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Wednesday, 7 August 2019


A couple of years ago I listened to a speech on the radio by Neil Gaiman. I cannot remember which particular speech it was, but within it Gaiman expounded a really powerful set of principles for freelance artists. Ever since I heard Gaiman's talk, I have tried to shape my working life according to these principles, and what follows is a brief overview of the points, as I understand them. I hope other freelance artists find them helpful.

(1) Make Good Art

This is the obvious bedrock of any freelance artist's endeavours; without making good art you are unlikely to get much work. Therefore, concentrating one's efforts in this direction is paramount: always try to make good art, and constantly try to improve upon your previous output.

(2) Be Reliable

Some freelance artists seem to think that being reliable is merely an incidental part of the job. It is not. Things like replying to emails, arriving at places punctually, organising one's diary and finances are not just crucial to being a freelance artist, they are part of the very job itself. I myself am unable to relax unless I feel my admin is in perfect order.

(3) Be Likeable

This is somewhat more nebulous than the previous two points, but I think it is no less crucial. Always try to behave like a nice person. If you are having a conversation with someone at a networking event, for example, don't constantly look over their shoulder to see if someone better is in the room. Be polite and personable. Say 'please' and 'thank you'. Don't be a diva. Don't be a jerk.

In my working life I try really hard to adhere to each of the three principles above. However, the main take-home point I got from Gaiman's talk was that, so long as you try to adhere to all of the principles, failure in any one of them (so long it is only one) will not be disastrous. For example, if you are reliable and likeable, employers might forgive the fact that your art isn't necessarily the best. Similarly, if you make good art and are highly reliable, it may not be the end of the world if you aren't always the politest and friendliest of people. And if you make good art and are highly likeable, a few missed emails or other lapses in reliability might well be forgiven.

Main Point

The main point, as I see it, is this. In the life of a freelance artist, it is important to try to adhere to all of the three principles above. So long as you try your hardest in this endeavour, there is room for a little bit of leeway (but only a little bit.)