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How FREE can help you and your illustration business

Free: The Future of a Radical Price is a book written by Chris Anderson that examines the pricing models of free and how companies can make money by giving things away. We see it all the time from Google giving away services like email, Google Docs, and music groups giving away their music in hopes that you will buy a ticket to their concert. Often the strategy is to attract users and up-sell some to a premium level. This model has become widely referred to as “freemium”. Anderson makes the case that some businesses can make money by giving products and services away rather then charging a premium price. Chris explains how this radical pricing model can be used for the benefit of consumers and businesses alike.

How does this apply to running an illustration business? Well there is a chance you’re doing it already. Maybe you’re writing a blog, giving away coloring sheets on your website, or just putting your work on the web for all to see. Things that cost you very little to produce, but can possibly give you a big return if seen by the right people.

Of course this model is not for everyone and not everyone will agree with what Chris has to say but he has made the barrier to entry very small because Chris walks the walk by giving away his book in  digital form. Of course the printed version costs, but if this book sounds interesting to you its free to try. I personally see this model as a way we illustrators can use to promote our selves. No matter what you think about Free hopefully you’ll find an idea in this book that will be helpful to your career. Oh and did I mention it’s free.

The Book is available for free at:
Chris Anderson’s blog
iTunes
Audible.com

About the author

  • Norm GrockNORM GROCKContributor, Founder

    Having grown up on the shores of Maui, Hawaii, Norm has always had a love for drawing. Since leaving the Islands’ beautiful beaches and landing in Oregon he went to college and received a degree in graphic design. Now living in Beaverton, Oregon, Norm has been working as a full-time graphic designer and illustrator for the last 12 years. He has spent countless hours perfecting his craft as a freelance illustrator working on several children’s books, a few video games and creating numerous educational products. His ability to draw has given him the chance to do the thing he truly loves — Create.

Spec Work, No Thanks

A little while ago a client asked me to work on a project with them. I quoted the job and waited to hear back, but the response I got took me by surprise. The response said:

“Please move forward with the project, but we will only pay for the work if we use it. If you do not agree to this, please let me know. Just wanted to make sure we are both on the same page.”

Well to be honest the response was not what I was expecting and left me a little upset. So I kindly wrote back:

“As much as I would like to work on this project with you, I can’t in good conscience work under these terms. I’m sure I will provide a wonderful service and you will love the work I create, but with this stipulation being in place it becomes too arbitrary to determine whether I will get paid for my ideas or not. If you’re willing to waive this stipulation I would love to work with you on this project.”

So I thought that was that and continued on with my day. Lo and behold within a few hours I heard back from this client and they were willing to waive their stipulation and send me a signed version of my contract as well as the first half of the payment for me to begin the project. I was completely surprised and caught off guard. I couldn’t believe that somebody a few hours ago had just asked me to work for free and just as quickly change their mind to get me to work with them. I guess the moral of the story is people will see what they can get away with and if they really want you to work for free they’re not worth working with.

There’s a term in the creative community for someone asking people to work for free, it’s called spec work. Basically, “spec” work, short for speculative work, is any work done for a client, completed or not, in the hopes that you will be paid for your ideas and time. So what are the risks of participating in spec work. Personally, I feel it devalues the work that you do. It says that you’ll do it for free and if you like it you can possibly pay for the work. Creative people are at risk being taken advantage of all the time. People who normally look for free work say things like “this is a great opportunity for you” or “this could make a great portfolio piece.” These days more and more spec work is wrapped inside a contest. “Illustrate this poster for us and we’ll use it for blank project.” People may see this as a way to get free ideas for their project and not have to pay for them. There’s nothing to stop somebody from taking your ideas to somebody else who will work for less and then have someone create it for them. Some Artistes may say that this is a lesser version of your idea if someone else creates it, but either way you’re not getting any value for your ideas. Please remember that your ideas are half of the process and that your ideas have value. It diminishes the true value of other people’s work as well. If these people continue to get away with getting free ideas then the value of the other Artistes work goes down too.

Not all “free” work is spec work. You can volunteer your time for a good cause or do an internship. These are different types of work that you don’t get paid for but you can get some type of credit for, which helps you out in other ways. For instance, an internship you get on-the-job training or if you’re doing some type of Pro Bono job normally you can negotiate some sort of credit line that will be added to the piece which in turn gets you a little bit of marketing. I personally suggest doing this for nonprofits or say a school district, somewhere that is not planning on monetizing your ideas. Just last year I created an illustration for a project that I thought was worth working on for free. A few artists were putting together a art book for another artist who has cancer. All the proceeds go to this particular artist to help take care of the medical costs associated with the illness. To me, this is a good reason to work for free. I will get credit in the book and I have become part of this community of artists but helping someone else in need is payment enough.

I know there’s been a lot of other articles written about spec work but my personal favorite is the position that the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) takes on this subject. This article also includes a good sample letter to send to someone that is asking you to do spec work. If you’re still interested after reading this article just search “spec work” on your favorite search engine and you will find plenty of information.

My message to you after having this experience would be please choose your “Free” projects wisely.

About the author

  • Norm GrockNORM GROCKContributor, Founder

    Having grown up on the shores of Maui, Hawaii, Norm has always had a love for drawing. Since leaving the Islands’ beautiful beaches and landing in Oregon he went to college and received a degree in graphic design. Now living in Beaverton, Oregon, Norm has been working as a full-time graphic designer and illustrator for the last 12 years. He has spent countless hours perfecting his craft as a freelance illustrator working on several children’s books, a few video games and creating numerous educational products. His ability to draw has given him the chance to do the thing he truly loves — Create.

Free PhotoShop Brushes and How to Install Them

Last week on a whim I threw away all my Photoshop brushes. Lately I’ve been feeling like my work has been missing some texture. I have a few brushes that I had been waiting to try and never did because I was stuck in my ways. I know that it’s not the brushes that make a good artist but I feel like I needed to change something and the brushes were the quickest and easiest thing I could think of.

By the way PLEASE don’t throw away your brushes without backing them up first.

This impulsive move has led me to several great places to find new Photoshop brushes. I thought I’d share some of these sites with you. Please be sure to download these brushes as soon as possible. They are free from each of these artists and they could remove the links at anytime.

First let me explain how you install new brushes into Photoshop.

  1. Before you install make sure that the brushes you’re about to use are compatible with the version of Photoshop you’re using.
  2. Next download the brushes. You may have to unzip the file so be sure to do that as well. The brush files extension should be .abr
  3. Now open PhotoShop.
  4. Once Photoshop is open click “Window” menu in the tool bar and select brushes Presets.
  5. Now select the drop down menu in the upper right-hand corner of the brush palette and open that menu. Once the drop-down menu is open select “load brushes”.
  6. Now find your saved .abr brush file and open it.
  7. The brushes you added should show up in the brushes palette near the bottom.
newPhotoshopbrushes006

Now onto the brushes. Please know that all the links below go to the creator of these brushes website and you will be going to outside pages to download these brushes. Continue reading

Download Free Children’s Book Templates

There are versions of these types of templates all over the web.  Ours was far from the first! So I was surprised when folks were asking if they could get .PDF’s of the ones we showed in a previous post. Awesome!

I personally use these when I am laying out my Children’s Books and doing my thumbnails. Whether digitally or traditionally.   I also use them to lay out the type and get an idea of where things will flow the best. This is also helpful in giving the client a visual idea of how there book will be layed out and appear.

DOWNLOAD PACKETS AT END OF POST!

We altered these a bit so that they could be used for that purpose better.

OUAS_SQUARE PAGE_PB TEMPLATE

We moved the page numbers and descriptions above the page so that you can scribble on them freely.

OUAS_TALL PAGE_PB TEMPLATE OUAS_WIDE PAGE_PB TEMPLATE

OUAS_SQUARE PAGE_PB TEMPLATE

We included three page size formats; Tall, Wide and Square.

OUAS_SQUARE PAGE_11X17_PB TEMPLATE

We made 8 1/2″ X 11″ as well as 11X17 variations of all of the above to give you some versatility in scale.

Download the ones that work best for you and your needs! Enjoy!

24 Page 8.5×11  Template (3 sizes)
8.5×11 Square PDF 24 Page
8.5×11 Tall PDF 24 Page
8.5×11 Wide PDF 24 Page
24 Page 11×17  Template (3 sizes)
11×17 Square PDF 24 Page
11×17 Tall PDF 24 Page
11×17 Wide PDF 24 Page

32 Page 8.5×11  Template (3 sizes)
8.5×11 Square PDF 32 Page
8.5×11 Tall PDF 32 Page
8.5×11 Wide PDF 32 Page
32 Page 11×17  Template (3 sizes)
11×17 Square PDF 32 Page
11×17 Tall PDF 32 Page
11×17 Wide PDF 32 Page

Update: after Wilson passed away these files disappeared from the service he used to allow you to download them. This service allowed Wilson to see how many times these templates were downloaded. He loved seeing how much people were enjoying these PDFs. Which is why the download links have been missing for a few years. I’m assuming, when his account was inactive for a while they removed the links. These PDFs needed to be remade so they are slightly different then the above images. Please enjoy.

Tips and Tricks-Free Fonts!!

In the process of doing Illustration for the Children’s Market, it’s very possible and probable that you’ll need to integrate type into your work. For me this was very true when I did a large amount of work for the licensed industry and t-shirt work. In any case it can be handy to have great resources you can use to tame the serif/sans serif beast!

You’ll find that you’ll exhaust the standard font package that comes with your operating system pretty quickly. (I mean, have you really found a good use for dingbats?) When this time comes you’ll come to realize that adding fonts to your computer can be expensive. A single new font family can run you into the hundreds of dollars depending on it’s popularity and application.

So before you invest a pocket full on a new font, take the time to investigate some websites that offer free fonts for your personal use. I’ve listed a few of my favorites below.

dafont
Dafont-Over 10,000 fonts are offered. You can search through a wide variety of categories and subcategories to find the font you need. Mac and PC fonts are available.

urbanfonts
Urban Fonts-Urban Fonts has around 8000 fonts available. You can search through the PC and Mac fonts by category, top fonts or latest fonts.

FontSquirrel
Font Squirrel-Font Squirrel offers an exclusive number of hand picked fonts for your use. Many of them are quite attractive, separated into standard families.

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