The Distant Future.

May 30, 2008

I am officially the world’s worst blogger, I think. But this morning as I was running errands an idea popped into my head to write about– so here we go.

Head to a store and you’ll find prices jumping for food and supplies. The gas pumps are charging more all the time, flip on the news and you’ll invariably hear about airline expenses, businesses merging and cutting staff, the job search becomes harder and harder, and then there’s rationing… Whether we’re in a recession or not, things are changing and it’s not really for the better, at least not right now. It’s kind of depressing, but it started to make me wonder– how is it affecting illustrators?

Do you think our future is still bright? As the cost of necessities rises, will we still have much of a market? Will magazines discontinue (or switch to photography or stock) because they’re more like extravagances than food or shelter? I wonder. I would like to hope not– publications are my bread and butter! But I’m curious of your thoughts.

Also, how are things affecting you currently? I find that I’m spending a lot more at the post office mailing out artwork than I used to. Cost of plane tickets and fuel make me reluctant to travel (though I didn’t drive– used to bike til someone stole mine recently!), which means I have to cut out any public things like comic conventions or craft fairs. And then there’s the worry about the art I make to sell (as opposed to illustrations)– will people stop buying because they need to worry about more important things? I worry that somewhere along the line creative people will be out of work. I doubt a doctor will ever have that problem– but an artist unfortunately doesn’t have that same clout in society.

I may just be a worrywart right now, but I do wonder– how good will we have it in the next several years? And if there is a lingering concern, should we be considering a plan B? I honestly don’t know what I’d do besides what I do now! So tell me what you see and predict– the good and bad, because I want to know!

Been slowly working my way around on getting a feeling for what I’m doing– sometimes I gotta admit I feel like someone replaced my hands with clumsy dog feet and blindfolded me and said “OK, now make some fun drawings!” On the other hand I do think far too much about what I’m doing right and wrong in this business. It’s one of those things I have to work on– not that thinking is that bad, but too much of anything is a good thing! Emailing my illustrator friends and asking their opinions has been a nice experience though– part of me is like ‘Wow! They’re going through what I’m going through!” and the other part is like “Wow! I’m totally jealous!” But still, I’m getting a better idea of where I feel more comfortable and where I could see myself. Ultimately though I just have to have fun– and stop thinking so hard!

I’m curious though– are any of you working in the children’s books field? Several pals of mine keep telling me they’d love to see me tackle that field, and I’m definitely interested. So if anyone has any suggestions/resources/contacts/advice on how to get into it, or know someone who I should talk to about this, that’d be great! Anyone willing to let me pick their brain? My sister and I have a book idea also, though it’s currently in the wrong format (comics) and we’ll need to rework it.

I’m all for the give and take of information obviously. I’ll answer what little I know in return!  I’ll try and write a more advice-worthy post sometime in the near-future, too. Bear with me!

Anyway, it’s time for this lady to stop thinking so hard and start putting the pen to paper. It’s been a while. How are you guys doing?

Let me just say as a freelancer, I still very much hate filing taxes. I’m not an accountant (though I wish I had one!), and taxtime fills me with impending dread. Schedule C, forms, paperwork, deductions, expenses, assets…. For me it’s blinding. Yesterday I tackled my taxes, and while it didn’t take as long as I expected, there were a lot of things I found eating up my time. And a lot of time spent gnashing my teeth about the money I’m soon to owe sweet lady IRS. (IRS honey, let’s talk! Please don’t break my kneecaps or bankrupt me!) Needless to say it’s going to take many years to be comfortable about this, but this is what I’ve started to learn so far:

  •  Document everything. You’re a freelancer, do you have a home office? Keep track of the square yardage of your dwelling and the office, and then make sure you keep track on the utilities and rent and all (and everything you buy or fix in it) so you can be compensated for it. Did you buy art supplies? Decorations for the studio? Media? If you can honestly justify it as being research or work related, it can count. And don’t forget cost of mailing/advertisement/gas mileage for the business..
  • By documenting everything I mean DOCUMENT everything. Keep a book, or use Excel, or get a program, but every expense should be kept track of. It really comes in handy. (It also makes you realize you may have a problem when you add up all your art supply bills. I know it did for me) I grant you I didn’t really do this– I just went through my Paypal history and my bank history for the past year and added it up, but I’m going to implement it this year for 2009’s filing.
  • Try and keep your paperwork organized. I couldn’t find some of my paperwork right off the bat and freaked out, thinking I threw it away.
  • Pay and file quarterly so that the tax owed is not a big shock like it was for me.
  •  When you get payments from jobs, set aside some of it into savings so you will have the money no problem!
  • Don’t live check-to-check like me!
  • If you can find one, an accountant sounds like the way to go– one who works with creative people, and knows what that means in a financial setting.

Any other ideas for easing that tax burden, I’d love to hear. I’m hoping I’ll implement all this stuff next year, because I’m tired of dreading April, really!

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We here at Trade Secrets are hoping to move the blog to a domain so we can revamp the site with a super-cool design (trust me, I peeked). But we’re having a little trouble figuring out a domain name to register. Tradesecrets.com/org/net and its ilk are all gone.  We have a couple of ideas, like the-trade-secrets.com, ourtradesecrets.com, tradesecretsforillustrators.com but how memorable will they be? I’m not certain. I’d love to hear your suggestions and maybe we can figure out a good new domain together! We’re aiming to keep the TS name, but what else could work?