Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Working For Free- The New Freelance Cliché!

Cliché: a phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought. A banal phrase, stock phrase; a stereotype or electrotype. 

I've been reading more and more posts and grumblings from illustrators and designers about the constant requests for free work. Is this the new freelance cliché

A great article that got everyone talking was from The New York Times: 

Slaves of the Internet, Unite!

I'm realizing that the old stereotype of the "starving artist" idea has now been surpassed by the request of "work for free." As someone who has been dutiful in my education and as an illustrator this continually saddens me. 

Please understand this post is not going against doing charity work which is an important to do. I'm talking about the lack of appreciation of your skills as someone in the business of illustration offering a worthwhile creative business service. In other words, you are not a hobbyist! 

Ok. So it's 2013. We have everything at our creative disposal when it comes to promotional freedom, wide open access to markets and endless places to promote ourselves. This is all advanced compared to the olden days of illustration where you relied solely on mail, word of mouth, a smaller world of competition and the phone. If we are so advanced with resources up the yin-yang then we do we still hold onto the idea that our time and our work are not worth being paid for? Too many are believing that free exposure is a good thing. Exposure can leave you cold. It can leave you hungry with unpaid bills. As the old expression goes: You can die from too much exposure. 

Next time you see a contest advertising for free art work, have a look at how many line up to participate. Again, this saddens me. Not only does it make it hard on the participants but for the rest of too. Just like spec work, it's a gamble. 

I remember a time I was asked to do free work for a business. When I asked how long they were in business they said 3 years. I replied that I was in my career at the time for 15 years. Do you see the perspective shift there? A light bulb went off that day! 

Ever hear the expression confidence is sexy? So is confidently standing up for your career! Good workers like wages. Dedicated illustrators like to create daily. Now we need to combine the two. 

Here's a great quote by James Goldsmith- "If you pay peanutsyou get monkeys." Now here's something to think about: If they pay you nothing then what do they really get? What's truly in it for you?  

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Introducing The Creative Coffee Pod-Chat With Brian Bowes And Yours Truly!

© Holly DeWolf- Coffee Mug Doodles

Quite a few months ago I was invited by illustrator/designer Brian Bowes to join in on a creative pod-chat. Here we have been discussing actively developing creativity and finding inspiration, to help support you in your creative endeavours. Our first big tip, enjoy a nice cup of coffee!

Have a listen here!  

There will be another one to listen to soon where we discussed our studio spaces, working at home as opposed to a studio outside the home and creating the right energy/organization for your space. Sty tuned. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

How To Be Of Service

“Try not to become a man of success. Rather become a man of value.”
-Albert Einstein

Here are four ideas to consider when it comes to being of service:

1. How can you be of service to your clients?
2. How can you be of service to your audience?
3. How can you be of service to your industry? 
4. How can you be of service to yourself? 

Being of service goes beyond a project- it's your own value you place on your work and the illustration industry. These are not rules but more like good creative codes to live by. To me, being in this industry is a lot of give and take. What makes your career even better-when you include yourself into the process too. 

Once again, this is one of those things we are not taught at art school. It's just another way to think about illustration and that is a good thing. 

Being of Service To Clients
Being of service to clients involves a lot of active listening and idea solving. 
Your clients are part of your creative community. By creating a connection with them could lead to more work and greater word or mouth. By acting as a creative consultant you can further the importance of illustration and to create a bigger understanding about what you do. It's a good thing to communicate effectively throughout the illustration process. Remember to include them in the process: they hired you in the first place so they should be!

Being of Service To Your Audience
You can be of service to audience by promoting what you can do. This can a tricky balance of push and pull. The hard sell can drive your audience away so try the conversational and story style. If direct promotion is not your style try positive posts that share your personality that offer something to your audience. Consistently reaching out by sharing your ideas, links, thoughts, and experiences tells your audience you are involved.  

Being Of Service to Your Industry
To me, a true illustration pro works in the best interest for themselves, their clients and the industry combined. A big thing to avoid is unprofessional spec work and questionable contests. It's a gamble that is not good for you and it makes the industry look bad. These practices are not going away anytime soon, so once again, you need to go with your instincts. Stay informed!   

Staying professional, promoting, supporting, mentoring and teaching can go a long way. Team up with your creative community online or around the corner. No one needs to create in a bubble! 

Being of Service To Yourself
You can be of service to yourself by really honing your skills and fully understanding what markets you want to focus on. Another big one- ask for what you want. Having a good relationship with your idea process and experiments are just as important as knowing when to go with your gut.

Important: Be kind to your work and yourself by always using a contract and DO NOT give your work away. Understand that the illustration industry can act like an exclusive club sometimes, so persistence and assertiveness is key! Take rejection and criticism for it is and know that not everyones "expert" opinion is fact- it's just an opinion.  

You have a life outside of your work. Remember that. 

Mistakes, rejection, burnout, heavy deadlines and stress happens so it's important to take care of your health and head. Time management, sleep, and letting yourself shut off from work is important to do. Give yourself time to work productively and always make time for other creative pursuits

Happy creating this week! 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Asset Of Taking Chances!

Danielle Laport
"Personal insignificance is provocative when you’re making your art. Remembering how insignificant you are helps you to be more daring, more honest, more … here." 

Sir Ken Robinson
"What all children have in common is that they will take a chance. They're not frightened of being wrong. I don't mean to say that being wrong is the same thing as being creative. But if you're not prepared to be wrong, you'll never come up with anything original. By the time they get to be adults, most kids have lost that capacity. They have become frightened of being wrong."

Two very powerful statements that I believe we need to read. Why? Because as creators we are the movers and shakers of the world. We do because we can. We do because we are driven to. We think big because we are hard wired that way.

Hope attracts chances
Being a maker means letting go of a certain kind of fear: the fear of take chances on our ideas. We throw it out there. We visually show our thought process and what we can make from our hands. It's sounds powerful but in a way it is so very humbling at the same time. It's not without mishaps! 

It could get rejected. 

It could be ignored. 

It could hang out with the crickets.

But it could also be appreciated. 

Taking chances creates the following assets:
• a chance to evolve. 
• the chance to get the right work, the right clients and income you've always wanted. 
• the chance to teach others. 
• the chance to inspire others. 
• the chance to be part of something bigger. 
• the chance to create the career you always wanted.
• the chance to really love your process. 
• the chance to learn well from your important mistakes. 
• the chance to really start making the kind of work you always knew you could! 

Don't put away childlike things!
Many of us have not lost that child like concept of taking a chance. However, we don't come to it as innocent and random as a child might. We instinctively know that it could be great or that it could bomb. We make mistakes and start again. Perhaps we shouldn't worry so much about it because we're going to make things anyway-our ideas are never finished. To me, all these ideas create a true makers mind! 

"To live a creative life we must lose the fear of being wrong." 
-Joseph Chilton Pearce 

There is a certain amount of freedom in taking a chance when you know at any given moment your audience gets a chance to see something new. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Good Content Is The Ticket!

"Is my site boring?" 

"Should I hire a designer to redesign my blog?" 

"Why can't my blog look like that?" 

Honestly, I've wondered this myself. This site looks pretty and I love that background on theirs...and wait... how did they do that?


I think we are in an online state where many feel that things do not quite visually measure up. Pesky comparisons can really shake up our perceptions of what's good and what's useful. Being online can be a pain in the membrane! 

Plain Need Not Be Boring
Worrying about our sites is a genuine concern. There's a lot of competition out there and there are many sites that get noticed before ours. We get swept up by articles everyday and yes, we do pay attention to layouts and design. However, HTML does not mean what is on a site is good. It may have attracted us there but the fluff wont keep us there! 

My thoughts: We're illustrators not designers. Scratch that-not all illustrators are designers and HTML experts. Secondly, the purpose of a site or a blog should never be hidden under all the flash, pop ups, banners, big text and multiple colours.   

Creative Gold
Call me old school (yes I've been called that), but when I read a blog I am looking for good content not glittery flashy design. If you can write, share ideas and show good work then it's all GOLD! Content should be the most important thing. Focus on what's important and add the subtle details later.  

Art Directors want the quick visit. They stop by and say hello but really there is no time for tea. They want to see it right away and they do not have time to dig through page after page to find your work and information. It makes sense to have it simple and effective. You've invited them there to show them what's important. 

This does not mean you cannot add your own personal touches but just try the have that 'keep it simple Spock' approach on standby along with 'a less is more' mix. We cannot drive away clients in this day and age. 

Good words count and titles should be attention getting too. SEO is not as big a worry as it used to be. Twitter has built in SEO and so does google. The proof: Google is now making it easier for good content to be found. So now we do not have to worry as much about SEO and focus on that important stuff. 

Things to consider: 
• Ample use of white space is a good approach. Too much clutter means your message could get lost. It's more visual noise and we really do not need any more eye strain as it is.   
• No flash because it's labour intensive. Not everyone has optimum Internet or the latest computer. Our computers are already being put to the test daily with all sort of new apps and technology updates. 
• Avoid interrupting the viewer. It's not a pop up book so try not to scare your audience. One time I was jolted by a popup and I spilled my coffee all over myself. I wasn't impressed. 
• Make sure your audience gets to see what they wanted to view in the first place. Be a good host!    
• Write in your own voice. Avoid art speak and big words (your tongue does not want to take an exam). If you are like me and you want to share ideas, then do that so your audience feels like they are part of the equation. 

Reminder: It's a busy internet so think simple, create value and always include your audience. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Bold and Humble Illustration

"Take a chance! All life is a chance. The man who goes farthest is generally the one who is willing to do and dare."-Dale Carngie 

Hi illustrators! I received an interesting email asking me how bold an illustrator should be while online, with promotion and as a creator? Can you be both bold & humble at the same time? I thought these were good questions. 

The experts tell us to be bold but not too pushy. Be humble but don't be too quiet and to avoid the hard sell but tell a story. So many rules! So we are looking for the friendly, positive, story telling ratio to networking mix so we can get it just right. 

Here's the thing: not all of us know what that is nor do we all take it as seriously as the pros do. If we did, we would never have time to actually work.

"Freedom lies in being bold."-Robert Frost 

Here are the other things to consider: those who scream the loudest get noticed. Give them something to listen to or pay attention to. Be bold with a purpose. Keep your expectations in check because some things will get noticed and some things will get lost in the feed. 

How about we change the title to this: be confidently humble. 

Be bold. Jump into your career but remember to take your brain with you. 

My approach is to start with what you are comfortable with and then give yourself a gentle nudge to go farther. By doing this you are thinking about what the audience is going to read/see plus you can try to put yourself into their networking shoes. The other factor that is blatantly clear, promotion is something we must imperatively do to get out there. 

The next tid-bit is your fearless factor. We are only illustrators once. So, we have to push some to get some or push to pull them in. This formula is experimental and does not come without mistakes or challenges.

I shared these ideas on my illustration group page on Facebook to get some great feedback. Here are the responses: 

"Let your work be bold and do all the shouting for you! You get to sit quietly beside it like a slightly embarrassed parent with a look on your face that seems to say, " I'm sorry, this piece doesn't know how to behave in public. It has the nasty habit of grabbing everyone by the eyeballs. "  

"Since I believe the profession of an illustrator is a business, I feel that it is
necessary to approach every promotional activity, whether online or other, like an advertisement, or at the very least, a job interview. Is that bold? I don't know, but if that means my finances are in the black at the end of the day, then I need to do what it takes. Plus, I think that even the best art will go unnoticed if it is not somehow promoted."-David Vallejo 

"I personally think you should be bold in your enthusiasm for books and excited to be a part of this business, but you should be humble about your work. I just interviewed the brilliant Ed Young who is as humble a man as you will ever meet. I will never cease to be humbled by the great and varied talent in this business!"- Linda Stanek 

I once wrote that your work has a life without you-sometimes it hangs out with the crickets and sometimes it hangs out in the applause. Either way it takes a certain amount of courage and boldness to let it be out there for all to see. 

Jeremy is right-it is like being a parent to your work. It's not easy letting your work be out there on it's on without you controlling it. It will be judged and it will sometimes get overlooked.

The positives are much larger. Your work will also get attention. You will also get feedback. You will also develop a following. By being bolder you run the chance of letting the right eyes see what you do and what you do well. Stop waiting. 

Ask yourself this: Do you want to be safe all the time and be good, or do you want to take a chance and be great?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Illustration Asset: Enthusiasm!

Wake up, drink coffee and make stuff! by Holly DeWolf
© Holly DeWolf- Make More Stuff! 

Enthusiasm is an interesting thing and a great career dynamic! It's both attractive and contagious. When you are enthusiastic about working with clients on new projects or promotion, your audience does notice. It may not happen right way but with consistency, they will see it.

On the days when you feel tired, worn out and frustrated by the 24/7 freelance life, it's not always easy to portray the happy side of you. It's there but you may need to shake it out sometimes. 

Tips to create enthusiasm:
• Create something to look forward to. Start a project, start a promotion series, or take on a new client project. The idea is to create momentum. Like enthusiasm, momentum is contagious. 
• Make something, post it, and talk about it. Social networking is right there at your disposal. Use it, use it wisely and use it daily to network and promote. Be real, be positive and showcase your professional self. 
• Connect and contact with the right buyers, audience and clients. 
• Do something that your future freelance self will be happy about come the future. If you start now you will be that farther ahead a year from now. As Woody Allen says, "80% of success is just showing up." 
• Work on your promotions daily. Think simple, a defined schedule and something that is easy to mail. Your website, postcards and emails queries are still the best method. 

In my book, I mention that to be interesting you have to be interested. This applies to your buying market, your projects that you are being paid for and most importantly, yourself! Best advice, start being really interested in you. You are the one that makes all the creative magic happen so pay some attention to that big creative brain you have! 

Some enthusiasm sparks to help your day:

1. Your Energy
Your physical self and creative self need to play well with each other. Eat healthy, sleep more, rest your eyes, exercise and escape the office often. All this creates a balance. I was told in art school that when you are okay, your creativity will be okay. I believe this to be true! 

2. Do What You Love
As Anna Goodson says, "Do what you love and you will love what you do. If you believe in yourself others will too." Couldn't have said any better myself! 

3. Positively Positive
Negativity has no place in your freelance career. It's a burdon on your momentum. It's heavy and can be a real career killer. Distraction can be a wonderful thing on the bad days, Facebook noise or bad television. Look for another thing to focus on and you will thank yourself for putting your energies in the right place. 

4. Humour
It's simple but really effective. Just like negativity, humour can be found everywhere. To me, humour is useful and serves a bigger purpose than making us laugh. We're designd for it. Don't believe me? Poke online and look up the human brain on humour and you might be surprised all the things that equips us to be happy!

5. Curiosity
Your interests play a part in your career. Push it further with books, podcasts, conferences, book stores, galleries and webinars. If you are like many illustrators that work where you live, make your studio a place of inspiration. The idea is to make curiosity a type of habit. Seek out what rocks your creative world and use it to your advantage.  

6. Create With Purpose
That purpose is of course defined by you. Is your purpose to entertain children with your illustrations, to provoke thought, decorate fabric, go on a wall, adorn a greeting card with well wishes? Think of it simply as your theme, your mode, your style or creative drive. I believe once you've defined this, it makes it easier to know what career direction you are heading in.  

7. Focus On The Good Stuff
If you only like one thing you did today that is a good start! Take it farther by loving your ideas, concepts, doodles, thumbnails and cryptic notes. The good stuff is not always the finished stuff-sometimes it's all in the process. Your ideas are golden. These ideas are the starting point to everything you do. 

Have a great day. Now go and make something! 


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Five C's Of Illustration- client, communication, collaboration, creativity and continuity!

Some ideas on working with a client

Think of illustration as a collaboration. You have been hired to work with your client to complete a visual task. 

There's an easier approach-think of it as the five C's: client, communication, collaboration, creativity and continuity all rolled up together. 

First comes the client of course. This will involve much discussion of ideas that leads to a collaboration for a project. The project produces illustrations from your creativity. Lastly, if this collaboration goes well there will be continued projects to come. 

How to do this effectively is to think like a director- a director of your freelance business. You are are sharing your knowledge, know-how, skills and experience. This involves a confident enthusiasm that produces a positive working partnership. 

Never feel that your insights are not part of your job. Your unique visual sensitivities in this world is what makes you marketable-it becomes part of your style set. You and your art are a package deal!

Good creative collaborations involve ideas, conversation, getting involved, sharing opinions, and constructive communication. The active parts involve a lot of listening, note taking and following up. Clients are not looking for illustrator super stars-they are looking for a meeting of the minds that helps them get the visual message they are hiring you for. It's a service! 

Clients like what they like for many reasons. Collaborations take time and take work. So when you grab a clients attention and they want to work with you, it's good to treat it as the very big creative deal that it is. It means you are doing all those five C's right! 

“Optimism is the most important human trait, because it allows us to evolve our ideas, to improve our situation, and to hope for a better tomorrow.” -Seth Godin

Friday, June 14, 2013

100 Things The World Should Know About Illustration.

1. My (insert town or city)_______________ needs more illustration!
2. The world needs an illustrators point of view.
3. Illustration is an act of courage, creative commitment and sacrifice.
4.The world needs our illustrated stories.
5. Great illustrations of hands and eyes really do melt hearts.
6. Illustrators are rarely bored.
7. Everything is so damn interesting all the time!
8. Images can build bridges between people and unite many through visual communication.
9. Home is not only where we live but also where we work too.
10. Illustration is positive communication.
11. Illustration shows how awesome our imaginations can be.
12. Staying up late to read a good illustrated book with a child is never time wasted.
13. Good ideas are never boring or wrong.
14. Hiring talent is always a great investment.
15. Great illustration gets people talking.
16. We go big. We go for different even when no one is paying attention.
17. Imagination takes us everywhere!

18. An illustration can jump start feeling and mood while enhancing text. 
19. A great illustrator/client relationship should be toasted! 

20. You can’t go wrong with ideas that happen 24/7 with no apparent off switch!
21. We stop for sunsets, cool graffiti, book stores, coffee shops and great conversations.
22. Talent is not always discovered- it's promoted. 
23. We are not afraid to take a chance.
24. Making things at our desk is always better than surfing online.
25. Talent deserves to be seen, to go viral!
26. Illustrated maps get you from point A to point B!
27. We challenge ourselves daily. We push our own limits gently but creatively.
28. We cannot hold back from showing others what we make! 
29. We can let you use our work on your projects but we cannot give it away. 

30. Practice makes great!
31. Illustration is the oldest form of communication. There are many cave paintings to back that statement up!
32. Our unique style is our brand!
33. We're not a hobby, we're a business.
34. Ideas can come out of no where. Random is good!
Some illustrators put in more hours a week than doctors do.
36. Illustration and narratives work hand in hand.
37. We are more than just image makers. We wear many hats!
38. The strength of illustration emphasizes certain details and ideas that we want our audience to see.
Illustrations helps us teach children.
40. Good ideas 
and good illustrations take time. But it's worth it! 
Illustration is the most fun we’ll ever have with our heads, heart and hands all at the same time! 
42. Illustrators make visual connections.
43. We make original one-of-a-kind work!
Illustration projects are not contests. 
45. We are not stock or clip art.
46. We make your skateboards look RAD!
It's a from of invention.   
48. It's a passion, a calling and a great creative habit!
49. Illustrators can work from anywhere. We think globally! 
50. We help sell magazines! 
51. We do not do support spec work. 
52. We understand the power of colour and detail has on our audience. 
53. The drawing is only the beginning! 
54. Freelance doesn't mean free. 
55. We don't follow our dreams, we chase them! 
56. You collect our work on posters, cards and other nifty trinkets. 
57. We let go of certainties and go with the unknown plus a lot of mess! 
58. We are self directed business types but on the creative side of things. 
59. We break rules. 
60. Illustrators cannot work for free.
61. We want good jobs and we also want to build relationships, networks and communities. 
62. Illustrators are also creative consultants. We help visualize your ideas!
63. We support each other in the good times and the bad.
64. We help book covers jump off the shelves!
65. Illustration is a process of ideas, sketches, revisions and final work.
66. We are information sponges!
67. We are contagious!
68. We help medical students learn about the human body. 
69. We never stop learning. 
70. Illustrators want you to feel like a kid again!
71. We help solve visual problems! 
72. Illustrations help you put your new furniture together. 
73. If it looks good in our portfolio, the finished piece will look good on you as well.
74. Our work looks good on your walls, t-shirts and coffee mugs!
75. We want to distract you, in a good visual way of course!
76. An illustrator’s flexibility can be your best asset.
77. Sometimes the process behind the illustration is the best part! 
78. We help bring animations to life. 
79. Think of illustration as thinking pictures.
80. Illustrations help bring fashion to life then to the runway!
81. Our work adorns wine labels and packaging.  
82. Illustrations visually represent whatever is being said or written.
83. You eat off our beautifully illustrated patterns. 
84. Our inspirations, curiosities and experiences can add a different spin to your projects. 
85. Illustrations make board game night more exciting. 
86. Our quick commutes and small expenses give us freedom to just create and run our business.
87. We help bring your ideas to life!
88. Our illustrations visualize the right emotion on that greeting card you just bought.
89. We want you look closer and pay attention more because our work has a message! 
90. We help companies have a distinct looking brand image! 
91. Our clients are a very important part of our business.
92. Illustration opens up the hand of thought! 
93. An illustrator is as imaginative as you need them to be.
94. An illustrator helps you make a good impression because we live to create stuff.
95. We give fabric and clothing more flair! 
96. Our versatility keeps this industry moving forward.
97. The world will always need imagery. Where there's opportunity, there's a way!
98. We want to see our industry thrive. 
99. We are willing to sacrifice some sleep, a weekend or a trip to the beach for a really great project!
100. Illustrators are in it for life!

So if you ever needed to explain to someone what illustration is about, this can help! Now it's your turn. Please add what you want to tell the world about illustration! Add them into the comment section and feel free to pass this on!

© Holly DeWolf 2013 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

What Does Your Social Media Audience Want From You? If You're Not Sure, Then Ask!

Recently while poking around Facebook, I saw a brilliant post from ThinkGeek. If you've never heard of them, here is the gist: they are an awesome site selling awesome geeky things to delight the mind and your imagination. Their motto is "Stuff For Smart Masses." 

So getting back to what I was saying about their post... ThinkGeek did something very simple but very effective that got my attention. They asked their Facebook audience this question:  
"Serious question: What do *you* think we're doing right on Facebook? We've been asked to talk social media at a con & need your input!"
What followed was a great witty dialog back and forth by members of the site and the moderator. There wasn't a lot of commenter's however the answers focused on these key points:

  • Their feed includes both items which they carry as well as other items that their audience would appreciate. 
  • They focus on humour.
  • They stay positive. 
  • They make their audience smile a lot.
  • They involve people.
  • They ask a lot of questions.
  • They interact well. 

Social Media is often perceived as a all-about-me medium. As it turns out, it's not really about us after all. Online marketer is about our followers. Ask yourself what your audience wants from you. If you are not sure, then ask them! 

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

It May Not Be Burnout-You Might Just Need A Change.

"If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading."- Lao Tzu

Before you decide you are totally burned out, think for a moment: Is it burnout you are feeling or do you just need a change? 
Call it the curse of routine restlessness or just being too comfortable. Routines are the same-old-same-old. That is why they grow stale. That is why we get curious. 

"The difficulty lies, not in the new ideas, but in escaping from the old ones." -John Maynard Keynes

The big question to ask yourself-
If you are not following your creative instincts, then what are you following? 
• perhaps it's a habit.
• a comfy pattern.
• fear of change.
• fear of the new.

It's Spring and with that comes growth, warmer temperatures and reinvention. No one said being an illustrator was not going to come without challenges. No, this career comes with an infinite learning curve for sure. It challenges us to our creative core but we come back for more every single time!

Try these ideas for size:
• Do more self-directed work. 
• Work on new ideas for promotions. 
• Talk to your illustration friends more.
• Write about what you do on your blogs. Share your knowledge. 
• Rewrite your bio. This is an instant creative boost right there. 
• Step away from social networking more. It's important to network but making work is much more important. 
• Don't wait to asked to do things. Make more opportunities for yourself. 
• Do some Spring cleaning or rearrange your work space. This can be a huge refresher in itself!
• Listen to more podcasts while you work. 
• Take a day for yourself. We don't need to work all the time. Quiet time is important too. 

"The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new." -Socrates  

Monday, April 8, 2013

Some Thoughts On Competition

© Holly DeWolf
Even small fish can be happy! 

"Competition has been shown to be useful up to a certain point and no further, but cooperation, which is the thing we must strive for today, begins where competition leaves off." -Franklin D. Roosevelt 

I think we all would agree there is more competition in the illustration industry than ever before. This blog post is in response to quite a few emails asking me how I feel about all this new competitiveness. 

“If you want to find the real competition, just look in the mirror. After awhile you'll see your rivals scrambling for second place. ― Criss Jami

It has to be said: 

There is going to be competition in any industry and illustration is not exempt. The truth is, the gap between the amount of illustrators and the amount of work available is getting bigger by the day. 

Focusing too much on what others are doing can take your energy away. At some point you need to get away from the distractions and get back to making illustrations. 

There will always be styles of work that are trendy and illustrators that are trending. Just because it goes viral does not mean we are all going to like it. Ask yourself this: Do you want to be a trend or do you want to develop a certain style that is unique to you that you can market? 

"No one can make me work harder than I do, so I'm generally not interested in who I am competing with." -Victoria Principal 

The way I see it: 

If you can't beat 'em, Illustrate anyway. Do what you are designed to do. The world needs what you have to offer! Create daily. Draw, sketch and doodle the hell out of your ideas. Get your work out there. Network. Talk to people. Build referrals. Keep promoting what you do. Remember that no one can sell your skills better than you. 

If you can't beat 'em, go your own way!

• Do what your good at but be willing to reinvent yourself! 
• Go left or go right but avoid the straight and narrow.  
• Just keep working and have a plan.
• Don't worry about it so much. 

• Don't let it distract you. 
• Change the rules. 

• Focus on your own reality. 
• Compete with yourself! 

“The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.” ― Willie Nelson

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Illustration Fiction We Tell Ourselves

© Holly DeWolf

1. I'm not ready! 
The reality is, we are never going to be a 100% ready. There's always something to do and something to improve. Being ready is a process. This process should include a plan. Once you begin with your plan then start with the small tasks and keep going. Illustration is not about being done or finished because ideas don't stop. 

2. I don't have time to promote. 

You can't afford not to. Promotion is one of the largest components to this profession. If you do not promote yourself then who will? If you do not have an agent, then it's up to you. This job is a daily event that includes social networking, updating your website, posting news, sending mailers, emails, phone calls and blogging not to mention making work. It all comes down to a pre-scheduled system. Once you begin doing this on a regular basis then it will become one of your greatest assets and a regular creative habit.

3. I don't need a blog. 

It's not essential to have a blog although it is a pretty powerful tool to getting attention to your work. If you do it right with SEO and RSS, then this will drive more attention to your work. After that, your focus can involve answering questions, showing what you do, while focusing on what clients and art buyers should know about you. Add advice, tips and daily musings-this can be used as another promotional advantage to you. 

4. I can post whatever I want online.

Sure but it will cost you. There is a fine line when it comes to being open and honest. It's true we need to be out there however we do not need to reveal every aspect of our lives 24/7. Post like it's a conversation, post great links, bits of humour, casual parts of your life while presenting it in a positive package. Not sure what to say? Start small. Start with humour and remember you do have an audience that is paying attention even when you think they are not.   

5. Unpaid and low-paying jobs will pay off.

For how long? And how will this portray you as an illustrator? Always believe you are a professional who deserves to have an income. You have bills like everyone else. You would never expect your dentist to examine your teeth for free. It's also important to convey to our art buyers that our industry is not a hobby. If we keep accepting free work the buying market will keep asking for it! 

6. I don't need a portfolio.

Yes you do! Telling people you an illustrator is not enough- they want to see what you can do. If you are not sure where to begin, there are options. Here are some to consider: a physical book of work to take with you, a mailer, your web page, your blog, your linkedin, your fb like page, member sites such as That's My Folio, a slideshare presentation, a video, and a iPad slide show. Make it easy for your buying market to find your work online. If they have to search through links and pages, they will move on to someone else. They are bombarded with illustrators looking for work everyday. The easier you make your site, the more you will stand out. 

7. I'll let the client make all the decisions. They know what to do.

Working with a client is a group effort. Never ever believe you are not part of the creative decision making process. This is where you get to exercise your negotiation skills especially when it comes to price and the usage of your work. Always use a contract. Always keep open communication before, during and after projects are completed. After all, this is a working relationship that can lead to more work and good word of mouth.  

8. I Don't feel like working this week.

Again, it will cost you. Consider this: there are how many illustrators out there looking for work? The gap between illustrators and the amount of available work is HUGE! It's important to rest and take time for ourselves however, we need to work hard at illustration in order to get something out of it. It's no wonder the average work week for some illustrators is 60+ hours. We are a hard working bunch even when the money is not coming in. 

My talent is enough! 
I honestly wish it was for all of us. Sadly, it's a buyers market and we are expected to be more than just image makers. We have to compete with many skills, many styles, and trends. We need to be a big package of skills that is going to move us into the spotlight and in front of the buying market. We cannot do this by locking ourselves in our studios while only making art. Like the quote from John Augustus Shedd states: A ship in a harbour is safe, but this is not what a ship is built for! 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Good Creative Codes To Live By Part 4!

Illustration tips, Holly DeWolf, creative advice
© Holly DeWolf 

1. Pick up a pencil. Doodle. Write down that idea. Focus on a word, a song lyric or something witty. Creativity is not computer dependent!

2. Admit that your constant multitasking can be bad for your productivity. Narrow it down into workable daily tasks that wont have you running.  

3. Remind yourself that you are being googled. Possible clients, art buyers, agents, or art directors do follow links and look illustrators up. Make sure during that 10 seconds to impress them, they are able to find you. 

4. Use your blog as a networking tool. Your blog is a record of what you're creating and focusing on. This record will represent you online. The more you post, the more it will boost your search result ranking when someone googles your name

5. Do something daily with at least one of your good ideas. 

6. Make self promotion a top priority! No one will hire you if they don't know you exist!

7. Never be surprised when someone contacts you about your work- you should expect it. You worked hard for it. You should welcome it. You should be ready to enjoy the experience! 

8. Some of the best ideas start off as a doodle! It's random. It's like slacking off but in a good way-a visual way! 

9. Take an hour for creativity everyday! "The irony of creative commitment is that it’s deeply freeing. Having a regular creative hour frees you from the internal critic. Committing to the freedom to just make something for yourself removes a type of barrier that can aid in client work too." Read more here.

10. You are not just an illustrator- you are also telling a story. Visualize that in your next promotions. 

Next up Illustration Notes: Illustration Fiction We Tell Ourselves.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Just Keep Posting!

twitter, Holly DeWolf
© Holly DeWolf

I know I don't say this nearly enough but nice tweet! 

We create great content, great posts and great work. We spend time setting it up with all the usual hashtag bells and whistles. You post it then wait and wait for it...and nothing! Let the crickets start their engines! 

Ironically, Twitter is a wordy based app with a teeny tiny 140 character word count. What's even more challenging is that word count limit may change to 117! 

What trips us up is the conversational style that tweets have. We get to chat through our computers to a whole pile of people. Quite often it feels like you're just talking to your computer...alone.  

"Tweet as if everyone is reading!" -Jon Friedman @jonfriedman

In a recent article from Kike Calvo-10 Twitter Tips for Photographers and Artists from from National Geographic, "We must be willing to share our knowledge. Twitter works based on the Karma: The more you supply, the more you get back." @kikecalvo 

I'm going to share some social networking advice I've been learning:
• Use Hootsuite to pre-write posts. This gives you a chance to mull over your ideas, witty thoughts and links. 
• Be mindful of what words you use but be yourself. You are what you tweet.
• Be aware of certain peak times to post content. They suggest 8 am to 5 pm. 
• Letter count- leave room for RT's. 
• Don't forget links.
• Repost links, info and articles you find interesting.
• Join in on conversations, industry chats, ask for feedback and advice.  
• Add hashtags- again making them relevant to your posts. 
• Have at least one hashtag.
• Post content that you would mostly read. 
• Post about something cool, funny, interesting-it's not always about you.
• Post about something new. 
• Make sure you give credit to your content sources. 
• Create lists to help you classify the content/people you want to follow. 
• Reply to RT's, mentions and replies. Share the love and say thank you! 

"Twitter is not a technology. It's a conversation. And it's happening with or without you." -Charlene Li, co-author of Groundswell @charleneli 

It seems we do get caught in likes, RT's and the number of followers. Hard not to. Keep in mind, Twitter is reciprocal and repetitive process. You don't need to live on Twitter and post incessantly (please sleep) but throughout the day it's good to plug in and try to be available. Just keep posting! 

"I tweeted a joke about ninjas and nobody saw it." 

You are being heard but keep in mind we are competing with endless amounts of information daily-it never stops! The idea is to develop good relationship with being online kind of like (but not quite) with a real live person. Keep in mind- you are not going to have a whole conversation on twitter. It's a conversation starter-Twitter is great for finding people who have similar ideas. Just remind yourself that a tweet is better than a chirp!   

Have a great week. Next up Illustration Notes: Illustration Fiction We Tell OurselvesAnd on that note, please follow me @hollydewolf 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Be Ready For Clients!

If you were contacted by a potential client to send samples of your work, a link to your website or requests for a promo would you be ready? 

Most of us are not completely ready or as ready as we'd like to be.

When we do get the call, the panic starts. We start worrying about the state of our website or whether we have any materials to send. We worry about our work. We worry about our experience. Then we worry some more until procrastination mixed with panic sets in. Not fun!

Here is the reality: If an art director contacted you, it's best not to make them wait. If you do, they could move onto to someone else. 

Wouldn't it be nice if these moments could be exciting or a positive step in your career that you could look forward too? 

It's easy when your preparedness meets up with your opportunity!  

How To Be Prepared: 
• Keep your website up to date.
• Keep your blogs up to date.
• Have tear sheets/sample sheets printed and ready to send.
• Create a sample sheet in pdf form.
• Update your CV on a regular basis. 
• Have lo res image samples set aside in a file for emails.
• If your website has not been updated, you can always create a SlideShare of your work or send them a link to websites you belong to such as Hire An Illustrator or That's My Folio 
• Have a list of links set aside of interviews, spotlights and other sites that showcased your work. 
• Have at least 3 contacts/references in case they want to enquire about you, your work and your working style.

Basically, this is your own system for getting your info out there quickly to land that project. If it's all ready, then there is no room for worry.  You can't always know when these moments will happen. Be prepared for the fortuitous moments this career offers because freelancing is like that! 

You should never be surprised when someone contacts you about your work- you should expect it. You worked hard for it. You should welcome it. You should be ready to enjoy the experience!  

Have a great work week. Coming up next on Illustration Notes: Good Creative Codes To Live By Part 4.