After making a lot of journals
to help out freelance artists,
here's one to help
the people who hire them.
Hey folks! Been a while since I've done a journal post, but over the last few months I have been getting notes and Emails from several people who want to include me on their various projects. I appreciate all of these offers, and really am flattered that a few of you feel inclined to even want me to make a lot of art for them.
However, I can tell that a lot of these people are also fairly new at starting their projects, and don't really know what kind of information they need to include in these offers. Sure, I have developed long-standing relationships with a number of my clients, and we kinda just...ya know...get one another. We consistently make great work together just doing what we normally do, no special sauce needed.
This is more for new clients. This is for people whom I haven't worked with before.
Back when I was in college and didn't really know much, I was more than happy to jump into a project, take a gamble, and didn't know the right questions to ask, and while it worked out fine most of the time, my own lack of experience did bite me in the butt a couple times. But now that I do know better, I find myself asking the same questions over and over again before accepting an offer.
And after four long-winded paragraphs, some entertaining irony...
First off. Get straight to the point.
"Hello, my name is Brick Kapootsby, I am the project coordinator of the action comic series Steroids Explodinoids by TestosterZone Entertainment. I would like to offer you a colorist job on the next book."
Wrong (for the love of God don't read all of it):
"Hey man. I have been a long time fan of yours for the last several months. I really like your art, it makes my biceps sing inspired praises of glorious euphoria. If it wouldn't be too much of a hassle, I know you're a busy guy and you have a lot on your plate, and I think your work on the last TestosterZone book was pretty awesome and would really be honored if you could grace us with the pleasure of contributing to our little book, would you happen to have time open in your extremely busy schedule to maybe..."
In the "right" example, the offer gives me the person's name, which project he's on, which company he represents, and what job position I am being offered. This is really all the information that I need, all in the first two sentences. Sure it doesn't have the same flowery feel-good compliments of the wrong example, but of all the praise you can give an artist, "I seriously want to give you a job and support more art from you" is as best a compliment we can receive!
Secondly. I don't need your Project Bible.Right:
"Steroids Explodinoids is a neon vintage sci-fi series about guns, explosions, and heterosexual-challenging quantities of sweaty male on machine gun action."
"Steroids Explodinoids is the story of a man versus a half demon temptress who is also his sister but they had a falling out over a competition of who could throw a Buick the furthest, and their battle is at hand, but first must collect the sanctified artifacts of the great ancestral watchers of the great Barbell gate that seals the portal between the world of the glitter dragons...and our own. Now in the last chapter, chapter 17..."
Again, just get straight to the point. I just need to know what kind of work I'll be doing, and what mood I, as a colorist, will be implementing. In the "Right" example, I get all the cues I'll need. Neon vintage. Got it. Lots of explosions and manly men being amazing. Check. I can do these things.
However, I do not need to know the whole backstory, and when given to me from a narrative description instead of a directorial description, I have to speculate on what the intended mood is. Maybe I read the description, and instead of getting a neon vintage theme, they want me to do a sepia noir type of style instead.
Ever hear those stories of people working for weeks on an image, and then on review, "Eh, it isn't really what I envisioned." Sure that could be blamed on the director for not giving direction, but it's equally the fault of the artist for going off assumptions. Getting the intended mood for a project is pivotal to a smooth production process.
Thirdly. Actually compensate.Right:
"This job pays at a rate of $5,000 USD per page."Wrong:
Literally anything else.
Okay, so the numbers in the "Right" category are obviously a bit inflated (just don't want to give the impression artists should work on the cheap). The rate is given very plainly, and specifies that it's in the artist's currency.
Compensation is compensation, and needs to work in the same way you would pay for any other services.
Doctors don't accept "exposure." Mechanics don't work on "royalties." You can't go to your mall food court, have them all whip you up their finest in an ornate table display, then pay the one you like the most as a "prize" while sending the rest home with the assurance their labor, time, and materials will be cast off as inconsequential waste. If you think artists should work for free on a commercial project, you need to reevaluate your own value as a project coordinator (or a human being).
Besides, if you had "exposure" that actually had any value to me, that would mean you're getting enough traffic to your project where just a wee bit of business finagling would turn your venture into a profitable enterprise. If your "royalties" were enticing enough to satiate a livable wage based on your previous projects, then you should have enough leftover from your previous projects to afford it.
When people say "not accepting royalties is what screwed the creators of Batman and Superman out of millions," they're completely ignoring the untold millions of projects that failed to launch because they didn't have proper financial support that a dependable wage provides. This is my livelihood here. If I was willing to gamble on "royalties" and "exposure," I'll just forego the hard work and opt to spend my time rolling dice at Pechanga Resort and Casino. Because then when I lose all my money there, they'll at least bring me free drinks and poolside towel service.
Lastly. Give a timeline.Right:
"This is a 24 page book. We will be working at an expected rate of 4-6 pages per week starting in the first week of August. We hope to be finished by mid-September in anticipation of an October release."Wrong:
I have a schedule to maintain, and I stick by it (as best as I can, physical body limitations pending). And you should too! I'd like to know how long I'll be on the project so I can plan everything else accordingly, especially if I'm working on two projects simultaneously. I know my own limits, and need to leave time open for personal reasons or relaxation.
It's okay if you simply omit the timeline from the job offer, I can always ask for it. However, if your response is "well I haven't made one yet," make one. I'll be more than happy to help you make one. I can look at my own schedule, and give a projected start time and completion time for when it's convenient for me, as I do with my smaller commissions and mini comics. I just don't want to be in a situation where I'm leisurely coasting through my schedule, then getting a frantic Email saying I'm falling far behind on something I wasn't given a deadline for.
All Together Now...
What should a proper job offer note or Email look like? Well, put all the above examples together. Introduction. Mood. Compensation. Timeline. Oh, and one more thing. Intended response, something like "if you're interested here's how to respond to me and what'll happen from there..."
Hello, my name is Brick Kapootsby, I am the project coordinator of the action comic series Steroids Explodinoids by TestosterZone Entertainment. I would like to offer you a colorist job on the next book.
Steroids Explodinoids is a neon vintage sci-fi series about guns, explosions, and heterosexual-challenging quantities of sweaty male on machine gun action.
This job pays at a rate of $5,000 USD per page.
This is a 24 page book. We will be working at an expected rate of 4-6 pages per week starting in the first week of August. We hope to be finished by mid-September in anticipation of an October release.
Please Email me if you are interested and I will send you the necessary work agreement form, contract, and tax forms. Thanks.
That contains pretty much all the information that I need, and presents the information in the order of importance. It answers all necessary questions I might have regarding my ability to commit to that project, and gives me the impression that this project is being confidently helmed by people who have done it before.
Back when I was in college, and living off mom and dad while doing art as a hobby, I didn't have questions, I was just so blown away at people wanting my art that compensation and smooth working conditions were secondary to the ideas of royalties, exposure, and building up my portfolio and skills. But honestly, you shouldn't have to do that. Even an artist just starting out is still putting honest effort into their work, and that's what you need to pay them for. Effort. And artists need to demand that their effort doesn't go to waste and is properly appreciated.
And on the other side, project coordinators also all have a starting point, and they also need to make demands on their artists with projected timelines and setting a base compensation model that meets their budget.
One very last thing to add, and this is really important! Be ready to handle an independent verification. Freelance artists work with several clients in their life, and will need to send tax forms to every single one of them. They will need to ensure that you're real, not some phishing scam to grab an easy SSN and home address (these scams are frighteningly prominent, especially on DeviantArt and other social media).
Artists should sent an Email to the company the individual is claiming to represent. Don't just confirm that said person works there, you can find out any editor's name by doing a quick Google search, or heck, just reading one of the books they published. Freelance artists should send an inquiry to their contact desk.
"Hello, my name is Itchy FitzBanjo, I was sent an Email by a Brick Kapootsby regarding a job offer, and he is requesting my personal information for the next Steroids Explodinoids issue. Can you please verify that the Brick Kapootsby working in your department sent me this request?"
The nitty gritty around all this goes much, much deeper, and would require encyclopedic anthologies of articles to properly document and explain fully (as I don't understand every single thing on both sides of the freelance market either). It's a very simplified presentation of how it all goes down, and for the most part, I'm blessed to have the clients I have received over the years.
Hope this helps, and to all of you looking for hiring artists to help you in your endeavors, best of luck and thank you all so much for supporting us! It really helps out all of us in the end, and we appreciate all the opportunities you present to all of us.