The One Book Every Art Major Should Have
In light of all the recent college grads – congratulations to the classes of 2018, by the way (especially my fellow SCAD bees!) – last month, I’ve been thinking about my days in college more than usual. It should go without saying that I severely miss my teammates and the everyday things that made my experience so special. From the miss that I consider family, the building in which my department called home, the street where me and a select few of friends lived on (that lead to my dad cleverly calling us the “Waldburg Gang”), to the late-night Fancy Parker’s runs, to the streets that I would go out of my way to wander or bike on simply because of how pretty they were, I can’t imagine my life without SCAD or the city of Savannah itself. I could easily turn this post into an “appreciate it while you have it” piece. However, I’m not going to do that. I had other plans for this post instead…
Remembering how I was in college – especially during my senior year, spring quarter – I really want to focus and dedicate this post to what I wish I knew or had a better clue of before entering this new chapter of my life charmingly coined as #adulting. And this idea was jiggered then reinforced by two conversations I’ve had within the past year and by the one book that EVERY art major/freelancer should have. I will include the ISBN number of the book so anyone of you can grab it for yourself or for a recent college grad you know that’s a bit artsy or thinking of becoming a freelancer.
Just to backtrack, this story began back in 2014 when I was a sophomore in college. I was still figuring out my style and essentially playing catch-up on developing good drawing habits such as maintaining a sketchbook when I took one of my major’s required courses: Editorial Illustration. Little did I know that when I walked into Professor Berkheiser’s classroom that this would ultimately define what I wanted to do with my art. You see, in high school, I was always creating work in close proximity to articles. I would read a news story and then draw something that showcased my reaction or feelings towards the subject. I just had no idea that that was a thing. And during Berkheiser’s lessons, she went over the importance of having letterheads, invoices, and other business basics in order to become an established editorial illustrator. And whether you believe in coincidences or not, that quarter I came across this book called Creative, Inc.: The Ultimate Guide to Running a Successful Freelance Business. I grabbed it immediately, seeing that this was yet another sign that I was heading in the right direction with my artistic journey.
Well, as life goes, my college courses became increasingly demanding, I added on my second minor, I took my training as a swimmer up another notch, and things just got in the way. I would start reading the book and then stop, never getting past the first chapter. However, it was during this past March that I began thinking about this book again. Long story short, Savannah hosts the biggest celebration of St. Patrick’s Day in the South East and it just so happened to fall on a Saturday this year during my Spring Break. I started planning my vacation. And being on a collegiate team has some many wonderful positives to it. Aside from really testing how good you can be and pushing your limits, you become close with your teammates. Whether you’re friends or not, you all get up at the wee hours of the morning to go jump in a chilly pool, pushing through the fatigue and pain of training just to drop a few hundredths of a second off your best times together. That experience bonds people in a way that anyone who hasn’t experienced can’t really understand. So, when I was looking for a place to crash, I sent a message to my former teammate, JT.
JT was a sophomore when I was a senior, so while I don’t consider myself anything less than a social butterfly I never really considered us to be all that close. Yet, coming back to Savannah I ended up hanging out with him more than any of the other folks still in Savannah or those who were visiting. Each night we along with Brogan and Rasmus seemed to get into awesome conversation after awesome conversation, one of those being JT’s plans after graduation. He told me that he was starting a business with a group of friends from the same major and they were going to make video games together. Retrospectively, that made me think of my own business endeavors and what I wish I knew back when I was in JT’s shoes. That’s when that book I got years before crept back into my memory.
The second conversation that reinforced me to write about this book is one I had just his past weekend. I don’t need to get into details, but I came across a former club teammate of mine, Davis, online. Immediately getting the feeling of “huh… I think I know that guy,” I sent him a message which lead to more messages exchanged, which lead to us meeting up for a quick beer; which lead to a quick beer turning into three and a four hour conversation – one of the best I’ve had in some time, I might add; and one of the things that we discussed was how ill-prepared most of us really are after high school and college due to not knowing before had some basic life skills such as handling money, how to file taxes, applying for business licenses, among other related #adulting skills, and how many of us have to learn through trial and error. And while we both agreed that some of this should be taught by parents, we also agreed that there should be a mandatory course in high school and perhaps in college that would cover the bases and help curb the “oh, crap” moments that we ourselves, as well as other millennials, have experienced. By this time, I had almost finished finishing the book and definitely felt the need to write about what I learned.
So, back to the book! Creative, Inc. was written by two freelancers, Meg Mateo Ilasco and Joy Deangdeelert Cho, with the goal to write the ultimate guide to jumping into a non-conventional career with the tips and tricks to “prepare [readers] for this new lifestyle and warn [them] about potential stumbling blocks and how to overcome them.” No, I’m not #sponsored or paid in any way to promote this book. I just legitimately love it and believe that any creative and, just for giggles, most non-creative but future business owners should own this book.
It covers everything that I could think of and many things I didn’t think of such as studio inventory and set-up, finding vendors, saving up, creating a business plan, marketing strategies, how and when to send out invoices, as well as general suggestions and words of advice like dedicating a space to your work and how to balance all of this with your personal life. It's an easy read but extremely informative, so much so that I definitely suggest you buying a journal or notebook along with it so you can take notes as you go through each chapter to write down things of importance, to create to-do lists, and write down ideas as they pop they come to you. Furthermore, this book has done two things for me as creative already. It has:
1. Really forced me to analyze, reflect, and revise how I conduct business because this is more than what I like to do – it’s what I want to do as a source of livelihood and make it my main source of income. And,
2. It has reassured me that maybe this freelance gig really isn’t that far out of reach for me.
Turns out, I’ve already been doing a lot of the things and appropriate practices mentioned in the book AND that I consistently anticipated the next step before I even got to the chapter that mentioned that next step. Now, part of that already-known knowledge and anticipation is a result of learning from my uh-oh’s and “oh, crap” moments (like maintaining an updated expenses and finances worksheet, drafting estimates with terms and rights, KNOWING those terms and rights and considering the long-term effects to agreeing with them, and really researching a project to give my clients the best product and results possible; but, none the less, it’s still comforting to know that I’m a little more business savvy than I gave myself credit for. And while I am nowhere near ready to step on the ledge and make Shannon the Bee official, I already I feel that my studio and business is better prepared than it was just months ago and that when I finally take the plunge to be a full-time freelancer, I’ll be prepared. Plus, I have other things like meeting up with a lawyer who practices corporation and business law to help me trademark my name (and to keep at the ready in case I need someone to go over terms and agreements) as well as applying for an EIN and saving up for quarterly taxes already in the works. I don’t think I have everything figured out yet, but I definitely know more than the average bear.
Creative, Inc.: The Ultimate Guide o Running a Successful Freelance Business by Meg Mateo Ilasco & HJoy Deangdeelert Cho.