In my last piece of writing, I mentioned some plans I had going forward for returning my house to being a drop-in art studio, gathering place, and jam spot. In order to make moves on those designs, I’ll have to make sure I can keep the place first.
I’m a commercial illustrator, writer, and fine artist with a good portfolio. My schedule is clearer and my bank account emptier than it need be, so I’m looking for work and I’m looking for sales.
Okay, now that that’s out of the way…
Yeah, so freelancing is a strange gig. When it works, it’s beautiful. You get a clear brief, half pay up front, finish the work, an adjustment or two, then satisfaction, final payments, and fireworks over the castle.
The rest of the time it’s white-water rafting through trial, error, and sudden drop-offs.
It’s the same for everyone else out there trying to do it. I’m no special case; and though it’s easier than ever in some ways, it’s also bewildering to navigate these new markets that grow ever more granular even as they expand and vanish (as if beating your demons to the door every day wasn’t enough).
New platforms, apps, networks, and techniques for making noise in the cacophonous hurricane of social media come along every day – and then there’s the challenge of making that meet the real world with shipping, printing, pricing, and trying to haul your products around in physical space.
It’s like having to reinvent your job every few months, whether you know how to or not.
It’s a strange road in a strange land, but I’ve learned a thing or two to share if you’re someone interested in supporting the artistic community, or otherwise looking for new markets and strategies for your own creative work.
1. Hire us!:
Number one with a bullet. The best way for me to keep the wolf out the door is by the sweat of my brow.
Did you know you can hire me? You can! I’m totally for hire.
If you know an artist, writer, musician or someone in an adjacent field, your best way to support them is to pay them to do the things that they do well. Money and validation go down like rocket fuel to an appreciative creator.
We know you don’t always need an article written or a graphic designed, but you might be connected to those that do. If you can’t hire, hook us up to the grapevine.
2. Buy Our Work:
I sell prints of my work on the cheaper end of the sales spectrum, and if I sell even just one in a month, I can cover most of my rent.
Two sales in a month? With a contract on the go? If I could do that every month, I’d be a grateful, happy little camper.
In this kaleidoscopic economy of gigs and makers, your dollar is your voting power. It’s your water in the garden. You get to choose what grows and what the harvest will look like after.
If, say, there’s a painter or writer you enjoy and you want to buy one of their pieces, but they haven’t quite produced something with the subject you’d like most, well, allow me to joyfully refer you to item 1 on this list.
3. Like, Share, Subscribe, Interact:
One of the major transactions in our current society is the “like”.
In the previous iteration of social media, liking something just meant you liked it. Remember that? It was just a friendly little communication directly from you to the creator of something you like that said “hey, nice!” without having to compose an e-mail or track them down in the real world to offer a congratulatory handshake.
Now? Well, that’s still true, but a “like” is also part of what drives the cream to the top. The current algorithmic paradigm grants wider access to bigger audience pools for each like, share, retweet, or other interaction, while also signing up your account to see more of the same. Perhaps we’ve collectively become aware of this and our online interactions are now doled out sparingly like royal favour instead of friendly finger-pistols.It’s a slap on the back, but it’s also kind of an endorsement on a public ledger. I think that makes us leery whether we interact with what we enjoy or not.
You can buy likes now. And followers. In my hunting for freelance work, I could see down dark stretches of grimy digital alleys where jobs were on offer to go in on bulk reviewing, liking, retweeting, or 4 starring things. It’s part of the system now, and the independent creator needs those kind of supportive actions from people that really enjoy their work to get noticed at all amidst that kind of fog.
Long story short (well, shorter than the essay I just about saddled up for), your liking and sharing is way more important than you realize. If you can’t hire or buy from an artist you enjoy, then your likes, shares, and other interactions are just as welcome. You are the gatekeepers of the network.
Your genuine support in this regard also does wonders to combat the deeply ingrained impostor syndrome, anxiety, melancholy, and sense of defeat common to all humans.
New to the social media landscape (but not that new) is the concept of creative patronage. Websites like Kickstarter, Gofundme, and Patreon allow you to financially subscribe to your favourite creators with one-time or regular donations that help keep them focused on doing the things you want to see them doing instead of chasing down work that keeps them from it.
As a business model, it’s something that productions like vlogging, streaming, and podcasting rely on while artists, writers, musicians, and other performers, too, are finding a way to tap into it as a side revenue pool.
Usually these kind of operations grant you access to exclusive content from the creator such as behind the scenes material, works in progress, or tutorials. At higher sponsorship tiers, you might find yourself showing up in the novel you funded, or getting an invite to the album launch party of your favorite band. Throw an independent creator a big enough bone and you could be the star of their next video game. It’s pretty wild.
Again, more than ever, the audience has the power to choose exactly what kind of art they want to see thriving in the world.
It’s not charity. Charity would be just giving someone money because they need it without exchange. This is an exchange. It’s a way of supporting the general output of creators that you enjoy financially without having to make a major purchase or fill your house with their stuff. Instead of passively absorbing commercial advertising around the content delivered to you by a major publisher, you’re spending your money directly on the things you enjoy, knowing that you’re personally sliding some cash into the pocket of the people making it and not the corporate middleman.
It’s like a general employment contract you have a share in with the rest of a community of other patrons, or the subscription fee to the monthly magazine that is the output of a creator.
5. Collaboration and Cross Promotion:
I live in a town that’s so full of creative folk I can’t walk down the street without tripping over one or two that I’ve never met before, and probably a dozen more that I have. Artists, poets, writers, actors, musicians and everything in between. It’s crazy.
On the one hand, it’s wonderful to live in a place where I can collaborate and explore with like-minded people who all bring a unique vision to the table.
On the other hand, we’re all mostly broke and racing down blind alleys toward the same cheese. We’re among the most appreciative of each-other’s work, but also the least capable of buying any of it.
That’s where cross-promotion and collaboration come in.
Like the place I live in, the whole interenet is a small town full of creative people just like you looking to make a good connection.
Whatever field you or another creator inhabit, you can work together on SOMETHING together. Whatever that thing becomes, it’s something that potentially has twice the audience it might have otherwise had, and might reach into completely different markets.
If I want to do a bit of cross-promotion, I usually conduct an interview with someone in a field I find interesting. It doesn’t have to be art. If it’s good, my interview becomes part of the press materials that they can use to promote themselves, and in the process, their audience comes into contact with my work and vice-versa.
Collaborations, in addition to all the huge benefits of crossing stylistic swords with another mind, are another excellent way to foster cross promotion. It pushes both artists to stretch outward toward each-other from whatever part of the artistic spectrum they originate, and it’s a simple way for you to try on each-other’s audiences for a moment.
Also, just the notion that two individual talents are combining to produce something new is inherently exciting for everyone. It gives you a +5 curiosity bonus on all dice rolls and might draw extra buzz.
So, if you want an interview, or want to collaborate on a piece, let’s talk.
Personally, I’m not all that far away from having a good business on my hands. I need to stay busy producing new products to sell, while also connecting with paying clients to make it work.
I’m also not that far away from going homeless. It’s a strange place to be. A knife’s edge every month.
I’m confident that with just a few extra wins here and there, I’ll have made it to a place where it’s less about survival, and more about thriving.
If you need something painted, written, or designed by me – I’d be all kinds of grateful for the work, and I’ll do my best to make it live. If you don’t need anything custom crafted like that, have a look around my print shop and see if anything catches your eye.
If none of that is your cup of tea, then check out my Patreon account. I’m just getting the hang of it still, but I’ll have plenty to offer my patrons as exclusive content as time goes by. The more support from happy patrons I have, the more stuff I can paint, write, and design for everyone.
If you can’t do any of that, then please carry on liking, sharing, and subscribing as I release new work.
Much gratitude for all that you do already. Until next time, I’m going to stay busy making as much noise with my work as I can.