Freelancing


I loaded up Google Earth to map out all of the places I’ve always wanted to go, and it was loaded with landmarks from Philly. Which was kinda depressing. I deleted them and decided to start over – but it kinda felt like a punch when the map zeroed in on my once-paid-for apartment. It is a time for new things. It has been for a very long time.

Making points of entry to islands in the middle of lakes, neighborhoods that exist between highway dividers, parking lots, trading posts and power line trails. Nowheres.

There’s a place near Poughkeepsie that trades NES games, so that’s Thursday’s destination. I placed a Hudson Valley Craigslist ad seeking out NES games, requesting a list and an e-mail. Five replies, but I was remiss to imagine that a single one would include anything resembling a list. I’m not inclined to reply to anyone requesting an immediate phone call or who has not actually read the very brief ad. I know this is something I’m asking for, but if I’m going to approach a stranger with money in my pocket, I’m not going to provide a list of my weaknesses.

I’m trying to understand why an amateurish, styleless artist on eLance who bid $300 more on a project than I did actually won the bid, and it’s only serving as more evidence that art success, while eventually driven by ideas and talent, is all about finding the right coincidence, and that can only be done with constant work. It’s exhausting to submit three or four new proposals every day, joining websites to find work because I have no self-marketing skills and I detest the gallery scene.

The universe may provide, but it’s taking its time.

I’ve been pretty busy, so the freelance search isn’t as active as it once was, but here’s an exceptional job lead from this week :

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10 Entertainment news daily- 100 words each. ($2 per 500 words)

• Excellent English, great command over grammar, perfect sentence structure and punctuation usage.

[This was followed by a very lengthy set of rules and conditions. So... this is a $4 per day job for roughly 2 hours of work. This is a fair measure of the level of respect that is given to professional writing by professional entities.]

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I was recently verbally undermined and insulted by an editor at one of my gigs after an article of mine went live. I wrote a perfectly coherent piece about the use of gimmicks in artwork, and whether or not they were effective. (Verdict : sometimes, in certain conditions).

While this particular writing venue is one which really gets off on flame wars and interpersonal conflicts in the comments section, and I do feel the need to defend my perspective, I’ve never really been interested in old fashioned Internet fighting – at least not on a serious, non-comical level. If this is the only way you can make your publication interesting, it says more about you than it does me. I also feel like it’s especially unprofessional to attack one of your employees in a public forum – not because of a job poorly done, but a pure difference in perspective.

The editor in question didn’t really seem to be even completely disagreeing with me – just attempting to start a problem that people could watch, while his views on art were summed up by his own statement that, essentially, art is something you do to pass time until you die. I indicated that our perspectives were so obviously different, based on that statement alone, that I didn’t think I could ever really express my own ideas in a way he’d accept. Of course, this brought on more goading – this time, undermining my credibility as an artist. I didn’t make any statements about how he sounded like an impotent old man – I just declined to make a scene for him, and invited him to send me an e-mail if he’d like to continue the discussion.

Of course, after his rapid-fire responses, I didn’t get an e-mail. I’ve also resolved (based on the advice of an experienced newspaper journalist in a very angry little community) to completely ignore any comments that pop up on anything I write over there. I don’t get paid to be participatory – but at least I get paid.

I will say this, though : just because lots of people like something, it doesn’t automatically become art. The beauty of art is that it completely defies universal appeal, and that people will hate it and love it from whatever perspective their life has given them. I just happen to think that the ‘art’ of the dude who makes things out of Peeps is incredibly stupid and lowest common denominator – not because the idea is poor, but the execution is so simplistic that it’s embarrassing.

I’m kinda proud of the atmosphere created by my review of Mountain Man’s new album. While Splice loves it when I curse and get angry, I tried to evoke a different kind of mood here. Obviously.

Mountain Man- Made the Harbor

On CQ, I reviewed ‘The Dungeon Masters, which is a documentary which captures everything that documentaries should.

The Dungeon Masters

… and there’s a lot of other writing I’ve been doing, but it’s still sealed under non-disclosure agreements. More weird underseas adventures, spies and treason on short form. It’s a bit exciting, but very brain-intensive. Still fighting for more work, and waiting patiently to hear back from a potentially huge, life-changing job – but I’m not banking on it. But I’d like to bank on it.

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Had very strange dreams about living skeletons and doorways, and the skeletons gleefully earning the right to die. Despite how this might sound, it was weirdly uplifting. I have a feeling that this was precipitated by the recent death of Ryan August, who curated and printed the I Want Your Skull art zine. I’d purchased the first 7 issues from him last year, he was a really nice guy, and his ability to recontextualize the cliche of the human skull was intellectually amazing. It started my own collection of skull toys, and I even wrote about the zine back in January of this year, and he even wrote me an e-mail to thank me for the article.

RIP, Ryan August. You’re still giving me weird dreams. I only hope that they mean you’re feeling okay.

I’ve been doing a lot of free freelance consulting lately, on a very unofficial level. Lots of “this idea is good, but” and “don’t call it that” and “you have no idea what you’re talking about, I’m a genius” stuff. Trying to be a diplomat and maintain gainful employment while subtly steering the ship away from the icebergs.

I feel like a lot of website owners set out with a really great, organic, altruistic goal – a stroke of genius which gets worn down to a nub by a lack of focus, endless additions to the site’s core functionality, and a forced invasion of monetization when all profits will generally come naturally if a website does what it does and does it passionately and intelligently. When Brian & I were running All Nerd Review, we spent years building up content without really concerning ourselves with turning a profit – access to a few conventions and some freebies were nice, but we created the site because most of the nerd-writings on the Internet were just poorly done – and we sought to change that.

With that genuine passion for dorkstuff and writing, we forged careers for ourselves as professional writers, teaching ourselves the ropes of online ‘journalism’ with an amazing amount of success. If other (more profitable) work didn’t take over for both of us, ANR would probably be a pretty prominent site by now – but it’s because we never tried to overcomplicate it, and we kept it true to what we knew.

A recent freelancing gig is holding my meager $50 payment hostage until I have a phone conversation with the owner. He’s a 40-something (I presume from photographs I’ve seen) shooting for a 20-something demographic, and while I can’t go into detail, he’s asking this audience to pay for things which might appeal to MTV’s version of 20-somethings – but not my own friends within that demographic. It’s a generic mess, and maybe I belong to a quirkier demographic than I’d originally thought, but pinball machines and Darth Vader helmets sound like a lot more fun than spa getaways and tailgate parties.

Here’s the thing : generic doesn’t attract an audience, even if statistically, it would make the most sense. You absolutely need to factor in the attention span which the average Internet 20-something employs. Viral is inherently quirky, and it draws enough attention to make a potential difference. We’re also regularly shown websites which promise free video game consoles, cars, vacations, and whatever else might be popular at the moment – and 95% of these things are scams. We filter them out without even allowing ourselves a flicker of hope that these things are real, because fuck, it’s the Internet. Getting around these filters that we’ve been forced to develop isn’t done with louder promises – it’s done with interesting, tangible promises.

Aside from this, I trawled through eLance today with the intention of using up all of my credits before the end of the month rolled around and I lost them. Placing indiscriminate bids on things might prove rewarding.

As far as freelance art goes, I’m participating in a show in the UK at the beginning of August to debut the Jinny toy from BitBots. I can’t really show it off yet, but I made a lumpy plush guy to house the 2″ toy, which was far tinier than I’d expected. It’s hard to customize something so tiny. I secretly call the whole thing ‘Fuckface the Fucknificent’, but for public purposes, he’s called ‘You and Your Ugly Heart’. It cost $30 freaking dollars to send to London – and I don’t even get it back.

It’s one of many recent instances of ending up in the red because of giving away artwork, and it’s a habit I need to break.

I took a few days off to recoup my brains and figure out where my life was headed. I’m pretty sure that I was sent further off track than I started with. I’m probably antisocial for a reason or reasons which I won’t venture to explore again anytime soon. A few days at a friend’s place in Harrison brought me closer to and further away from my idea vision of a perfect life than I’ve ever experienced.

Not sure where to go from there.

Have you ever met a person who redefined everything you ever knew by simply existing?

I received an edited script back from one of my new gigs and I’d been Schumachered. While my titles and a few innocuous bits are generally changed during most jobs, this gig went hardcore on the the really, really bad ‘ice’ puns. They weren’t even ironically bad – they were insulting to my intelligence and brought on alarming flashbacks of Batman and Robin. So, I spent the weekend grappling with how to deal with this. I don’t have any real footing at this gig yet, but if Harlan Ellison has taught me anything, it’s to stand up for what you’ve written, or spend the next 50 years screaming about it and never getting over it.

Ultimately, I left the puns in, and made a few even worse, and used the other characters in the script to express their intense disapproval. I’m relatively proud of my solution and maintaining my own style in the process.

Other gigs remain silent, even after doing good work for them. It’s not the good kind of silence.

While I’m perpetually overbooked and overworked as it is, something in my brain isn’t happy until I’ve filled every spare minute, and plenty of minutes I’d have if I could freeze time with my brain (which I am working on), with work. It’s not a desperate quest for relevancy or wealth, but I’d like to be able to make enough money to survive nicely. The only way to do this is to throw myself down as many avenues as possible until something sticks. Ten years later, nothing has really stuck.

I joined eLance a month ago and paid the $15-per-month registration fee, which allows me to work in both graphic design & writing categories. For ten bucks, I could only choose one category, and I needed to access both. It also allows me to have 25 ‘connects’ per month, which are essentially points which you need to use to bid on projects. Projects that are budgeted under $500 cost one ‘connect’, while others cost more. Any unused ‘connects’ are supposed to roll over to the next month, but you’re also not allowed to have more than your allotted connect limit. This means that someone at eLance flunked common sense, because if you have ten connects left at the end of the month, and they roll over into your 25 connects, you’re left with 25 connects – which nullifies the whole ‘roll over’ thing completely. Sucks to your ass-mar, eLance.

You might also bid on projects that the employer never decides to award. They can politely cancel the project, at which point your connects are returned to you, but if they just leave the project dormant, you never get your ‘connect’ back, which you’ve paid for. eLance doesn’t seem to care either way. So, that’s how eLance works, if you were curious.

After a month, I’ve actually made one solid connection through a contact I made on eLance – but only after I pursued him outside of the eLance structure, due to the client’s inactivity on the site. I also had made a fiction writing contact through Freelance Writing Gigs, which I check religiously for work (though it’s recently been sold and the job leads have become very sparse). This will be the first time I write fiction professionally, so I’m very excited about it – especially the format I have to write in. Think ‘Dungeons of Dread’. Due to signing two NDAs and one contract, I’m obligated to say nothing until these projects go live.

Work at Splice is going well, with a lot of positive comments coming in, and my stories routinely scoring 250+ Diggs. The site seems to be skewing towards local Baltimore stuff and sports, so I’m not completely sure where I fit into it all, but so far, so good. And I’m paid regularly, which is great. I was also completely thrilled to see myself on the front page of Graphic Novel Reporter as the top two stories, as well as three more stories down the page. I’ve yet to actually add up my freelancing revenues, but I think I’m doing pretty well after the collapse of last year.

Of course. as you trawl through eLance, there are a ton of really, really awful, ridiculous jobs.

One job offered the amazing prize of $5 per week for five 450-word articles, or ten bucks for a logo design with five revisions. You might wonder how these are acceptable terms to anyone, but there’s a huge Indian and Pakistani population on eLance with a very low cost of living, and these folks create design farms which can afford to underbid all of the other working artists and crank out a mediocre product. Honestly, most people who are looking for designs have a terrible sense of aesthetics. Just deplorable and sad. They don’t know what they’re looking at. I’m sure they’re charming people, but when it comes to accepting bad design, they are clueless. Like whoever designs the covers of the Charlaine Harris books – I want to smack that person. On their drawing hand. With a cleaver.

Sample freelance jobs have recently included :

“draw a character. Client has scethes as to what she wants” [Your client has scethes? Are they itchy?]

“we need origional interpretation and dont forget I am Irish” [I won't forget. I promise. Just don't drunk me.][PS : I'm Irish so I can say that, and also use 'drunk' as a verb.]

“I need a cartoon that represents the idea that a slender, fit, healthy, sexy woman lives inside an obese woman and is ready to come out. My idea is that the healthy woman is unzipping and stepping out of a fat suit. I will provide a photo of the obese woman.” [I don't want the job, but can I borrow the photo? Just for 15 minutes.]

“The designs are very simple, and I can provide sketches and explanations for each of them. I put one together myself using Inkscape in about 45 minutes, and I don’t really know what I am doing. It shouldn’t take someone practiced very long at all. I figure, approximately 25-30 minutes per design, and I have between 4-6 that I want done.” [The appropriate response to this is 'Then do it yourself, fucko.' The implication that 'anyone can do this, even me' undermines the amount of skill and work that artists put into their own jobs.]

“I want someone to use photos of myself and draw them, as well as re-draw my face on the body of very musclar body builders (Superhero cartoon characters are fine too.) In other words, i want to see photos of MYSELF with my “IDEAL” body I am 6’2 and muscular already, but this will help me in my visualization process…” [Is there even a word for when you pay someone else to be narcissistic FOR YOU?]

There was also an ad to co-blog with this man [BLOG DELETED]. I think there’s a picture of him next to the word ‘incoherent’ in the dictionary, except someone got jelly all over it and tried to redraw it before their mom found out and got so nervous that they just puked on the whole freaking book. This is the test on the ‘About’ page.

People come to see me and they want to know “are you somebody special?”. Man I’m not freaking bull. “I’m the man of all mans the cool of all cool and especially the true of all true and definitely the king of all kings.” “What?” “You don’t believe me then stop asking me man.” Man plenty have asked that and they asked “freaking true are you truly the truest of all people fool?” “Fool?” “Once again never man no but I’m truer than most people ever man slow.”

And then there’s this one. It’s bad news when the person you outsource to needs to outsource as well. Maybe because ‘making fucking sense’ isn’t her native language.

“Hi there,
I have a request. This file contains smileys for a poster i am making. But now they want 5 or 6 happy smileys :
It would be great if you can make them for me…. you can use the eps file/….
…Two shake hands
Two are building something
One female version
I have to propose these as well, so i hope I an make adjustments later?
Could you do anything for me with this….
Hope to hear from you
Thanks”

At least the jobs which are actually reputable are worthwhile, thus far, and each job leads to a greater amount of credibility, and better work. It’s been a slow climb, but here’s hoping for the best.