Henry Martinez loved comic books from a young age and aspired to be a comic book artist early in life. After valiantly trying to break into the industry (following graduation from the High School of Art and Design and the School of Visual Arts in New York City), he found himself picking up freelance work from his jobs as a messenger and in retail. This led him to advertising, which in turn helped him finally achieve his dream–working for Marvel Comics. Because of the turmoil in the industry at that point, he only stayed a year and a half, and then went back to the nine-to-five for a few years before going into full-time freelancing, which he’s now pursued for fifteen years. His experience in comics, storyboarding and advertising has given him a combination of reinforcing skills that help him in his graphic storytelling.
JB: You mentioned book cover illustration, sales and advertising—what was it like to work within such different job descriptions?
HM: Well, the book cover illustration was something I wanted to do and was convinced I could do by some very supportive teachers at the School of Visual Arts (SVA). I hadn’t considered a career in illustration until after taking a few classes there. The reality was that it was a tough field to get into, there are a handful of artists that made a decent living at it. The handful of guys I knew that tried it were living with their parents while they dabbled in illustration. While I was pounding the pavement dropping off my portfolio at book publishers, I had a fulltime job at Continuity Inc., a studio run by comics legend Neal Adams. It was an amazing learning experience; I’d never heard of storyboards and would stay late to ask questions and learn from the artists there. That lead to a job at an advertising agency and the beginning of my career as a storyboard artist.
JB: How did you enjoy design school? Do you recommend it for those looking towards a career in art, design and/or illustration?
HM: I personally enjoyed the social aspect of it, and it was a great place to feed off of creatively. However, I didn’t learn any new skills, it was more a place to practice them. You can’t expect to go to art school and leave with a new skill set, maybe a fresh perspective on art or more of a focus on what direction you want to go in creatively. And as I mentioned before, it’s a great place to feed off of other talented people. By feed I don’t mean “steal”, but getting a fresh perspective on your work, which always makes you a better artist. We are always growing.
Jane Corn is a fervent reader…and writer. A freelance writer, her passion for books helped drive her to be one of the top reviewers on Amazon.com, allowing her access to the exclusive Vine™ Program (where select reviewers are given access to free merchandise), pushed her to Powerseller status on eBay, and is the focus of one of her many blogs, Booking Along (a book review blog). Her magazine writing has won her national awards, and she manages a widespread online presence, including social networking sites and her blogs. She can be found online at Associated Content, her online rare bookstore and of course, at Booking Along.
JB: Jane, you’ve done so many things—eBay auctions, freelance writing and editing, and a lot of Amazon reviewing. Do you have a particular focus? Do you self-identify as a writer? A reviewer? A blogger? None of the above?
JC: I think of myself as a “Jack (or Jane) of all trades”, I guess. I was a freelance writer for a long time and that brought in good income. At some point, however, I needed to make a choice, brought on by circumstances. We had the opportunity to adopt a little boy, aged 5, and I knew I would have to make changes to do so, as he had special needs and the “window of opportunity” for adoption would be open for a limited time. I had to choose to stay on the career track, full speed, or rein things in a bit. I decided to compromise and have never looked back. Now I’m building up career speed again.
Kirk DouPonce’s first entry into the workforce didn’t turn out so well. As a 16-year-old, he only lasted a few weeks selling hotdogs before being fired. But things have a way working themselves out; the hot dog world’s loss was the publishing world’s gain.
DouPonce’s work is very much on display in bookstores, libraries and probably a few doctor’s offices. Over 15 years he’s designed thousands of book covers for major clients like McGraw Hill, Random House and Howard/Simon and Schuster. Three years ago, he decided to go out on his own and be a freelance cover designer, opening DogEared Design.
In this interview, we talk about the coincidences that jump-start a career, pleasing clients and working for free in exchange for exposure.
Corby Simpson is another jack-of-all-trades freelancer: flash animation, web site coding and even writing interactive CD-ROMs for corporate training, plus he’s done it all successfully enough to earn multiple awards. But there’s another twist – he manages to do all this for fairly large clients while maintaining a regular 9-5 job.
In this interview, we discuss switching gears – between Flash and interactive CDs, and between the 9-5 job and the freelance career.
RJ: You mentioned that you work a full-time 9-5 on top of a lot of freelancing, how do you balance that?
CS: Balancing a full time job and freelance is like dancing on glass. You can do it… but you gotta be careful. I guess since I’m a workaholic it helps but even more importantly, I love what I do. I can’t turn it on and off. When I feel like doing something creative, I’ll do something creative! There’s no 9-5 around that. It also likely helps that I enjoy working in the evening (it sucks for my full-time job that I don’t like working in the morning). Anyways, I’ve managed to break it down what I feel impacts my ability to balance both best.
I like to think of Ben Franklin as a proto-freelancer. That is, when he wrote, whether it was an op-ed piece or a political cartoon for a colonial paper, or a piece for Poor Richard’s Almanac, he did like the rest of us: at home in his pajamas with his feet up on the desk.
Now that’s the father of my country!
If Franklin’s work day did look anything like mine does, he no doubt got tired of it, great as it is, just like I am. The freelance life is lonely, and sooner or later the bedroom office starts to feel a little too cramped, the washing machine gets a little too loud and all that “research” you’re doing on Digg starts to eat away your whole day.
So Franklin put on some pants and got out of the house. He started a group called the Junto, a loose collection of colonists devoted to self-improvement through improving their community. Through that group, Franklin created America’s first volunteer firefighting company and first public hospital.
Alex Hillman, founder of Independents HallSkip ahead 200 years, and Philadelphia is still full of freelancers sitting at their desks without pants, yearning for human contact and a chance to actually get some work done. Enter Alex Hillman, 23, who started working in tech support at the ripe old age of 10. “I walked into a computer shop and bought a motherboard and the guy was like, ‘what are you going to do with a motherboard?’ and I said ‘this is exactly what I’m gonna do with a motherboard,’ and he said ‘do you want a job?’” he explains.
Scott Marshall is some kind of Canadian super-freelancer. He writes, he edits, he illustrates, he designs and he consults, providing a one-stop shop for clients while running his business in accordance to the principles of Buddhism.
All that branching out came from freelancing on the side while working other jobs to avoid potential conflicts of interest. It was a good thing he’d been doing it though: After 25 years, a sudden lay-off sent him into the world of full-time freelance.
In this interview, we discuss switching gears while providing multiple services, the upsides and downsides of freelancing, 37Signals and Buddhist principles.
RJ: I noticed you offer quite a few services, ranging from writing to graphic design, while most freelancers tend to focus on a niche. What brought you to offer multiple services and how has that affected your work?
SM: When I was working full-time for different organizations over the last decade, I also did some freelance work to help make ends meet, usually in the field where I was not working full-time; partly to avoid conflicts of interest, and partly just to stay sharp. When I decided to freelance full-time, I was comfortable with offering a few services that I am able to work in at a professional level.
THE COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED. THANKS TO ALL WHO ENTERED!
Ever wish you could draw pretty pictures all day and get paid for it? What if you had the opportunity to one up that lifestyle and even go at it freelance style? Von Glitschka, a freelance illustrator behind some very impressive art projects has recently released his Keyboard Characters into the wild. We sat down over coffee, chatted about Von’s world and now present 10 questions (and of course, answers) with this freelance art maven…
DA: Where is your office located these days?
VG: I work out of my home studio. I enjoy it and my cats like to visit me during the day which is nice.
DA: How did you end up moving into freelance work?
VG: Technically I have never referred to it as freelance. I started my own business, and incorporated back in 2002. I’ve averaged about a 15-20% growth each year but that is now starting to level off since I am my only employee.
Web developer Roger Obando signed the mortgage papers for his new house, then walked into his boss’ office at to give notice that he was quitting to work freelance.
Sounds crazy, but his employer (Blitz Digital Studios, a leading Flash development firm) understood and even became his first client. Since then, he’s done web development for some huge clients including Fox, Yahoo, CBS and Sony. In fact, his work on Sony’s site scored him a Webby award for Best Home/Welcome Page.
In this interview, we talk about networking to score clients good uses for Flash on web sites (and obscene uses…) along with the many ups and downs of freelancing.
With a flair for words and a can-do attitude, Kristen King made her freelance writing dreams come true. The Virginia resident is currently completing her Master’s degree in publishing and balances book editing with business copywriting—and that’s just to start. Her blog is a hotspot for aspiring freelance writers and she’s become an industry mentor for many aspiring writers. Oh, and she’s just 25.
I caught up with this inspiring freelance writer to find out how she does it all, and what’s next for her multi-faceted career endeavors.
Interviewed by Robert Janelle
Getting an education is expensive. Tuition fees keep rising while government loans rack up interest along with limited time to work due to classes and assignments.
Tuan Nguyen, a 24-year-old senior studying photography at Savannah College of Art and Design, found freedom by shooting freelance.
Involved in arts since childhood, Nguyen started off painting but eventually became tired of the medium and moved onto photography.
After posting his availability on his school’s job board (possibly the most underused job search tool by freelancers) some work started coming in, including a gig shooting the cover and fashion spread for Key West Magazine.
Along with fashion photography, Nguyen does a variety of other work, including art projects, photographing 10,000 year old relics for an antiques dealer and helping aspiring models build their portfolios (along with his own.)
In the following e-mail conversation, Nguyen and I discuss word-of-mouth advertising, portfolio building and fair bit of photo-geek talk.
Jennifer Mattern knows a thing or two about online promotion, particularly in the niche markets.
She promotes her solo public relations business by blogging on that very topic at NakedPR, then shows off some business writing on BizAmmo. She rants on Fad Marketing, runs technology and music blogs, a writing community, podcasts and well…put simply, this woman has a LOT of web sites.
Along with all the sites, she somehow finds time to do promotion work for clients as varied as indie and punk musicians to a former NFL offensive lineman.
What follows is an interview where we discuss going solo, learning the ropes of the interwebs and of course, a lot of personal branding, promotion and marketing ideas.
Nathan Swartz, a freelance web designer in Pittsburgh PA, is a lucky fellow.
Straight out of school, he landed himself a graphic design job at a small Public Broadcasting Station, getting to live a geek’s dream of being paid to play with Photoshop all day.
However, when commuting, meetings and wearing a tie became too much, he then succeeded in ditching the corporate world to work for himself. The 28-year-old now designs websites for a variety of clients from a medical software company to a whisky maker, all from the comfort of local coffee shops.
In this interview, we discuss the joys and downsides of freelancing, outsourcing tasks and web design issues, like content management systems and using Dreamweaver as a glorified text editor.
RJ: I guess my first question would be, why work freelance? Do you prefer it to say, working for a design firm or as an in-house web designer for a company?
NS: Well, fresh out of school and looking to amass my fortunes, I landed a job as an in-house designer for an itsy bitsy little PBS station in Erie, PA and good times ensued for the next several years. As they were such a small station, I was simultaneously in charge of their print, web design and all of their on air graphics and animations, so the experience of it all was quite definitely the bees knees, and I smiled all the way in to work on a fairly regular basis. It’s great after years spent pumping gas, digging ditches, pushing coffee, etc – how pristine a job playing around in Photoshop all day seems.
But even as glamorous a life as a small town graphic designer is afforded, I still disliked having to play along with all of the absurdities of the modern day business world. The contradictions of the old world business model just quit making sense to me – why was I waking up at 7:30 just so I could make it into work by 9am, when I could have easily have rolled out of bed at 8:30 and got on a machine at home? Why did I need to sit in hour long meetings about the latest fund raiser when all they wanted from me was to order another crate of envelopes from the printer? And what about wearing a tie was it again that somehow made my animations more interesting? So one day I decided to quit my job, start my own freelancing career and change the world of business forever.
Just kidding about that last bit. Actually, I fell in love with this girl in England, flew over there and couldn’t find a job, so I increased my “side jobs” until I realized I was wasting valuable time going out on interviews that I could’ve been spending building websites. So I just decided to go full time on the freelance scene.
And now I work 4 days a week, about 6 hours a day, and find myself smiling a lot more often. I make just enough money to keep the bartender in tips and can run my son to the doctor at 2:30 on a Wednesday afternoon if he suddenly breaks down with scurvy, without having to give up any precious sick days or vacation time or whatever they’re calling it these days.
RJ: Those are the perks of freelancing, but what are the downsides for you?