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Business of Art & Design: Social Networking

I have always been amazed over how quickly social networking became engrained in our culture. It’s revolutionized the way we interact with one another, especially in the professional world; it practically happened overnight. It’s hard to even remember what life was like beforehand! Today, it has become the primary platform for most of our society to get their news (whether factual or not), learn more about their favorite topics, and of course, stay in touch with their friends, co-workers, and family members (especially those long-lost 4th and 5th cousins)!

The point of this post is to offer some of my observations about social networking as well as some suggestions about how to effectively use it to help your career, gain followers, and exposure to the rest of the world. This is an ongoing process and it continues to change, as social media is still evolving before our very eyes.

In today’s world, a successful artist needs to effectively utilize all of the social media platforms they have available at their disposal.

When I talk about utilizing social networking effectively, I am mainly speaking towards marketing. In this case, you are marketing yourself! How do you want people to perceive you? Remember that anything you post on social media is a direct reflection of you and what ideals you stand for. It’s online for all the world to see.

Consider all the social media options out there. There’s the big personal networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google Plus. Then you also have photo sharing social networks, such as Instagram, SnapChat, Pinterest, and Flickr. There are several blogging networks like Blogger, LiveJournal, and WordPress (the latter actually hosts this site). There are media-sharing websites too, like YouTube and DeviantArt. It seems as though there are more and more popping up all the time with no end to the madness.

Oh yes, and let’s also not forget that MySpace is still around (but who uses that anymore?)

The social media networks that you choose to participate in are ultimately a reflection of who you are. They all have the same basic purpose, but each one has its own unique audience to be considered. For instance, SnapChat is one that appeals to the late teens to early thirties crowd. Hollywood knows and exploits this in the SnapChat platform in an effort to appeal to the teenage and 20-somethings market. It works great for things like blockbuster movies and television shows. It’s a much less formal platform than say, LinkedIn, which is geared more for professional networking and job searching. Whatever social networks you choose to participate in, always keep your audience in the back of your mind. They are going to see it and you will be judged one way or another.

Some social networking websites out there do have somewhat negative connotations attached to them, which will also reflect on you. As mentioned above, sites like SnapChat are generally very informal and have the ability to make you look unprofessional if used poorly. DeviantArt is a place where mostly amateur artists display their works, which can in turn, make you look like an amateur as well (although there are a handful of professional designers on here as well). LiveJournal is a more personal blog than some others, which are more journalistic in nautre.

What this all ultimately comes down to is how you decide to use these platforms to showcase yourself to the world.

Too often I’ve seen people I’ve known let social media interfere with their professional lives. I’ve seen many instances where someone was fired because of something they posted or were even tagged in. Don’t call out sick and then check-in at your favorite pub (seems like common sense, but it turns out that common sense is not that common).

Employers pay attention to social media and they can and will use it to evaluate your performance as an employee whether you are on the clock or not. It can affect all sorts of things, interviews, hiring, promotions, raises, benefits, and much more! Don’t let it!

Things to consider with social media sites:

  • Consider creating a separate page for your professional work. Keep your professional profile separate from your personal profile.
  • Make your public profile private. Anyone can Google your name and find you on social media these days.
  • Add privacy filters and categorize your contacts to show them only what you want them to see. Keep your professional contacts professional! They don’t need to know every little detail about your life.
  • Review everything you are tagged in. You don’t want to get tagged in a photo or post that might reflect badly on you down the road. Unfortunately with most of these types of sites, anyone anywhere can tag you in anything at all whether it applies to you or not. This helps you regain control.
  • Use hashtags wherever possible to help tap into new avenues and gain exposure. You may open doors to an entirely new audience by using a hashtag, particularly if it is a trending topic.
  • Post often, but keep it interesting. Nobody wants to see pictures of your food or a ton of selfies.

Anti-social Networking

The trouble with social networking is that it is not very social at all if you think about it. Everything takes place within a virtual space and these sites are just one big glorified message board. Back in the days before social networking, people actually made connections by physically meeting one another and having phone conversations. The power of personal connection will always trump a machine any day (until robots take over the Earth, but let’s save that for another blog post). Never underestimate the power of a phone call and a hand shake. You will instantly become more memorable than just meer words and pictures on a screen.

When making a personal connection, make sure to include your social networking info on your business card, letterhead, resume, etc. The physical hand off of this information from you will definitely have a more lasting and memorable effect!

Artists in general are introverts. This is the #1 most crippling personality flaw that I’ve seen time and time again throughout my career in art. The business world requires you to get out there and meet people and make connections. You absolutely have to go outside of your comfort zone if you want to be successful in this field. Be bold, be persistent, and be confident. If you keep to yourself and are a quiet loner, you will have a much harder time and most certainly will struggle to survive.

In conclusion, social media is a great platform to stay in touch with your audience, co-workers, peers, friends, and family. I’ve had various forms at one time or another and I choose to stay active in a select few professionally. The social networks that I participate in are a reflection of who I am as an artist and what ideals I embody. This varies from person to person, depending on how you want to market yourself to the world. It can make or break you, so make sure you are using it as effectively as possible.

In the comments, I’d like to hear your thoughts on social networking. How do you use these tools to your advantage? Do you have any tips on marketing yourself that you’d like to share?

Schmitty out.

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Business of Art & Design: Recognizing Value in Your Work

Greetings Schmitty’s Toonsters! It’s been a while; I’ve been thinking a lot about some new projects I’d like to work on this year and I’m looking forward to sharing them with you! January unfortunately whizzed by and I haven’t found the time to make a new blog entry until now!

For my first blog post of 2017, I would like to talk a little more about business. The topic of this post is something I have personally struggled with throughout my whole artistic career: recognizing value in your own artwork.

Recently, I completed a drawing for my friend Gertie. She is a wonderful person and I have known her for several years. She has always appreciated my artwork. One day a few years ago, she asked me to draw a cartoony portrait of her and her late husband. Drawing portraits is not something I particularly enjoy, so I originally said ‘no’ and drew her a Mickey Mouse instead. She continued to ask me several more times and a few months later, I finally agreed.

The drawing is finally complete after all this time and I’m fairly happy with how it turned out:gertie.jpgNow that the drawing is complete though, I am kicking myself. Why? Because I didn’t have the guts to ask her to pay me for it, just because she is a person I know. This is my craft, my skill, my livelihood.

I like her a lot and we are friends, but we are not that close of friends. There have been so many times in the past when somebody asked me to draw something or another for them and I did it, just because I knew them. I felt guilty asking them for money or sharing my pricing with them. Hobble on over to my Services page and you will see that I typically charge $750 for a digital rendering like the one I made for Gert, or for an original pencil sketch (which would have probably been about $125).

This may seem expensive, but if I were to break down the costs, the total amount of work amounts to about 2-3 days of work, or $25/hr.

Where do you draw the line? Is it okay to charge a friend for doing work? I’m sure it is, but when it comes to art, most people view it as a hobby and not a career. If you had a friend who is a great chef, would you ask him to cook dinner one night without any sort of compensation for his efforts? Like food and cooking utensils, art supplies are also expensive and your time is valuable.

For some reason or another, people do not look at art the same as they look at other skill sets. A carpenter working on your house will charge you for every bit of material, tool, or labor that his work requires. Artists should do the same.

I once had a start-up non-profit organization approach me about creating a logo for them. The cause was very close to my heart and born out of a very tragic event. I agreed to make the logo at no charge. Several years later, the non-profit had taken off and was doing very well. They had annual events and raise a lot of money, enough for them to make a career for themselves out of it by now.

The person I originally did the work for later requested me to update the logo to reflect a new direction that the organization was going in. They offered me a ‘donation receipt’ in lieu of money for the work and said I could write it off on my taxes. I was offended. The fact that their business (non-profits are businesses too) was doing well, in part to the original logo I created for them, and that they just assumed I would do it again for free was insulting. I turned the work down.

My employer also undervalues what he creates. He often will give our clients stuff for free or do additional work to ‘go the extra mile’, which ends up costing the company more money in the end and affecting our bottom line. Thankfully he has a great team behind him that consistently reminds him of the value of his art.

Throw-it-Away-and-Draw-Another-One Mentality:

I think part of the reason I have trouble assigning value to my own artwork is because I have always thought like an animator. In animation, you have to draw several hundred drawings just to get just a few seconds of animation and you never focus on one drawing longer than a blink of an eye. If one drawing is bad, you throw it away and do another one. This ‘throw it away’ mentality is partially what I think causes my own problem in viewing my art as valuable – I can always draw another one.

I saw a Facebook post from a Disney animator friend of mine, Tom Bancroft, who did this too. While working on Mulan, he did a very rough sketch of Mushu’s anatomy to help an apprentice animator understand how Mushu worked on the inside and help animate him better. This drawing, which was of no value to the artist who drew it, was sold on eBay by somebody else for $99!

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In other words, if you don’t assign value to your own artwork, somebody else will and they will profit off of you!

As I continue to grow in my career, I recognize that I need to be better at assigning value to my artwork. Creating my Services page was one of the first steps towards this and it helped establish an idea of what I should charge if someone asks. I should not feeling guilty about asking people for money for providing them with a service. After all, if I am unable to make money at it, I need to move on to another career that pays better!

Do all artists have this problem? In the comments, I would like to hear about how other creative people assign value to their work and overcome some of these challenges. How do you discuss the topic of money with your client, particularly if your request is from a friend or a relative?

Schmitty out.