Being a flexible cartoonist can work to your advantage. What is a flexible cartoonist you may ask? This is something I learned to develop over as many years of being an “ink slinger”
and I think offering flexibility to any and all existing clients and new ones you may encounter and acquire is the modus operandi one needs to develop in order to survive at being a freelance cartoonist.
Flexible cartoonist for hire
This was not a term I first used when I began selling gag panel cartoons back in the 70’s. I started showing my work to magazine editors as it evolved into a practice where it became quite apparent I could make a “living” at selling work to magazines. I learned a tactic from other experienced trade journal cartoonists that was called “shotgun cartooning”. Shotgun cartooning meant you’d have as many single panel gag cartoons as possible in circulation, to as many different magazines as you could keep up with. I was playing a numbers game like so many others.
Keeping alot of work in circulation requires flexibility
At one point in time, I know I had just over 2,000 different cartoons moving around to many kinds of publications that included newsletters, tabloids, mainstream magazines and newspapers. In the days when print was king and long before the internet and digital technology began taking over the media, you could make an actual living as a full time gag cartoonists. It was really fun if you were prolific enough. And being prolific, meant drawing medical cartoons, health cartoons and trade journal cartoons that pertained to plumbing and heating to cartoons about chemical technology.
Create cartoons for a multitude of clients
I learned about various facets relating to certain trades and could actually create good sellable cartoons and then started circulating work to these specialized publications. There were many associations that also published their own regional newsletters and even newsletters were published by Wall Street brokers to help fellow brokers and investors understand the market better.
Flexible means working with multiple cartooning clients
By playing these numbers, it also became apparent that cartooning also meant being available to illustrate articles for certain editors when certain requests began to trickle in. I started seeing and realizing how “flexible” I was, by also accommodating these editors with magazine cover illustrations. The more requests that came along, the more “varied” those requests became. Along comes digital technology and the internet. Soon consultants who saw my work in these trade journals, requested custom cartoons for use in new software programs like power point. A new realization evolved….custom cartoons for software, and I began to incorporate promotional marketing tactics into my “shotgunning” and started sending hundreds and thousands of promotional brochures to book publishing companies, publishers and editors. Then to consultants, also creative and art directors at advertising companies.
Flexible cartooning practices require multiple redraws
With all of these tangents you can go off onto, always be flexible….emphasize your ability to be flexible with whomever you deal with and what markets in cartooning you want to actually work in. Make as many redraws as the client requests. Unless you put a minimum finite number in a contract. I’m assembling a small list of flexible avenues in which cartoonists can promote themselves in and to those markets. No longer is print king, like I previously mentioned. Nor can you rest on your laurels just because you have a web site and think the world is going to beat a path to you. You also need to promote being a flexible cartoonist and continue on a straight forward path you choose in order to acquire clients for your cartooning business. Here are a few I’ll list here and all of these disciplines I try to keep busy with:
Some basic flexible cartooning disciplines in my repertoire
- Offer cartoon services to consultants
- Offer your cartooning abilities directly to authors
- Promote your abilities to book publishers
- Show portfolios to editors in magazine publishing
- Send selections of your work to the greeting card market
- Agree to multiple redraws unless a minimum is specified
- Agree to ‘all rights” but enforce a clearly understood contract
- Send multiple promotional email offering your work
- Write cartoon related blog posts every 24 hours
- Mail out glossy promotional brochures to thousands of recipients
- Create custom cartoons for software companies
- Offer your services to create cartoon logos
You can either approach all sorts of potential buyers of cartooning services you offer and feel comfortable in offering, or try as many disciplines as possible. I try to keep my drawing style consistent and although I don’t use specialized jetpens or expensive digital drawing tools, I am always sketching and creating final artwork using Sharpie markers and technical pens. Using a fine brush pen is noce, but I’ve grown accustom to certain tools and stick with what works best (for now!).
In summation, this may seem daunting, but keep in mind, you may not always being doing logos, custom cartoons for software designers, or creating magazine article illustrations and so on, but by offering your services across the spectrum, you may be surprised to find yourself in the midst of creating a couple of projects each month of the year for any of these disciplines – because you’re flexible. You did not paint yourself into a corner being just a book illustrator or a gag cartoonist or . . . well, you get the idea.