|Post: When to Start. When to Quit.
||[Apr. 7th, 2008|06:17 pm]
Megan Rose Gedris* asks:
"Your latest posts about living on artist wages got me thinking. At what point do you give up the day job and rely completely on making comics for a living?
I've been doing comics in my spare time, between juggling two part time jobs. I've had modest success with a couple of these projects. I'm at a point now where I think I could take off with my comics, if I just had more time to work on them. But then again, with as hard as jobs are to come by here, I'm afraid if I quit my job, and fail at comics, I won't have a job to come back to. How did you do it? (This is also me assuming you had a day job at one point and didn't jump to instant success soon as you graduated from high school**. Which would be cool, too.)
But yeah, at what point does it make sense for an artist to quit their day job?"
It's always been my personal belief that you should never leave a steady job until after you have paying freelance work on the table. When I wrote Pink and started the webcomic version of Steady Beat, neither of which were paying at the time, I had two full time jobs: one managing the art department for a catalog mail order company and the other helping to run my publishing company. When I flew to Los Angeles to pitch my series idea to Tokyopop, I still had both jobs, and it wasn't until after I had signed the contract and sent it back that I walked out of the 9-5 job. I quit the very next day, in fact.
But even then, I wasn't completely dependent and able to support myself. Midway through book 1, I moved in with my parents so that I could work on my book without worry of being out on the streets for fear of not getting a check in on time . . . and since three checks were three months late, that was probably the best move I ever made.
Now that I'm living on my own with nobody to fall back on, things are different. Not only do I have my contract with Tokyopop, but I've taken on freelance work as well, and for three months, I was even working part-time at a cafe because it had been so long since I had extra cash in my pocket, and I seriously needed some clothes that weren't worn to death and made me feel good about myself (high self esteem = high productivity, IMHO).
There are several things you need to ask yourself before leaving your full-time job for freelance creative work:
1) Have you saved up enough money to live off of for at least three months? That's sort of a general rule of thumb when it comes to finance, and something that'll save your butt more times than you can count. Clients pay late. Projects take up more time than you anticipated. Checks get lost in the mail or misplaced or mis-sent (have had this happen four times now). Some people neglect to pay at all (which is why I insist either in being payed at least 10% up front or being payed in milestones). Sometimes, the unexpected happens and you find you have far less cash than you anticipated. So save before you quit.
2) You should have work lined up already and started. It's one thing to have somebody tell you, "We're interested in you doind such and such for us," and having a contract signed and ready. A contract is set in stone; you WILL get paid eventually. Promises however can be taken away. In fact, I get lots of promises about projects that never follow through. I've learned to ignore projects as real work until I have the first check in hand.
3) You have to be willing to chuck pride out the window and take a menial, part-time job if you have to. Whether it's waiting tables or washing cars, you have to ignore the fact you were once brand manager at NIKE and suck it up that you're now making as much as you were in college or high school. Once you've committed to doing freelance work full-time, you won't be able to go back to the 9-5 without having to give the majority of your work up. Neither will you ever be able to find a high-paying job that offers part-time work.
4) Are you driven? As in, does it feel like somebody lit a fire under you're butt, and now you're running towards your goal? This must be destiny. You can't do this half-assed. Your work must consume you.
One think you do not want to do is quit your job because you feel like you won't improve unless you do. If you're driven enough, you'll find a way to keep getting better, even with the 9-5 (as soul draining as the 9-5 is). It may not feel like you're improving fast enough or getting out what you consider the best of your efforts, but if you don't have the passion enough to really push through in what is probably the toughest of circumstances in which to be creative, you will very likely not make it.
That is the harsh reality. All too often I've met people who did just that--quit good-paying jobs because they felt like it would help their work and get jobs--only to sit around for months doing nothing. Time dashes by, and before you know it, you're out of cash and not a freelance job in sight. AND you've given up that great paying 9-5 job you were actually somewhat enjoying!
So, think about it a long time. Be honest with yourself. Are you quitting because you have to or quitting because you want to?
*reprinted with permission
**definitely not, lol! Took me three years just to figure out what I wanted to even do.
***Yeay! Art! Practice sketches from photo reference. Been drawing kids dancing. Been practicing expressions, as well, but haven't scanned those yet. It feels so good to be drawing again! *sob*
****Photoshop CS3 rocks my socks off.
Oh i am in love with those sketches. the are so beautiful! I love the bottom most one. The face and hands are lovely! and such a nice ankle! X3
But anyhow that is some excellent insight and advice...can even be applied to making a big move to get more work depending on your area. And if someone is able to sit down and commit to working from home. It's so incredibly hard knowing when to work and more importantly-when to stop!
Give me a holler sometime. We'll do coffee and bs. My treat.
That'd be nice! We have a lot to catch up on! I miss my best friend. ;_;
I also realize you're busy, though. :)
great post riv, answered some questions i've had myself :)
(great sketches too)
haha - or, you do like me and fight against the freelance beast to the point where you're working a full time job AND making a 200 page graphic novel in six months, give yourself pneumonia and end up having to quit your day job for health reasons. LOL. Hey, it got me there in the end. I think my body decided to make the decision for me as I was so petrified of it! hehe.
Lovely sketches on this one ^_^
I think thats about right. College students who care about their work do it anyway. How else can we pay for education? people think we're on drugs cause we take too many vitamin pills and red bull ^^
Maybe asinine, but perhaps you should compile many similar posts on this subject with a little editing to bring it together, and sell it on Lulu as tips for making it as an artist as an additional and already existent stream of revenue.
I have actually thought of making a book before, one like you suggested and also a book on comic theory (like the pacing and paneling tutorials I did), but they're currently low on the totem pole until I get "Steady Beat" out of the way.
But knowing someone finds it interesting has just moved it up a notch!
Also, I personally find Lulu a little too overpriced, even if they are POD. For something like this, I'd probably self-print and sell it at conventions (along with the coloring book and paper doll ideas I've had). Something like a collection of essays matter more about actual content than quality of printing, so even something printed and stapled at home would sell as long as I wasn't asking $20 a pop, lol. More like individual booklets at $1.99 a piece, each on a different topic.
Lots of ideas you could really go with there. . .
*gets back to Steady Beat 3*
One reason I suggested Lulu is that you wouldn't have to do any work per se after loading up the pdf, and though links to it would give you some sales, I think you're right that more sales would come at a convention. I agree that Lulu costs too much, are there other services that are similar with better prices? It seemed like Cafe Press got out of that business. I'm sure you have better things to do than answer these questions though...
"Been drawing kids dancing. Been practicing expressions..."
been getting better and better
[irrelevant to post]
I am assuming that was the reason you didn't go to NY Comic Con. this year. I remembered that I met you there last year. (((: It was pretty bad for me because it was Pesach... leaving early for Seder and such. I did, however, get to eat my last bit of chometz (PRETZEL!) a la Javitz. That was fun. Yes, so, in any case, hope your Pesach isn't too painful.
Have a good one. :D