One of the most frustrating parts about working on a freelance basis is getting work. It can be an incredibly tough business, even for the most talented writers or designers. I remember an anecdote from a friend of mine working in the comic industry several years ago. At the time, he had a stunning portfolio behind him, having worked on most major titles and with almost every significant character in the comic book industry – Batman, Spider-Man, Aliens, Star Wars, Predator, Star Trek, and it seemed as if things could get any better for him. At that point he was then working for Marvel on one of their X-Men spin-off titles when Marvel decided that a change in direction was needed for the titles he was involved with, and that included the cancellation of that book. Suddenly his monthly income was slashed to the point that he had to take a “regular” day job so he could pay the bills.
So there he was, an established comic writer, producing work that was being read by fans all over the world, enjoying a reputation that gave him the opportunity to be invited to conventions as a guest, and facing the prospect of working in a bank to pay the bills. I’ve been there myself – at one point I was a regular columnist for three magazines. One was a weekly publication with my own column, another provided me with a regular column plus additional one-off pieces, and the third (the most lucrative of the three financially), left me with a free reign to pitch feature ideas to my editor but usually left me with a significant amount of work each month. Then, in the space of about 6-8 weeks, two magazines folded and the third decided that my regular column wasn’t needed anymore.
When that happens, you do feel deflated but you have to pick yourself up and keep promoting yourself to new potential clients and use your portfolio as a marketing tool and look for new outlets for your work. When you’re not working, you still need to keep your skills fresh by writing for yourself and build up a library of “off-the-shelf” content that could be used if needed. When you do try marketing yourself though, there’s nothing frustrating than unecessary knock-backs… Last week I placed an order for my freshly designed business cards. I had just acquired a new mobile phone, designed the cards and received them from the printers. As my focus for my website design services is local clients so I can offer a more personal hands-on service, I felt that handing cards over in person was one of the best options in addition to leaving cards in dispensers in local supermarkets. As these have now become multi-function points in stores, often being combined with saving stamps machines, these are ideal positions as they draw customers to them.
I deposited over 50% of my initial print order with a store and was assured that they would be displayed on the next refresh of the display. One week later and the refresh has happened, no sign of the cards and – to make matters worse – the cards have now disappeared. If they were unable to display them for whatever reason, that would not have been a problem and I could have simply collected the cards on a return visit, but to lose a box of business cards simply beggars belief. As I am trying to relaunch myself as a writer / designer, it’s an expense that I cannot afford and I am sure it’s the same for any other small business.