Tips for Finding Freelance Work

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Photo by Getty Images/Antonio_Diaz
Sometimes getting into freelance work means learning some tricks of the trade to get you started.

Everybody likes money. Everybody. I only knew one guy who didn’t — and they wouldn’t let him have anything sharp while he sat out his days on the bench in the funnyhouse.

Lemme ask you a question: While you’re waiting for those cartoons to come back from Look and Playboy, why don’t you spend about four hours and earn yourself anywhere from $15 to $60 or more?

It’s easy. A snap. I’ve done it lots of times in the past, I’m doing it now, and I’ll probably be doing it (between batches sent to regular markets) for years to come. Unless you like to wash cars, mow lawns, set pins, drive cab, dig ditches, or engage in any work but cartooning, there’s no better nor simpler way to make money.

How to Make Money With Cartooning

By drawing cartoons for both local and distant merchants, industries, and business organizations. Cartoons, of course, which are heavily commercial in slant and tone. If you work hard enough at it (I did at one time) you can even support an entire family doing it.

The biggest advantage to this sort of cartooning is the breathtaking fact that you need only a few good gags. Got that? Only a few good gags. Gags which can be switched from one type of business to another. This saves both time and mental energy for more glorious — if not profitable — cartooning.

I’ll show you what I mean. Two days ago, I sat down and drew three cartoons. The ideas were slanted to interest a pest control (termite exterminator, to you) outfit. Two of the drawings I left penciled. The third one I inked in. The inked cartoon showed a frantic guy (clutching himself in an overstuffed chair), peering down at a mob of termites who were carrying guy, chair and all out of the room. Gagline: “Madge! For crying out loud, call the BEAR STATE PEST CONTROL people! “

You’ll kindly notice I put the company’s name in caps. I did the same on the typed gagline on the cartoon.

The next day I phoned the Bear State Pest Control office and asked the manager if he would like to see some slanted advertising cartoons which had been drawn exclusively for his company. I added he was under no obligation to buy. He agreed. So I merely went over there, let him look at the cartoons — and walked out 20 minutes later with a check for $45. He wanted all three cartoons and ordered the other two inked in — paying for all three on the spot.

Right now I’m preparing a set of three cartoons for an outfit whose specialty is getting rid of gophers. One of these cartoons shows a guy cowering in a lawn chair. Carrying the guy, chair and all are four or five gophers. Guy yells: “Helen! Hurry with that call to the LONG BEACH GARDEN CONTROL people!”

What a racket! And it’s ethical and legal, too.

Maybe I should tell you not to specify the manner in which the advertiser is supposed to use the cartoon. Some use them in newspapers, some use them on cards, others put ’em on blotters — and one guy (who bought $145 worth all in the same day) just hung them on the walls of his bar. Don’t get your customer confused. Unless he asks for your advice, never suggest what he should do with the cartoons.

He may get puckered and suggest what you can do with them. This has been known to happen. Frequently. It did, several times, to me. I’d rather make money. Now, I keep my big, fat mouth closed unless the client asks me how he should use the drawings.

Although the biggest advantage lies in dealing with local businesses (since you can actually draw the cartoons and collect the money the same day), there’s nothing wrong with working by mail. Mail them just as you would regular batches. It usually takes a businessman about a month to make up his mind, but you’ll always get your unsold drawings back if there was a stamped, self-addressed envelope in with your pitch and the cartoons. The pitch, itself, should be a paragraph (a short paragraph) long. Simply mention that readers remember cartoon ads and look at them longer. That’ll do it.

It does for me eight times out of 10.

I charge (nowadays) $15 per cartoon. Unless it’s a big outfit. Then the price slides up to $25. When I was a beginner-cartoonist, I charged $5 — and I sold cartoons (commercial cartoons, this way) for six years before making my first magazine cartoon sale. I know of no better way to develop a good style, professional draughtsmanship, and make money while you do it.

Not long back, another cartoonist showed me a copy of The Skin Diver magazine. Skin Diver doesn’t pay anything for the cartoons they use. They cannot afford to — their publishing budget is too small. This cartoonist claimed he’d drop from hunger before ever submitting cartoons to an outfit like that.

Well, let me show you an angle: I give cartoons to the magazine. And, after they’re published, I drop advertisers in Skin Diver little notes. I mention that they’ve probably seen my work in that magazine and — uh — would they like to buy some good, exclusive (use the word exclusive) cartoons? They usually do. Last month, several did — and to the tune of $150. Yes, I even like magazines that do not buy cartoons — so long as that magazine has paying advertisers. Get the idea?

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