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How to start freelancing without connections

Liz Ohanesian posted a great piece about how she got into freelancing as a blogger without connections. Read it.

Artists, bloggers, and musicians share the same types of marketing and publication methods, so this applies to everyone.

I know far too many people who make excuses instead of pursuing their dreams. School, while necessary in many cases, is also the #1 reason people pull out when it comes to subconsciously procrastinating. If you are a doctor, you obviously need school. Creative fields? Not so much. While it’s great to have the opportunity to study with a professional and to build a network, it’s just not always that feasible. In America, we have done our best to kill the arts as a viable career, and tie our healthcare to office jobs. Being unemployed can be extremely dangerous if you aren’t blessed with cash savings or a family to support you.

In my case, I didn’t have the cash to gamble on an MFA and I wasn’t totally sure what I wanted to do yet. The internet hadn’t happened, so without connections in traditional industries, I had ruled out art as a viable field. It was more sensible to bet on a general degree that would allow me to be my own safety net while I got my art career up and running rather than throwing all of my eggs in one basket. Lucky for me that the internet happened and made a lot of the old ways of entering the field less powerful.

By doing what I want to do online, I’ve gotten way farther than most people I know who have MFAs. Even the best student at the best school is nothing if they can’t deliver. Just by doing it, I proved I could deliver.

I took art classes when I could, but I do not have a degree in art. The funny bit about art degrees is that many of the programs out there fail to drive home technical skills coupled with business skills that will help you not crash and burn after graduation. The art program I was briefly in demonized computers. They are turning out people who end up stuck working in a Burger King.

Learning on the job is brutal, but you learn about the real world. Today, your education is limited to how much you want to hit google. It’s truly up to you. The negatives of not having a formal education in a fancy school is having to figure things out for yourself and not being included in cliques that form from certain colleges.

Both of these things are annoying, but surmountable if you just get off your butt and do it.

Now is the time.

Don’t feed me a line that because you weren’t rich or connected or didn’t go to a fancy school that you can’t do it. It’ll be tough and I understand that, but you are the only person who limits yourself. No one would have said that an abandoned baby from Pittsburgh would have done anything.

But here I am. I am no different or special other than the fact that I never took no for an answer.


3 ways that I think you are using Twitter wrong

Before re-starting this blog, I wrote some tutorials elsewhere. My other blog has 3 Ways I Think You are Using Twitter Wrong.


A Con Staffer’s Perspective on Webcomics


I’ve had several years as a touring webcomic and several years working as con staff. I’m like that chick on She-Ra with the face that rotates. If any of you have the opportunity to staff a con, I highly recommend it. Oh sure, you will likely work a ton of hours and go insane, but the benefits far outweigh the craziness.

When I began staffing cons, I gained a different perspective on the industry. I was able to see my work as staffers saw it. Here are some tips I can give you that will make you much more attractive to conventions:

– Location: Make sure you have an “About” page on your comic’s page that is easy to find. Make sure your location (at least by state) is listed and that this is easy also to find. Why? Many cons have small budgets, especially when it comes to webcomics. If the comic lives close by I am more likely to invite them because they are probably more likely to be able to come. If I am really tired, I may be put off if I can’t find a location listed at all and decide to come back later. I might forget to come back later. Make who you are, what you do, and where you are from easy to find.

– Con Invite Manners: Always reply to con invites within a few days. Even if you can’t go say something positive about the event. It’s just good manners. Con Staff often feel very close to their events. Their con is the same as your webcomic. It is their creative baby. Make them feel wanted. They work just as hard as you.

One con staffer probably staffs anywhere between 2-6 different cons in a year or two of varying size. We all know each other. The big cons know the little cons and vice-versa. You do not want one of us telling another con that you are a douchebag that never replies to emails or replies as if you don’t care about the person’s event. Even if the event is not for you, man up and say something nice.

The best business people know that posting a link to the event and publicly thanking them for inviting you doesn’t cost you anything, and it’s a great way to spread some good will. For example you could reply with this:

“I’m sorry, I can’t make it this year because XX. It’s a shame because this looks really cool! If you’d like, I can post a link to it to drive some traffic your way. Good luck!”

Then follow up with this on your next blog post:

“Hey guys, I was just contacted by XX from XX Con (Insert a clickable link). I can’t go, but you should really check it out. They are doing some pretty cool stuff!”

If someone did all this and posted a link to the event I was working on, I’d file them in the back of my head as a real stand-up person that I could think of the next time I have something good to throw their way. This person knows how to market to their fans and is clearly a value-add to an event.

– Train Your Fans to Listen to You: Just like the previous point – if you are always telling your fans to click on things that you post they will get used to looking toward your blogs for their information. This gives you more power to drive traffic. Even small comics can have a more powerful ability to drive traffic than a comic with a larger fanbase. I’ve seen it many times. Years ago when I just started out and was an unknown I still had a huge posse gathering to see me at cons. A much larger comic approached me and asked me how I “did it”. I was rather shocked because…this person was not unknown. A quick look at his website showed a neglected blog that barely posted a sentence each time it updated. How I “did it” was I talked to people on my blog and let people get to know me.

If you communicate regularly and well to your fans, your value as an internet personality is much higher than someone who never says much. Your blog is just as important as your comic. If you want to be attractive to events, you need to train your audience to listen to you. What good is a webcomic guest who can’t get anyone to buy a ticket?

So, Oni – What Does it Take to Get Invited to a Con?

The honest truth? It isn’t always talent. The best and brightest are not always rewarded if no one knows who they are. The people who get con invites often fall into one of these categories:

1. They have a ton of traffic.
2. They are friends with or dating someone who has a ton of traffic.
3. They have contacted the con and asked them if they could please come.
4. They paid to get into a convention’s Artist’s Alley and made friends with the staff who got them invited next year.
5. Someone who has decision-making power at the con is specifically a fan of theirs.

It’s not about your skill as an artist or writer, but these things are factors. The biggest factor is either your traffic or your charisma because these will get you on the radar of the people making the decisions. When I started doing this, I didn’t have any friends in the industry or a magical “in” to get me on anyone’s radar, but I got in and I did and am doing well. If you aren’t already famous, your best bet is to be nice, don’t give up, and make friends with as many people as you can. It would be much easier if all we had to do is sit, draw, and post the comic but that’s not how it works for most of us. I had the hard road just like most people. Your ability to network and do good business is almost more important than how skilled you are.

Own it, rock it, and never give up!


How to Use Twitter to Promote Your Comic Without Inadvertently Looking Like an Ungrateful Jerk


The whole “How To Twitter” thing has been done to death, but I’ve never seen a post that addressed the human side of promoting your comics. The human element is the most important factor but also the most overlooked by creators. Here are some points that will help you not look like a jerk:

1. Be Interactive and Nice:

You are a brand. You are trying to build your brand…

No one cares!

Yep. Sorry to break it to you. No one cares about you, me, or the person sitting next to you. This is why promotion is so tough.

Twitter is about them, not you. They didn’t start a twitter account to bask in your godlike glory. They started a Twitter account because they wanted to for themself.

Twitter is about conversation.

How do you make people care? Be nice! Talk with people, not at them. If someone sends you an @ reply – reply to it! This person cared enough about you to say something. I’m sure the 2 seconds it will take to reply won’t kill you. I get a lot of @ replies and I get to as many as I can by logging in through my phone when I’m waiting for something.

It is part of my job. I like talking to people because I am very grateful for their support. If you don’t share my tendencies – maybe you should switch fields. This field is something you have to love because it is not easy. Your fans and friends are all you have.

If you ignore people all the time it comes off as if you don’t care about them at all. Their support doesn’t matter to you and you are just another annoying salesperson. Be yourself! Give them a face to care about and invest their time into.

2. Follow everyone back:

Opinion is divided on this, but I firmly believe that you need to follow everyone back. Personally I just like meeting new people. It also shows that you care. Again, Twitter is about them, not you. If you want to just follow people you know in real life – start a secret twitter for friends that isn’t attached to your comic. You made the decision to start a comic, now you have the responsibility of being the face of your brand. It is just a fact that potential fans and friends will often feel turned away if you don’t follow them back.

I follow and unfollow everyone back. I mirror. If I’m not worth someone’s time, they aren’t worth mine. If they want to hang out and talk, I’d love to and will interact as best as I can. This is how I personally see it. You might not see a follow/unfollow as personal, but a lot of people do. I mirror because it just seems fair.

(NOTE: Twitter glitches sometimes knock people off your follow list and sometimes fail to alert the user when they get a new follow. You can check your follows at FriendorFollow.com.)

People like @garthnell are exceptions. He is a fictional character from my comic that tweets out his perspective of the story as it is being told. He follows absolutely no one and he appeals only to people who are already fans of my work and following me. He is not evangelical – he is a value add for people I have already told about my work. His twitter feed is also populated on my website RSS, populated on my site’s right sidebar and on my iPhone app.

If my team had more bandwidth we would ideally follow and interact from that account as well. However since we can’t he follows absolutely no one so that everyone is treated the same. He doesn’t even follow or reply to me.

Consider your fans’ and friends’ need to feel accepted. Either follow all or follow none on fictional accounts only is my personal suggestion.

3. Don’t make every tweet a link to your website:


You will be associating with 2 main types of people on Twitter – Potential Pans and Other Comic Creators.

A. Potential Fans – Potential fans may look at your comic when you post it the first time, but if you are always tweeting your URL and never tweeting any other conversation you are going to become annoying really fast. Think of your URL as noise and your conversation with other people as signal. Signal is the sugar that makes the noise medicine go down and sound awesome. This needs to be balanced to be effective. I only post my URL when there is big news or something notable about my update that would be useful or appealing to my audience.

B. Other Comic Creators – Other comic creators are not your potential fan. They are a peer. An equal. A brother or sister. Some other creators may like your comic, but consider that a bonus. Most of us work with and socialize with hundreds of other comic creators. As much as we would like to, we do not have the time to read everyone’s work or the money to buy everyone’s T Shirt.. We certainly don’t react well to hard sales tactics from a stranger.

Personally, I love looking at other people’s work, but I like it when it comes out of a conversation and is not a stranger yelling their URL at me. Asking people for advice or their thoughts on your comic is a much more tactful way to interact with a fellow creator.

Other Comic Creators are your friends. The scene helps each other out by mentoring, helping you get traffic, getting you into conventions, and just plain having fun together. Do not try to hard sell to other creators. It will get you a bad rep. You will be the person that everyone avoids.

In addition to this, a list of URL reminders is what RSS feeds are for. I will not follow back a repeated list of your URL. I don’t think fans will either, especially if you are a stranger. Attempting to gain readers by following everyone you can with a repeating list of your URL is like taking off your pants and putting your junk in someone’s face. At least make an effort to talk to other people!

You cannot will people to click your URL. Don’t try. Pay attention to whom you are addressing and realize that they are not the same type of person. Take an interest in others because no one cares about a self-centered stranger. Log into Twitter and just reply to people’s tweets. Be awesome and conversational and the rest will follow. There is no shortcut to promotion if you are a one-person operation. You have to really love the field and love what you do – the rest will happen over time. The more you want to force something, the less it will happen. Be yourself and engage in conversation. People will respect you for that.


How to Survive the Artist’s Alley


New artists might find themselves in an Artist’s Alley at an Anime/Comic/SciFi/Fantasy/Furry/Whatever Con. The AA can be both a good and bad place to be. Today I’m going to give you a quick rundown of what to expect if you should choose to exhibit your work here. Hopefully this tutorial will keep you from feeling like a crazy monkey. 🙂

How does this work, then?

Summarization time!

In my experience, the AA can wildly differ depending on what kind of con you are talking about. There are fan-run cons and pro-run cons, as well as different genres of cons. For the sake of brevity, I am going to have to speak about this generally and focus on fan-run cons. These types of cons are much more common.

Fan-run cons often are less organized due to everyone working on a volunteer basis, but they often cost less to rent a table. They are very popular these days since anime fandom has become more mainstream. At fan-run cons, table prices can be low so it goes to follow that there is no skill or maturity level that you have to achieve to get into the AA. All you have to do is apply while there are spaces available. You usually do not get any extra setup time for your booth, or any security. You could also be sitting next to an obnoxious kid that needs a large dosage of Ritalin, or a professional working artist. Sometimes cons also put their guests in the AA.

Let’s Rock!

Survival Tip #1: Never Go Alone:

If you plan on going to one, bring a friend with you. You will need to leave your booth at some point to use the bathroom and eat, so having a table helper is necessary.

Survival Tip #2: Bring Food:

It is best to bring a lunch, snacks, and water. You may not have time for a break. The rooms are very dry so it is easy to become dehydrated.

Survival Tip #3: Bring a Jacket Even in the Summer:

It is also very cold in most convention halls and hotels, so bring a jacket even if it is 90 degrees outside. Nothing is worse than shivering all weekend because of some overactive air conditioner.

Survival Tip #4: Bring a Fort:

You may need to stack boxes around the perimeter of your booth for security. This is easy because usually your merchandise will be brought in boxes.

Very often the people setting up the logistics of the AA don’t take theft into account. I was at one con where the tables were arranged in a horseshoe shape with the artist’s facing inward. The problem with this was that while customers were walking around inside the horseshoe, nothing stopped anyone from walking around outside the horseshoe and stealing things.

Survival Tip #5: Set the Cash Up Right:

Be sure to bring a locking metal cash box to hold your money. Of course you should bring lots of change, too.

Survival Tip #6: Get Your Measurements:

Be sure to get exact measurements of your table before you get to the con. Sometimes the tables provided may be wide, but they could be abnormally thin. I was at one con where we had such skinny tables that it was tough getting all of my merchandise on the table. Do not expect that the coordinator is going to give you all of the information you need, because they may not.

Survival Tip #7: Hoist That Banner:

You should invest in a banner of some kind so that people can find you in the chaos. I find that ones that you can raise up high above your head work well and take up less “behind the table” space. You don’t want your logo to be behind where you are going to stand, anyway. Here is the banner stand that I use.

Survival Tip #8: Label Everything:

Label all of your merchandise clearly. Customers will not ask you for a price. I repeat: customers will not ask you for a price, so label everything or you will lose a sale.

Survival Tip #9: Vary that Price Point:

Make sure that the price points of your merchandise is varied enough to accommodate all budgets. I have things that cost .50, $1, $5, $10, $15 and so on. If someone likes your work they can buy something small if they don’t happen to have the $20 for the t-shirt. Very often they will come back next time for something larger. Before you know it – you have a regular customer. This is how you grow your fan base – allow people of all financial levels to get hooked on your work!

Survival Tip #10: Business Cards:

Bring lots of business cards that have your URL and email address written clearly on them. Place them on your table and label them with a sign that says that they are free. Believe it or not, people sometimes hesitate to take things…even business cards.


In closing, I want to remind you to not look at sales numbers as a measure of your success. Getting your brand exposed to new people is a longterm investment. I have gone to some cons not intending to make a profit because my goal was to put forth a great promotional effort for my brand. It builds slowly as people recognize you and then it will pay off.

Good luck, everyone!

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