Saturday, September 27, 2008

Leaving a full time job to become a Freelance graphic designer

In 1986 I decided to leave a well paying job as a senior graphic designer working for Marketing Corporation of America in Westport Ct, to go freelance.

I had no clients.

But I knew that there was a market for my skills as a comp artist because in addition to doing comps (that's short for "comprehensive"... a drawing of what an ad would look like) I was hiring people that would soon would be my competition.

In '86 computers were coming in but not for graphic design yet... comps were done by hand.

"Don't hire the freelancers" I was told. "We like your work better". Every time I would call a freelancer, they would either be busy, on vacation or if I was able to hire them, they made $350 a comp. 

Each project they did was for at least 3 to 10 drawings. Due usually 2 or 3 days later. At work I usually did 5 comps a day. (the other artists at MCA were doing 3 a day).

You didn't have to be a rocket scientist to see that there was a lot of money to be made if you could draw, you were reliable and fast.

So my wife and I decided on a plan.. it was called the 3Bs. We would Build a workspace for me in our home. Have a Baby (under our medical coverage from the company). Then start the Business.

We finished building my workspace, had our third child and I was up for my annual review. 

I told my wife that IF I got a really good raise, we would delay starting my freelance business. 

During my review, my boss used the Freelance Artist Payments sheet that showed how much each of the freelancers we used were making each week, to reveal my benefits as he was talking to me. What was he thinking of?

Here I was looking at these artists making THOUSANDS of DOLLARS every week while my boss was trying to tell me about all the benefits the company was giving me... then he followed it with a stingy raise. 

The following day I gave the company a months notice that I was leaving.

Then I started making calls to local Ad Agencies, Marketing Companies and Sales Promotion agencies. 

Back then I found getting business to be SIMPLE because I could draw and these companies needed TOP artists to illustrate their ideas. I would call them up and say "I'm a comp artist.. I can draw people, animals, products and hand letter." If they needed a comp artist, and they usually did, I got to see them. When they saw my portfolio, I had a new client. My acceptance rate was almost 90%

Soon I was either busy, on vacation or getting paid $350 a drawing and getting 10 drawings or more a WEEK to do.

Next... seeing the writing on the wall... here comes the computer!

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