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2011 Resolutions for a Comics Writer

Inspired by the less-than-perfect experiences of myself and my peers in 2010, here are three resolutions we can all apply in 2011:

RESOLUTION #1: Work for and with nice people.


A: Assholes are not worth your time. (This includes well-connected assholes. The contacts assholes have are typically more assholes, anyway.)

When I first moved to the east coast, I worked 25 hours a week for an asshole for four months at no pay to get my foot in the door. After 400 hours of slogging through his demeaning tasks and remarks and defending myself from his manipulations to get more free time out of me, he gave me one contact… who wanted me to work 25 hours a week at no pay to get my foot in the door. Ha! Now, that my CCS classmates and I are out of school and looking for work, I’m hearing stories like this all the time. Don’t let it happen to you, too!

Instead, choose to work with nice people. People who respect you and your work. People who pay on time. People who say “please” and “thank you.” People who have friends who are also nice people. If your boss or collaborator doesn’t have nice friends — or friends at all — there’s a problem.

There are plenty of nice people to work with. They may not be as flashy or noticeable, but they’re there. Find them. You deserve to work with good folks.

RESOLUTION #2: Require payment for your work.


A: You’re worth pay!

As a general rule of thumb: If someone is willing to make money off your work, you should be willing to do the same.

If you succeed with Resolution #1, this may be a moot point because nice people do their best to pay or at least barter for your services. But even nice people, when presented with the choice of undervalued quality work, will take it. We’re all looking for deals, especially if the artist is giving it away.

So give yourself some credit as a professional and require payment from those who hire you.

If you need the experience for your portfolio, and the only option is to work for no pay, then…

RESOLUTION #3: Do not work for split profits.


A: There are never any profits to split.

When a stranger wants to team up with you to produce a book or a film or anything else and they say something like “I can’t pay you, but I can give you 50% of the profits,” they are asking you to gamble with them on the chance that their idea will be published, produced, licensed, optioned, sold or whatever.

If you were in a Vegas casino carrying a bucket of tokens (yes, some still require tokens) and somebody came up and said, “Can I have your tokens? I can’t pay you for them but if I hit a jackpot, I’ll split it with you,” would you do it? Probably not, right? Same rule applies.

So, instead of working for the promise of some potential profits (remember, we’re not even talking gross, we’re talking profits only), work on the project because:

– The collaborator is a truly nice person (see Resolution #1),

– and he/she wants to pay you but there just isn’t any money (see Resolution #2),

and you love the project so much you can’t stop thinking about filling your portfolio with the wonderful art it would inspire (which could benefit your career in the coming months or years),

– AND if the nice-person-collaborator agrees that you will retain the rights to all the work you are doing for free (more on legal matters in later posts)…

then THAT’S a potential win-win situation.

You get: an improved portfolio, an enjoyable experience (since you love the project, it won’t be a slog) and the opportunity to network with their nice friends who could become future clients or collaborators.

And they get: the permission to publish your work for free, which they can gamble on. If it sells, great, your name is out there (and you can probably renegotiate the contract), but if it doesn’t it won’t matter to you because you’re not tied to their thin chances of making a profit.

Without those win-win circumstances, there are plenty of other projects you would love to spend time on where you get 100% of the profits: your own!

I hope this helps and Happy New Year!

Categories: Blog
  1. 01/08/2011 at 3:59 PM

    Them’r some gooood resolutions, Tim! When you’re right, you’re right.

    • 01/08/2011 at 8:29 PM

      Thanks, Andy! I’m workin’ on it.

  2. Sam
    01/08/2011 at 9:46 PM

    This is a great post! Hope to I’m one of the nicer folks to work with 🙂 Good luck this year, we should hang out more so I can try and keep you working with these resolutions.

    • 01/09/2011 at 6:03 PM

      Thanks, Sam. I agree! Stay strong through numbers.

  3. 01/10/2011 at 3:45 AM

    Really good points, Tim. It’s shocking how many people out there want something for nothing. No one would ask a plumber or a lawyer to do something for free because they’d get laughed at.

    I can’t remember who said this, but next time someone says something will be ‘good exposure’ (i.e.: free), it’s good to remind them that exposure is what you die of when you’re left out in the cold for too long.

    I may have to ask you privately about the asshole in question. We can work out a series of blinks and hand gesture-based code words to maintain confidentiality.

    • 01/11/2011 at 2:02 PM

      Thanks for the comment, Dakota! Yeah, it is shocking, but if artists keep working for free then that creates expectations for all of us. And yeah: wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more, say no more, nudge nudge.

  4. Baldemar
    01/10/2011 at 11:40 AM

    Good advice, and even sloggy work can have its rewards, if you’re dealing with nice people.

    If you’re working with a friend in exchange for money, and your invoice goes unpaid, don’t be reluctant to follow up with them. After 30 days, shoot ’em another invoice.

    It’s the professional thing to do, I’ve learned. There are all kinds of reasons why invoices don’t get paid, but no good reasons for the vendor not to follow up in a timely manner.

    • 01/11/2011 at 2:08 PM

      I absolutely agree, Al. Even if you’re not working with a friend and an invoice goes unpaid, always follow up every 30 days until it’s paid. The vast majority of the time it’s not personal, people are just crazy busy and simply forget. No disrespect meant, they’re just human. But if an invoice doesn’t get paid for a long time, that’s why it’s good to have a lawyer.

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