Oil and Water: A conundrum
Most artists I know are not business minded. Often, they lack the 'people skills' necessary to land the killer job, as they are most happily occupied by their work. Sitting at a drawing table or computer for hours at a time is not conducive to developing such skills. I find myself having to pay attention to minor details like shaking hands, or making eye contact. I am not a 'people person' at all, which forces me to rely on my graphic and animation skills to compensate. The Internet is the ideal environment for many artists, who telecommute, working at home in pajamas, and forwarding the work. I currently work in London.
The ideal artist is one who understands marketing, i.e. Christo. How far would YOU get with a project involving plastic sheets and an island?
Jekyll and Hyde
My artist amigos are a peculiar combination of immense egos and fragile self image. On one hand, you know how good you are! Everyone tells you so when they see your work! At the same time, you undervalue your commercial work , often undercharging radically. It's difficult, trying to put a price on your labor, and makes many of us uncomfortable. To be successful, you have to overcome this, no matter how much it makes your soul squirm!
So What's It Worth?
Well, most people want free work. Case in point;
I met Susan downtown. She was working on a new project; a public access TV show called 'Telecomm Beach.' They were in need of a logo and other graphics. Sound good so far? Sure, you'd love to see your work on TV. What a boost, eh?
I called their office and spoke to the head of Production. These guys already had an infrastructure set up, from President on down. Mind you, they weren't working free! BUT, (and I bet you've heard this at least once) their budget did not allow for graphics. Of course, IF I did their logo; and IF they started to make money…sound familiar? What's wrong with this picture?
I'll Gladly Pay You Tuesday
I guarantee you'll wind up in this situation more than once. Here's a simple test; what do these people all have in common?
The one thing they all have in common; THEY NEED ART. THEY NEED IT NOW. THEY DON'T WANT TO PAY FOR IT!!!
Here's a line to watch out for; "I can't pay you right now, but if this sells, I'll be able to give you something."
Once more; "I can't pay you right now, but if this sells, I'll be able to give you something."
The correct response is; "NO!" Or, "Sorry, I don't have the time to spare." Or, "I can't afford to take work on spec right now as my rent's due and I'm out of beer."
You'll love it when they give you a hurt or puzzled look and say, "Why not? It doesn't cost YOU anything!"
Okay, there's really no need to respond, but you may want to anyway. Some points of fact;
The Public's Taste is All in its Mouth
Here's a scenario from the Real World. An upscale restaurant needs some desktop publishing. They want a logo, fliers, business cards, a menu, letterhead. You offer to do the whole enchilada for $30.00 an hour. They take your splendidly designed business card and promise to call you. They don't, so you call them back. They tell you they already took care of it. You walk past the restaurant, and they've got all these crappy printouts stuck everywhere. You immediately spot design flaws. The fliers use six different hard-to-read fonts, and have several misspellings. The menu is ugly, crowded, hard to read. Later, you find out that they hired some local alcoholic to do the work for $10.00 an hour and free beer.
Yep, it sucks, but there's nothing you can do. It irks you that they are happy with work that looks like it was done on an ancient Apple by an alcoholic with a daisy wheel printer. Folks, this is just one of those things that falls under the Serenity Prayer line about accepting the things you cannot change. Why would you expect a restaurant manager to have a developed sense of design and taste? Look how he's dressed, fer chrissake! Move on, move on. You are worth more than $10.00 and free beer. Say that in the mirror every morning if you have to.
You Like it Venue Work
There's a lot of competition out there! Of course, they can't draw flies, but they're working! Of course, if you could find those clients, you would too. Again, the Internet is an amazing tool. Find yourself a venue! A good web site showcasing your work can help you a lot. You'll be judged on the merits of your work, rather than the fact you have a huge wart on your nose, choose not to shave, shave your head, have piercings all over your face or a 17" mohawk. My kind of job hunt! Of course, a computer system is essential these days. Everybody wants computer literate artists these days.
Resistance is futile. Buy one.
You can have a website without a computer, however. Many communications companies offer e-mail with your voice mail or pager. With an e-mail address, you can get 5 megs of free web hosting on Geocities, Tripod, Xoom, and others. These places also feature idiot-proof web design for those who are HTML challenged. Libraries, coffee shops, reprographic companies have computers you can use for a nominal fee, or even free! Get your pictures scanned somewhere, go on down to your local cyber-connection place, and get busy! (Some advice, don't bug your friends to use their computers. If they offer, fine, but don't take it personal if they don't. I wouldn't.) Once you get an URL, or website address, you'll have to have new business cards made featuring your URL, e-mail address, etc. It impresses the hominids.
I Thought the Sponge Was Under the Sink
Beware! You may be attacked by a sponge at some point. Sponges come off as being your close, personal friend. They will bring you things you didn't ask for. I've received everything from a collection of metal rulers in different sizes to a flotation device. Let me tell you all about Sam…
I met this guy downtown. He came by with a friend, promptly lost his
keys in my couch and so had to return. Sam is an 'Arteest', which is different
from an artist. He's an old guy, in his fifties. Shaves his head, as it
looks cooler than being bald. Chicks dig him. (He says)
He thinks being an 'arteest' gives him license to behave outrageously, throw temper tantrums, make scenes, and so on. He started coming by almost daily, to bore me with stories of sexual conquests of teenyboppers met in bars. Interspersed with that, his plans of grandeur involving his sculptures and the MoMa. He is under the impression that anyone with a chunk of altered stone can just call up and book a show! His project consists of a goal of 30 nude torsos of his ex-girlfriend, another story.
When he collects the raw material, he considers that piece finished, as all he has to do is sculpt it into fairly indifferent body parts. He actually has 24 pieces of rock, and 4 sculptures. He lives in other people's homes. He has no income, save for doing signage for local businesses. He pawns his sculptures as soon as they're completed so he can buy fried chicken at the deli.
He weasels free work out of people. He's a 'No-Pay'.
Had I looked at this guy's overall situation, I'd have him pegged as a No-Pay immediately. But, no. Initially, he DID pay. I used to do diagrams of signage for him, as well as text printouts he could project onto a surface for lettering. Gradually, he 'forgot' to pay me. Then he had a project, a brochure, and needed some artwork done. It took two full days to complete. By then, he'd abandoned that project and gone on to something else. Sorta like that Zen koan; if a project is abandoned, do you still owe the artist?
Finally, one day I did the FINAL sign diagram. He said he had to take it to the client to get it approved, and get some money up front. "I'll be back later with the money," sez he. He wasn't, not THAT day!
Next day, I went fishing. I really could have used that $20.00. Got back in the afternoon. Sam came by.
"Came by to pay you, but you weren't home, so I spent it. I'm broke," sez Sam. "Gotta get more money from the client, and by the way, I need another printout of the text. I lost it."
I was working on a program for a paying client who was having a family reunion. I told him I was currently busy, come back later and I'll have it printed out. He agreed.
He did not come back that day. I went on an overnight fishing trip. The next day, I went with friends to the desert for the 4th of July, and didn't return for three days. When I got home, there were a dozen messages on my machine from, guess who! No-Show Sam, who was desperate for the text printouts.
The next morning around 10:00 ayem, who is at my
door? Yep. He's got the sign with him, sans letters. Starts in about how
this sign was stressing him out, he's broke, yadda yadda, woof woof blah.
At this point, I have lost sympathy for poor, broke Sam. And this is why I am telling you this tedious tale.
"First of all, Sam, you say you're coming back with money, and you don't.
THEN, you tell me you spent my money because I wasn't home. THEN, you lost
the printout and I told you to come back later.
You didn't. THAT IS NOT HOW YOU DO BUSINESS!"
"But I tried and tried to get ahold of you and you weren't home," sputters Sam. "By the way, I have a sign job for the Blarney Stone. I need a diagram to scale. But I forgot the folder with the stuff. I'll bring it by later."
Seeing my chance, I pounce. "Why?" sez I.
"You don't want the work?" he says, giving me a puzzly look.
"Sam, you spent my money, you didn't come by when you said you would, and no! I don't think I want this work."
"Fine," he says, erupting to his feet, snatching up his textless sign and stomping toward the door, where he pauses dramatically.
"I shan't bother you again!" And out the door goes Sam. Taking it as a personal affront rather than a business deal gone awry, he ignores me on the street now. It's my fault, you see, for failing to comprehend that Sam's "be right back" does not necessarily mean that day! It's also my fault for thinking that my work is important enough to be paid for promptly.
Don't Let the Door Hit You in the Ass on Your Way Out
I've never 'fired' a client before. I'd do it again. I've wasted time on his projects. I've waited for him to bring cash by. I've been bored by his stories, which are all the same except for age and hair color.
I've wondered why he gave me a flotation device. I've marvelled at the nerve of a guy who pays me $5.00 a printout, and then charges his 'mystery client' $20.00!!!
So, ya gotta ax yourself, "Is this client worth all the time and aggravation?" If the answer is 'NO,' dump the chump! He will find others to scam on. (As I type this, he has begun hanging around these young people who are putting in an art gallery across the street!) These people will always find new suckers. There's one born every minute, I hear. Don't weep for Sam. If you're plagued by one of these parasites, treat 'em like the bloated tick that they are. Burn 'em off with cigarettes. Yank 'em out of your skin with tweezers! Douse 'em with fingernail polish remover! Get 'em off! Get 'em off! Aaaahhhhhhhhh!!
If, after all this, you still want a career in graphics, ask yourself this; How come there are so many lawyers and doctors who are also excellent artists?
Then ask: Do I really want to stay in school for eight more years?
If the answer is no, law is boring and blood makes you queasy, then GO FOR IT! If nothing else, it will keep you sane!