Be Your Own Boss: Strategies for Launching Your Creative Career | Martina Flor | Skillshare

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Be Your Own Boss: Strategies for Launching Your Creative Career

teacher avatar Martina Flor, Lettering Artist, Author & Educator

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      When is the Right Time?


    • 3.

      The Right Mindset: Pros and Cons


    • 4.

      Being Your Own Client


    • 5.

      Showcasing Your Work


    • 6.

      Your Bio - How I Introduce Myself?


    • 7.

      Finding Clients


    • 8.

      Do I Need an Agent?


    • 9.

      Building an Audience


    • 10.

      Pricing Your Work


    • 11.

      Developing a Creative Brief


    • 12.

      Creating a Professional Work Process


    • 13.

      How do I Get Better?


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About This Class

In this class Martina Flor, lettering artist and designer, unravels the nooks and crannies of being self-employed, providing practical tools and useful tips to start your own studio.

Martina, previously showed you techniques and foundations to create lettering at her classes The Golden Secrets of Hand-Lettering: Create the Perfect Postcard, The Golden Secrets of Script Lettering: Find Inspiration In Your Handwriting and Storytelling Through Lettering: Exploring Different Styles. In this class she will address many of your questions concerning freelancing and starting a career with what you like doing.

Based on her own personal experience, Martina demonstrates how taking the big leap to freelancing, as challenging as it is, is also a unique opportunity to shape your personal brand from the ground up. 

Throughout this class Martina will cover:

  • How to build your reputation
  • Foundations for building and maintaining a portfolio
  • How to use social media
  • How and where to find clients
  • Strategies for building relationships with future clients
  • Pricing your work, and more!

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Martina Flor

Lettering Artist, Author & Educator


Martina Flor combines her talents as both a designer and an illustrator in the drawing of letters. Based in Berlin, she runs one of the world's leading studios in lettering and custom typography, working for clients all over the globe such as The Washington Post, Vanity Fair, HarperCollins, Monotype, Etsy, Adobe, Mercedes Benz, Lufthansa, and Cosmopolitan, among many others.

Martina Flor earned her Master's in Type Design from the esteemed Royal Academy of Art in The Hague, The Netherlands. Since then she has dedicated a large part of her time to teaching lettering and type design. She has published two books in several languages, The Golden Secrets of Lettering and The Big Leap, and launch... See full profile

Level: All Levels

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1. Introduction: Hi, I'm Martina Flor, I'm a lettering artist and I'm my own boss. In previous classes here on Skillshare, I show you how to draw letters and how to master lettering knowledge. In this class, I would like to address all of your questions related to doing the work you really want to do. Based on my own experience, I will share with you all the steps I took to start working freelance as a lettering artists. I worked for many years as an employee until I decided to give the big jam to start my own studio in Berlin. Since then I have had the chance to work for clients all around the globe, like The Washington Post, Adobe, Mercedes Benz, Vanity Fair, among others. Working on your own can be extremely rewarding. You don't need anyone to tell you how to do things. You can do them your way and you always want to make them better. When you are your own boss, creative work is not everything. You also need to be organized and have the right mindset. In this class, we will speak about what it means to be a freelance and its challenges. We will see together how to build a solid portfolio even if you don't have enough client projects to show. We will speak about social networks, building an audience, finding clients, pricing your work and conducting a professional work process for the client. From the moment you receive the assignment until delivering the final hour. You don't need any previous knowledge to take this class. This class is aimed to illustrators, letters, photographers, and every creative professionals who wanted to take the step to become their own bosses and do the work they really want to do. If you have questions, remember to post them on the forum, I will be there to give the support. Thank you for listening and see you soon. 2. When is the Right Time?: Welcome. Since this class is based in my personal experience, I would like to start by telling you a little bit about my story and how I started with lettering. I studied graphic design and I worked many years as a graphic designer and an Ad director. At some point, I thought I will stop working as a graphic designer, I wasn't really happy about the work I was doing. I decided to go abroad and study. I went first to Barcelona to study Communication Design. Within this experience, I fell in love again with graphic design, so I decided to continue studying. I moved to the Netherlands to participate in a course of Type Design, the master of Type Design. At that time I liked topography and I thought this was something I would like to explore more. I went there to study and in this year experience, I discover in drawing letters something that married two things that I really liked a lot. One of them was actually drawing and illustrating and the other thing was designing. The drawing letters or letter design was marrying these two things very well. After this experience, I decided to go ahead, moved to Berlin, which is one of the main capitals of typography in the world. I decided to give it a shot to this letter design or me working as a letter designer. When I moved to Berlin, I got an internship in a very important typefoundary here. I was working there around a year. So after this year experience, I talked to my boss and I said, "Hey, I would like to continue working here no longer as an intern but as an employee." He said that, well, he wasn't thinking of taking new employees, so that was the end of our work relationship. I remember that at that time that was really terrible to me. I was in a new city. I didn't speak the language. I have no network at all. I wonder how I was going to do to actually survive, make a living. I had two options. One of them was to look for a new job and the other option was to give it a shot and try myself at being a freelancer and see if I could leave exclusively from doing lettering and letter design. I decided for this option and the first thing I did was to clean up my website from all the things that I had done before in graphic design or layout design. I left only the lettering and letter design projects. The other thing I did was to print out new business cards. This little important decision had a big impact in the way I did things, because for the first time I started introducing myself as a lettering designer. But of course, the decision of being or working as a lettering designer came before having a big portfolio of projects to show to potential clients. I decided to come up with excuses to produce work that I could include in my portfolio. I came up with a side project that I started with an Italian calligrapher called [inaudible]. We were basically putting together an online battle and we were uploading a letter a day and people decide which one was the best. That project caught the attention of a lot of people on social networks, but also the typographic community here in Berlin. I started having my first assignments or commercial commissions from clients. But also I started being recognized by the community and I was invited to talk at Creative Mornings Berlin, for instance and later on I was invited to other conferences. Speaking at conferences is something I continue doing nowadays and it started at that point in time. In a few words, introducing myself as a lettering artist and believing in myself that I was a lettering artist, had a great impact towards starting working as such. Within this class, I'm going to give you insights about how I started working as a lettering artist and all the things I had to do to start making a living of it. Hopefully, by the end of this class, you will have enough inspiration to think a promotional piece or something that will help you tell the world that you're there and what is the work you want to do. In the next lesson, we are going to speak about the pros and cons of being a freelancer and what's the right mindset to start working on your own. 3. The Right Mindset: Pros and Cons : When you start working as a freelancer, you're basically starting your own company, even if that company is really really tiny in the beginning. But you are basically your own boss and there's always something to do. So when you're not doing commissions for clients, you will be probably updating your website or you will be writing a bill for a certain project. You need to move from a passive attitude to an active attitude. That's the very first step towards becoming a freelancer. One of the pros of being a freelancer is that you're creating a project that is your own, and that's a great feeling. You are shaping the things as you want them to be. You are taking the projects that you want to work on. You will be deciding on the aesthetics of those projects and in which direction those projects are going to go. That's the very first great thing about being a freelancer. That you are the owner of what you do and you are shaping that in the way you want. Another great thing about being freelancer is that you actually have the potential of earning more. I know that the great fear of going freelancing is that you won't have this steady income every month that you used to have in your day job. But the truth is that now, what you charge for a project goes all to you and a project that it takes you a month to do, might pay for three or four months of your bills. I recommend you to keep track of what's coming in, as well as what's going out. When there's not enough income coming in, then that will be an alarm for you and that will motivate you to go out and look for more clients or more commissions. Personally, keeping a track of that helped me a lot to look for new opportunities. Another great thing I like about being freelancer is that you can manage your schedule. If you want to go to yoga classes in the morning because that works better for you, or you want to go to a dentist's appointment in the afternoon, you're free to actually do that. You don't have to ask anyone whether you can do that or not. You manage your schedules, you make the decisions, and that allows you also to create your own personal brand. Every work that you're doing is actually yours and is actually speaking about how you work and the way you do work. That's actually great. It's not someone else's name, but it's your name there. Some of the challenges of being a freelancer are also some of the pros of being a freelancer. For instance, being able to manage your schedule doesn't necessarily mean that you will have endless free time. As I said before, you will always have something to do. When you're not doing commissions for clients, you will have to update a website or you will be busy at doing some financial work. So these are also the challenges, organizing your work and your time. I remember at the time I was having a day job, I was dreaming of the moment that I will be a freelancer and will be able to go on holidays for a month or more. That's something I will rarely do nowadays because I feel that I have a lot to lose if I just close my studio for a month. That's okay because it's my little babies, like my little project that is my own and I want to take care of it. Another challenge is that you will be doing everything. Designing or doing illustration or taking photographs or whatever you want to do will be just a little part of what you would do in a day. You will be writing bills and you will be doing offers and you will be writing contracts. You will be also picking up the phone and answering e-mails. Think that you will be the one executing all the tasks, at least in the beginning. Starting freelancing can be very overwhelming. Something that really helped me at the time I started freelancing was to make lists. At that time I made a list of all the things that I could do, that is all the things that I could actually do. As a designer, I could do layout, I could do logo types, I could do illustrations. I could also do letter design. Those were all the things that I could actually do, not necessarily the things I wanted to do. I made a list of all the things I could do and I made a list of the things I wanted to do. I wanted to do lettering, I wanted to do letter design, type design. Within this universe of typography, I also listed all the things that I could do with that. I listed okay I could do commercial commissions for clients, and I could also teach workshops. I could also sell products or prints. Within what you want to do, whatever that is, illustration, photography, design, there's a bunch of things you can do which is not only working for clients. That was actually very enlightening to me, because I stopped thinking that if I don't get enough clients, I will not be able to make a living of it. Because there were a lot of other things I could do to have some income and to make a living of it. Those two lists are very useful because while you will be pursuing to do more of the work you want to do, it is okay to do some of the work you can do to pay the bills in the meantime. What is important is that the work you can do doesn't take up all the space or all the time you have during the day. Always allow a time in the day to work on the work you want to do. Remember that building up a portfolio is essential and you need to keep working on building up that portfolio to get more of that work in the future. So make a list. Make a list of the things you can do and could eventually help you pay the bills and make a list of the things you want to do. Within that thing you want to do, whatever that is, lettering, illustration, photography, design, list all the possible ways of income you have and keep that list visible for you. That will be your goal. That will be what you will be pursuing. In the next lesson, we are going to speak about how to build a portfolio, even if you don't have enough clients or enough projects to show. 4. Being Your Own Client : Usually when you start, you probably don't have enough projects to show from the work you actually want to do. Throughout my career, I have used side projects as a way of improving the way I work, and improving my own work, and also building up a portfolio. One of the side projects I did was lettering versus calligraphy that I mentioned before, where I was doing this online battle with the calligrapher, and uploading a letter per day. That was the first site project that helped me include some pieces of lettering in my portfolio, and it helped me as well, to build up some confidence in what I was doing. The projects we're actually, the letters I was drawing we're actually getting better every time I was executing them. It was a greatest excuse to practice my skills. Later on, when I was already established with my studio, I started to feel that I was getting commissions or assignments that I started to look alike. Usually, clients come to you because they have seen something in your portfolio, and they were probably like you to do something similar for them, and this way your projects start to look alike. I felt that I needed to include some new styles and new lettering styles in my portfolio so I could get different kinds of jobs. I came up with this project called letter collections, where I basically put myself the goal of sending 100 postcards to people. I was designing the postcard in my studio. I was printing them in my printer, and I was sending them proposed to someone. The goal of this project was to actually work on very different style. For instance, here's the fraktur lettering, and here, I created high contrast Roman lettering. I was exploring different styles within the world of letters shapes. Later on I could include some of these pieces in my portfolio that will lead probably to new commissions for new work. Of course, at the same time I was sharing all these process or making of process in my social network, so it was helping me to build my audience on social networks as well. Another side project of mine, when I studied my studio here in Berlin, was my workshops in lettering design. When I came to Berlin, I didn't have any network. I didn't know anyone. The first workshop of lettering I offer was for free, and I remember that at the very beginning, I was creating a logotype for every new edition of the workshop. I was creating these wood blocks as prizes for the attendees. Every time I had a new workshop, I was creating a logotype for this workshop, and this was a piece that I will then later include in my portfolio. Everything you do related to your practice, whatever that is, illustration, photography, is a good excuse for you to produce work, and have a piece of work to include in your portfolio. One of my latest side projects is a line of products that I started a while ago called Martina Flor Goods. I basically create products from letter shape. My work mainly occurs is mainly 2D, and is later printed on a magazine cover or on a book cover. I think what is great about this project is that I basically design letter shapes that would later become products and physical objects. That creates a totally different dimension to my word. This is a side project that got serious, and I love that the people is actually able to buy some of these products, and wear them. I love going to meetings or events, and seeing products on people's clothes or going to certain design studio, and seeing that they have one of my prints on their walls. Side projects are a great way to present your work to the world, and are also a great way to shape the work you want to do. Use side projects to feed your portfolio, to build your portfolio, and to give the world a clear message of the work you want to do. In the next lesson, we are going to speak about how to showcase your work in your portfolio. 5. Showcasing Your Work : I think that having a portfolio is the best way to show the work you want to do, and I think in the sense, having an online portfolio is the easiest way to reach the most amount of people. You don't need to be an experienced web designer or invest a lot of money to create an online portfolio. There is nowadays very easy and economic ways of creating an online portfolio for yourself. There is WordPress platform where you can buy a template and create a website yourself. There is also some online services that allow you to create websites very intuitively and in a very inexpensive way. In the very beginning when you start freelancing, you'll have a lot of things to do please keep the making of your portfolio as simple as you can. Your portfolio should be as well, easy for you to update, so you keep your portfolio with fresh work every time. It should be also easy for your potential clients to navigate try. To stay away from very heavy websites that take a long time to load. Try to stay away from creating very complicated animations or Flash animations, try to keep your website as simple as you can. I would like to show you how I present myself through my website. This is my website, as you see, I like my projects to be the start of my website. In my website, I show all the things I do. I show the commercial work that I do. I also speak about my speaking engagements and the talks I give at conferences. I speak about my teaching as well and I have a blog section or a new section. I have a link to my shop and I have also an About section. Let's start by the Work section and how I showcase my projects. I think it's important for you as a designer or as a professional to actually show that your projects are not just pretty pictures, but they also have a concept and they had also an initial briefing. Whenever I showcase a project, I like to have brief description of what the initial briefing was. I explain briefly what the assignment was about and also very important, I named the client and the art director I worked with. Remember to credit all the people that contributed to that project and art directors, the love you give always goes back. Please name your art directors or the people you collaborated with. Whenever I show a project, I also like to showcase different things. I like to showcase pictures as well as the actual final artwork. In my case, I like to take pictures of the real object. I think that makes the reader or the person who is visiting the project have an idea of how that look in the real world. Taking pictures of the real object, I think, adds a lot to showcasing a certain project. I also like to show the plain art work just as it was delivered to the client. Let's go back to another example. Here's a project I did for Papyrus, the card company in the US. I'm showing basically the artwork that I created, and I also show pictures of how the cards actually look when they were printed. To take pictures of your work or to showcase pictures of your work. You don't need a great photo studio, you just need a white background some time and have the product with you. That's a very important thing that you are presenting the artwork you create as projects with a concept, with a briefing, and with also collaborators. Another thing is show fresh work, keep your website updated, try to update new work to your website every month or every time you have a new product, include that into your workflow, every time you finish a product, you deliver that to the client and you upload that to your website. Remember that the fresh work you show will bring you more clients, and another important thing, edit your work. You don't need to show everything you do. If there is a project that didn't really go well or that you are not happy with the result, you don't really need to show that. Show just the work you want to get more from. Let me continue showing you my websites and all the parts. I have my work section. I have also a teaching section because I also offer workshops and I teach seminars. In this teaching section, I list all the different public workshops or seminars I offer, my online classes, my in-house workshops and I gave a brief description of each one of them. My website is also for me to have sign-ups to my workshops. Whenever I offer a public workshop I will announce it here on my website, and people has a link to register and sign up for that workshop. Your website could actually be a tool for you to connect with people and allow them to sign up to your events. I have another section where I speak about my speaking engagements here I show my upcoming presentations and my past speaking engagements, and I also have some featured talks of mine, and I have a press part where I provide information and material for people who approaches me to interview me. I have a news section where I basically speak about these things or events or a new project that was released or I speak about different things that are important to my work. Something important about having a blog or having a news section is that you need to keep it updated. If you are not a person who likes to write blog posts, you don't need to include it in your website. I have a link to my shop. My shop is actually another website. From my website I'm linking to my shop where you can find all my products. There's also a relationship between the design of that shop and the design of my website. As you can see, there's some elements that repeats, for instance, the crown is something that I also use on my personal website think of your website and all your platforms as your personal branding try to keep some consistency between the different ways of presenting your work, try to create a website that showcase all this scope of work you do, not only the work for clients you do, but also if you teach workshops or you give talks at conferences or any of the other activities you do just list it on your website. In the next lesson, we are going to speak about something that I consider very important, which is the Bio section of your website. 6. Your Bio - How I Introduce Myself?: I think the bio section of your website is very important because people like to work with people. I often navigate websites where the bio section is very limited or is even not there and I personally always like to see who is behind that work. I always like to see the face of that person, how that person is, to give me an idea of what is the person who is creating that artwork or who is taking those photographs or is creating those designs. It's very important that your bio is insight for us well as brief, so people don't have to read like a long text to actually get to know you. In this section, I basically present myself. Here are a few things that I think a good bio should include. I think a good bio should include a profile pic. Choose that pic in an intelligent way. Try to choose a pic, were you show yourself as a professional and that speaks about yourself. Try to avoid like holiday pictures or a try to avoid pictures that are from something else than yourself, try to choose a picture that actually reflects who you are and the way you deal with people. In my bio I included what I do, so Martina Flor combines her talents as both a designer and an illustrator in the drawing of letters, just the line that gives the person who is reading your bio information about exactly what you do. State very clearly what your focuses, what you're good at. Are you good at illustration? Are you good at creating animations for movies? Then write that first in your bio. Did you get to work for good clients? Then list them on your website. Also named the credentials that we backup the work you do. If you studied in a renown university, write it down. If you have a degree on something, write it down. If you have a certain experience or an internship at a certain very important studio, also include it in your bio. I think as a personal touch, you can also include the other things you do. If you are as an illustrator, you also give, teach workshops, or you teach at a university. You can also name that within the things you do as a professional and this is very important, include your contact information. I have navigated a lot of websites where it's very hard to actually find the person that is behind this website and you want the people to contact you for having jobs, so put that contact information very clear somewhere where they can see. This is where I click and I get to write an email to this person. If you have social networks, include them in your website, people will want to follow your work and after visiting your online portfolio. So in a few words, your portfolio should show the scope of the work you want to do and should present to also as a human being, should present to you also as a professional so pay attention to the way you present your projects and pay attention as well to the way you present yourself. In the next lesson, we are going to speak about something very important, how to find jobs. 7. Finding Clients: So finding clients, let's talk about that. There's a couple of things that have tried throughout the time to reach out clients and it's very hard to say which one actually effectively brought me an assignment. I think it's very good to try out all of them or a couple of them so you make sure that any of those could work. One of the first things you can do when you start freelancing is reaching out to your network, tell your friends, tell your family, tell the people you know that you are now freelancing and let them know which work you do and let them know that you're open to collaborations. If you can also state it on your networks, then great, if you can put it on Twitter, write it in your Twitter description, I'm open for collaborations get in touch with me. Tell the people that you are there and that you're willing to work with them. Another way of connecting with potential clients is going out there and meeting people. There is a bunch of events that are truly happening in your city or in closer cities that you can attend to and connect with other creatives or potential clients. Try to find out which these events are and try to choose the ones you like and you feel that are more connected to the work you want to do. In the very beginning, I felt personally very uncomfortable to reach out to people in events and to make conversation about my profession or the way the work I do, I felt it was fake, I felt that it was not natural, but with time the more you do it, the more naturally it becomes. After a few times you attend an event of this kind, you will see that it will be easier for you to start a conversation about a certain topic. Also, I think that a conferences and events of this kind are great because you attend to watch the talk of a certain professional, a certain person, so that talk is already a starting point for a conversation. After the talk you can ask someone, what did you think of the talk? Then start a conversation about your work or about the work you do in general. Another thing I love to do to reach out potential clients, or actually put a piece of my work out there is to do promotional material. Here, there's a little bit of a showcase of some of the promotional material that I've done in the last years or throughout these years. Some of them are very inexpensive, so you don't need to invest a lot of money to actually create a promotional piece. This one you see here was one of the first promotional pieces I created for my studio. I remember that I had no budget at the moment, so I decided to print on plain graph paper on one color. This was a very inexpensive card that I created. I remember that I send this card to a bunch of different people, colleagues, friends, and these card reached also the organizer of freedom mornings here in Berlin and it called his attention and he called me to give a talk. This little, inexpensive card actually brought me that opportunity. On this side, there's other promotional material. These are postcards and things that I give to clients and also I bring to conferences and I give away to people. I think it's putting a little bit of my work out there. It's also something that the person can use to reach out to someone else, so it's kind of a postcard and I think postcards always work. This you see here is, for instance, a recent promotional material that I created for first letter in seminar that I offer in my studio and it's basically a postcard that is showcasing a piece of my work and is giving you details about that seminar. For my workshops, I also created this little card that you see here that I use it to give it to the attendees of a workshop as a thank you for coming and was a giveaway for them. The promotion material has also that other side that is, like you're actually giving something to someone, and that's always nice. These ones you see here are a bit more elaborated and our cards I created to send to clients by the end of the year. This one you see here is actually stamped every one of the cards. I also created a pin so you can actually, or literally keep typography next to your heart by using this ampersand pin. This one you see here is a poster I created at some point when I wanted to attract the attention of German clients. I remember in the very beginning, I was working internationally and I was working mainly for clients from the US and the UK and for me it made sense at that point to actually get some German clients, so I created a poster in German language which I sent to agencies and publishing houses here in Germany. These key chain over here is one of the products of my line of products, but also is something I use too as a gift to clients and very important contacts. It has two different functions. The ampersand is a very good way to speak about typography, or to tell the people that the focus of your work is typography. It becomes a symbol. So getting mentions on social networks, on the internet is also a very good way of putting your work out there. In this sense, I think that showing your work in a portfolio and creating projects in your portfolio that are very appealing, that have pictures and the artwork and a description of the work and all the collaborators that participated in that project, that gives you more chances for that project to be shared in other blogs or in other networks, or someone to find it and tweet about it. So try to think that all the things you put out there online are potentially things that could be shared and could become viral, and that's great for your work or to bring attention to your work. Another great way of reaching out potential clients or to meet new connections is to give lectures and talks at conferences. I know this seems like a very hard thing to do, I know it seems like you first need to have a certain reputation to be invited, talk at conferences, but there are sexually conferences that allow the participation of people who presents a certain idea for a talk that seems interesting to them. You can actually look for these conferences and reach out your idea for a talk. You might get selected. Once you give a talk, there is much more chances that you're getting invitations for a new talk, or a new conference. I hope this gives you a little bit of inspiration of what could be that thing you create to tell the world you are out there and that you are doing in a certain kind of work. It could be anything, it could be a very sexy business card, it could be a side project, it could be a very inexpensive promotional material, it could be a gift. Think of that piece of work you want to put out there. In the next lesson, we are going to speak about another way of finding jobs that is having an agent. 8. Do I Need an Agent?: Another way of finding jobs is to have an agent. An agent is basically someone that represents you and presents your work to potential clients and bring you jobs. What they actually do is to negotiate the fees for you and you are there just to do the creative work or to execute a gradient work. Of course, they will receive a fee or a percentage of the total budget as a compensation for the work they did. There's a variety of work relationships you can establish with an agent. There's agents that asked you to be exclusive, so to work exclusively with them. There's agents that allow you to have agents, for instance, in different regions. You can have an agent that represents you and your work in the US and you can have another agent that represents you in Japan or China. That depends a little bit on the kind of agent your reaching out to, and also the kind of relationship you want to establish with that agent. I think there is some benefits of working with agents if it's the right one for you. I think that many big clients with big projects like to speak with agents rather than reaching out directly to freelancers. They like to speak with agents because they can negotiate the terms and the contracts with people that is specialized in negotiating those things. When you're just starting, I think it could also be beneficial for you to have someone taking care of that part of the job, that it can be very overwhelming and very hard to tackle. How to reach them or how to present your work to an agent or a potential agent. Agents are people who receive applications from artists and photographers and illustrators all the time. I think sending an e-mail could be a chance, could give you a chance better is not necessarily the best way to reach out to an agent. I think you can meet them in person at our fairs. Our fairs are places where you can meet several agents at the same time and you can present your portfolio. I think you can also come up with new ideas or new ways of reaching out to an agent through social networks or through events. Rather than spamming all the possible agents that are out there, I will recommend you to go do a little bit of research and look for the agency that could match better with your work. Look for portfolios where there's no artists doing a similar work of the work you do and try to select those that you are very interested in and try to reach out to those first. I've been working with an agent for a while now and I reached out to them a while ago. What I did to call their attention was to send them this postcard. In this postcard, you basically need to write the three wishes you have for the year 2013 at that time. What I did is to send them this postcard and the first wish I wrote to be happy. The second wish was to travel the world and the third wish was to be represented by you. They found this friendly and nice and it called their attention and they called me back and we have been working since then. This little card you see here that I printed in one color and was very inexpensive, actually brought me a lot of opportunities. If you're interested in working with an agent, try to select the ones you like the most and try to reach out to them or to contact them per e-mail, or also in our affair, or try to find new friendly ways to connect with them. In the next lesson, we are going to speak about building an audience and working with social networks. 9. Building an Audience: Let's start by Instagram. I feel that Instagram is a great network for people who work in the arts or in the creative field because you're basically sharing pictures, whether of your work or of projects you did. I like to think of my Instagram profile as the personal portfolio where I need to curate the things I share and where I connect with other people through my posts. I try to share posts of my work. I also like to share process or things I do, for instance, sketches. I don't only share finalized work, but I also share pictures of art work in progress and the sketches I did for clients. I think this network is really interesting that you are sharing the day-to-day life of a creative person. I think that your profile should reflect that in a way. In this profile, I tried to keep a certain coherence, but I also tried to be as spontaneous. I share things, pictures of events that happened in my studio or I share a day where I am wearing a certain pin on my shirt. I think something important when you participate in a creative network or in social networks is that you talk to the people that is talking to you, that you answer the questions that they ask you. Another place or another network that I use is Twitter. I think Twitter is more of a place to connect with colleagues or people that is working in your field. This network is much more about the texts and whatever you're expressing your ideas or telling something about some project you're doing or shooting a question and getting answers from your peers. On my Twitter profile, I also share projects and I also share links to news in my portfolio. Well, as I share thoughts that come up to my head or I ask questions to colleagues. The other network I use a lot is Facebook and I use a lot my Facebook profile. I like to use my Facebook profile as a place to share very different stuff. In my Facebook profile, I share pictures of my work and I share, as well, personal pictures. You might find some new product I created for my shop, as well as the last picture of my holidays. I love that, the Facebook page has that mix of perhaps people that follows you for your work and even relatives that are commenting on your projects and your work. I share videos of my latest online class. I recently shared a video of my open studio in Berlin. I think Facebook is a very day-to-day platform where people are using every day and is a very good way to reach out to colleagues, friends, family, followers, everything at the same time. There's another network that I would like to show you or speak about, and that is Behance. Behance is basically a network of portfolio. You have your profile, you have your bio, you have your portfolio with your project, and people can reach out to you through an e-mail. I think, Behance is a great way to find potential clients because agencies and companies go there specifically to search through different profiles and different portfolios. Of course, you need to keep it up-to-date. You need to, perhaps, every time you upload a project to your personal website, you will also upload a project to your Behance to keep it up-to-date and with fresh work. I think what is important, as well, is to give some consistency between the networks. I tried to keep consistency through my handle. My Twitter handle, my Instagram handle, my Behance handle, and my Facebook handle is Martina Flor. I also tried to keep the same profile picture on all the networks. Even sometimes, I use the same cover picture, for instance, for Facebook and for Twitter. You try to build your own brand throughout all the networks. If someone reaches you through Twitter and ends up going to your Instagram, they can quickly recognize that, that's the same person. I think that social networks are a great way to put your work out there and to connect with a certain audience. At the same time, you need to invest some time. You need to keep your Instagram up-to-date. You need to keep your Twitter. You need to stay active in those networks. I would say try some of them. Try the one that works better for you, the one that it works better with the work you do. You don't need to do all. I would say, choose the ones that makes sense to you. Go ahead, open your Instagram account, your Twitter account, your Facebook account, and try the one that works better for you. In the next lesson, we are going to speak about how to price our work. 10. Pricing Your Work: Put embrace to your work is an art you develop throughout the years. I think there is a very fine line between charging too much and charging too less. When you charge too much, the risk is that you will lose that commission and that the client will think that that's over his or her budget and they will go after someone else. When you charge too few, that can have an impact on your motivation. It could lead also to a line of clients that want to pay too few for your job. At the same time. I think that money is not the only thing you need to have into account when a client is approaching to you. If a project is coming to you and doesn't pay enough, there's other things that you can negotiate to make that project work for you. If approaches comes to you and you think that could be a great piece on your portfolio, then try to make your best to make it work. There's other things you can negotiate within that budget. You can negotiate, for instance, a shorter license of use for that image. Instead of giving the rights for unlimited use of that image, they could use it for a year or for some months. If they want to continue using it in the future, they will reach out to you to extend that license. You can exchange your work for product or things that are meaningful to you and that can cover that part of the budget that is not there. You can negotiate also some promotion. If you're really interested in the project, don't just let that pass through because the budget is small. At the same time, you need to keep an eye on what comes in and what comes out. If that doesn't help you pay the bills, you need to see if that works for you in financial terms. There's a couple of parameters you can think of to put price on your work. First, how much time this work is going to take you? How many days or hours are you going to invest in that job? Another parameter is the complexity of the word. There's illustrations, for instance, that are more intriguing than others and therefore they take more time or that picture you need to make, that photo shooting you need to make needs a lot of production or in special setting. It will also take more time and money to produce that. Have that into account for your pricing. Another thing to have into account are the Terms of Use. There's a couple of factors you have to think of. One of them is the region, is your artwork, your photograph, your illustration going to be used or exploited in just one country? Is it going to be used worldwide? That then makes a lot of difference whether that's going to be used in a small region or in a bigger region. Because that determines as well the exposure of your image and how much your client is using your image for. Another factor is the time. Does your client want to use that image in perpetuity or do they need it just for one year or two years or five years? That makes also a whole lot of a difference in the pricing of your work. Another parameter is exclusiveness. That means that does your client wants to keep all the rates or the exclusive use of that image? If they don't, then you are able to create further profit with that image. For instance, if you create a certain illustration for a client, you can later create prints out of this illustration and sell it on to your online shop or sell it at a store or sell it into another client to produce further products. That's very important as well. How much profit does your client wants to have with your image or with the image you create. Another parameter is the application. Which items, which things, which printed matter is your client going to produce with your artwork. For instance, if your client wants to use your illustration for TV ads, billboard campaign, and add some magazines, that gives you a little bit of a perspective of the scope of the whole project that it gives you a little bit of an idea of how much that client is investing in that project. That means that since your art is going to be an important part of that, then you should share that profit within that project. The customer's size is also important. Is not the same to create a lot of time for the bakery next door than to create a lot of time for a chain of bakeries. Because that lot of time, we have a lot more exposure. It will be used in a lot more printed and online material. The client is going to have, in general, much more profit out of your production, out of your creation. Last but not least, your reputation also plays a role in how much you can charge. The better work you do, the better projects you will have, the more reputation you will gain, and the more you will be able to charge for your projects. It's very important to keep that in mind because that would keep you also creating better work that you can charge more for. If you like, write all these items in the list and keep them somewhere in front of you on your desk. Whenever any inquire of a client comes in, you make sure that you cover all these points and that you have all the information you need to create an offer according to that project. In the next lesson, we're going to see how to work with the creative brief. 11. Developing a Creative Brief: As I mentioned before, you might get an inquiry from a client with a proposed budget. There's a couple of things you have to ask yourself when you receive a certain commission from a client. One of the things is the time. Do you have the time to execute that specific assignment? The other thing is the money or the budget. Does this meet your expectations or not? The other thing is the sort of work. Am I the right person to execute this assignment or not? Is this something that is going to add something to my portfolio or not? The last thing which is the most important is do I want to do this? Does it make me grow as a professional? Does it make my portfolio grow? Does it bring something to what I want to do? Does it help me get there, to do more of the work I want to do? Those are the things you have to ask yourself when you get a commission before accepting it or not. Once you accept it or you take on the commission, you will probably get a briefing from a client. Of course, not all the briefings are ideal as we would like them to be. I'm going to share with you an ideal briefing you can get an idea of all the information you need to start a commission. If there's any of this information we are just going to look at right now. If there's any of this information missing, you can always ask the director or the client if they can provide this. This is a briefing I received for a real commission I created a few years ago, that was the cover for a book for Walker Books in the UK. That was a cover for a book called A Drowned Maiden's Hair from Laura Amy Schlitz. That briefing included the title of the project, of course, and this means that this is the text I need to illustrate. The other thing is the author, which is Laura Amy Schlitz, and I also need to include her name on the cover of that book or that cover design. Another important information is the format. What is the format of the artwork you have to create? Briefings include deliverables. What do you have to deliver to the art director or the editor? What do they need to? Do they need a PSD, a JPEG, do they need a vector drawing that they can walk around with? You need to know the specs of that particular project and how you need to deliver your work. For instance, here, they need that as a vector drawing and as a PDF file, and they asked me to add 0.25 inches bleed on all sides. Another important information is the schedule. When do they need an initial sketch and when do they expect the final artwork? Here you need to ask yourself, can I meet that timeline? Can I feed that timeline within my schedule? The target. The target is very important to know who your art is going to be created for. Is not the same to create artwork for girls over 12-years-old then to create artwork for adults or for children. You need to know who this product is going to be speaking to, to be able to create something that is suitable. The gender. It's also important to know what this book is about. Is it a romantic novel? Is that a fiction novel? Is that a crime novel? That will give you a lot of information for you to create that artwork. Good briefings, of course, include a certain concept to that artwork. A certain guideline. In this case, the art director sent this over, "As the story takes place in the Victorian era, we would like the letter shapes to be inspired by that time." Victorian era, it's already a keyword that I can base my drawings on. "But you need to look contemporary and fresh." That's another important keyword. It should be inspired in a past era, the Victorian era, but it needs to look contemporary. That's an interesting challenge. "We would like to use two to three colors on the cover." That's also part of this specification. For grading your art, you need to have those specs in mind, and you need to to have them into account when you sketch that artwork. Another spec is, "We need space for incorporating a line of text." Some briefings also include references from your portfolio. That's really helpful because it gives you an idea of why that editor or art director reached out to you to do this assignment. Whenever I get a briefing and and I don't get any reference from my portfolio, I ask the art director or the editor to please provide some reference or to provide an image of my portfolio that actually inspire them or motivated them to contact me for that specific assignment. That already gives you a whole lot of information on in which direction you should work for this assignment. Especially if you have already a bulk of work, a big portfolio of work, try to push the art directors, and the editors, and the clients to actually provide something from your portfolio that you can depart from. With the proper briefing, you can already start working. If there's any information in that briefing that is missing, don't hesitate to ask art directors, editors, clients in general are people that are very busy working on several projects at the same time. They will appreciate or they will be happy to provide you with all the information you need to complete that assignment properly. In the next lesson, we are going to speak about how to test your ideas with the client. How to test your first ideas. 12. Creating a Professional Work Process: I think that dealing with clients in a professional way is one of the biggest challenges of being a freelancer. We have seen together how to price your work, how to deal with a certain briefing, and I would like to see in this lesson how to test your ideas with the client, and conduct a professional work process with the client, where you can incorporate feedback, where you deliver the files in the proper way and form. In my personal experience, hand sketches have shown to be a very effective way to test the first ideas with the client. Hand sketches are a very quick way for you to decide in which direction you want to work and also to test your first ideas with the client and have a first round of feedback from the client. Whenever I start a new project, I like to create a private page within my website that I share exclusively with the client. On this page, I will share the sketches, final art work, and I will allow the client to download all these things. I also like to keep all the information of the project in that page because normally, depending on the complexity of the projects, there is a lot of back and forth through e-mail and sometimes it's very hard to keep up whether I send you this round of changes or not. I think that keeping everything visible on a website is very practical for you and also for your client. Let me show you how that looks. Basically, this is a password protected page on my website, so I will provide the password to that client. This is how that page looks like. On the left you have all the project information, which client it is for, so the art director or the editor, the deadline for the rough sketches, and what is the deadline for the final. That is the very important information from this project. I also like to add all the briefing that was sent by e-mail. I like to write it down here so the client can see what am I basing my work on, in which information he or she gave me am I basing my process on? If there's any extra specifications, I will also write it down here. All the information is here for everyone to be seeing. The first thing I would deliver through these page is the rough sketches. I would normally deliver one sketch, in very special cases I would deliver two and allow the art director to choose from those two. But the first thing that an art director or an editor receive from me is a sketch. Sometimes it's a black and white hand sketch, sometimes it's a color hand sketch so they can already get an idea of the color scheme I'm thinking of for that project. In this page, they can see the sketch and they can also download it. They can download it and print it if they want to. The sketch is the stage where I get the first feedback round from that client and it's also the stage where the client can tell me whether he or she thinks that this is the right direction, if the color scheme works or they would like to change something. The sketch is the phase where we will discuss about the direction of the project. When the sketch is approved, I will start with the digital drawing, and I always like to make sure that the sketch is approved before I start with the digital drawing because that process is very time consuming. I want to make sure that we're on the same page with the project before I move on. The second stage, I would deliver will be a first digital drawing. In this stage also, of course, the editor or art director is able to give me their feedback and tell me the things they would like to change but of course, some things are already defined. The structure, the shape of the letters, the colors were things that we already discussed in previous steps. Once the first digital drawing is approved, I can move to the final artwork and I can allow the art director or the editor to download the finals directly from the website. As you can see on this page, there is the entire process of this project from sketch to final art work. People often ask me how many rounds of changes I allow from a client, and normally, I think that two rounds of changes are enough to get a project done. Of course, I tried to keep track on those rounds of changes. This is a very good way. Having a page where you have the entire project is a very good way to keep track of how many changes you did for a certain project. But do you know you're working with people and some projects are more complex than others or have more people involved. I try to be flexible with this. It's very easy to identify whether a client is really struggling to settle on on a certain design or whether the client is actually taking advantage of your work. If you feel that the client is going too far with the round of changes, then feel free to reach out and ask for compensation for the extra work you're doing for that specific artwork. I hope this gives you a little bit of an overview of an idea of how to deal with the commercial commission when it comes. I hope this gives you some ideas on how to improve the process you conduct with your clients. In the next lesson, we are going to speak about something that is very important, how to get better at your work. 13. How do I Get Better?: I think the best way to create a sustainable career as a freelancer is to keep clients happy. They'll come back for new work or recommend you to other clients. The quality of work refers not only to the final art work and the formal quality of art work that you deliver, but also whether you were able to conduct a professional work process with that client, if you could read that brief properly, if you could incorporate the feedback of the client, and deliver the work in time and form. The human factor has to do on how empathetic and friendly you were throughout that process. We're working with people and people make mistakes, change their minds. So be empathetic with your clients, try to incorporate their feedback in a friendly way. Don't be grumpy. Think that the client is also a person who wants you to do your best job. You are both interested in creating the best job you can do. It's important that every time you receive a new assignment, you take a little bit of time to think whether you want to take that commission, that assignment or not. Because once you accepted, you have to give it all. Nowadays your project or that art work you created, it's got to get out there, it's going to be on the internet, it's going to be media. Whatever you create is going to stay there forever. That's something scary, challenging, and something to look up to. Throughout these years, I have listed a set of standards for my own work. Whenever I deliver a new assignment, a new art work, I like to have certain items covered. One of them is detail. I like my piece of work to have fair amount of detail. I like to have all those details cover. I like to have the time to work on those details, and it doesn't matter if other people can see them. I know that they're there. I like my piece of work to have a certain coherence. I like the things to be there for a reason, and I like to have a concept behind my work. I like my pieces to have a personality and to be unique. To be done specifically for that assignment and not to be a replica of something I've done before. I like the work I deliver to have nice shapes, to have a nice structure, to be well shaped. Whenever I create an artwork, I want it to be new, to be novel, to work for a contemporary eye, and to speak to a contemporary audience, to speak to someone that exists nowadays. Whenever I create a new art work, I try all these things to be included in that thing I'm delivering. Go ahead and think yourself which kind of work you want to produce and set yourself a couple of standards, a couple of rules to produce that work. To finalize, I would like to answer the great question when you're thinking of going freelancer. That is whether you should keep your day job or you should directly leap and go ahead and start being a freelancer. In my personal experience, I have them both. I had moments where I was having a day job and I was working there from 9:00 to 6:00, and coming back home and working for clients from 8:00 to 12:00. I actually never took the final step of going freelancing. It was in the moment where I moved to Berlin, and I had this extreme situation where I had to decide whether I look for a new job or whether I go freelancing, that it actually made me take the decision of going freelance. I have to say that having all my energy, all my focus put on being a freelancer, on making a living of it, on finding new clients, had a very positive impact on the development of my practice. I have to say that it might seem really scary not to have that steady income every month, but that gives you an extra motivation to put yourself out there, do things that you haven't done before, and try yourself at being a new you, an entrepreneur you, a freelancer you. My advice is always put all your energy in that thing you want to do. It will always be worth it. If you don't feel comfortable at being in freelancer, you can always go back to be employed at a certain agency or at a certain company. But I think if you're thinking of going freelance, is worthwhile to give it a shot. Thank you for listening and good luck, and have fun at freelancing.