I find that I’m collecting more comics these days, which is astounding considering that they’re $3.99 a piece now. It started with Batman & Robin, which I bought mainly to see what crazy stuff Morrison and Quitely were gonna throw out.Then I hopped over to Streets of Gotham to get my monthly dose of Dini and Nguyen (I loved what Dini did with Detective, making the stories self-contained, yet subtly building up other story-arcs, such as Zatanna and Bruce’s relationship).
After those two, I thought, “Well, let’s see what’s going on in the regular Batman title.”I missed the whole Battle for the Cowl thing, but caught up fairly quickly (because you’d have to be a complete dumbshit if you didn’t realize that Dick Grayson was the obvious successor to Batman’s throne). I’m not the biggest fan of the art (I like Ed Benes and Mark Bagley enough, but I’m more into clean, cartoony stuff these days), plus the book is colored in that heavily saturated, make-everything-look-shiny style that I tend to shy away from.However, I’m smitten with Judd Winick’s direction for the book.What can I say?I’m a sap, and I’m drawn in by the melodrama.Dick and Alfred crying?Playing up the father-son angle between Bruce and Alfred?I was hooked.I like Alfred (seriously, who doesn’t?) and I’m glad that his character is being used as the emotional anchor for the Bat-family again.(Come to think of it, was he even that noticeably upset when Bruce got crippled in the 90s?)
Also, I really dig the whole Dick-learning-to-be-Batman angle.I like coming of age stories (can you tell with Tails?), and this is a pretty cool one.Lastly, I’ve been collecting Rucka and Williams’s Detective, because I couldn’t miss out on the gorgeous art.So, all in all, I’m collecting pretty much the entire Batman line, which I’ve never done.I always thought my comic collecting would dissipate as I grew older, but I’m glad that’s not the case.
Anyway, enough of that, time for another installment of…
HOW TO MAKE A LIVING WITH YOUR ART WITHOUT BEING FAMOUS: ADVENTURES IN THE WORLD OF FREELANCING!!
-Get your own website
It’s great to showcase your art over at sites like DeviantArt or Guru.com; those places are wonderful for networking and finding clients.But ultimately, you’ll need your own website as well.
Imagine you run into someone at a coffee shop (or a bar or a bookstore, whatever), and it turns out he/she could be a potential client (could be an art director, could be an editor, could be an event planner, the possibilities are endless).Now, you hand him your business card, he takes a look, flips it over and sees an unpronounceable weblink listed as your site.“Oh, you don’t have your own site?”Now keep in mind, this potential client might not be looking for an artist at the moment.He might not even give your business card a second glance once it goes into his pocket.It might be forgotten and washed up with his laundry.This is why your website needs to be simple and easy to remember.Something like, fullname + art.com will stick in a person’s mind much more than http://websitename.com/blah-blah-blah#@.Sure, a person who’s really interested in your work will sit in front of the computer and type all that shit out, but let’s not take any chances.
As a freelancer, you’re going to be viewed as a business (especially by the IRS). That means you’ll have to start treating it like a business – which means you’ll have to think about marketing. (Ugh…)
-Make business cards
This probably should’ve been listed first, seeing as how I’ve just mentioned it before.
Having business cards, especially well designed ones, are essential to a successful freelance career.Not only is it your calling card, but it encapsulates professionalism.And once again, since you’re acting as your own business, professionalism is the name of the game.Business cards are cheap to produce; places like VistaPrint.com can offer you great deals (but I’m sure you can find great deals at dozens of other places).It’s worth the investment.Make sure to leave your business cards at locations where other artists (or people who tend to hire artists) frequent, such as a coffee shop.Some years back, a local musician contacted me after discovering my card at THINK coffee (a trendy coffee shop/music venue located in NYC’s West Village) and he developed into a regular client.
-Color your work as much as possible
This might seem like a no-brainer (they’re actually ALL no-brainers when you think about it), but I’ve seen a lot of aspiring comic artists struggle because they don’t (or can’t) color their own work; they only want to pencil, or ink.Look, I hold great respect for those who want to concentrate on one medium and excel at it – but it’s really hard to make a living if you’re solely marketing yourself as, say, an inker.Even professional inkers will tell you that.
In the past, I’ve lost freelance jobs simply because I didn’t color my own work (this was before I buckled down and bought a Wacom tablet).Most clients you meet outside of the comic book world will be unfamiliar with the division of labor within the comic book field.They won’t go out of their way to find another colorist; they want to get everything at a one-stop shop.
Imagine going into a coffee shop to purchase a hot cup of coffee (yes, I know this is the third time I’ve used coffee shop as an example) only to discover that they don’t offer milk.You have to go next door, or the next block, to get milk for your coffee. (Am I driving the point through yet?)
Be as versatile as possible, and you’ll survive longer as a freelancer.After I bought my Wacom tablet, my freelance work literally doubled within months, and that’s no joke.
So, I guess the main theme for today is business.To make it as a freelancer, you have to start thinking of yourself as a business.I know that sounds a bit cold and detached, but it’s the hard truth.I’ve seen so many talented artists unable to jumpstart their careers for lack of business skills.Don’t fall into that trap.
And go get a cup of coffee.