebook has any real value in terms of networking-slash-growing my business.

For instance, on Facebook I’m “friends” with dozens of artists (which is obviously good for light networking). Lately I’ve noticed some of them are creating Groups or Fan pages to promote their work. Can anyone explain to me how this works and what the benefit is? If it’s just to gather a bigger list of “friends” to prove how popular you are, I’m not really interested. I got over most of that in high school. But if creating a Group or Fan Page has some real benefit in terms of getting my name out there, reaching clients, and growing my business, then I am *definitely* interested. For those of you who have Groups or Fan Pages, what do people get out of joining your Group? How often do you have to update the Group page? How do you get potential clients to follow you on Facebook?

Let me ask it another way: Have any of you blog readers actually found freelance work or grown your client base through using Facebook? If so, please leave a comment and tell us all about it. I’d love to know how Facebook has helped you as an artist.

Poll Results

Two days ago I posed a curious question: Are the offspring of artistic men more likely to be boys or girls? Most of the artists I know who are parents (myself included) have all girls or mostly girls, and that seemed a little odd to me.

So far thirty of you have taken my informal survey. The results are below. Assuming everyone followed the rules (you must be male, consider yourself very artistic, and have fathered at least one child), your answers seem to support my crazy little theory:

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The total number of children reported so far adds up to 60, or an average of two per artist. Of those kids, 36 are female and only 24 are male. That’s an even 60/40 split (60% girls, 40% boys), or, looked at another way, there are 1-1/2 times more girls than boys. Actually I half-expected there to be an even heavier girl-to-boy ratio, but it’s still interesting that things seem to lean that way.

It’s also worth noting that one respondent had three girls and two more respondents each had four girls, but of all thirty respondents nobody had more than two boys. Of course, those three respondents had a total of eleven girls so you could argue they skewed the results (without them the number of girls and boys would be almost even). I guess it’s all in how you look at it.

Despite the spanky-looking chart none of this is even remotely scientific. This is the internet, not MIT. I majored in art for crying out loud. Still, it’s kinda interesting. Not sure what it means (if anything), so feel free to leave any comments if you have any theories, observations, or one-liners.

I’ll leave the poll open in case more of you want to take part, and if the results change significantly one way or another I’ll be sure to post an update. Thanks to everyone who helped out in this goofy little experiment.

Poll: Are Artistic Men More Likely To Have Daughters?

This is kind of interesting and maybe a little weird.

I’m a freelance illustrator and I’ve got two daughters, no sons. Once a month I meet with some other local illustrators for lunch, and if you add up all of our kids the daughters far outnumber the sons.

A few weeks ago I was at a chapter meeting of the National Cartoonists Society and as I talked with other cartoonists I again found that most have more daughters than sons. I’ve also got a couple of artist buddies in other cities who have all girls or mostly girls.

So it got me thinking….are artistic men more likely to father girls than boys? I did a brief google search and couldn’t find any research on the subject so I thought it would be fun to try a little experiment. I’m asking you, my blog readers, to take a very informal survey to see if this is a widespread phenomenon or if there’s just something in the water around here. Like any web poll this has no scientific value, it’s just for fun.

Click here to take the survey

Please answer ONLY if you are a male, consider yourself very artistic, and have fathered at least one child. Unfortuntely you won’t be able to see the results after you answer but I’ll be sure to post the stats here in a few days.

EDIT: Poll results are in.

Pricing Your Freelance Services In A Down Economy

The economy has officially slumped and creative industries are feeling the downward pull just like everyone else. More than a few in-house art departments have seen budget cuts and layoffs. On the plus side, some freelancers may benefit because a creative department with a reduced staff is more likely to hire freelancers to help bear the load. On the minus side, a surge in out-of-work creatives means more competition for freelance work.

Either way, everyone at every level is feeling the pressure to lower their prices to compete. Clients have smaller budgets which means design firms bid lower to land the clients which means they have less money to pass on to the freelancers. In the short term you may feel like you have no other choice but to lower your prices. It might even seem like the smart thing to do. Let me challenge you to think twice before doing so. Once you lower your rates for a client, good luck raising them up again.

The folks at HOW Magazine have recently published an article full of tips and strategies for navigating the down economy and surviving the price wars.  It’s primarily aimed at design firms and agencies, but there’s plenty of good advice for freelancers as well. Highly recommended.

Toby Dugan

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Earlier this week my wife and I hosted a couple for dinner, illustrator Toby Dugan and his wife Vonnie. Toby is a retired artist, evangelist, and magician and one of my wife’s long-time family friends. He was kind enough to bring his portfolio to my studio which was a real treat!

For much of his career Toby was a commercial artist on staff with Bethany Fellowship, a Christian ministry here in the Minneapolis area that later grew to include Bethany House Publishers. Over the years he worked on both religious and secular projects but the income was always funneled back into the ministry.

For many years he was the organization’s lone artist, working in the pre-digital era when artwork was created with real pens and brushes on real paper. Mistakes were hard to fix (there was no “undo” button). Page layouts were done by hand with an exacto knife and rubber cement. Printing limitations often meant you could only use two or three colors for an entire illustration. Artwork had to be separated for printing which meant drawing different parts of the illustration on different sheets of paper. How far we’ve come in the last twenty years!

Now in his eighties, a hand tremor has left Toby unable to draw like he used to but his mood is still bright. He is sharp as a tack and every bit the gentleman. We talked shop, he shared stories from his evangelist days doing “chalk talks” (preaching and drawing at the same time), and after dinner he entertained us at the table with some slight-of-hand magic.

Meeting Toby was inspiring. He is an example of a life well-lived, someone who used his unique God-given talents to serve Christ and advance the Gospel. I have tremendous respect for Toby. My guess is that had he chosen a different path he could have made a lot more money and built a brighter career, but he had his priorities right and invested in the greater Good. That’s a good challenge for me to keep in mind as I build my career.

After dinner I asked Toby if I could scan some of his artwork to post here on the blog. Although the styles are dated (it was a different era) it’s fun stuff and I wanted to share it with my readers. It’s my little way of honoring him for what he’s done.

(All artwork is copyright © Bethany Fellowship. All rights reserved.)

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