Monday, February 27, 2012

versatility should be an asset

Ok, I am onto something. Something that has been nagging me for, oh 20 years.

When I went to art school to study to become an illustrator the mantra that was drilled into each of our heads was 'Have a Style'. All of us illustrators worked to develop a look that could be our own signature. I must admit I struggled with that quite a lot because I like exploring, experimenting and I think different problems require different solutions. And I don't mean just visual imagery, but the look of that visual imagery.

Fast forward to my first experience getting an agent. What did she want, a 'Style'. Fortunately I did pay attention in college and provided a big portfolio of cohesive work. Did she land me jobs, sure, here and there including an 'almost' with Disney.

Now let's fast forward again but in the real world of making a living. My portfolio is diverse, I have so many styles, so many types of work, that if I were to go seeking an agent now they would think I have multiple personality disorder. But, and this is big, I am making a living now, without the help of an agent. And honestly I make significantly more than when I had an agent. Why, because I am versatile.

What really strikes me about this is something I have noticed in the last week or so with other artistic industries. Here are two glaring examples.
1) Project Runway ; who is lauded on the show? The designer who can design a ball gown, AND separates. Yes they may have a style, but they aren't a one trick pony. Sure they have a look that seems to be theirs, BUT seriously they are versatile designers who can apply it to the problem at hand.
2) The Oscars ; yes Meryl Streep won again. But why? Oh sure she is amazing and is always perfect in every role (except that one crappy action movie 20 years ago). However throughout the Oscars they frequently state the versatility as an asset. That the actors can play any role. The actors don't have a 'style' per se, and if they do they are 'character' actors.

I honestly think that being a chameleon is NOT a bad thing as an illustrator. It has served me well and has helped me be a freelancer for nearly 10 years. The best 10 years of my working life too. Let's celebrate style diversity, flexibility and variety, not look down on it. Versatile illustrators unite. Sure let's organize our art by similar looks, but by no means should we feel bad that we do a variety of styles to suit our clients needs.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

bids, estimates, proposals and expectations

I hate the time I have to allot to preparing bids. Mostly because it is unpaid. Since January I have prepared two bids for good sized projects. The first bid took a lovely month to resolve into a yes. The second took all of 15 minutes after I hit send to get a resounding 'the project has been canceled' which is a round about way of saying 'No'.

Here are a few thoughts on bids. Over the years I have learned that you don't give one price. No, it is much better to give a low, and a high. If you feel like you need even more slush room, give a mid-price too. You can't just give prices though. I find the best bid follows this simple outline:
1) Restate what you understand the customer wants. This is great way to make sure you understood what they said, and guarantees you are both on the same page.
2) Explain what you are going to do for them. Don't get into the particulars yet. This is a 'I am smart and creative and this is how I think my awesomeness will translate into money for you'.
3) Now state what the heck you plan on giving them for their money. This is where you get very explicit. I call out each piece, and how many revisions, how many sketches I anticipate, color rounds, whatever... this is the place where they find out if they are buying the stock or the upgrade. If you are going with tiers, and options, you can break this down further to include the 'stock' price and the 'upgrade' price.
4) Do you have style samples or samples in general you want to show them? This is a great place to explain samples, and then I usually stick them on at the very end of the proposal on a separate page.
5) Tell them how much this is going to set them back. Refer back to section 3 to callout the pricing for any variations you are giving them.
6) Terms. Do NOT forget this part. This is your safety net. You can explain payment expectations, and time requirements to guarantee you can deliver on your promise.

Ta da! Really not a complicated process, nor difficult. Just time consuming to ponder and regurgitate.

Good luck!

Friday, February 10, 2012

PR seems like a good thing

As an independent artist, I do all the roles of a small business owner. I promote myself, I do the networking, I manage Linkedin, try to update my site regularly, send thank you presents to clients for the holidays and of course do the work that pays the bills. I often think of buying a list from a reputable source to do direct mail or email or even cold calling potential new clients. But have not taken the plunge. I know from years of being in the business that PR is a good thing. I am too cheap to pay for it. Sorry PR people, I respect what you do, and maybe I just need convincing that the investment is worth it.

I will take free PR, happily. This week while working on a project for a client (the most awesome Sock It to Me Socks), I saw that my sushi sock design was highlighted last November in Seventeen magazine. Although Seventeen magazine is not my first choice for where I want my work seen, I am not going to complain. The good side is my design was chosen for the fashion pick, the downside is, no one knows it is my design.

How do I pimp this awesomeness? Of course I tweeted it, posted a twitpic, but there has to be more. Now I am blogging about it, but what else? Do I issue a press release? Or Lord dare I even attempt that? I will gladly admit that I can draw, but I am NOT a writer. Kudos to the writers out there. I will post it to my website, perhaps make a note on my Linkedin page.

But most importantly I will take pause and bask in the glow that I am a professional artist. I do make a living drawing and creating for other people. They find me, and they pay me to make things for them. How lucky am I? Thank you universe for the greatest job, and the teenage PR love.