Building a Successful Illustration Career
We asked our accountant "How do you suggest a young illustrator find a good accountant?" and he answered, "Ask an established illustrator." Then we spoke to our insurance broker whose answer to finding a helpful insurance agent was "Recommend me!" Our lawyer suggested "Ask your colleagues." And in answer to the same question about finding tech help, our tech e-mailed "Nothing better than networking." There you have it. How do you find a good professional support team for your illustration business? Move closer and we'll whisper the secret in your ear... NETWORK.
Part Two Nuts and Bolts: Professional Advisors
The key to networking is to be selective. Ask colleagues in your field whom you respect for their recommendations. No matter how revered, no professional will be your best choice unless their firm is specifically versed in the illustration world's nuances. Just as you would prefer a specialist examining your medical concerns, you need a specialist tending to your business concerns. Consider these specifics about your professional lineup:
There is a reason for the adage "Don't be penny wise and dollar foolish." Without knowing all the allowed deductions you enjoy as a freelancer, doing your own taxes could cost you plenty. A bookkeeper or unlicensed tax preparer is not a wise choice either. Consider a CPA as they are informed about constant tax law changes and held to government standards. A CPA will be concerned about maintaining your financial well-being, advice you on proper record keeping systems and inform you about legal allowances and fiscal responsibilities. Make this smart investment now and it will pay off for years to come.
Settling a problem with your studio's landlord requires different legal expertise than a copyright infringement case. Legal fees can be costly and sometimes unnecessary, so consider your options.
The Graphic Artists Guild www.graphicartistsguild.org
The Guild has a national network of lawyers it recommends who are expert in issues illustrators commonly face: copyright and intellectual property, contract negotiations, licensing, collections. The Guild also has a grievance committee to review grievances, suggest possible solutions and occasionally intervene on your behalf. If the Guild's intervention fails to settle the concern, it will help you find a legal solution.
Legal Guide for the Visual Artist (Allworth Press)
Educate yourself about legal issues. Tad Crawford's book can be your ticket to being an informed client when delving into the legal world.
Small Claims Court
Perhaps after reading Tad's book, you could learn about representing yourself in small claims court also known as county court or magistrate's court. Bringing a lawsuit is easy, quick and inexpensive, check the maximum claim in your city.
The Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts
VLA is a non-profit, offering legal services, mediation and arbitration programs to resolve differences. You might consider this less aggressive approach to conflict resolution before going to either a small claims court or hiring a lawyer.
Network with others in your area who use the same equipment and software, they can offer recommendations for reliable service centers and professional techs. When a specific problem occurs, go online, check out the forums specific to your hardware or software issues. Your favorite search engine will show you numerous forums where you can post your question. And research before you buy, check out user comments and reviews about the product before making an investment. Buying quality hardware can reduce future technical issues.
An individual health insurance policy and be prohibitively expensive. Check out local or national organizations and associations as they usually offer less expensive group health insurance. If you don't belong to an association, consider joining one even if it is mainly to get the coverage you need. There is also the national Freelancers Union, as well as freelance guilds established in various states offering group insurance benefits. Research these sources in your home area. You'll also need to locate an insurance firm that is informed about your other insurance needs, i.e., life, disability and studio insurance. Combining services with one insurance agency can lead to discounts on all your insurance needs.
If this all seems overwhelming, just take one step at a time. You can't set up a freelance business over night any more than you can create a portfolio in that amount of time. But you will still have to be organized about your business's income, spending, taxes and technical needs. To ensure your success, don't neglect freelance fundamentals and end up being a talented artist without a viable business.