Friday, December 10, 2010

Some Common Sense

By Eric Fortune Back in the day(a Wednesday so I've heard) during my senior year of art school I remember getting some common sense advice from my teacher, Joe Kovach. He proclaimed "Always have a cushion of money in order to pay for a few months of bills". Sounds simple enough. But as many of us know starting a career in illustration can be difficult to say the least. Here's a saying you may have heard before, "feast or famine". Sometimes you have so much work on your plate all you can think about are deadlines. And sometimes you're frantically promoting yourself just to get work to trickle in. Right out of school...FAMINE. Getting an opportunity to prove your artistic worth can be trying. I eventually snagged one of a few full time illustration jobs. Having a 9-5 was good and the money was steady. However, prior to making the jump to freelancing full time I recalled the sage advice of my mentor and saved as much money as possible for a rainy day. I worked my full time job and took on as much freelance as possible before putting in my two weeks. Even with the cushion I had saved up there were some really stressful times when freelance had dried up to the point where I considered changing my name back to "Diamond" just to make ends meet. School loans ain't cheap. I recently gave this advice to an art buddy who tends to live a check to check, what happens happens, stressed out life style. He shrugged. I guess it depends on whatever lifestyle you want to live. Saving up for a rainy day and living within my means allows me to focus on my art and not get too caught up in things I don't really need anyway. Recently, I had to replace all the tires on my car(damn you all wheel drive) and the water line leading to my house had burst(damn you burstable water line). Which brings to mind two other relevant sayings "shit happens" and "when it rains it pours". Best to be prepared.


  1. I am absolutely behind this. I left a job as a game industry illustrator at the end of 2008 to look after our new baby, while freelancing at night (and needing a full income from those reduced hours). That was one of the worst financial years of my life, and we're still feeling the effects now, because we hadn't planned ahead and saved. All I can say is PLEASE DO IT!

  2. Sound advice.
    I also think a lot of people don't realize that even if you DO get freelance work, it still takes about 3 months before you get paid.
    That nest egg is a necessity in this business.

  3. Great point. Actually, I've always had trouble stacking up my jobs so that I had guaranteed work lined up and a little security knowing I'll be busy. Some deadlines get extended, you don't hear back from an AD on time, deadlines start to cross over etc. It can get messy. I think it's even more difficult stack editorial work because the deadlines have a quick turn around and most that I have worked for don't plan that far ahead.

  4. Good Advice, and it really is common sense. My Illustration Professor called it "F**k you money", having enough money on the side means you don't have to take on shit jobs or badly paid gigs just so you can pay your running costs, it allows you to say "no thx" or "thats not my rate".

  5. Haha, does it say something about the glamerous life of an illustrator that this post was written a little before 2am and the bulk of the replies come in during the wee hours of the morning. I'm definitely in that boat of trying to save up that bit of "famine" money before I'd think about going full-time freelance.

    Great post, I know way too many illustrators that are living "hand to mouth".

  6. Uncertainty is the hardest part of the business. I always seem to build up a little cushion and then Wham, the sewer backs up and you drop 5 grand burying in a new double bypass cleanout valve in the backyard that you will never see. Thankfully, living with our means and not going all shopaholic when times are good has allowed me to still be freelancing 16 years after I quit my last "real job".

  7. Even better: "a cushion of money" can give you the ability of saying "No".

    For example: No, I don't need your slave wage job!

    That's a powerful weapon and it leads to a better life and - even more amazing - better paid jobs.

    This is my experience.

  8. Good advice. Money goes where money is.
    Ever wondered why people who have enough get even more? They can focus on whats worth their time.

  9. Good advice, I've been freelance for 7 years now and the feast/famine thing definitely seems to happen a lot. I'm in a feast period at the moment, but still reluctant to turn down work as you never know how long the next famine will be. My current goal is to have enough in savings to pay one years mortgage payments as that's the source of most of my financial worry....

    I agree about saving money in order to be able to turn down shit jobs too, been able to do that a couple of times and it feels good!

  10. You said it Eric, it certainly is common sense. Everybody knows it but sometimes you just need to hear it out loud (or read it online :) It's definitely something I needed to hear right now. The holidays only make things harder and make your point more relevant. So it's time to start saving... once this damn money draining holiday is over :-P


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