A young, aspiring illustrator recently asked me how to become a full time freelancer. The answer is murky at best and provides no quick route to a stable career, but I’d like to think I learned a thing or two over the last fifteen-ish years that’s worth repeating.
I was lucky in that I started a blog before most folks were actively doing so. I posted a ton of work for at least five years before I got noticed from folks like Nike. It’s a numbers game. The more you put out into the ether, the better chance that the right people will see it.
Make a lot of work. Post it everywhere. Ev-er-y-where. Instagram, Tumblr, Facebook, Google+, Youtube, Twitter, Reddit, group blogs, art forums, sites whose content needs align with your work’s subject matter, and your own site.
If shotgunning the work into the world is half the battle, networking is the second. You’ll get notice eventually if you keep pumping out work, but develop a peer group in the meantime. These co-illustrators are more likely to get you your first gigs than anything else. You can’t go wrong with meeting, knowing, and being nice to a lot of people. Much of the time my success feels like a karmic reprieve for not being a dick.
Do the work. Make so much work that it’s persuasive as a body and speaks FOR you. Accept failures. Hell, accelerate the rate at which you fail. It’s the quickest route to learning what you need to do. And pretty soon you’ll have a base of fans or peers, or, if you’re lucky, both, that are open to what you’re creating.
That’s worth more than a big client or two. None of the work I’ve done for big clients has ever gotten me big clients. I didn’t even bother to put it into my portfolio when I was actively soliciting freelance clients half of the time. The esoteric, personal, honest stuff always has.
Be honest in your work. Make a shit-ton of it. Be nice to people.
This advice is so spot on. This is true and good and if you want to be an illustrator or designer or musician or painter or whatever, then read this multiple times and put it into practice everyday.
The list of nominees for the 2014 Ignatz Awards are in, and it is a hell of a showing. The cartoonists who’re up for the award run the gamut from seasoned pro to relative unknown, which is one of the many reasons I find the Ignatz so exciting. The awards feel like the…
Shades of Jeffrey Dahmer! SPX will be graced by the mighty and always funny Derf, who will be debuting his latest collection True Stories Volume One, from his long running, though indeed now unfortunately defunct, strip he drew for the alt-weekly world.
Hello. I’m a relatively new artist out of Gainesville, FL. I take evening classes at the Sequential Artists Workshop, a fantastic organization, and I’ll be bringing my first minicomic to SPX. I’m also running a Kickstarter campaign to get my next project off the ground. My goal is very modest, and be sure to read the updates for more information about what I hope to achieve.
aahhh, hello! i really admire your work and i was so excited to find your tumblr. i'm sure you must get a ton of asks and i hope i'm not bothering you with this when i ask, but have you any news about when multiple warheads will continue? king city was beyond amazing and i absolutely fell in love with nikoli and sexica and i've been hoping to see your work in stores again
Hellooo yerself, and thanks a lot.
I wanna announce the next MW sooonish I just want to make sure that I have enough pages done first so I won’t have to rush any of it. (I took on too many side jobs this year slowing everything down) But yes, my main goal is to draw many more pages this year than I did last year.
The Ignatz Award nominees were announced today and I am admittedly extremely biased, but I think they’re super cool. As I like pointing out, as far as I can tell, we received a literal ton of submissions this year. Submissions were up by about 25-30 percent over last year. I deeply appreciate the staff of Big Planet Comics Bethesda for putting up with all of it and letting me steal from their packing materials.
I admire the job this year’s jurors — Darryl Ayo, Austin English, Melissa Mendes, Thien Pham and Whit Taylor — did. I found each of them to be incredibly thoughtful in their choices. They were all delightful and I loved having each one of them on board this year.
Was everything that was nominated exactly what each of them wanted? No, probably not. And I imagine there’s instances where they may disagree about a certain nomination. But that’s just how our system works (you can read the guidelines here. They’re pretty transparent about how the nominations are created).
Are you happy with all the nominees? Do you think someone was totally overlooked and someone terrible was nominated instead? But what set of nominations are ever perfect? I’d prefer interesting and exciting to perfect. And I think this year’s are definitely exciting.
Speaking of comics expertise, dude, congrats on being an Ignatz juror this year! What were some positives from the process? Any good takeaways from the experience?
The wildest takeaway is that I could do it all day. I read comics on the subway, carried them in my shoulder bag all day, read webcomics at my desk while eating meals, read anthology short stories in the bathroom. I could just read comics in an amphibious manner all day long, switching from format to format as the rest of the day goes by.
-webcomics can feel overwhelming but I just waded in and read them in a “grazing” fashion.
-read webcomics on the iPad, they feel way more comfortable than hunched over a desk computer.
-but also read webcomics on a desk computer while eating lunch/dinner.
-minicomics are easy: it’s always an ok time to read minicomics. Beware reading unknown minicomics on the subway. The person next to you might get a surprise!
-don’t read comic anthologies all at once. Treat them like coffee table books. Read one story and do something else. Use bookmarks in all comics anthologies. Read the stories on order but over a period of time. You do the individual stories no favors by trying to blaze through the entire book in one hungry sitting.
-graphic novels often have chapters but I preferred to read them in one sitting each. Just too many books to stop and start.
-become good at “weighing” books. Not literal “weight,” but learn to estimate a book’s comics density. You can tear through a 200-page graphic novel on a 30-minute train ride. Another 200-page graphic novel might take you 2 hours.
-There’s a lot of work out there. It’s astonishing.
-A lot of people are working on the same things that you are personally interested in. Multiple people are working on similar projects at the same time. Learn not to see it as a competition or a threat and learn to embrace the fact that people are interested in similar subjects.
-Learn to appreciate the difference between what you, the cartoonist, would do and what this cartoonist who you are reading did do.