Chris: Oh yeah. Yeah, and I think that’s also part of the problem that a lot of young early twenties art students I find this trend, they’re in that demographic all the time, and that is – you’re paralyzed by shyness or fear to where you don’t do anything and I’m going guys, this is the time to experiment and to be figuring out. So the stuff that Sean and I are talking about, you don’t have to wait until rent is due and the credit card’s piling up and that kind of thing, you’re not trying to figure out all this stuff in panic time. Instead while you’re in school or on summer vacation, or if you’re on your mobile device all the time anyway, that’s the time to start taking it seriously and think of it as building your business and investing in your business. But a lot of that investment early on is going to be experimentation.
Sean: People are going to invest time in something like social media and try to connect it with their business, I would rather see them like just choose one platform and that’s where they’ve built some connections. And like dude, just spend the majority of their energy for social media on that platform. And don’t try to do less but be everywhere, it’s not that being everywhere can’t work, I mean it can and especially you can learn to structure it but when you build a business, you’re building one component at a time. So you know, just get good. You don’t have to be masterful, but just get good at one component. So you know what Twitter is, you know what it feels like to like Tweet and like respond to someone and make connections there…
Chris: Why are people there.
Sean: Yeah, why are people there, what are the conversations happening around that, what tools feel comfortable for you to use but also allow you to easily jump into certain topics, TweetDeck or HootSuite or (inaudible) not so much for chatting but it’s really good if you want to read an article and want to retweet it or just throw an idea up and schedule it, that’s a great app. So get to know the medium and feel really comfortable in it and then put some kind of business strategy behind it, read a bit about what other people have done and decide what might connect back to your freelance business before you move on to the next one. You don’t have to be everywhere on day one, you can literally on one for a full year if that’s how long it takes and you can get clients that way. And then move on to the next phase of your business and just add one more component at a time. Click, click, click like little Lego blocks, you know? Build up this house over time.
Chris: Yeah, it’s interesting to me how many students again in the sort of early twenties, they’re in art school or in some sort of creative higher education program and I start talking to them about this and then they look at me like well this isn’t true because Twitter doesn’t work or Facebook doesn’t work or whatever. And then I ask a few more questions and I find out well it’s because you’re just like sending grumpy @ replies to your uncle. It’s like is it not assumed that what we’re talking about is approaching and engaging in professional circles related to where you want to be in your career. You are building a business. Like everything you do online is an investment in your business whether you like it or not and I just feel like nobody has that well…not nobody but a lot of people don’t have that mindset which is kind of crazy to me.
Sean: It’s not just (inaudible), it’s doing a search on a certain topic, finding out what people are actually chatting about in your industry and then jumping into that conversation and saying something poignant, being a real part of the conversation, not just tweeting what you feel about that day or even tweeting completely relevant things about illustration but you’re not actually connecting with anyone. You’re not in a conversation, so you should tweet a few things about tips or links to articles that you like. You should also find out what someone you respect is talking about and engage with them, that’s how you can form alliances. I just love that word alliance, find people that are on a similar pier level if it’s another student that’s fine. These students are going to be people that are in the industry making moves later on, get a rolodex, grab a high rise or whatever program you need to keep track of the people that you meet. People give you a business card, you get to know them, engage with them on Twitter. Make it to a point where they would remember who you are and you would remember them, but it’s not just handing them a card, it’s forming a real bond over something that’s related to your passions, your industry and what you want to build here. They’re doing the same thing, they want to build the same thing, you guys can share tips. You never know what relationships are going to develop, so put effort. At least approach it, again 95% just do it and from just a small bit of strategy. No one else in this industry is going to be like oh this guy, is like approaching me and wanted to get to know me because he wanted to advance his career. Well everybody wants to do that!
Sean: That’s a given. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, but just be a real person. Just be cool and get to know people.
Chris: That’s great, man I’m constantly saying that, just help people. Don’t worry about oh, I don’t want to have strings attached, I don’t want to be networky…it’s like you’re not! If you just don’t do that, if you just kind of refuse to be slimy. One of the main questions that freelance artists ask me is, how do I know what to charge?
Hey friends, future Chris here time traveling from the future. I just had to jump back to this point in the interview and explain that I was just about to ask Sean about the Freelance Switch price calculator. It was a great resource that was on Freelance Switch that made it very easy for you to calculate your freelance rate. If you have attempted to visit FreelanceSwitch.com recently, you will have realized that it is gone. Just a few days after we finished recording this interview, I got an email from Sean saying hey, they’re shutting down Freelance Switch, we’re moving the content to Tuts Plus and setting up a new freelance marketplace called Envato Studio. So fortunately, all of the great Freelance Switch content is still available at Tuts Plus or at Envato Studio except for one great resource – you guessed it, the price calculator. When Freelance Switch moved to Tuts Plus business, the price calculator went away and it has not come back since this interview was recorded. So hopefully it will come back and I would encourage you to write the good people at Tuts Plus business and say please bring back the price calculator because it’s awesome. And so what I’ve done is I’ve extracted the segment where Sean explains how the price calculator works and I’ve left it in here because it can still serve as a guide for doing the calculations on your own with just a spreadsheet or just a normal calculator. So it’s still completely possible to do on your own, it’s just that that fancy price calculator made it a little bit easier. And so that’s why there’s a little bit of a strange edit here, so my apologies unfortunately despite my time travel super powers, I am unable to bring back the Freelance Switch price calculator. Only you can save the price calculator!
Sean: What your costs are for your business such as your office rent, the software, how much a subscription of Photoshop costs or whatever, how much your supplies are and just the totality of those things. These things you should be tracking for taxes anyway, then you put in your personal costs, so your rent, it might be early for you to be planning for retirement but it’s actually never too early. I don’t want that to sneak up on you, so you can put all these kind of fields in and then you put in how many hours you actually bill and you calculate that. So it’s not just a shot in the dark, you’re not just comparing your rate to someone you admire’s rate or something like that. It’s based on what your actual expenses are and that’s good to know. And you can still charge more or less but at least you’re basing this on actual dollars.
Chris: You know what you need to make your overhead is and I feel like that’s just something that artists in general just never even think about. It’s always a complete shot in the dark and the most concrete price whether that’s an hourly rate or a flat fee for…what’s an 8×10 illustration worth? That’s about as specific as we ever get and yes, maybe you’re at a place in your career where you’re not making that much yet but it’s good to know that, it’s good to know. That’s helpful information.
Sean: Oh yeah, that’s really good to know. And you can set goals based on that, if your hourly rate isn’t quite there yet, it doesn’t mean that it’s easy to just find clients and charge more but that is the strategy. I mean you could have five clients, if you’re making $30 an hour, that’s your break even rate. But if you’re able to charge $40, well now you’re actually making a profit and you can go out to eat once in a while or save for retirement or have emergency funds in case your computer crashes. So you just start targeting one client at a time and as you bring on that better client and they feel established, you can either bring the rate up on the existing client or you can even start to let clients go. Politely, but it’s a normal course of business that as your rates increase, it may not work out for their business to stay with you. So you just move on. It’s just a normal course of doing business and no one’s going to think it’s bad or anything. I mean they’re going to look at what your rate is, they’re going to approach it from a business perspective and decide whether it’s still good for them or not, you know?
Chris: And for one, the concrete information is great but the other thing is, you have to be willing to walk away. You have to be willing to walk and if it means you have to replace that income with a job that isn’t necessarily illustrative or design or whatever, then that just might be the case for a while. But the point is, when you can take a good objective look at your finances and you can go, it kind of doesn’t matter – the clients that are paying me right now, the clients that I have are not going to…I’m not going to be able to survive. If you can concretely say that – that’s inexplicably valuable.
Sean: Yeah, it’s kind of essential.