Artist Representative for Illustrators: Pros & Cons

Should I have an Artist Representative or not?

Girl at a desk posing as an artist representative

Not a real rep, but an actress, acting as one. See how busy she is, finding you all that work?

An Artist Representative can be a good thing or not.

I am often asked, “Will, should I have a rep?”
I don’t really know if you should have an artist representative or not, or even if I should, but… I have certainly played this game with and without a rep. So I can make a list of pros and cons and give my opinion. So here goes.

 

 

Pros of having an artist representative

Can get more work

Can get better work

Can get different work

Can make more money on each assignment, because your rep will be charging more, or should I say, the rep is a better negotiator than you I.

Can avoid doing a lot of paper work.

Can avoid doing the collections part of the job.

Can avoid doing all that prospecting, finding work, advertising, marketing, constantly hunting for jobs. All that stuff that you DID NOT become an artist to do. Stuff your artist representative can do and probably wants to do.

It’ validating to have a rep, Makes you feel good about yourself. You can say, “I am such a good illustrator that I have a rep out sorting out all kinds of clients that want my artwork.

Can spend more time creating and being an artist.

So there are the pros, or some of the pros, the ones that I was able to think of.

Cons of having an Artist Representative

On the Cons side, well…

You have to pay for that rep, they aren’t going to work for free. That is usually 25-30%.

A lot of times you give up the right to find or seek your own work.

You don’t know if your jobs are being diverted. Sometimes reps will give work intended for you, to another artist that they represent.

Takes longer to get paid.

You may be persuaded to take jobs that are not a good fit for you. This happened to me and is the reason I parted ways with one of my earlier reps.

You will probably pay your rep a commission on any job you land on your own.

You are dependent on that rep, so if for any reason you part ways, you are done. You have given up so much control and now you have to either find another rep or get back in the game.

Your rep might be a crappy artist representative. A lot of the good reps are not eager to take on new illustrators. They have the ones they are comfortable working with and they are established and they may not even want you.

And there are the cons.

Advice for artists considering getting a representative.

I have three points of advice.

1) Don’t even think about hiring a rep until you’ve been freelancing, on your own for at least two and better yet, three years. Learn the ropes, work in the trenches etc. This will give you a good perspective. Otherwise you may not be ready for a rep. You could end up, tied to a looser rep. If they were willing to take you on when you were such a beginner, it may be because they were a beginner too.

A better illustrator can attract a better rep. Have some clients already, have some work under your belt and some experience. Learn the marketing, the negotiating, the communicating and the collecting.

2) If you are considering a rep and they are willing to take you on and you are going to join their group, ask them for a list of who the represent and for their contact info. If they say no, that’s a bad sign. I know of three or four that would say “No” and it’s because their artists art all mad at them, there are problems. A good rep will have happy artists working with them. You want to know if the rep will pay you on time, if they will actually rep you.

My first rep gave me the names and numbers of her artists and I only had to call a few to know that she was a good rep. Those artists said I was lucky that she was considering me.

And 3) Don’t ever give up your right to marked your own work. You can look at a contract and cross things out or ask them to. After being an artist for over twenty five years, I would NEVER give up that right. You never want to be sitting on your hands, waiting for them to find work for you.

Remember, that contract is ONLY to help and protect the rep, look at it closely and strike a few lines if necessary.

One of my favorite reps ever was JoAnne Schuna. She was kind, ethical and everything that you would want in a rep.

 

I hope this helps, I am sure I’ve left things out, and I hope some of you have some great things to add to this, if so, feel free to add your comments on this subject.

 

PS, today, June 6, is my best friend’s birthday. Wayne Andreason is 54 today. Happy birthday Wayne.

Keep drawing and painting and if you need a little help, there’s folioacademy.com

The Secret Life of a Professional Artist and Freelance Illustrator

The Secret Life of a Freelance Illustrator; Professional Artist

People know nothing about freelance illustration 

a treasure chest full of treasure It’s amazing how many people know nothing about freelance illustration. I think most people assume you have to be crazy to be a freelancer – they’re probably right. Interestingly enough back when I had my highest earning years back in the late 90’s my wife would get comments from women at the park like: “Has your husband found a job yet?” or “It must be hard being married to an artist”. My wife would say, “you have no idea!” I think she enjoyed messing with them. People with good intent would drop little clues like, “I hear they’re hiring over at Home Depot”.

Being a Professional Artist or Illustrator was easier back then. 

Back then being a freelancer was a much easier feat than it is today. I’ve talked at length about the current state of freelance illustration in lectures and one on one. Today the freelance markets are fractured and constantly evolving. I know illustrators who are now bankers, or working at Home Depot. I know editors who are teaching school among other jobs, like at Home Depot. I know editors who are trying to become artists and illustrators. I know illustrators who are now graphic designers or trying to become editors, or work at Home Depot. I even know art directors who have been laid off and re-hired by the same companies to freelance graphic design. I know art directors and editors who have lost their jobs to down sizing and are still looking for their next job. At Home Depot. (the t is silent)

The World has Changed a lot for artists and Illustrators.

The world has probably changed more in the past 10 years than ever before, not counting war or ice ages and crazy stuff like that. I probably sounds naive and over-reaching but can you imagine any other technology that has changed the world in such a short time as the internet? Remember the last time your internet went down and you sat in fetal position sucking your thumb waiting for the horror to end? We can’t do anything without it!

Be happy, Say “no” to bad freelance jobs, and drugs of course.   

But I digress. Let me divulge some of my secret activities! Sometimes I don’t get dressed until the afternoon. I’ve skyped without pants (as far as you know) – maybe with you! – but I promise, not with your daughter. I go shopping on weekdays (sometimes at Home Depot) while the world is at work. I work longer and harder than most people with a regular job. I can’t remember the last time I put in fewer than 70 hours in one week, sometimes more than 90 – BUT – they were the funnest (most fun, but hey! I’m an artist trying to be a writer) hours I could imagine putting in. Most days I wake up pinching myself (dream metaphor) that I get to do this. It wasn’t always like this however. It took me about 15 years to learn that my life is so much better off when I don’t spend more than I make and I say “no” to bad freelance jobs. What are bad freelance jobs? The kind that make it hard to sleap and have you cringing when you wake up. I can’t tell you what they are because your bad jobs will be different than mine. And hopefully fewer.

The Lonely Artist; Freelance Illustrating has it’s downsides

I’ve wished I could stand around the water cooler and catch up on the latest chatter. I used to get really lonely painting all day (and got hooked on General Hospital for about a year back in 1993). I’ve called other illustrators randomly from the old directories just to strike up a conversation. I worked on Christmas day once because the client had to have it two days after or they were going to go with someone else. (to be read out loud with a whiny voice) I happened to get paid $13,000 for that job, it was for Sprint, and it only took me about a week to complete. I could do it now digitally in a few days and enjoy Christmas with my family and saved some of that money. And I once earned $20,000 for a phone call (remind me to go into detail on this one on another blog post). Best phone call ever! 2nd best woulda been when when the doctor told me I didn’t have worms. LOL.

‘Underindulgence’: the Key to Happiness?

I’ve learned to spend less than I make. This is probably one of the most important skills you can learn. Stress is a killer…no really…STRESS WILL KILL YOU. I’ve had about 3 really stressful times. And I wake up pinching myself wondering if I died all those times.

1) Back when I was stupid I got down to about $800 in my account for the entire month and I didn’t have any assignments! I was so nervous I made a few calls to art directors I had worked for in the past. A few of them gave me work and then of course I got a deluge of assignments the week after.

2) Back when I was really really stupid – we were spending more than we were making because we were making lots of money. It was right after a year where I turned down over $70,000 worth of freelance work because my plate was already too full in 1998.Yep – we spent all the money in our account and couldn’t get paid from any of my outstanding accounts for about 3 weeks. (Please don’t think I’m seeking any sympathy – in fact you should leave a comment with your best synonym for dumb ass)…Luckily I had been saving quarters, nickels, and dimes in a jar. I’m not kidding, I got that puppy off the shelf and counted out $90. Later that day I had my car filled up and groceries in the fridge. I Kept checking the mailbox but each day there were NO checks. We stopped driving unless it was absolutely necessary. Did I mention that our two credit cards were maxed? The following week when the fridge was empty I went for the back up plan – the penny jar! SHOOWEE – $20 later and I was back with groceries again – amazing how far you can stretch your last $20 bucks. Remind me to give you an in expensive recipe for black eyed peas. Eventually we got paid – crazy thing was that I was owed about $28,000 in outstanding checks but this is the lesson: Don’t spend it until it’s in your account and even then – DON”T SPEND IT!

3) Back when I was Ultra Mega Stupid – we got in over our heads again. (notice a pattern here? some of us have to learn the same lessons over and over) I had about a year when we were going through a really really dry spell for freelance – this was also a transitionary time – it’s a long story – but basically I had to learn all over again how important it is to save money. We survived! We downsized. We learned what we needed to have to be happy and what we could live without.

It’s not how much you make that matters, it’s how much you keep

The good news is that in the past 5 years I’ve had more money than I did when I was earning much much more. We wasted so much money back then. Now I keep enough money in the bank to pay all of our bills for about 9 months. This is enough time to really make drastic changes if things aren’t working out. Don’t tell my fam, they will find something or things we just cant live without and make me spend it all.

So there you go – the secret life of a freelancer isn’t so secret anymore – Ups and downs yes, but it’s the best JOB I’ve NEVER had.

I painted the image above a few months back for National Geographic Learning. It was one of about 8 paintings I completed for an educational project they had for ESL students. I was given the assignment from Cynthia Currie – an art director I hadn’t heard from in about a decade. It was really neat to get a job from her again – I hope she reads my blog so she can see how exciting it was – hint hint! :)

PS- Here’s that inexpensive recipe for Black Eyed Peas:
1 bag Black eyed peas
Water
Salt
Empty peas into a pot, dig bag out of trash and follow cooking instructions on the package.

How Should I Protect My Artwork From Online Theft?

Can I Protect My Artwork, Illustrations and Ideas From Theft? Should I?

I am often asked about this BUT I don’t really worry about it.

Amanda asked, how to protect her artwork online since she would soon be publishing her portfolio. My answers may or may not surprise you but I’ve compiled my thoughts based on the examples of my illustration and animation friends and other artists that I know. There seems to be a shift from the way things used to be done.

Continue reading

How to Make an App: Step 10: Make Another App

Nice Reviews on Our Story App & a Sneak Peek at “Gary’s Worms”

We are so excited to talk about the reviews Gary’s Place is getting as well as talk about the sequel to Gary’s Place. Gary’s Got Worms.

Gary’s got worms?

Starting my next app, Gary’s got Worms. It’s not what you think, In this next App, Gary has worms, but not the itchy bum type, the night crawler type. Either way, worms can be a pain, in the end.

Gary’s Place gets a 4.5 and a 5 star rating!

We have the new updates now that we’ve fixed the ending of Gary’s place and we submitted it to Digital Story Time and The iMums. Two of the top review sites for children’s story apps. Digital Story Time gave us 4.5 stars and The iMums gave us 5 stars! YAY! I couldn’t believe it! I had to start looking at the competition on those sites and found that many of the other apps in the 4-5 star range are being produced by big publishers like Harper Collins and Disney. It felt really good to be able to start and finish this project with Rick Walton and my son Aaron and a little help from Tabitha Thompson’s wonderful voice acting – and to be able to compete!

WHY IS HE HELLBENT ON MAKING APPS? IS HE CRAZY?

Since we’re finally rolling I’ll share our sales stats from Google Play, Amazon, and iTunes, but not yet, stay tuned. I will in future posts. I don’t expect to sell thousands of these, and certainly not overnight. I don’t think digital publishing works that way for the

most part. I’ve got my eye on the long term goal of steadily building a brand. Some of my peers ask me why I seem to be so hellbent on making apps. Why work on a project like this without any guarantee of success? Why not spend 
more time in traditional publishing markets? Or watch more TV? Why risk it? Do you hate traditional publishing? ARE YOU CRAZY?

I love these questions – keep em coming! :)

No I don’t hate traditional publishing – I illustrated 3 books last year and loved each one of them. I look forward to illustrating more in the future. I’m having the time of my life working in a medium that is expanding my knowledge and skill sets. I’m enjoying the collaborations I’m making with famous children’s book author Rick Walton, and my son Aaron – who, by the way, is very creative and is actually a major contributor on interactive, animation, and content ideas. I count myself extremely lucky to be able to afford the time to work on these. But probably the biggest reason is that in order to succeed in anything artistic there needs to be risk. I’ve learned to embrace it. This doesn’t mean that I don’t hear nasty things from the voices. There always there but I’ve learned how to cage them quicker and keep them locked away longer.Many are afraid of digital publishing. Some are wishing it away. Some are ignoring it. I would just like to point out that it took nearly 50 years for the automobile to become mainstream. The early contraptions were noisy, expensive, unreliable, and inefficient. People  made fun of the early adopters. Many were hoping they would fail so everything would go back to normal. I can’t predict the future but I doubt we will move away from digitally delivered and enhanced storybooks for children. This means that I won’t have to worry about my creations going out of print.

Build a Quality Brand

My plan is to steadily and slowly build a quality brand. Each new app will advertise the previous story apps and each previous app will be updated to advertise the newest story app. I guess that might be step 11 or step 12 but who’s keeping track? They “say slow and steady wins the race” – unless it’s a sprint – we’ll see. I keep hearing about artists who make an app and never make another one because they didn’t sell enough to justify the effort. I also hear about those who make one app and it’s their “Driving Miss Daisy” and they are suddenly rich, and famous and they are millionaires, but that is fluke-ish and it’s probably those guys that make the rest of us want to give up when we don’t hit a home run with our first try. I think this is a mistake if they can afford to continue. Think about some of the most famous picture book brands out there – like the Olivia stories…or the Skippyjon Jones books. They weren’t created in a year or even two – it took a LONG time. It took RISK from their publishers. So Give a Hoot, Take a Risk, and another, and another, and slowly and steadily win the race, it’s not a sprint. 

Story Apps Need (good) Ratings TOO

If you’ve bought a copy of Gary’s Place I’d love to hear what you think! Also if you wouldn’t mind giving us a rating in the app store – that will help – good or bad – Preferably good. My mom used to say, you must be able to think of something good to say about anyone, or any app. 
If you haven’t bought a copy, feel free to buy it, we don’t mind.
thank you
If you want to go back and see all the steps, start with step one and link from there. How to make an app-step 1.

How to Make a Story App, step 9, fix it.

Gary’s Place Now Available For Android

In this post I’m going to write about what we’ve been doing with Gary’s place and some of the mistakes we’ve made along the way – and give information on how to contact my son Aaron for help with your app.

Now Playing at Google Play and Amazon app stores near you.

First: Gary’s Place can now be found in the Google Play and Amazon app stores for Android devices – YAY! We are charging a dollar less since it’s optimized for iPad and stretched a bit on many of the android phones and tablets.

Still not a best seller. 

Second: I’m not sharing sales data yet because we really haven’t gotten off the ground yet – I’ve been holding back because of all the problems we’ve had – ARRRRG! Sales data coming after we start advertising. Naturally I hope it sales like “Where the Wild Things Are” but I am also realistic. So don’t hate me if it flops. I already know that it might. That’s the beauty of free enterprise. We are lucky to have the freedom to buy, the freedom to sell, the freedom to try AND the freedom to fail.

So lets talk about the problems and subsequent updates:

UPDATE #1: FIX THE NAME.

When we first uploaded to iTunes and waited and waited for the approval we were horrified when we downloaded the app and saw that it was called “Build 17” on my iPad in the title below the icon. NOOOOOO!!!!! Let me just say, that while Apple is “user friendly” for consumers they are 180 degrees from that for developers (User UNFRIENDLY). It really feels as if they don’t care about helping you AT ALL! Or even like they want you to fail, give up, eat worms and kill yourself. When we uploaded the app file, Apple asked for the title of the app – which we filled in with “Gary’s Place”. But they don’t use that to put under your app icon – instead – they use the file name -BUT THEY DON’T TELL YOU THAT.

Now available, an awesome children’s story App, “Build 17”. No, it’s not sci fi. 

Therefor, update number one, change the name to something a little more appealing, like “Gary’s Place”.

Update #2: fix the ending and reducing the overall size

The story of Gary’s Place is about a small fur bearing animal that lives with mom and dad, and eventually moves out into a place of his own. Hence the name. Gary’s Place.
Well one of my online friends – Elizabeth – informed me that at first she interpreted the ending as Gary moving back in with his parents at the end. “Hmmm”,  I thought, “that’s not good.” So I asked Jan Watford who had reviewed Gary’s Place on her blog if she read it that way as well – and she said, “Yes, isn’t that what you intended?” …..Crap!
So…Update # 2 was to fix the ending and reducing the overall size of the app…and that update just went live for iPad. Yay!

Update #3: add a navigation bar

Then my app builder guy, AKA my son Aaron (who’s been working really hard on all of this) thought we needed navigation to make it easier to pick a specific page in the app and go directly there. (It will disappear after a few seconds so it’s not in the way.) That was a GOOD CALL. I’ve been so busy with a large freelance assignment that I haven’t been able to give it as much attention as it deserves. So luckily I have him around, and yes, I compensate him for his brilliance and work. He went ahead and did added the navigation, and it makes using the app Sooo much easier, and user friendly. Take that Apple. Below is a screen shot of what update #3 will look like. So Update #3 will add a navigation bar to quickly jump to any page and reduce the size even further.

UPDATE #4: TBA and in the mean time, Start my next App 

My writer/partner, Rick Walton has now written the next story and I’m starting to layout the entire app – and loving it! Gary’s has Worms.

My son Aaron has decided to help other people with their apps as long as they’re using Kwik. He’s spent the last 3 months working with Kwik and has gotten pretty good at it. He’s offering to coach you or build your app – you can visit his site right here: or copy and paste or click this>>>http://www.atanimations.com/ and here’s a gratuitous link to FolioAcademy.com where you will find art lessons online.

Happy Valentines Day

Happy Valentines Day

P.S. Happy Valentines Day. Thanks to Photoshop, I was able to customize a candy heart pic for my wife and valentine RuthAnn.

I will post step 10 on Feb, 21, 2014, put it on your calendar, and put that on your fridge. See you then.

Tips for Illustrators & Students Part 2: Why Are You an Artist?

We are Artists Because IT USED TO BE FUN!

I became and Artist cuz art is fun.

I became and Artist cuz art is fun.

I want to start this by asking you, how did you get into art?  What made you start producing art?  Was it just for fun? Were you just a kid?  Did you get into art because people asked you to draw things for them?  I honestly doubt that you got into art because other people asked you to. Most of us got into art to make cool stuff and because it was fun and fulfilling.

There is much amazing stuff out there, and we looked out at it and decided we wanted to make our own and show it to the world.

Do you want to be an Illustrator, an Artist, or an Employee? 

Art is fun.

Art is fun.

Yet so many artists who have spent so long learning, and practicing get to a certain point, like when they’re about to finish school, and they start thinking about getting out of school, becoming an Artist, an illustrator, or just thinking about how to make money with their art skills.

After that all of a sudden we want to get hired. So we can get paid. So we can eat. We want to be employees.  We start looking for someone else to tell us what to do (or draw) so we can make a living, and so we can eat.

We get asked to draw something that isn’t fun or we get asked to do something that takes away from our vision.

What can I do To Make Money as an Artist?

I don’t want to discourage you, there is nothing wrong with working with and helping other people. I want to help open your mind to other possibilities.

It started with students across the country, and now it’s students all over the world. People want to be hired.

The main thing I am asked is, “what can I draw to make money?” I think it’s backwards, is that why we became artist? I’m not saying it’s inherently wrong, but it’s not why we started.

I’m in a position now that I can pick and choose. I’ve put in a lot of work that I ended up hating but I’ve also put a lot of work into my children’s books that I’ve really enjoyed, and I enjoyed the people I’ve worked with.

THERE ARE A LOT OF OPTIONS.

But is that the only way or are there other things that we can do? Have you ever thought that musicians, authors, actors, videographers, and gallery artists are more entrepreneurial than illustrators. Think about that, are they?

What is wrong with Illustrators.  And this is a generalization. Musicians move to Austin, or Nashville, or they record in a friend’s house, and now with the internet a lot of them are starting their own YouTube channels. Comedians are starting their own YouTube channels. Actors move to Hollywood or start YouTube channels, Gallery-Artists make something and try to get someone to buy it. Writers write something and hope publishers buy it, or they publish it on Amazon and sell it directly. Like Amanda Hopkins.

Illustrators Want to be hired, commissioned, or just get a job. 

What’s the difference between us Illustrators, and all the other artists? Ask yourself and try to answer that question. A graphic designer decided to publish his own small books. I have a friend who owns a graphic design studio, and we first started working together about ten, fifteen years ago. And he would hire me, he was getting contracts from Children’s book publishers, and he would hire me to do covers and inside spreads.

A couple years ago he hired me to do some work for a children’s book with a publisher I had never heard of before, why because it was new, it also happened to be him or his publishing company. He decided ‘you know what, I can make one of these myself’. And he’s still publishing books, and even some e-books online.

The Internet has Been a Real Game Changer. 

If you are a teenager or in your mid-twenties, you probably grew up with the internet. Not knowing life without it. I wonder if the internet is more impressive to me someone who lived without it. I can’t speak for someone who lived without cars, or plains.  But I worked without the internet. I don’t want to just assume that I appreciate something more than you, but I wonder how I ever got along without it.

There are thousands of people on YouTube who picked themselves.  People who just decided to utilize this wonderful tool. Some decided, “Hey! I’m going to broadcast the news, and I’m going to make money doing it”, and they’re doing it.

You got the guys who did kid history, (Bored Shorts) and the guys who do honest trailers, (Screen Junkies) look them up, or click the link. But don’t get sucked in, your focus is here right now.

Prank vs prank, there’s that guy from Utah “tipping servers $200”.  Video recorded it, and put it on Youtube.  By my calculations I’d say he cleared $20,000 just posting that one idea.

Now you don’t “NEED” the middle man.

You can now make a free service like Youtube, get your own channel (FolioAcademy has one right here that is grossly underutilized by the way).

My Kid History friends at Bored Shorts are talking to Disney right now, who may end up buying their channel of videos and if they do it’s going to be big.  By the way That guy who filmed the tipping video has over a hundred million views, when you do that, you get noticed, and even make money with advertising. There are tons of review channels too. Someone decides “Hey! I am going to review this product.” Have you ever noticed that whenever someone decides something they start by saying “Hey!” My friend Jedd Henry who did Yukio Heroes. Michal Dowdled who makes his own puzzles of all the famous cities.  He picked himself, Kazu who made flight, People who made their own web comics. That oatmeal guy (I love that guy) Music,  everyone in music is getting involved,  Indie Music, it’s when YOU decide that Hey! you are a musician, you don’t wait for it.

They don’t teach this stuff in public schools. 

The guy’s running public school never taught this, because so many of them didn’t create anything.

My slam on public schools, they do not teach creativity.  They teach people to obey the rules and math and language and science. And WE need that, OK we do but we also need creativity.

We have not been equipped for this world, and public schools haven’t either, our parents and friends and the world is all telling us what to do.  Go to college, get good grades so you can get a job. It makes sense, it’s safe. But ask these guys who have “picked themselves”, they don’t worry about safe.

This is starting to run long so I’m going to have to have a part 3 and maybe part 4 and more.

Okay my next posts will share some strategies, like: Things that I’ve learned, Things that I’m trying to apply now, and ways for an artist to be more entrepreneurial.