Chris: In part one of this interview, Sean challenged us to begin thinking of a freelance illustration career as a micro business, a blend between client work and entrepreneurial projects. Are you inspired by this paradigm shift or intimidated? What actions should professional and aspiring illustrators take to thrive in this evolving industry? Please share your thoughts in the comments at ChrisOatley.com/freelance-illustration-career. We’ll continue with part two of this interview in the next episode of Chris Oatley’s artcast when Sean joins me to discuss why freelance artists fail.
But now it’s time for something completely different. We are introducing a new segment here on Chris Oatley’s artcast. Hope you like it. We do a podcast for six years, you’ve got to shake things up, you know what I mean, Lora? Wait did I just say Lora? As in Lora Innes, the co-host of the Paper Wings podcast?
Lora: This is my first time on the artcast – whoo hoo!
Chris: Oh yeah, but no.
Lora: It’s not?
Chris: You were on episode four of the artcast way, way back in the day. Remember we put the headphones on the George Washington bust?
Lora: Oh my gosh, yes.
Chris: And we talked about The Dreamer.
Lora: Well it’s good to be back.
Chris: For those of you who have no idea what we’re talking about, you can find more information about the podcast for visual storytellers that Lora and I host along with Marvel story artist Justin Copeland at PaperWingsShow.com. But this is a new segment for the artcast where sometimes I’ll have a guest and sometimes I’ll fly solo. But we’re just going to answer a question that you guys send in. You can submit your question at ChrisOatley.com/contact and it’s important that you use the correct category and then you can submit your question there. The question comes from Josh and he says, “I’ve been doing a little freelance illustration but I’ve been having a hard time landing serious clients who are willing to pay!” I keep getting in quotes here “potential for compensation if ‘x’ product sells.” Which I’ve been hearing that more recently.
Lora: That one’s new to me.
Chris: I think part of it comes from the start up mentality that’s sort of sweeping the nation, so you have a lot of people thinking well…you have a lot of people with these expectations to make bagillions of dollars with the next Angry Birds or whatever.
Lora: It makes sense.
Chris: So Josh says, “How do I make the kind of connections I need and is it every worth it to work without compensation or with the potential for compensation/royalties someday, maybe?”
Lora: At least there’s a somewhat accurate perspective on that.
Chris: So am I! Look, Justin Copeland is calling! Mr. Copeland, you are on Chris Oatley’s artcast.
Lora: It’s all of the Wing Leaders all of a sudden. It’s a Wings invasion.
Justin: Wow, this is surprising.
Chris: That’s great!
Lora: You should work for free is basically what we’re being asked.
Justin: Oh my lord. Oh my gosh.
Chris: Well Justin, let me read you Josh’s question here to get you to weigh in on this as well. Josh says, (fast forwarding). Have you been hearing about this?
Justin: A lot of young artists go through this. Lora, I don’t know if this has ever happened to you, if you’ve ever been offered a book or something and then they’ll say, we’ll pay you after we make money. I don’t know if that’s ever happened to you, has it?
Lora: Oh, never. Not me.
Chris: It’s happened to me and it’s happened to my students. I’ve personally never…I never…
Justin: Nope. Nope.
Lora: Yeah, I mean that puts a lot of pressure on the artist in some way too. The ‘if it sells’ mentality. I guess for an app it wouldn’t really be on the developer, but when it comes to books and things like that, if the other person needs to be…you can’t just blame it on the artist if it doesn’t sell. So I don’t like that at all, unless it really is someone you know and you know who they are and their work ethic and you know going in up front that this is a partnership and we’re going to build something together. But if it’s someone contacting you out of the blue, typically if they have credentials that would impress you that you would think that they would be capable of bringing in big bucks, they usually have money to pay you.
Chris: Exactly. That is it. And will you work for free is kind of a different issue, it does kind of…they overlap, but in my attitude toward this is, I would rather just partner with a friend and make that thing completely for free and let’s not even worry about royalties and we’ll just split the revenue, whatever the thing does make. And there’s nothing stopping you these days, you don’t need this guy. You don’t need this dude who’s like, “Hey, I’m a stranger,” and you are smarter and more clever, you just go create your own thing and probably make the same if not more money doing your own.
Justin: In my experience, what I had to determine and I had a lot of help, I had a lot of professional guys that are in sort of mentorship positions above me. And I would ask them that stuff and like man, you don’t do that to a plumber that comes to your house.
Justin: You don’t say like hey man, you fix my sink and I’ll tell everybody in this neighborhood that you’re the best sink fixer ever. He’ll never get paid because then it will just keep happening! And that makes sense, at the end of the day we create a product. Our artwork is our product and you can’t give that product…I mean you can give it away for free. There are benefits to giving it away for free, we talk about that all the time on Paper Wings and on (inaudible) or whatever. There are benefits to giving away certain things for free but this is how you feed your family. So you know, you have to be very careful about what you give out. It makes you look better, it makes you look professional. You say like look, I can’t do that, I need to make money for what I do for a living. There are a lot of people out there that are willing to pay good artists a lot of money for what they do.