Freelance Cartooning

Everything you need to know about freelance cartooning.

  • cartoonist drawing
    Freelance cartooning can be a real career if you approach it with a few tips in mind.
    Illustration by MOTHER EARTH NEWS staff

  • cartoonist drawing

Now look, gang, don't get us wrong: We're most certainly not suggesting that half the readers of MOTHER EARTH NEWS are gonna run out and become freelance cartoonists immediately after reading this article. A few, yes. The great majority, no. We've gone pretty deeply into the how of this particular work-at-home dodge, though, for several reasons:

• It's a fascinating field.
• It's part of the communications/persuasion industry which plays an increasingly important part in our lives.
• Similar to writing, commercial art and various other skills and crafts, cartooning does offer a way out of the 9-to-5 rap for a certain number of talented and determined individuals.
• It's mainly a mail-order operation which means it neatly sidesteps race, color, creed and most other excuses we all use for putting bad trips on each other.
• Successful freelancing — whether as plumber, cartoonist, cake baker, baby sitter, candle maker or whatever — depends on a certain lifestyle all its own. The products (skill, drawings, pastry, mere presence, decorator items, etc.) may differ but the ground rules are always the same: You're either your own man, work when, where and at what you like and successfully exchange your output for what you need and want ... or you go back to pumping gas on the corner.

So, even if you think you have no drawing ability and you couldn't care less about trying to sell funny pictures to magazines, come on along. You're going to learn how to get a highly specialized art — or other — education for very little money (maybe even free), you'll find a definite step-by-step drop-out-and-do-your-own-thing plan used by one successful cartoonist and Carl Kohler's section, in particular, should (a) turn you on to some immediate money-making angles if you are, or want to be, a cartoonist or (b) just generally turn you on if you're not a 'tooner but need some inspiration from a sassy, successful practitioner of an alternate lifestyle.

So you wanna be a cartoonist? Great! But why?

Why You Should Become a Freelance Cartoonist

If you're just looking for an easy way out, this probably isn't it. Cartooning, like most other endeavors, can be brutally hard work — and, like most other endeavors, it can be deliriously wonderful play that you just happen to get paid for. Let's stop and lay down some ground rules right in front: We presently live in a society that puts a price tag on virtually everything, right? Right. And that can be a real drag, right? Right. Because you always wind up having to put in your time on a job you hate just to get the necessities of life, right? Wrong!

It doesn't have to be that way. It's all in how you look at it. Remember, we said, "The society puts a price tag on virtually everything"? OK. There's no reason why you can't make that work for, rather than against, you. It's easy. First, decide what you really want to do; second, start doing it (as long as you're not putting a bad trip on someone or something else) and third, figure out some way to exchange what you do for what you want and need.

If you're hung up on horses and hate office work, in other words, you'd be damn foolish to work all week as a secretary just so you could pay the rent, put food on the table and — maybe — have enough left over to ride an hour or two each weekend at some expensive stable. Yet that's exactly what an awful lot of babes do. But not my clever little wife. She loves horses so she teaches riding, trains, shows and judges horses and, incidentally, makes twice what any desk job would pay her.

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