Thursday, July 31, 2008

Freelancing Tips 102

So where do you get the time–the time to promote, create, cultivate, circulate, get your face onto My Space, Facebook everyone you ever glanced at, and still write a book

You can save time by trying to crack the freelancer's worst addiction, monitoring your rankings (I'm guilty myself and plan to finally practice what I preach.). 

Take a break from the rankings, TitleZ, your sitemeter, your blog's google numbers and anything else out there constantly judging us. As a surly bar-b-que chef down in New Orleans once said, "If you're lookin', you're not cookin'."

For more on this subject, see the NY Times article Clearing Up a Blurry Work Life by the blogger of Lifehacker, which you may find helpful. 

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Monday, July 28, 2008

Freelancing Tips 101

The above cartoon sums up best why it's still better to freelance (Can you spot the 7 things wrong with that picture?). Here's my little advice;

1) Don't be a dreamer. Anyone who tells you to "$@%& them! Start your own magazine" is an idiot. We've all heard those who tell us to follow our dreams and let nothing get in our way..."Self publish your novel...start your own TV show...blah, blah, blah...[followed by]...that's what I did!" Usually by people blessed with connections through family or lovers and not dealing with the day-to-day pressure of making a living. Sure they're living a dream and as George Carlin said, "That's what dreaming is. Open your eyes." One needs the support of established places to make a serious dent. Yes, self-publish your book, film a show for YouTube, whatever...but as a stepping stone and calling card only to then shop it around to agents, publishing houses, etc. You will have to play my their rules, but it's their stadium. Self-publishing, etc. is keeping the game in your backyard. Yeah, it's your rules but nobody watching. You need clout to get on The Daily Show. Where are you keeping 80,000 copies of Getting Rich With Nobody's Help For Dummies Plus, there IS a stigma doing it alone that will keep away reviewers and press. It's all unfortunate, but that's the story. I have this argument all the time with those who believe in the DIY route but the numbers simply don't compare. Get an agent, agent gets you a house or studio, house or studio gets you a publicist and all along the way...

2) Be nice. Return phone calls, answer emails, be a good friend, date co-workers (that's right), and don't burn bridges – every connection is an opportunity and, for better or worse, everyone crosses your path again (or talking bad or good about you somewhere). You're like a restaurant, it's word of mouth. At a time when art directors, editors, etc. never have to hire a stranger because everyone knows some freelance whatever looking for work you cannot afford to be difficult. They want to work with people who are nice and...

3) Efficient. Too many think it's best they continue working their assignment into a masterpiece, even if that means missing their deadline. Believe me, every publishing boss, curator, art director or whatever is less concerned to what awards your piece may win and just wants their weekend to begin without a hitch. And the less problems you present to them, the less questions you have, and most important, how timely you finish, the better. Calling every two hours and bombarding their inbox with minutia is not professional. 

I'm not accusing anyone of having their head in the clouds or not being nice or efficient, but if I was to think of the three mistakes I see within my particular (and, no doubt, bias) circle these would be it.

4) Create a brand name. Number one thing but last here since you all know it already. Whether you're saying outrageous things, creating marvelous work, inflect an accent, having photos posted with the right people or naked with the wrong people, and/or anything that makes you colorful, it's all branding. Starting with baby steps; creating an immensely popular blog. I recommend three sites; Creative Writing and Blog Tips, for blog branding in layman's terms, and Get Known Now, insider strategies that make you a household name.

Good luck and let me know how it goes.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Saving Your Career

I find the biggest problem among freelancers is being aware of the volume their counterparts are cranking out. Above is a job I just did for Trader Monthly. They do a cool back page parody thing, which did actually do a pretty good job with. I was asked to do CEOs as superheros (and of course, superheros are on everyone's minds this summer with Ironman, Batman and Superman coming soon. Plus CEOs love being portrayed as celebrities.). Anyway, the point is I was given two weeks to complete this but if I'm going to realistically make a living doing this (freelancing on my own) I need to impose my own deadline based on how much I was getting paid. I was also juggling multiple writing assignments, working on my next book, a handful of other illustration jobs, my usual 10 cartoon submissions (every week) to The New Yorker and the below painting (which is half way done). 

I'm not trying to impress. Just sharing a reminder to invest only as much time on a job as it deserves. Besides, this is common workload for the better known freelancers (and the above job is nothing to write home about – as I said, it was a rush job). But this is the number one reason I see many other freelancers not breaking in, because they're not producing fast enough. There is no time to noodle or tackle writer's block. My friend Lenore Skenazy is a humor columnist for the New York Sun who comes up with new ideas, non-stop, starting and finishing them in the same day (and her articles are hysterical). To further illustrate, this piece here she wrote in one day. That's where the bar is and believe me, neither of us are rolling in dough.

One exception of my "time-based-on-pay" rule (like I made it up. That's just it. The whole world, except us, freelancers, is using this business model. So why do we ignore it?) is the painting below for a charity group, The Lacawac Sanctuary (wonderful people but just a very difficult task to paint 30 or so animals – they don't sit still). I'm more than half way done with the 3 feet museum mural and let it be said here it will be my last illustration as I will probably kill myself when it's done. 
Here's a close-up. And here's hoping we all get our ducks in a row.

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

What Color Is Your Parachute?!? How 'bout – My Parachute Didn't Even Open!!!

Remember that book, What Color Is Your Parachute? Actually, it never went away. The best-selling career book of all time is still coming out with new editions, hand-holding newbies in the job market, helping them decide what vocations best suits them. But I'm not sure anyone in this economy has the luxury of 'finding themselves'...or maybe that's exactly the wrong attitude. Maybe it is time to experiment in the same way an argument can be made that the only chance for the survival of publications is for them to expand off of loans, doing the opposite of the logical, a la George Costanza, and take a chance by improving their product to create some separation from what one can find on the web. (Traditional newspapers must demonstrate that web new sources can't keep up.)

Speaking to struggling freelancers, of course the first step is to arm yourself with all the news in your field. This is not an obvious comment – I, myself, for years cruised in auto-pilot as a freelancer not getting caught up in every development or even feeling compelled to. But's it's kinda all hands on deck right now. Many or most of the readers of Freelancer's Lament rely on publications as one of their main sources of income and one of the best and latest article on the subject comes from The Nation by Eric Alterman. The comments also, to a lesser extent, provide some insight.

Before continuing with more productive dialogue on the subject, I ask you to please participate in the Freelancer's Lament polls on the right.

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Saturday, July 12, 2008

Return From Brimfield

LAKE WALLENPAUPACK, PENNSYLVANIA – Back home the finds of the week have already found a home. (Above birdhouse. Asking $12, talked down to $10.)

2) Bottle-opener. Asked for $25, got for $20. Tammy said face really scared her and would not allow to put in kitchen. Buried now in basement. (Those are crate labels Modge-podged to the steps going down.)

3) Bucket for $5 – not even worth mentioning. Oops, just did. (Cool squirrel, right?)

4) Have no idea why I bought this green piece of wood. $20 down the drain. It was the drain floor to a row boat. Couldn't find a better place to put it so I nailed it to the side of the garage for reasons even I don't understand.

5) As if my office wasn't pretentious enough, I got those two black gauges. "Sorry, I have no need for a Volt-meter...$20, sorry, no...$15? What part of 'I don't know what a volt meter is' don't you understand?...$, no, no, thanks...$5?! OK!" Never before has an office had so much work done to it and so little work done in it.

6 & 7) Guy wanted $40 for the pair of cast iron pieces. On the right is a match stick holder (one container for new, one for used matches). He said the snowman was one of a kind. When I returned the next day there was an identical one in the same place (I paid $5 and he was asking for $15 from passerbys.).

8) $20 for the pie case. Good illustration of my gullibility. Guy at outside flea market promised I'd see many inside Brimfield for double the price. Never saw another, not even sure this is a pie case.

9) Tammy got this set for $70 and I believe it involved some monkey business as she thought she was getting quotes for pairs of pins. She said she needed them for an "art project." And I needed that funnel cake for political reasons.

Speaking of half-truths, one piece of crap that didn't make it on the trip home was a painting supposedly "owned by Charlie Sheen" and "thrown out of his home on the objections of his then wife, Denise Richards." I wanted to buy it if the guy could find a bag to carry it in as I didn't want to be seen with it. But the guy wouldn't go lower then $50 while Tammy threatened divorce. It was a large acrylic painting of the American flag. The lines and edges were all crooked. In the foreground was a naked woman with spiked hair and huge Tome Rider like body proportions placing her hands together in prayer. I will never own the world's most beautiful painting in my life...but this was my chance to own the ugliest.

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Finds From Brimfield

BRIMFIELD, MASS. – Here are a couple of paper goods followed by three sets of teeth I purchased here at the flea market capital of the world (click on images to see larger size);


This was the size of a match book.

Working out with oars.

The Monster Lady of Crinoline at Turin
from Harper's Weekly, April 3, 1858. My wife, renown book artist, Tamar Stone works with crinoline in some of her art projects (Her work is in The Fun & Games (and Such) at the Center for Book Arts until Sept. 13th and will have a major exhibit at Ursinus College in Collegeville, Pennsylvania in September.

Real teeth, real value.

More tomorrow. Will they be more exciting? No, I can't make any promises.

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Brimfield Day 1

BRIMFIELD, MASS. – Spending the week at the famous yard sale here at Brimfield. At the cast iron booth I saw some nice knockers and bottle openers. I'll post pictures tomorrow. Having a great time but can't help think this is where I will wound up up some day...selling all my possessions after crashing and burning on the freelance highway.

Random notes; Was invited to return in September (the 3rd leg) to sign (History of the Snowman) books...Had dinner with Antique Roadshow's Gary Sohmer and his very nice lady Rita...Just ran into Parker Posey...Was a guest today on WCAP. Introduced as a big name cartoonist. Really. Didn't have enough airtime to correct this error. I was asked what I was looking for in Brimfield. I replied, "A clean bathroom."

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Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Golf For Women; Dead

Sadly, one of my regular clients, Golf For Women, just stopped publication. Great magazine and some of my friends worked there. The obituary here.

Yesterday I did my regular golf piece for The New York Times. Click link to see rest of the above illustration and the funny story, Healthy Eating Helps to Get the Bogeys Out of a Golfing Diet that goes with it. 

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Thursday, July 3, 2008

Bozo; Dead

LOS ANGELES – Bozo the Clown (Larry Harmon), who delighted children for more than a half-century, dead at 83. "I felt if I could plant my size 83AAA shoes on this planet, people would never be able to forget those footprints," he said (before he died). Mr. Harmon had licensed and trained more than 200 Bozos.

Meanwhile, I have been spending literally dozens of hours straight the past few days revisiting comic George Carlin's amazing archive of work...from his last show on HBO to his albums around 40 years ago. A hero of mine, I have tried to learn to be funnier from him.

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Hire Yourself

Waiting for the phone to ring? Wait no more. There's an interesting piece in today by Dylan Stableford (which is featured on Media Bistro), explaining an exciting new development in publishing where anyone will soon be able to publish their own magazine. Of course, this way you can hire yourself till your heart's content! Freelance writing jobs at will, illustration & photo assignments pouring in...

I'm toying with some titles, Popular Maniacs (features on stars like Kramer, Mel Gibson, etc) and Broken Homes & Gardens (covering Christie Brinkley and other celebrity divorces), and Travel & Occupation (the first magazine just for American wars).

My own version of Star published from my basement (and reporting with a shoe string budget).

Folio magazine just asked media-types for mid-year media predictions. I suggested the following based on my observation that the magazine has become a toy for seniors, going the way of the phonograph. "As magazines have officially become leisure items for seniors (eg. most healthy magazines have been AARP, Reader's Digest, Modern Maturity, Playboy, etc.), TV will follow suit and expect to see more shows for seniors this upcoming season;"

For more cartoons done by me visit Please leave a comment (positive or negative) – THANKS!

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