Chris: Everything, and interactive…I mean as often as possible, I was working on a freelance job just a few months ago and I wrote all my students, everyone who was currently subscribed or signed up for a course whether they had finished the course or not, everybody. I just wrote them all and was like, “Hey guys, I’ve got a deadline on Monday. It’s Tuesday, I’m going to be working nonstop for the next six days. Here’s the link, I’m streaming privately for all your guys if you want to come on, watch me work and then I’ll be taking breaks every half hour, 45 minutes and then I’ll answer questions about what I did.” And we actually did it again last week in fact, and we’ll continue to do more of these. But the point is, I was just ripping off this idea of master apprentice.
Sean: It’s invaluable, this idea of master apprentice. It’s invaluable and you know, own the apprentice space, absorb everything that you can. It’s very difficult to reach the next phase without that, because there’s so many gaps in learning between school and like the reality of whatever business…they’re all slightly different. Learning everything that you can, not just the art production which is completely important but also just how to interact with the client, all that kind of stuff. There’s so much stuff I’ve learned that’s helped me write better, helped me edit better, it’s helped me plan better blogging by writing sites like FreelanceSwitch but I’ve also just learned how might I plan my own blog and launch my own thing. And I’m at such a higher point if I was to do that, then the darkness of just work, you can sort of just throw something out there and it might catch the tail of a comet or something but you know…I mean, I’ve seen it happen. You just sort of bumbled your way through and that’s how most business is to be honest, it’s bumbling your way through. It’s like failing, and failing, and failing, and failing, and failing, being okay with that and then you break through, you break through on something. Something didn’t work and you put freaking thirty hours into it and it’s disappointing and get back into the ring, you know?
Chris: Yeah. I don’t know what I would have done without the many mentors that I’ve had since I was a kid. I had great art teachers in elementary, middle, and high school. In fact, my middle school art teacher, she continued to mentor me all the way through high school and she’s an amazing artist, communicator, teacher, and not just amazing for a middle school art teacher, she is amazing as in her work still holds up in my eyes. She’s amazing. Anyway, and then I went through a formal art school, the Columbus College of Art & Design in Columbus, Ohio and had many mentors there – C.F. Payne, the famous illustrator. He has been very influential in my life and my career and then when it came time to leave Disney and start my own business, I had zero mentors in business, in the business realm. So I had to learn everything from online resources, tutorials, blogs, books and at least business is somewhat more empirical. I cannot imagine trying to learn visual art this way without human mentors that I can talk to, many mentors.
Sean: It’s a whole new thing for you man. I mean that’s a whole new sphere, you’ve done the professional illustration thing, but launching your own educational business, it’s a whole new thing man. Yeah, it must be exciting to do it.
Chris: Oh yeah, it’s awesome. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it’s awesome. I’m starting to get this sneaking suspicion that I will never willfully make my career easier on myself.
Sean: I hear you man.
Chris: So, I think what we’re really saying here is that the trend of the culture is matching the professional phase up with your learning phase in a way that has never been so confusing in the history of artistic growth. And you can fight that, and we want to inspire you to fight that…there comes a time where you move from development phase into engagement phase, where you move from the cocoon into the butterfly. I cannot thing of a more generic metaphor but there you go. It really is, that’s an important time. You know what happens to the butterfly when it’s in the cocoon? It liquefies and that’s what’s happening to these artists, they’re being forced out of the cocoon before they’re a butterfly and they’re just like liquid spilling all over the internet. And then they wonder why they’re not getting any re-blogs on Tumblr or likes on Facebook or daily deviations on Deviant Art and it’s because it’s formless goo. It’s undeveloped formless goo and it’s not your fault, it’s just not art yet. You came out of the cocoon too soon, it’s not time. It’s not time and it’s not your fault. It takes time to become a butterfly. I feel like nobody lets you stay in the cocoon as long as you need to anymore. And I want to encourage you to do that because the investments that you make in that time are going to pay off exponentially forever. Now it might seem frustrating because it’s like oh I want to be working for the big client or whatever, oh man, but if you focus now on being good, all these horror stories you hear about – bad clients and about being super sick of your work and bored with your own work, it might not all go away, but you can severely curtail the downsides of a creative career if you really get super good now and you get really focused now, and you know what you want and just take advantage of the cocoon phase.
Sean: Yeah man, yeah. Really develop your skills and just…even a little tiny bit of business savvy can go a long way. And we talk about master apprentice? You know, just get a mentor man, somebody. Even more than one mentor you know, depending on who you can reach out to. I think the term mentor may be more familiar nowadays than the term master apprentice but it’s the same thing, you know?
Chris: So let’s talk about flakiness, Sean.
Sean: You’re definitely speaking it, yeah.
Chris: That’s awesome. Now before I get into this, I need to explain that I understand what it’s like to be a scatterbrained creative person. I’m easily distracted by shiny objects, I forget stuff all the time, I get it. But I’ve just had way too many experiences with freelance illustrators who just simply don’t communicate, they just go radio silent or they don’t take initiative and follow up. I have to sort of micromanage them.
Sean: Yeah, flakiness is just a great path to failure. I mean there’s no greater path to failure than being flaky. That said, you can be quite disorganized and just improve it a little bit over time. And what you’re pinpointing are the critical areas, I mean you can slowly build habits that make you more productive and things like that. But it’s absolutely critical that you get work done on time and you know okay, if one out of a hundred assignments isn’t done on time and the other (inaudible) mentions communication, you’re in constant communication with the client to the point that they expect. So you’re keeping them updated, I just got these sketches done, you’re sending them away for review or whatever your process is, you’re on top of each of those checkpoints and you know how long it typically takes you to go from a to z to get the project done. And the worst thing is when someone doesn’t update you, I mean this happens quite often when I’m hiring new writers to write for us and my inclination no matter how good it was is I don’t want to work with them again. I may make exceptions here and there if they write exceptionally well and people do, most people require some coaching before their writing is on task to what we expect. So for me to invest that time, why would I invest that in someone that’s not delivering on time. And they don’t even keep me updated, I mean I won’t.
Chris: Me too.
Sean: I’ll move on to someone that I have will have an opportunity to do that well. I’ll put more time into a writer that is communicating with me and yeah, it’s just absolutely critical that you communicate with your clients and that said, if something isn’t going to be ready on time, just let them know as soon as possible because I won’t hate you or think you’re irresponsible or something if you’re not going to deliver on time because you let me know a week early. I can adjust my schedule, I mean for me with blogging, I could adjust the schedule. I could move a post up that is done, it sucks if too many people are doing that at once or if you do that every single time I may not want to work with you. But if you do it once in a blue moon, it happens to everybody. So you’ve just got to keep the client informed, you’ve got to do the best you can to not do that but if it does happen, just let them know.
Chris: There’s a general guideline by which I’ve tried to conduct business and that is to always leave the ball in the client’s court. In other words, there’s never a time at which the client is waiting on me for something. So if they give me some necessary information, I write back and say, “Sounds great, I will continue to work on ____ until I hear back from you, or until I hear otherwise.” They always know what I’m doing, they always know what the next milestone is that I’m working toward. If anyone is going to decide that we need to communicate less, I want it to be the client. So I tend to over communicate, especially when I’m just starting out, when it’s the first time working with a particular client.