I've become very frustrated lately.
On 10 occasions the past week, I've been contacted by people who had seen
my work, but to whom had never submitted my portfolio and knew anything of
them. On all occasions, after a brief intro, they would ask for my rates. Now, I
do not have any delusions that I am a guy who is supposed to make $500 per
sketch, but at the same time, I also don't want to sit a whole hour over a
piece of paper and make even a small drawing for someone in exchange for
$5. Not only do I feel my effort is worth more but I don't want to kill the art
industry for those above me.
Of course, on all these occasions, I never heard from the guys again. (Hell
I even asked a high profile art director for a crit and he offered to mentor me
but never replied after his first message!!! Talk about building false hopes.
Thanks for nothing pal.) The same thing happens in like, 19 out of 20
submissions for work I send out. Ok, that is the name of the game I accept
But here we have the case of the other guy coming to me. He knows he can't
afford a top level artist, so he looks for an alternative. But does that mean he
should get it for free? And I'm not talking only about indie and low level RPG
publishers here, who will commission their pet cat to do work for them, I was
contacted by software publishers with a decent background who want to
branch out into games or whatever. If 40 to 50 euro per color illustration is
too much for you than don't make the damn game or use stick figures.
What bothers me even more is that at times I see work that's far below mine
all over the place. If these guys give it for almost nothing and screw the rest
of us over, then burn them at the stake, but what's even more surprising is
the publishers that actually use it!!! Some of them are pretty well known!!!
All this makes you feel that there isn't a gradation to the industry.
Anyway, I just had to bitch about it before resuming practice and study. If
anyone has had similar experiences especially the high pros (if you even
remember being in such a state) please share.
I've said it before, and I don't mind being repetitive. And though I've shared my thoughts previously, I feel at liberty to repeat myself.
We COULD inform the general public about how much their work is worth. There's enough freedom of information and collective followers through Deviantart, Facebook pages, CA (Duh) Polycount, CGhub, Muddy Colours, The Art Order, Awesome Horse Studios, John Howe Forums, The Gurney Journey, Thunderdump, twitter, Youtube and reddit. If even a few well known, largely followed and largely popular professional artists on even a few of these sites (Brad Rigney, Andrew Jones, etc) could all stage a simultaneous info-graphic on what to charge and why, I think it's possible to alleviate the situation a little bit. We just need to get everyone involved and it will explode when people realize that they can be making a shit tonne more.
But therein lies our problem; running a business in Western countries is already too expensive for some folk, and you have the sad trend of companies outsourcing to China, Malaysia, Taiwan, Indonesia, Singapore and India, where work is cheaper and living standards are lower. Some people are even starting outsourcing studios where they can get cheap labour instead of sticking to the ones they already have. Even if we manage to raise the bar in our own countries, they'll just go in droves to countries where underpaid overworked sweat shops are a staple. None of us can compete with that.
Last edited by Beeston; March 2nd, 2012 at 11:38 AM.
The basic problem is again one of supply and demand. If someone is willing to meet the demand for free or next to nothing...the demand will exploit it. The only solution is to rise above and be good enough to be paid what you're worth.
Yes, the unfortunate outcome of a glut in supply is a decrease in compensation across the board, but there is no way to force the demand to pay more than they have to.
This has been happening to me too. It's super frustrating and discouraging to finally be in a place where people want to hire you but only if you're cheap. It feels like I'm almost there as far as getting professional work but not quite! Argh.
I guess all I can do is improve my art so I can attract better clients.
It happens. People don't like paying for art most of the time (and by "people", I just mean "random client", not "business who has been in the industry for a long time and knows and accepts professional rates").
I see it all the time when being asked to do album covers.
People aren't making money in many music genres at the moment and there is a global decrease in physical sales for obvious reasons. Then you take a niche genre like heavy metal (which is what I do work for) which makes even less...and you end up with the cheapest of cheapskates. Especially when they don't have a label backing their expenses.
They all want that amazing Michael Whelan or Boris Vallejo album cover that they picture from their favorite 70s and 80's rock and metal albums, but in their heads they are thinking "What's that...a few hundred bucks? Can't be more than 500...because 500 is a LOT of money!".
They genuinely seem shocked when I tell them how long and how much it would take to make their "7-headed dragon slaying 100 wore-torn soldiers in an epic, post apocalyptic ruined city landscape."
I tell them the (incredibly fair, btw) rate and I never hear from them again.
But then you get the bands that have the labels and they can afford a couple grand for their package and it's a little easier. The trick is to show you are WORTH that money to the people who HAVE the money.
Screw the rest.
At the same time there will always be quality clients around, since most real companies do want a professional looking product. I've even seen cases where an inexperienced client goes the cheap route, realizes they've gotten a crap product, and comes back later to pay professional rates for professional work. So some of them learn eventually.
And then, it depends on the market... Fashion is notoriously cheap, for instance, but the toy and advertising markets can get pretty lavish with spending, at least among the larger companies. Some non-profits can be pretty lavish, too, because they've usually gotten a grant that they HAVE to spend by a certain time.
So you need to get good enough to get a foot in the door with the higher-end clients, go after them, and ignore the bottom-feeders. If you can get good reliable repeat clients, even better. (And if you do your job well, good clients may spread the word to other good clients. They tend to flock together to some extent.)
A basic problem I have is finding the clients I HAVE to impress. With the exception of 1-2
large companies, I don't know how "large" the others are. And as I said before, I have seen
art in a book by a publisher that's considered quite a name in a particular market, that's
awful. Meanwhile I've sent 1000 portfolio updates and no cigar.
Then there's the thing of getting "good". How good is good? I don't think I have to get as good as
Boris Vallejo to begin getting work. Why? Because not all pro work looks like Boris'. So
what is everyone else doing then? There's something fishy about the whole business, which
brings me to my next problem point.
Networking. I can't say I understand it, researched it, or used it even. So, I don't know
how it works really. But I can say that there are a lot of pros out there, whose work I
honestly do not like. I'm not saying they don't know their stuff but, hey, it just isn't
attractive to ME (subjective opinion). Yet there are guys out there who are a million
times better in all aspects but don't get as much work. It's clear that the former were
merely kissing the right ass.
What infuriates me is that these same dudes then come in and preach to us about hard
work and self sacrifice etc, when they haven't had it as hard and happened to have the
correct connections to get work and DARE to accuse you and me of not working hard
when they have SEEMINGLY (supposition) never been in such a bad state. I even
remember reading a bio of a famous illustrator (don't remember which) who was put in
the whole business by his father and got his first jobs aged 15 and was working full time
by the age of 20. This dude has never starved. All was laid down for him, so you know
what? I my book, any advice from him (or other similar guys) on getting work is as
useless as the Prince of Whales advising me how to save money, because he
has never had to, he's always had lot's of it!
All this makes it seem like there's multiple "steps" in the development of a pro
artist, yet only two steps to the paycheck...existing and non-existing. On top
of it all, you have many top names trying to withhold information now, or sell
it via various schools, workshops etc or when you ask anything on a board
they will just get in and throw cheap shots. There's few who I've seen share
what they know thoroughly and freely. And ok, it's a business, but dude, don't
pretend that you love me when you are just trying to rob me blind. No wonder
clients are such bastards.
Dude, time for an adult beverage.
Look sometimes really good people don't get work because they suck with deadlines and no matter how good you are, at some point people will not work with you if you can't deliver.
I have a couple of friends like that who get work in spite of themselves but usually screw it up somehow. Its always better to be overqualified for a job so you turn in the best they have ever seen than barely have the skills to complete an assignment.
Networking requires a lot of getting your work in front of the right people. Not sure what kind of work you are trying to get but you should be on all the job boards and going to places like the bigger conventions that show your kind of work so you can get feedback from working pros.
As for the I'm as good as so and so attitude. Its a bad way to think and will cause you lots of trouble even if its true. Sometimes the work you see and think is crap is done under tight deadlines that would make most people kill themselves. Sometimes clients prefer a style that I may think sucks but thats what they want. There are a bunch of reasons for inferior work but it is hardly ever that was all the artist was capable of.
Here is the thing, the marketplace decides, not you, not me, the clients. If you are offering your services to people for a certain amount and not getting enough work then you have to up your game or broaden your contacts. People like known quantities and will work with someone again and again because they give them what they want. Its that simple. It is so much trouble to take a chance on someone who is an unknown quantity, the people hiring you don't want to lose their jobs either, so they go with whats safe or close or easy. It doesn't matter that you may be better at painting or drawing.
I just taught a workshop where I hasd this woman ask me for advice on a painting she was having trouble with. I told her what was wrong and told her how to fix it.She argued with me for an hour about it and at the end she decided she wasn't going to change anything. Thats the problem a lot of times when you start out you don't know what you need to do and you can't see qualitative differences as easily but others can. And at the end of the day clients are always right... just make them pay for it.
...or 2 or 3.Dude, time for an adult beverage.
Dude, I can tell that you have been very frustrating finding work, and I know the feeling. But you really need to stop thinking so big picture about it. You can NOT compare yourself to other artists who are getting work. You don't know what those circumstances are.
A lot of it is timing, too.
I'm not fully living off of my freelance at the moment, so I am a little more laid back with it, but when I want to drum something up I send out about 50 emails to 50 different people I want to work for. For the sake of argument, we'll say this is in January. 47 people will never write me back, 3 people will write me back, 1 will result in a job (on the average).
But if I write those same people in September again? There might be more jobs because the timing lines up. Clients don't like to pay money for something they will need next year. They want to hire you and get the art and then use it (in my experience, anyway...).
So just because someone else is doing something and they are "worse" than you or you don't think they deserve to work as much because you think their quality is low, it could just mean that they were at the right place and at the right time and had the right email to send it to (which is TRICKY as hell sometimes...a lot of people do not want to be found on the web and would rather you go through a middle man to reach them).
So that's "networking". You really gotta keep at it.
And "asskissing"? Come on, man...we are all out to earn a buck with our artwork. The art speaks for itself, but professionalism and likability are all part of it, too. If that is "ass-kissing", then consider my lips covered in shit. I don't give a shit, haha. You shouldn't put that aspect of it down, imo. You may need to pucker up someday if it's between you and the other guy.
@Dusty and Dpaint. I remember once when reading on these very
forums about teaching and extracting the info from teachers, a well known member and
great artist saying something like this "Get the info out of them. They won't give it to
you, unconsciously most of the times. So you have to ask the right questions. If that
doesn't work. Keep asking. If that doesn't work, get angry or frustrated. Cause a reaction,
that will get them talking." Sure enough, it does. You both shared info that is
useful, that you didn't talk about in your first posts and it also goes against (well, a little)
the usual get-better-and-things-will-get-better by sharing that there is more than that.
Risking coming across as immature (and I did) you guys shared some stuff that for me, at this
point is important. So thanks
One question. Concerning conventions. I don't live in the States and there aren't any
over here (not that it would be useful, there is no local market) but how does the whole
promotion thing go about? I've never been to one so I don't know (I'm not pulling your chain this time).
Last edited by Line; March 3rd, 2012 at 02:56 AM.
I'm talking about the States. We are in a bad world market right now and you are in a country with a collapsing economy. Not to over simplify things but sometimes you have to go where the work is. Of course uprooting your life has its own risks and problems that you have to weigh for yourslf. Hard to do when your older. And no sure thing if you aren't at the top of your game.
People like to put a face with the work, they like to see you and talk to you and see your reactions to things. Thats how business gets done still. All this crap technology doesn't help if you can't connect with people on some level. Thats why conventions are a good place to make contacts when you have work that is ready for primetime and a good place for getting feedback when it isn't.
On a personal note I uprooted my life and my business in '07 to come out to Virginia. I was in California I had lived there my whole life, at 52 years old I changed all that because I saw the writing on the wall with the economy there. I thought I left at the worst part but I was wrong and things got even worse afterwards. I've been here five years and basically had to rebuild my art business from scratch on the East Coast in the worst American economy in my lifetime. All the contacts and clients that worked with me in CA abandoned me when I started painting East Coast material. I had to build new clients. I work twice as hard and spend twice as much to make the same money I did ten years ago but I do it and so I know it can be done. I'm not Boris either but I find work and I hold on to it so I know its possible.
I'm on the verge of relocating back to the US m'self. Of course, in such a case, for me
it would be an even huger leap after living in Greece so long, but it would be an opportunity
to pursue some training too. We'll see.
About the convention thing tho, I can understand how that might work when you already
have a good level, but shouldn't it also be irrelevant? I understand and can appreciate the
need to have face to face contact, but at the same time this digital world supposedly helps
plus, how can anyone expect to make an impression that would lead to work from a brief
encounter with an AD, especially when he will meet another 1,000 people who are there
for the same reason...?
I'm just trying to make some sense out of all the madness, it just seems so random at times,
more like playing the Lotto than it being a "job".
@Slothboy3000: I don't think the Prince of Whales knows anything about saving,
he's never had to do it! So yea, it's pretty worthless. Advice from his accountant tho... ;P
MatejaPetkovic's idea is pretty interesting. Generally I don't agree with test art,
it negates your portfolio in a way, but if it works...Tell us, how often have you
done this and how do clients take the prospect of paying for test art?