Sunday Mailbag

August 29th, 2010 | Posted in Mailbag

Q: So I really want to pursue my passion for caricature and cartooning. I want to give it a go but Sunday is my only day off so live gigs are hard to come by. I look on E Lance and Solo Gig but seems like a lot of professionals are on there. So my questions are, should I capture what is going on in local news and submit my work to the A.D. Of the local papers, without contacting them first? Undercut everyone on E Lance? And last, I need to create a portfolio and needed to know what to include. Should it be online, on disc or hard copy?

A: I’m not very familiar specifically with E Lance and Solo Gig, but in general online resources for finding freelance work and workers like that are still fledgling and are not very productive. Most of the stories I’ve heard from those who have gotten some work from these sources is that the clients they are put in touch with are looking for work done very cheap or for nothing. Those who go to these sites looking for freelance work are often new to hiring freelancers or, more often, one of those “I’ve got a million dollar idea and only need an artist/writer/programmer to do it” types that want to pay by splitting the phantom profits with the freelancer or, worse yet, working for “exposure”. Maybe these types of resources will eventually become a great resource for the working professional, but right now they aren’t quite there.

That said, for someone trying to break into the business it might be a good place to start. You can always say “no” to someone looking for your skills to do a job if you don’t feel the time and effort is worth the rewards. However I would not pay a single dime for any of these services… you’ll get better results by doing a little leg work on your own.

As far as doing live gigs, by which I assume you mean live caricature, being only available Sundays is a major problem. Do you work evenings every day?? Because most events and parties that look for caricatures as entertainment happen in the evenings. It would be inexpensive to print a single page flyer and send it out to all the members of your local Chamber of Commerce advertising your services for company parties and events.

You mentioned sending your work “cold” to the art directors of local papers… by that I assume you mean editorial cartoons based on local politics and news. Certainly you should do that if you have the inclination… editorial cartoons targeting local topics are something newspapers SHOULD be desperate to get their hands on, but their budgets for that kind of thing are pretty small. Don’t expect to get paid a lot if your cartoons are picked up by a single paper (it’s getting syndicated that makes you the money) but appearing in your local paper, even the suburban type small community papers, can get your name out there and net you work in other areas locally. In fact, suburban newspapers are a relatively untapped source of publication for an ambitious cartoonist with local ties. Most suburban papers are printed by a single company that does a dozen or more different local editions. Doing cartoons that are about local city topics can get you in several of them at a pop… grab a copy of your local small paper and look up the publisher.

Finally, I’d concentrate on a digital, online portfolio. The days of schlepping around a leather bound portfolio are long over. It’s easy, cheap and quick to put together a simple portfolio online where you can change the content 24/7 within seconds at your leisure. Your business card with the URL of your online portfolio becomes your portfolio itself, and anyone can see your work at any time.

Check out these past posts for more info on portfolios and breaking into the freelance cartooning/illustration business:

Getting started doing freelance illustration

Modern Portfolios

Marketing yourself as a freelancer

Thanks to Billy Melago for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me and I’ll try and answer it here!


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New profile pic courtesy of my self-caricature for the Scott Maiko penned article “Gotcha! Mug Shots of Common (but Despicable) Criminals” from MAD 550

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