Thursday, June 14, 2012

Question Of The Week- Can You Start Over As An Illustrator After A Long Absence?

Hey creatives,

I get questions.... lots and lots of questions. I thought I would start to share some of the questions I receive from in my inbox here. 

This week I received a note from an illustrator who has stepped away from illustration for awhile to work full time. 

"Is it possible to resurrect a dead illustration career after a long absence? I needed to take a full time job that was supposed to be work around my freelance work. Unfortunately, the hours clashed with my creativity. My intention was to work at another job for a short time- 3 years later I want to get back into illustration. Is it too late for me to begin again?"

My Answer

Hi A,

Sure! When it come to this career, anything is possible! Ever hear the expression It's never too late to be the person you want to be?

Seriously, this is a genuine concern especially when the creative drive to make illustrations is nagging at you. Quite simply, yes you can re-enter the field of illustration again. 

This career does not come with a rule book or a manual. A decoder ring would be nice. Continuing on... 

It's understandable to need to take another job. Many illustrators juggle two careers. Some work full time or part time. Some illustrators are weekend creatives or night owls. It is possible to do both. It will be a time juggle but once you begin, create a schedule that works for you. 

A good start is to see what you've been missing. Get reconnected to your career by researching online. Even though its been 3 years, things have changed. Great places to get reunited with the industry to see what is going on is Illustration Mundo, The Little Chimp Society, Illustration Friday, Anna Goodson Management and of course this blog too. 

1. Have a look at the work everyone is doing, latest news and trends. 
2. Create your own projects to get motivated, inspired and to create a new portfolio.
3. Need a portfolio? Create some ideas, projects or themes to create work. Post them to your blog, or join the Illustration Friday to get feedback.
4. Read everything you can get your hands on- books, blogs, forums and newsletters.
5. Sign up for free webinars. Listen while you work. 
6. Connect! Connect on twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+.
7. Check online for calls for submissions online for books, projects, magazine articles that are looking for illustrations. Make sure these are legit. If you are not sure-ask other illustrator peeps.
8. Submit to magazine contests such as How Design
9. Attend conferences.
10. Build up a potential client contact list.
11. Create promotional materials. A great place that is inexpensive is
12. Work on a consistent style.
13. Work at it every single day.
14. Lastly, read the book Breaking Into Freelance Illustration

When Bad Assignments Happen To Good Illustrators

Hey illustrators! Ever get an assignment that pays but is not your idea of a great project?

We're not told as illustrators that some projects are not going to creatively rock our worlds. Sad reality but many projects are going to seem boring, tedious and often frustrating. 

We look around and see great work everywhere in magazines, coffee shops, online and at the mall. Many illustrators shine and showcase their style in many great assignments. It looks easy. It looks fun! Some assignments looks like our idea of  what a dream job is or what a dream client would be.

Sometimes we must do many projects that pay but do not spotlight our best abilities. Sadly, it's part of the process of being a freelancer. 

So what can go wrong-what often makes a project lose its lustre: 

  • too art directed.
  • too many demands.
  • not able to push our natural style.
  • no freedom to be creative at all.
  • too many revisions.
  • cannot please the client no matter what we try. 
  • it's a ridiculous theme or concept.
  • it's a ridiculous deadline to complete.

Here is the ultimate creative buzz kill -being asked to illustrate in a style that is not your own. Yes, that moment when your heart sinks after being asked to illustrate differently. What could make this epically worse? Being asked to imitate another illustrators style! 


We have two choices: we can do the project or we can decline. 

What makes many illustrators complete the tedious task? Money! We need to survive. There is no free is freelance as they say. We have bills like everyone else. Some of us live alone, some of us have student loans to pay back, and some of us have kids.  

Best advice, work on projects that you can actually complete. If they are asking you to imitate   another illustrators style-this is not ethically cool. Unless you can come to some agreement with your client that you cannot imitate, then this assignment is not going to work out.  

If you are taking the plunge then try this little trick I created for myself that works - work on more than one project at the same time. In other words, create a illustration distraction in order to get the tedious project done.

Here's how:
1. Accept that this project will get done. 
2. Rebel against the project! That's right, have fun while multi-tasking on other enjoyable things.
3. Create a self-project you have been putting off or something you would really enjoy working on along with the undesirable one.
4. Enjoy the process of this fun project- post pictures of the progress you are making on the happy project. Post it to your FB page or your blog. Great feedback will motivate you to work.
5. If the undesirable project is really studio hell,  try creating the version you wish to illustrate. One for the client and the other project you would actually put in your portfolio. A little good vs. bad illustration face-off!
6. Create the right atmosphere in your studio. Have the right tunes, a good cup of coffee,  good things to nibble on and always go for comfort. Get up often, go outside, take some breaks or go for a walk. 
7. Get it done-move on to something better! 

I think creative distractions if done well can help you get through many of the illustration ups and downs that can happen. We cannot all get to illustrate for Starbucks or The New Yorker. However, creating a secondary project allows you to do something you love along with work that gets you paid. The frustration can often be cancelled out once you've created something you are truly happy to promote. Before you know it, it's time to move on to another paid assignment hopefully that truly rocks your illustration world. 

Happy creating! 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Working With Clients-The Challenging Concept Of Now!

clients, working with clients, illustration, freelance, illustrator
© Holly DeWolf

Now means:
1. At this present time. 
2. Without further delay; immediately; at once. 
3. Yesterday! 

Illustrators have a different concept of time than our clients. Our definition of now is determined by many things but with a more casual twist. A clients definition of now really means NOW or two days ago!

Most illustrators work independently in our very own studios. Our day consists of things like coffee, kids, walking the dog, projects, emails, promotion, social networking, looking for work, illustrating, sketches, phone calls, errands, laundry, eating, looking for more work and more coffee. It all depends on how your work day set is up. Some illustrators juggle another career or have the busy job of raising kids. Its going to be different for every illustrator. 

Then there is your clients day-this is completely different! 

Some clients are in different time zones with different work hours. Some clients have to answer to someone or work in a larger agency with many projects on the go.   

Along with all this time juggling are the many illustration misconceptions:
• Clients often assume you will always be home. 
• Some assume you work all hours of the day 24/7.
• Some clients assume that you can drop everything to address their concerns, requests or questions they may have.

Many of us work a lot-it's true but we do have to escape the office from time to time. When we do leave sometimes things can pop up! 

The scenario:
You check your email and your client wants you to revise an illustration that needs to be completed in the next 2 hours. Problem: You are at your child's recital. You wont be able to accomplish that task in the time frame requested.

Oh crap! 

What do you do?

First off, we need to be like Switzerland. We need to be in the neutral zone. This means we must be flexible within reason, diplomatic, willing to listen and help solve the problem. This can be very challenging especially on those days when the unexpected happens. 

Suddenly time can feel like the enemy! We cannot always stop what we are doing. 

First off, you must contact them immediately. You need to be straight up that you are out of your studio. You can tell them that when you get back, their project will be addressed immediately and that you will get it accomplished as fast as you can. Now if you're lucky, your client will be understanding. Most likely they wont act like Scrooge. If they do give you a hard time then the only solution is to do the best you can and get it done asap.

Unexpected moments can be emergencies, rescheduled doctors appointment, sickness, computers going on the fritz or unexpected guests arrive in town that pay you a unexpected visit. These things happen. If your at the emergency room, the needs of others will have to wait. 

How to prevent issues:
1. If you know that you will be out of the studio next week during peak times, let your client know. Send them an email in advance. 

2. If you only work on illustrations on the weekend or at night make them aware of your working schedule.

3. Tell your client the best times you can be reached. 

4. If you work part-time or full-time at another job-tell them. If your illustration workday begins 9 pm, let them know. In some cases this can be an asset if you work with international clients. You may be able to still carry on a flexible work relationship. 

5. You can always set your email to post an 'out of the office' reponse if you know you wont be around. This lets others who contact you know that you are out of the office right away. 

I believe the best thing you can do with a client is to let them know up front how you work, when you work, when you can be contacted and how you can be contacted. When it comes to projects and working with clients, never assume anything! Be direct, open minded and think of your client as part of the process. If things work out, a great working relationship can be established that could lead to more work and some great word of mouth publicity too.