I’ve seen many “how to” guides and advice columns on the internet about how to go about handling the production of a comic book. One of the best is Steven Forbes Bolts and Nuts column at the excellent Project Fanboy community website. However, this column is primarily from the writer / publisher point of view. I’d like to devote today’s blog to helping artists (specifically colorists although the guide should apply to all forms) successfully gaining employment. I’m offering this advice because I can’t believe how badly the majority of applicants need the help.
Try thinking about things from the POV of your potential employer. They want someone who will give them a professional service at the agreed upon rate, and deliver the product / service by the agreed upon deadline. They want someone who is trustworthy and sticks to their word. Someone who is willing to work with them to give them what they want. If you actually want to have a shot at getting hired as a penciller, inker, or colorist then you not only need talent and experience, but a bit of initiative helps. Do your research on the project, engage the writer / publisher in a conversation about it and about yourself. If you are a sociable person then that will help give you an edge, although it will never beat good references from reputable sources.
I’m not meaning to sound like a jerk about this, but if you could see the low quality of the submissions and the brevity of the emails from most of the applicants you would roll your eyes along with me. If you want a job, then make it clear to your potential employer. You’re not applying to a machine. It’s a human being that makes the decision to hire you, so be personable as well as doing some research. I gave a link to this site about the Sovena Red project. I’ve thrown you “a frickin’ bone”. Take that tool and use it to help your chances. I am offering to pay you my money for your work, but you are up against 100+ guys and gals who want that money too. So what are you going to do to stand out?
I’ve used DigitalWebbing.com a couple of times in the past four months. Back in April I advertised offering a paying job for a penciller, inker and colorist. I received well over 100 emails in the space of a couple of days. Later I posted to test the waters for a letterer and received a handful of responses. I will have enough pencilled and inked pages from John Amor soon to get the coloring machine in action so last Saturday I posted a new advertisement on DigitalWebbing.com for a colorist. I’ve received around 60 applications in the last 3 days. Here’s what I have learned from all of this…
1.) 80%+ of the responses will fail to read the advertisement correctly.
2.) Very few will bother to proof read.
3.) I’d say approximately 50%-60% of all the responses are artists who over value their services and are charging a page rate that is not remotely competitive.
Let me elaborate. The artist will shoot off a generic response with frequently inappropriate sample art. What do I mean by inappropriate samples? Well, in my case I specified that this project was an ‘all ages’ Marvel Adventures style book. Sending me gritty, shadowy, horror style renderings isn’t that smart. Okay, so that’s all you have at the moment and you are confident you can branch out into all ages if necessary. Congrats. Just know that you’re forcing me to use my imagination in regards to what your all ages work would look like. I’ve also been sent sample pages which involve pornographic images. Look, I don’t have a problem with mature content, but I don’t think it’s in your professional interests to use this sort of work as a sample unless the job you are applying for involves this sort of content. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot. And I’ve actually had a LOT of this sort of material submitted to me… for a project that is all ages! Come on guys. Think about this for a minute!
What about providing me with the key information I requested. The vast majority of applicants will not do research on the project even when a link is provided. And if you make it a requirement of the advertisement for them to respond to key points, a good portion will fail to do so regardless. Why? Clearly because they are not professionals. I hate to say that and offend these people, but failing to read the requirements of a job posting is failure at the first step.
But wait, there’s more!
Can an applicant do any worse than failing to acknowledge the requirements of the job ad? Apparently, yes.
If you don’t proof read your email and double check your links to your online portfolio / gallery are working then you just invalidated your entire application. I am looking at too many applicants to have the patience for your mistakes. If you promptly followed up your erroneous email with a quick message providing the correct URL then hurrah! No harm done. But it’s those people that don’t even seem to know they are messing up that make me shake my head in bewilderment. Do you want my money or not?
Oh and while I’m at it, for god’s sake, figure out how to get a proper website or blog. Don’t use Flickr and Photobucket. They just make you look amateur. AND because of their temporal ‘fly-by-night’ nature they make you look shady. At least one scam artist I have had the misfortune of meeting has used Photobucket as his online gallery, and he is now infamous online for running an art scam. If I hadn’t wised up and gotten lucky then he would have stolen my money. Don’t associate with the amateurism that a Flickr and Photobucket account gives you. If you are trying to make money professionally as a freelance artist then present yourself thus. The cheapest and simplest solution is a free online blog. I don’t care how you figure it out, whether its through a friend or through trial and error, just GET ONE!
It’s even sadder when an artist responds with samples that clearly show their level of rendering experience is still far from professional level AND YET they expect to make a higher page rate than their professional peers. I’ll give an example. Professional pay for a colorist working for a studio with money is in the $50-$60 dollar per page range. I offered to pay $30-$40 dollars per page for colors (a low rate, which I acknowledged in the advertisement) but explained that this is a 3 issue mini-series so this means more money in the long run. I knew this meant that the standard of samples from the applicants would be mixed and the majority would not be good enough, but I knew that there would be at least a couple that I could filter out. Here’s what happened…
Most responses priced themselves at $40 in order to get the most out of my offer. Understandable. However, when one guy who has worked for Image (and is actively working on Image titles right now) contacted me and was willing to work for a page rate of $35 in order to keep his plate full as a full time professional colorist, how do you guys charging $40 and more feel? Now in this case the guy may have enough work lined up to take a lower rate, but when there’s a guy out there at this level offering his services for such a bargain price, how in the hell can you expect to beat him if your own style is not nearly as refined yet and in the $40-$50 dollar range per page?
Keep in mind the following. With my very first project (Sovena Red) I dealt with a scam artist passing off other people’s work as his own who was then running off with the 50% upfront and switching aliases. See my early blog posts for more details. Then I got screwed around by my back up cover artist who did one evening’s work on two rough layouts for me and then wanted to charge me $50 bucks per additional rough. There is a dangerous mix of greed and egotism out there in the business world and comic books are no different than any other business. Just as artists can get screwed out of getting paid, writers can lose their money to fly by night jackasses, and uncompromising, egotistical jerkwads.
I no longer ‘trust’ or take people at their word and am more than aware of at least one scam being run out there. In fact, I laughed out loud on Saturday night when one of the fifty or so responses to the colorist ad I posted was ‘Ron Runstrom’ (the alias of scam artist Josh Hoopes). Obviously he has not yet heard the news that Rich Johnston has exposed him over at BleedingCool.com as he’s still trying to fool newbie writers and publishers into giving him the fairly standard 50% upfront so he can then drop off the face of the Earth with their money. In my advertisement on DigitalWebbing.com I was very clear that I would ignore all applicants who did not follow my guidelines to the letter, and Ron (Josh Hoopes) sent the same generic email as he had to Rich Johnston and myself in the past months. The sad thing about Josh is that he can very easily drop the Ron Runstrum alias and create a new one and keep scamming people out of their money. I hope this guy gets arrested ASAP. Someone needs to kick this guy’s ass and help set a precedent to discourage scam artists from these fraudulent schemes.
One guy who responded to my first ad back in April questioned my request for references, shrugging it off as being unusual on my part and only offering to provide them if I still insisted. After feeling like I was being schooled by Mr. Knowitall, I responded by telling him that I wanted references because this was a paying job.
Sorry for turning this into a rant, but I really think freelancers over at DigitalWebbing.com need to hear this and think about their approach to job announcements before firing off a hurried and brief email. Of course not all the guys that respond suck. Some follow my requirements to the letter, are professional, and engage me in a bit of dialogue and enthusiasm for the project. It’s these guys that I remember and spend more time reviewing. So take some time, do some research and show that in your email. Even if I don’t end up hiring you for this job, the feeling I get for you will be a positive one and I may use you for another job in the future, or recommend you to my friends and acquaintances in the industry. After all, it’s all about networking.