It is possible to earn a decent living as an independent writer. But only if you approach it more like a freelance writing business than a sideline gig.
It’s not enough to simply enjoy writing. You also need to know what type of writing is currently in demand and have expertise in topics other than writing.
Then, of course, you need connections to clients who will pay good money for above-average content from writers who don’t need much training to get started.
Without a business-like approach to finding a few good, steady clients, you can quickly find yourself doing nothing but low-paying jobs for difficult clients. Or, you could spend more time seeking work than working for pay.
One company that can help you get up to speed on the business of freelance writing is Contena. This subscription-based platform offers online training and coaching plus a steady stream of inks to job openings for independent writers.
The six modules in Contena’s online academy explain strategies for building a steady income, creating writing samples, building a portfolio, crafting article pitches, and landing the best clients. Many freelance writers spend months learning these skills the hard way — through a lot of painful trial and error.
The Scout service helps you find the best available writing jobs by category, pay, and other criteria. Listings include part-time, full-time, and temporary writing assignments in fields such as education, real estate, business, health, and marketing. Recent job postings included health news writers, web copywriters, science content editors, social studies curriculum writers, and tech and gadget reviewers.
If you prefer coming up with your own ideas for articles, you can pitch story ideas to publishers listed on Contena’s Submissions section. This section lists companies that pay for submitted articles.
Contena Alerts will notify you about jobs that arise in your area of expertise. If you apply quickly and provide writing samples that reflect your knowledge, you can increased your odds of winning that job.
One challenge of working independently is that you don’t have supervisors encouraging you to continuously update and improve your skills. If a freelance client is unhappy with the quality of your work, they simply hire someone else. If you subscribe to the Platinum level service, your Contena coach will review your pitches and writing samples and provide constructive feedback for refinement. Your coach can also work with you on effective marketing materials.
Like Online Dating: You’re Seeking Good Matches
Freelance writers build successful businesses by developing lasting relationships with a few wonderful clients who pay them well for a defined amount of work each month. So, subscribing to Contena can be like joining an online dating service.
Contena can help you identify good matches for your specific writing skills. But it’s up to you to build the long-term professional relationships that can help your writing business grow. If you connect with clients that will pay you thousands of dollars each year (and provide word-of-mouth referrals), you won’t need to subscribe to Contena for long.
And once you build a steady, predictable income from a few good clients, you will feel more comfortable devoting a few hours a week on personal writing projects that might never pay off. If you are just starting out as an independent writer, you will soon learn that time is your most precious resource.
If you squander too much time chasing low-paying jobs, the amount of income you can earn each year will be limited. So be smart. Consider getting some training and coaching before you start pursuing the best prospects for your business.
If you would like to sell more of your designs, art, or photographs, now is a great time to check out everything that’s possible through Pixels.com. Their “set-your-own-price” alternative to traditional art licensing gives you greater control over how much you can earn from the sale of your images.
Pixels.com is global print-on-demand marketplace that allows design enthusiasts to choose which images they would like to have printed on more than 25 different products, including framed prints, metal prints, wood prints, greeting cards, T-shirts, hoodies, tote bags, duvet covers, men’s apparel, women’s apparel, throw pillows, shower curtains, beach towels, smartphone cases, and more.
Pixels handles all the details associated with printing, matting, framing, packaging, shipping, insuring, and customer service. Orders placed through Pixels.com go to one of 14 production facilities in 5 countries around the world. This makes it easy to print and ship your products to customers anywhere in the world. For example, if a buyer in Germany orders a product decorated with one of your images, the product will be printed and shipping a facility in The Netherlands.
The Pixels site, which attracts 5 million unique visitors per month, typically receives a surge or orders in November and December from holiday gift givers.
You Set Your Own Prices
Unlike licensing deals in which the publisher sets the price and dictates the amount of royalties you will receive, Pixels.com lets you set the price for the products made with your images.
As a seller, you will see a base price that covers production and fulfillment costs for each item. The amount you add as the mark-up will be the selling price. When the product sells, you earn 100 percent of the markup amount.
You can also choose which of your images you will permit to be printed on which products. For example, a high-resolution nature photograph that looks spectacular as a large metal print might not look the same on a beach towel or duvet cover.
Pixels.com was founded by Sean Broihier, the self-taught programming whiz who started the Fine Art America platform in 2006. Pixels.com complements the Fine Art America site by appealing to a broader base of customers who may be interested in photo merchandise, fashion apparel and accessories, and home decor items.
Sean Broihier was one of the first e-commerce entrepreneurs to enable all living artists to sell their artwork online. He said the “set-your-own-business-model” has been a big driver of the growth of the platform: “It has always been my opinion that artists should be able to set their prices as high or as low as they want to.” If an art publisher chooses to sell a canvas print for $50 and offers artists a 10% royalty, the artists shouldn’t have to decide whether or not they are willing to accept $5 for the sale of their art on the prints.
Multiple Options for Sales and Marketing
Over the past 11 years, Broihier has really listened to the concerns of artists and photographers who sell their work on the site. So he has continuously developed tools that enable you to adapt to all the different ways that art is now discovered, promoted, and purchased.
For example, here are just a few of your options. You can:
Sell Pixel’s print-on-demand products through your own Shopify store.
Sell print-on-demand products through your own branded storefront hosted by Pixels.com
License individual images and set your own terms for royalty-free and rights-managed licenses.
License images for streaming to digital displays.
Connect directly with buyers who express interest in buying one of your originals.
Print sample products for display at art fairs or in your studio. You can also print sell sheets that show potential buyers how your art will look of various products and explain how they can order them.
Publish news releases, blog posts, e-newsletters, and e-mail marketing programs through Pixels.com.
Run automated marketing campaigns on Facebook and Twitter
You can even use an iPad app as a sales tool. If a potential buyer of your art wants to preview how it might look on their walls, your can use the augmented reality interface on the Pixels.com iPad app.
The Pixels app takes the guesswork out of buying art online. After the customer the size of the print and how it will be matted and framed, the buyer can view an actual-size preview on their own walls. They can even see what the finished product will look like from different angles within the room.
Everything the viewer sees is perfectly to scale. For instance, a 24 x 36 inch canvas print will appear on the wall at exactly 24 x 36 inches. As the individual walks around the room, the app uses the iPad’s video camera and a unique tracking algorithm to keep the image perfectly positioned in the desired location on the wall.
Pixels.com also has deals with retailers such as Deck the Walls, The Great Frame Up, and the Framing and Art Center to sell artwork at more than 150 retail locations in the U.S. and Canada. Plus, Pixels.com has special programs available for large-volume buyers in the hospitality and design fields.
If you want to see the types of art that buyers purchase through the Pixels.com each day, you can see it. Pixels.com also publishes real-time comments and reviews from customers who are (and aren’t) totally satisfied with the ordered products.
You can also join online communities of like-minded artists. The site includes more than 1900 groups dedicated to topics such as office decor, self-promotion, historical buildings, the Adirondacks, orchids, and photographs edited to look like paintings.
If you would rather spend your time creating more art than worrying about how to get it reproduced, promoted, and sold, Pixels.com can help.
The site was set up to power sales everywhere artwork is bought and sold: “It doesn’t matter if you want to hang your artwork, carry it, wear it, license it, or stream it.” Millions of buyers all over the world decorate their homes and accessorize their lives with Pixels products
The employment outlook for creative talent is expected to remain relatively steady in the second half of 2017, according to a survey of advertising and marketing executives by The Creative Group staffing firm.
Just 9 percent of the executives surveyed said they plan to expand their teams. The majority (64 percent) anticipate maintaining staff levels and hiring primarily to fill vacated roles. About 4 percent of executives said they planned to reduce positions and 21 percent said they would be freezing employment (not filling vacated positions or creating new positions).
The executives who said they plan to add staff will be adding employees in one or more positions, including:
Account services: 24 percent
Mobile design/development: 21 percent
Marketing research: 21 percent
Public relations: 20 percent
Social media: 19 percent
Customer experience: 18 percent
Web design/production: 18 percent
Digital marketing: 18 percent
Print design/production: 18 percent
Brand/product management: 17 percent
Interactive media: 17 percent
Copywriting: 16 percent
Media services: 16 percent
Content marketing: 15 percent
Creative/art direction: 14 percent
Recruiting Challenges Persist
Forty-five percent of advertising and marketing executives said it’s challenging to find creative professionals today. Hiring managers at large advertising agencies (100 or more employees) expect the greatest difficulty, with 67 percent reporting it’s somewhat or very challenging to identify the talent they seek. According to survey, the hardest roles to fill are those in media services, customer experience, and account services.
To overcome recruiting challenges, companies may expand their search geographically. Forty-five percent of executives said they are now more willing to look outside their city or state to find the right person for a creative position than they were three years ago.
“Demand for digital content and services continues to grow, and companies struggle to find professionals well-versed in the latest platforms and strategies used to create unique and positive customer experiences,” said Diane Domeyer, executive director of The Creative Group. “Given strong competition for these highly skilled individuals, employees need to take a proactive and streamlined hiring approach to secure top talent.”
The Creative Group Blog offers tips on hiring creative professionals in a competitive market and advice for job-seekers.
About the Research
The national study was developed by The Creative Group and conducted by an independent research firm. It is based on more than 400 telephone interviews — with approximately 200 marketing executives randomly selected from companies with 100 or more employees, and 200 advertising executives randomly selected from agencies with 20 or more employees.
The Creative Group specializes in connecting interactive, design, marketing, advertising, and public relations talent with the best companies on a project, contract-to-hire, and full-time basis. Visit roberthalf.com/creative group.
If you sell art online, you might be encouraged by some online art sales statistics reported in the 2017 Hiscox Online Art Trade Report. Hiscox is an international provider of specialized insurance to small businesses and property owners.
According to the Hiscox report, online art sales reached an estimated $3.75 billion in 2016, up 15 percent from 2015. This gives the online art market an 8.4 percent share of the overall art market (up from 7.4 percent in 2015).
The online art market is predicted to reach $9.14 billion by 2022.
“For those who say the online art market has had its day, it hasn’t even had it’s morning yet. It’s still waking up,” says Robert Read, head of art and private clients at Hiscox.
Most online sales are for works priced below $5,000. In the 2017 survey, 79 percent of online art buyers said they spend less than $5,000 per piece. This is up from 67 percent in 2015.
People who have purchased art online once continue to buy art online. About 65 percent of previous online art buyers purchased more than one artwork in 2016.
Fully 91 percent of online art buyers surveyed said the quality of art available is one of the most important elements in their decision to buy art online. They reject the notion that the online art market is a dumping ground for works that can’t be sold offline.
Some art lovers continue to be hesitant about buying art online. Some fear the physical art will look different from the online image. Or, buyers worry that the condition of the artwork might be different from what was anticipated. About 73 percent of the hesitant buyers surveyed said they would like to speak to a human expert before making a decision to buy art online. Others would be interested in reviews and feedback from previous clients. Shipping options and return policies also matter.
Instagram has overtaken Facebook as the preferred social media platform for promoting and discovering art. Fifty-seven percent of art galleries said Instagram is the most effective in terms of raising awareness. About 35 percent of galleries said Instagram is driving direct sales, compared to only 7 percent of respondents who mentioned Facebook.
About $720 million in online art sales in 2016 came through online auctions by Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and Heritage Auctions. This represents about 19 percent of online art sales.
For most traditional galleries, e-commerce isn’t a major sales channel. About 59% said online purchases account for less than 5 percent of their sales. The 18 percent of galleries that derive most of the sales from direct online sales deal in collectibles such as watches, design, furniture, and photography.
About 49 percent of galleries who sell art online do so through a third-party e-commerce platform.
Some online art platforms (29 percent) have either established a brick-and-mortar gallery space or are thinking about doing so.
The report predicts online auctions will become a key battlefield this year. Virtually every online art platform has started to offer an online auction services.
To help further grow the market, online art platforms will seek ways to build trust with current and potential buyers. Expect them to offer buyers more background information the artist and the object. They may also boost the educational experience by producing more informative and interesting content.
Methodology and More Information
The 2017 Hiscox Online Art Trade report is based on a survey of 758 art buyers from ArtTactic’s client mailing list and a survey of 132 galleries and dealers representing a wide range of art and collectibles. The report also includes insights from one-to-one interviews and online surveys of key staff at online art platforms.
Some people envision freelancing as an escape from some of the more unpleasant aspects of full-time work — difficult bosses, office politics, rigid schedules, daily commutes, and unrewarding work. The truth is: freelancing may not really be much of an escape.
Yes, you do get the flexibility to work when and where you want to. But you won’t always be doing work that you love. Often, you must act as your own accountant, marketing person, and IT guy. (Your computer will crash when your workload is the heaviest and the deadlines are the tightest.) Freelancing can quickly become like a never-ending job search as you keep your eye out for new opportunities and write proposals for potential new clients.
Unless you prepare yourself for the realities of freelancing, you may struggle with an unstable and unpredictable cash flow, unexpected expenses, and the challenges of doing unfulfilling work for many difficult bosses.
The guide consolidates a lot of practical advice about some of the pain points and long-term challenges. For example:
Income isn’t guaranteed.
Not every hour you work is billable.
Employers don’t pay for your benefits (including holidays and vacations).
Financial due diligence is a must.
The guide notes that, “You need a head for business, especially when it comes to finances and expenses. It’s not just about taxes; you also have to learn about accounting, billing, licensing, and contracts. All of that extra work can be tough if you’re slammed during work hours with freelance projects.”
In the section of the guide about “Business Structure and Registration,” the authors discuss the advantages of formally establishing a business if you’re planning to build a long-term freelance career: “A registered business can shield you from personal liability and provide tax advantages. Less tangible (but equally important), a registered business builds legitimacy, so your clients forget you’re working from home in your pajamas.”
In the guide, you’ll learn about the need to set aside sufficient funds for estimated quarterly taxes and retirement. Setting aside funds can be difficult because when you freelance: “It’s tough to predict when money will come in and easy to say, ‘I’ll save when it does.'” Many new freelancers forget about taxes and some report that they haven’t been able to pay their taxes at some point.
In order to stay in the black throughout the year, you need to book a variety of projects and should know where your work will be coming from for at least the next six months.
When pricing your work, don’t make the mistake of basing your rate on the salary you earned as a full-time employee. Your take-home pay didn’t take into account some of the new expenses you will face as freelancer, such as FICA taxes, health insurance, materials, and travel.
If you are offered a project that will take several months to complete, don’t be afraid to ask for an up-front deposit. Your client shouldn’t expect you to devote months of your time to an assignment, then wait an additional 30 to 50 days after the project is finished to get paid.
The Ultimate Freelancer’s Guide consolidates a wealth of other practical advice about
managing your finances
what to do if you’re not getting paid
setting your freelance rate
how to find great freelance jobs and submit proposals
building your brand, portfolio, and professional network
Whether you choose to build a career as a freelancer or find yourself doing freelance work out of necessity, The Simple Dollar offers sound financial advice. Their tips and recommended resources can help you avoid some painful lessons that can wreak havoc on your bank account.
Fusion92 is a Chicago-based independent marketing innovation agency. The company helps growth-stage and Fortune 500 companies with marketing, media, creative services, innovation and consumer engagement.
One of the newest marketing innovations from Fusion92 is the “Hologon,” a brand-engagement technology that allows consumers to experience holographic videos with a mobile device and Fusion92’s patent-pending viewer.
When the mobile device is directed to a designated URL and the viewer is placed on the surface of the horizontally held tablet or smartphone, the hologram comes to life before your eyes.
Because the “Hologon” viewer is designed to pop-up and self-assemble, it can fold flat for insertion in magazines, direct mail, or product packaging. To optimize the user experience across various mobile devices, Fusion92 also developed a custom video player.
“We’re extremely excited about the launch of Hologon. It’s a great representation of our skills, and we believe it has enormous market potential,” said Matt Murphy, Fusion92 president and CEO. “Creating innovative products and solutions is what we do. Hologon™ is another tangible example of how we help our clients break through the clutter ahead of their competition.”
“While the concept itself isn’t unique, the amount of R&D that went into this product to make it user friendly, scalable and accessible across all mobile devices was immense,” said Jacob Beckley, VP technology and innovation. “This product further demonstrates Fusion92’s commitment to the convergence of the digital and physical worlds.”
Since 2013, Fusion92, has been filing one to two patents a year. Those patents have focused mostly on advertising and marketing technologies that blend well with Fusion92’s integrated agency services model.
Learn more at www.fusion92.com
Digital printing technology has advanced so rapidly it’s hard to imagine everything the newest printers can be used for.
This is particularly true of “direct-to-substrate” flatbed printers that use UV-curable inks to print images on many types and thicknesses of rigid and flexible materials. Dye-sublimation printers are also amazingly versatile. With dye-sublimation printing, images can be permanently infused into polyester fabrics and polymer-coated metals, woods, ceramics, and plastics.
So how might artists and designers take advantage of these types of printers?
To help answer this question, Roland DGA invited artist and Roland-printer-user Bonny Pierce Lhotka to host a 3-day Imaginarium project at their headquarters in Irvine, California. Lhotka, author of the book ‘Hacking the Digital Print,’ helps creative professionals understand how photographic images can be manipulated and output or transferred to dozens of different surfaces. She has experimented with creative photo composition and printmaking techniques to create original mixed-media artworks on many surfaces beyond art papers and canvas.
During the Roland Imaginarium event, six artists, photographers, and multimedia designers made art with Roland VersaUV flatbed and roll-to-roll inkjet printers and Texart dye-sublimation printers. Jay Roberts, product manager for UV devices at Roland DGA, led a team of printing experts who helped the Imaginarium artists experiment with different processes, materials, and machines.
Artist Dorothy Simpson Krause came up with two imaginative projects: a limited edition art book in a decorated aluminum box and WarZone, a traveling board game.
“Ladies of the Night” is a concertina book, meaning that the pages are printed in one continuous strip and folded like an accordion; the pages can be viewed without the need for book-binding adhesives.
For this project, a 9.5 x 57-inch print was folded to 12 pages (9.5 x 11.5 inches each). It was housed in a 10 x 12-in. aluminum box that was printed with an image from the book.
The pages featured digitally manipulated photographs Krause had taken in 2003 of twin performance artists Abigail and Emily Taylor for a series called “Body + Soul.” Text on the final page of the “Ladies of the Night” book provides statistics about prostitution in the United States.
“My project had several distinct challenges,” says Krause. “The ink needed to be as rich on the reverse as on the front and not soak into the uncoated back side. The prints had to be scored and folded into pages without having inks crack on the edges of folds. And the images on the back and front of the 57-inch long print had to be perfectly aligned.”
Jay Roberts recommended ways to resolve these issues. The books was printed with Roland’s Eco-UV S ink on a VersaUV LEC printer/cutter which was designed for a range of flexible materials used in package printing.
The Eco-UV S ink is dense and flexible and was designed to shrink or stretch when wrapping vehicles.
For the “Ladies of the Night” book, the ink produced deep rich blacks on both the coated and uncoated surfaces of Roland’s Premium Matte Paper. And the ink didn’t crack when the pages were folded. A scoring machine was used to make indentations for folding the pages.
“The paper and ink were so heavy, it would have been difficult to score the pages by hand,” says Krause.
A Roland VersaUV LEF-300 flatbed printer was used to print the aluminum box in which the book would be housed. To replicate the look and feel of an embossed book cover, a layer of clear gloss ink was applied to the letters of the book title.
To prepare the image the cover image for the box, the white on the costume was selected in Photoshop, saved as a spot channel and designated to print as a 100% white base layer on the aluminum. After the image layer was printed, the clear gloss layer was applied, using a file that included only the letters of the image with the red omitted.
Before the box was printed, the edges were taped to keep them clean from overspray from the printer. An outline template was printed on the surface of the flatbed to ensure consistent placement as the layers were printed.
As an add-on to the book project, Krause used Roland’s Texart RT-640 Dye Sublimation printer to transfer six images from the book onto 11 x 14 –inch aluminum panels that had been painted white and treated with a polymer coating.
The images were first printed in reverse with dye-sub inks onto dye-sub-transfer paper. The image transfer occurred when the prints were subjected to a controlled amount of heat and pressure in a flatbed heat press. During the heat transfer process, the inks became gases that permeated the coated surface of the metal. The print are very durable and scratch resistant and feel smooth to the touch.
“The white details of the costume are crisp and vibrant, while the underlying metals provides a glowing reflectivity,” said Krause.
War Zone: A Game Without Winners
“War Zone” is a traveling board game with no winners. The suitcase-like polystyrene box, game board, spinner, and “us” and “them” checker-like magnets were all printed on a Roland devices.
After printing an outline for the box on the surface of the UV VersaUV LEF 300 flatbed printer, the box a white layer was printed under the entire title, followed by a layer of gray and red. Ink. Two layers of gloss ink was printed over the “War Zone” title to provide an embossed-like effect.
The box was lined with contour-cut board printed with an image of the first atomic bomb blast and text about the nature of armed conflict and human aggression. A spinner board was contour cut and printed with a map that shows countries with ongoing military conflicts.
A checkerboard-like game board was printed on 9 x 12-inch matte board with the “rules of engagement” printed across the bottom. The “soldiers” are red and black magnets that were printed with white ink to read “us” or “them.”
Other Projects at Imaginarium
In addition to Bonny Lhotka and Dorothy Krause, other artists at the 2017 Roland Imaginarium included Jake Welin, Ileana Frometa Grillo, Karin Schminke, and Seen Teegarden. They used Roland printers to transfer photos and multi-layered image compositions onto pre-painted and plaster-treated canvases, transparent films, film reels, birchwood, pre-cut wood panels, and other unique media.
In a blog post that showcases the work of the six artists, Ben Fellowes of Roland DGA writes, “It was a pleasure to watch this talented group of artists at work and eye-opening to see what they did with our printing technology. At Roland, we have always understood the potential of our machines as fine art tools.”
To learn more about how to use these printers for your own art or designs, find a print-service provider in area equipped with one of these printers.
The Roland VersaUV LEC series of UV printer/cutters was designed to print, contour cut, varnish, and emboss flexible substrates used to create bags, folding cartons, labels, and specialty graphics. This printer is available in 30-inch and 54-inch widths.
The Roland VersaUV LEF-300 Benchtop Flatbed printer can print directly on rigid and flexible materials up to 3.94 inches thick and up to 13 inches wide and 30 inches long. This printer is typically used to make promotional products, giftware, awards, smartphones, tablets, jewelry, and specialized signs.
Opportunities for Artists, Photographers, and Designers
Artists and print-service providers can both benefit from working together to envision new and exciting ways to push the boundaries of what’s possible.
Some artists, photographers, and designers are already benefitting from new printing technologies by creating and licensing designs that print-service providers can output onto print-on-demand products such as apparel, accessories, decorative art, tabletops, laminates, and fabrics.
You can also use new printing technologies to design and create your own branded lines of products for sale online or at art fairs.
According to Dorothy Krause, “Artists are becoming more and more aware of the advantages of flatbed printers, dye-sublimation printing, and contour cutting devices.” Printers that can use gloss, white, and metallic inks (such as Roland’s) are particularly versatile for creating interesting designs.
Inkjet printers today are being used for much more than printing photo enlargements or reproducing artwork created in traditional media. Today’s inkjet printers can be used to create new products or original mixed-media art. Printed images and backgrounds can be combined with additional layers of inks, paints, varnishes, and special effects.
Bonny Lhotka created her Image Imaginarium workshops to give artists opportunities to take a hands-on approach to exploring new imaging technologies. The first Image Imaginarium was a pre-conference event at the 2016 Adobe MAX Conference for creative professionals. That workshop was based on techniques described in her book “Hacking the Digital Print.”