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I am planning on developing a "Great Business Practices" panel to help new artists avoid beginner mistakes and problems.

The panel will cover basic information for TOSs, copyright, general organization, etc.

I would love some general advice/feedback that you all feel is essential for new artists to understand. If you could tell a brand new artist anything to set them up for success what would it be?

I would also really appreciate a few stories that you may have that you feel really teaches a lesson about introductory level business skills in freelancing.

If I end up using the material in the panel, I will not be using specific names, so your advice or stories will be anonymous unless you specifically would like your name to be used (at which point I'll take the discussion to PMs to work out the most suitable use of your story/advise/what have you)

Finally, if there's content that you may not currently know, or something which you deeply wish such a panel would cover, I am enthusiastically accepting suggestions or requests for the panel content.

The panel will mostly focus on artwork but fursuit building and other common businesses in the fandom may also be covered.

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Comments

( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
kayla_la
Mar. 28th, 2015 10:02 pm (UTC)
"The vast majority of artists are casual. It's okay to decide doing this as a business isn't for you. Doing art for work and doing it for fun are very, very different animals and most people aren't cut out for it. Start off slow and consider a half and half payment method to help protect you and your clients as you figure out if this is something you want to do or can handle."

So many artists just go 'I love drawing, so surely I'd love to get paid to do it!'. It's different. And then they end up on here for not fulfilling their obligations because they don't want to do -work-, but instead want to doodle their own characters, and didn't realize it's not the same. I feel like a lot of hassle could be saved for everyone if people explored this instead of jumping straight into taking lots of commissions.
kalika_tybera
Mar. 28th, 2015 10:40 pm (UTC)
I would consider bringing up pricing, as well as advertising as points. I've seen countless beginner artists undercharge themselves horribly and end up taking on too much or burning themselves out (not to mention it can affect competitive pricing for other artists). They need to prepare themselves by figuring out rough cost of time spent and materials, etc to set prices fairly.

Advertising and places to do so might be good. Some people just don't know where to start and have trouble finding bites because they aren't looking in the right spots. Maybe provide a small list of potential advertising points/places to help give them that boost?

Under general organization I hope you will mention Queue/Time Management. I've seen many beginner artists fall into the pit of taking on too much work and not being able to complete it in a timely manner. This is something I've always been super careful about and I only take on what is comfortable for me, and have kept my track record clean because of it. It's very important!
dinogrrl
Mar. 28th, 2015 11:12 pm (UTC)
Absolutely second the pricing thing. Never be afraid to charge what your time and effort are worth, and don't let yourself be pressured into doing work for dirt-cheap or free. Not only does this save you from getting burned out by doing, say, 30 pieces for $5 each when you could have done 3 for $50 each, but it also helps to weed out those commissioners who think $2 will buy them the Sistine Chapel and will not let you go until they get that.

For what you should charge, do several pieces of the kind you're planning to offer for commission. Time how long they take you to complete, figure out how much that would be at minimum wage, and add enough to cover your materials. This is the MINIMUM you should be charging.
epiceternity
Mar. 28th, 2015 10:46 pm (UTC)
Networking would be a good topic to cover as in the art industry it almost always 'who you know' that gets you an in.

Tips on how to sell yourself can be helpful to i.e what makes a good portfolio, always have some examples of your work on you at all time (because you never know when you'll run into someone you can network), never make negative comments on your work/run yourself down when someone is viewing your work etc.

And avoid unpaid work (unless there is a deep personal interest in the project) and don't be so desperate for work that your too afraid to turn down a crap job.

kattotang
Apr. 1st, 2015 12:06 pm (UTC)
"never make negative comments on your work/run yourself down when someone is viewing your work"

Oh, THIS. I would go so far as saying NEVER make negative comments about your work, ever, to anyone. It's really off-putting and will guarantee your work doesn't sell well. Plus, it's a vicious cycle: Artists make negative comments about their work because of low confidence, then their own negative comments just reinforce the low confidence, causing them to make more negative comments. And they can get stuck in that rut where they think nothing they do is good enough for the money they were paid...then feel guilty for not doing it quickly, which causes more procrastination... Yeah, endless vicious cycles with that.

I think the best thing an artist can do is to just stop doing that altogether; eventually their confidence will rise slowly and they'll have an easier time finishing things, which will create a new cycle, a positive one of finish thing--feel good about finishing thing--have easier time doing next thing--feel good about finishing that thing--etc.
keyoki
Mar. 29th, 2015 12:40 am (UTC)
-Stay firm. You have a ToS and a price list for a reason. I'll never forget my first commission because someone badgered me down to $10 for a full color picture because "is black really a color?" I used the same amount of time and material but made half as much. Very related...

-Charge more. You might get fewer customers but you'll be making the same or more money for less work. Gives you more time to focus on the product you're putting out which is better for you and your customer.

-Record everything. If you're running a business you need to know where all your money is coming from and where it's going. You need to know what's selling and what you're making at a loss, which cons are bringing in the most and which cons you might as well sleep through.
dragontripmon
Mar. 29th, 2015 02:34 am (UTC)
Hobbyist Artist Advice
Well i am only a hobbyist who draws for fun but have seen quite a lot of bad practices and things on the main site of FA lately. A few things that can help a lot if anyone wants to commission in the future would be these two threads at the FA forums. Which i really things most people should read.

https://forums.furaffinity.net/threads/52853-Whether-or-Not-you-Are-Commisisonable-Thread

https://forums.furaffinity.net/threads/134014-A-Commissioner-s-Perspective-on-How-To-Get-Commissioned

(no subject) - fenris_lorsrai - Mar. 29th, 2015 03:57 am (UTC) - Expand
zareonianwolf
Mar. 29th, 2015 04:40 am (UTC)
Organization is everything! Use spreadsheets to keep track of your orders and who placed them, and always make sure you have a copy of said spreadsheet saved to your hard drive (or even printed out!). You don't want to rely on internet access to get your information; outages happen and you don't want to be unable to work while you wait for someone else to fix hardware/website issues.

Also, make sure you always get your client's primary e-mail address so you can reach them if something does come up; usernames on websites are useless if the website goes down.

I rely heavily on google forms to take new orders; that way everyone ordering from me gives me the exact same information as everyone else - commission type, character references, additional descriptions, etc. It saves you from hunting through different private messages to find a missing detail.
eski
Mar. 29th, 2015 05:11 am (UTC)
Perhaps also cover record keeping for the financial/tax side of things; saving receipts, calculating business expenses, places to go to get tax things sorted out, general organizational tactics to be able to keep track of it all, etc. Everything else I'd recommend has already been boosted here!
tisiphone
Mar. 29th, 2015 05:28 am (UTC)
1. Keep track of your workload. Google docs or some other spreadsheet is a good way to do it, list at a minimum the customer, type of project, cost, and deadline (if you're using deadlines). You can also use it to track the time a project takes you for pricing.

2. Don't under-price yourself. Look at what others in the market are selling their stuff for, but keep in mind a lot of artists are all "I just love art and getting paid is a bonus". This is not the attitude you want if need to make a living. Decide what's a reasonable hourly wage, add in 20%-25% overhead for costs and taxes, and price projects accordingly. For example, if you think $15 an hour is a reasonable wage and a project will take you three hours you should be charging: 15 x 3 x 1.25 = $56.25. Do not be afraid of this. Yes, you won't get orders from people who want three hours of your time for a fiver. That's OK, you don't want those customers anyway.

3. Don't be afraid to say no. When I started freelancing, I would take jobs that I knew were underpriced, or where I knew clients were difficult, because I felt like I needed the money or the work. These jobs were invariably not worth it because they caused frustration and stress. This applies to customers as well as jobs. If there's someone who's been difficult in the past, it's totally reasonable to choose not to work for them again.

4. Working for "exposure", "portfolio", and other things that aren't money. Try not to do this. The only time you should be giving your work away for free is if a) it's a charitable or social cause that b) you believe in. If it's a commercial concern, they can and should pay you for your work. Your exposure and portfolio come through your paid work. By doing commercial work for free, you disadvantage yourself and perpetuate the myth that artistic and creative work can be exploited.
cat_flower
Mar. 29th, 2015 01:21 pm (UTC)
I'm +1ing everything here, but I think it's incredibly important to discuss professional attitude. Chances are, at least good handful of the people you're going to be talking to are very young and obviously inexperienced to this field. And by young, I mean there's a good chance that some of these people are going to be late teenagers and early 20-somethings. Please stress how vital it is for them to be courteous and civil, even if they don't want to. They're going to be dealing with more BS than they're going to expect, and they need to know that you can't fly off the handle every single time something doesn't go as planned, especially if you're already stressed out about a thousand and one other things. It's difficult, sure, but it can make all the difference with a client.
tyrrlin
Mar. 29th, 2015 02:19 pm (UTC)
Pricing, pricing, pricing!

I did a post several years back that covers it nicely. If you decide to use this, I would really appreciate the credit, as this post took a few hours to write.

http://tyrrlin.livejournal.com/229846.html

EDIT: Note, some of the numbers I use are from several years ago, but are good examples. For example, right now I try to maintain between $60-85/hr for my personal work rate, but I work in an actual brick-and-mortar business with several other employees, as well as being appropriate for the area of the country. YMMV)

Edited at 2015-03-29 02:23 pm (UTC)
vauvakolibri
Mar. 29th, 2015 05:53 pm (UTC)
Also one important thing for me would be transparency and overall communication (this falls along with organization and saving all proof that have been mentioned here already). Having a public queue, explanations somewhere where the (more costly) money goes (such as materials, shipping) and keeping personal communication (even just mass-email vs journal) are things that can make a potential problem smooth over (like in cases where shipping cost a large sum, it was good for the customer to see the receipt so they could know that the money I asked DID go in what I told it would go).
Also even if there is no progress, keeping in touch with the customer to tell that" no progress has been made but I haven't forgotten you!" is a super important preemptive measure, especially if you may get anxious when people start ask for progress or are the type that takes a while to reply back.
harkthorn
Mar. 29th, 2015 10:21 pm (UTC)
Pricing is #1, second would perhaps be a basic overview of how to begin going about things like setting yourself up as self-employed, where to begin with taxes, that general sort of area.
lauralien
Mar. 30th, 2015 06:08 am (UTC)
Aside from the great suggestions that have already been made, I think those that will do any amount of digital artwork or online correspondence can benefit from an emphasis on computer literacy/responsibility. Unfortunately, all these things could be a whole panel by themselves, so I imagine they'd be hard to fit in.

-Digital artists should save early, and save often. The computer they use for work should preferably be their own, and nobody else should have access to it (To keep clients' information secure, and so tech-illiterate guest can't accidentally break things).

-They should be keeping at least two backups at all times, with one being offsite (For example, through an online backup service). I've seen many journals from artists that have lost years of work from a hard drive failure. It hurts a lot, and it's totally preventable.

-Services like Geek Squad are expensive, yet what they do is often very basic. Artists will want to learn enough about computers to avoid ever having to give them money (Or, it helps to know someone within driving distance that is computer-knowledgeable). They should try to know basic troubleshooting techniques, how to search the internet to solve unfamiliar issues, how to be secure when browsing the internet, software/hardware/driver/OS installation, etc. Nobody wants to spend $100 on a new tablet when all along it could have been fixed with a $0.30 USB cable.

-Know common scams or phishing techniques, and how to avoid them. Use strong unique passwords, never give them out to anyone, avoid logging in to accounts on public/unfamiliar devices if at all possible, but if there's no alternative, log out and clear cookies/cache when finished.

-It's important for artists to know that when they do business online, they don't just have their own identity to protect...They have their client's information as well.
chaossal
Mar. 30th, 2015 12:42 pm (UTC)
Have a public queue and never have people send you payment as ''friends or family'' it makes you look like a scammer.
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