“You have to keep in mind, when you are making something, you are so horribly familiar with what you are making. You know the in’s and out’s of everything about it and you are just bored by it because that’s all you’ve been doing.”
For this episode, Marccus Ehren, the game developer and artist, is here to talk about his recent successful Kickstarter campaign of Eldet, a LGBT and medieval fantasy visual novel. Not only did we touched on what inspired him to create Eldet, we also talked about time managements and work-life balance that came with developing a project of this scale with only one manpower. Marccus also explained about the extreme challenge of finding the time to create it while studying for his final year exams, a part-time job, and how he found the time to do all of it.
The craziest thing about Eldet is that Marccus actually composed the music, drew all the art, and wrote the story all by himself. The scope of the project and the fact that he did it in 6 months is amazing and can be seen as superhuman. However, he breaks down on the sacrifices he made to fit the project into those 6 months and what he learned from it.
In this episode, we talked about revealing topics about an artist’s life, such as:
The fickleness of his brief internet fame as a fandom fan-artist and how it forced him to mature as an artist.
The gruelling process of creating Eldet all by himself and how he coped with the lack of time, all the while juggling with studying for his finals and a job.
How he overcame his fear of failure and how he managed his expectations for the game to ensure that it is created while sitting on a pile of student debt.
The stigma of artists monetizing their skillsets, how you can get a lot of backlash for putting a price tag on your art, and what you can do about it.
The importance of finding the meaning behind your art and how it actually can make your life as an artist better.
The unpleasant surprises of juggling with his personal life while creating this game (such as losing friends because he wasn’t able to explain why he couldn’t meet anyone for the next year and a half because he is creating this game!)
And finally: the critical lessons that he learned to create a successful Kickstarter and Patreon campaign and why artists should consider these platforms to monetize their art.
“That’s advice I would give to anyone. You want your work to actually call to mind of you and not something else. So, you don’t want someone to see your name and think ‘oh yeah, they draw fanart of… whatever’. You want people to think that’s the person that draws realistic and they are really good at lighting! You want people to think about you and not the thing that you draw.”
Marccus Ehren comes from a very interesting background of having the honor of becoming a true internet sensation due to his fanwork. Despite of his young age, he have had his art was shared all over the internet and on all sort of social media platforms.
Having experienced being an internet sensation briefly, Marccus realized that the fame could be more of a burden than an advantage and how fickle that social media attention can be. Despite of the challenges he faced, he still ventured forward to create Eldet, his first Kickstarter original project, all the while of losing 80% of his audience immediately due to his withdrawal from the fandom that gave him the fame in the first place.
Listen to this episode to hear how he managed to overcome all these challenges, as well as a reveal to the more emotional side of being an artist.
Enjoyed the episode? Do share it on your favorite social media platform! Art of Commissions aim to help artists earn more money by creating a resource website just for that. The more artists that come by here and show the support, the better this community will become.
The Art of Commissions Podcast Episode 1: Dissecting the Science of Social Media Success Feat. Benjamin Ee
I am super excited that I am finally revealing the first podcast episode of Art of Commissions!
From now on, I intend to showcase artist feature via podcast instead, since I believe that audio will give the interview format a more personal touch to our listeners and it also allows for greater details to be communicated. As always, I am open to feedback and any other ways to improve Art of Commissions as a resource website for budding freelancing artists.
Much to my greatest pleasure, I’ve had the chance to talk to Benjamin Ee — Art Director of Wymac Gaming Solution and Freelancing Artist as our first podcast guest!
“I could paint like some artsy piece about society and their obsession with technology or I could just paint a picture of a Pikachu, I don’t know, doing a backflip. There will be that satisfaction of creating something. If it makes one more person happy, job done!”
For this episode podcast, Ben and I talked about using social media to represent yourself as an artist, expanding on the previous blog post. This is something that Ben is amazing at, with his art getting regular social media attention. On top of having a good handle on social media, he uses his social media platforms to generate leads for his freelancing business on the side. While there are advantages that social media can have for artists, we also talked about certain dangers that social media can have to growing artists and how to avoid these pitfalls that social media presents.
In this episode — one hour of packed-in goodness — we discuss important topics such as:
Ben’s favorite social media platform as well as the important factors to choosing the social media platform that you are comfortable in.
The fatal mistakes that most artists do when using social media and how to distinguish yourself from your competitions with it.
The concept and fallacy of viral marketing and why you shouldn’t solely focus on getting your art viral.
The dangers of using social media to measure the value of your art and why you shouldn’t rely solely on social media to get people talking about your art.
Why showcasing yourself as a person is more important than showcasing yourself as an artist in social media and how that can increase the likelihood to you being hired as an artist.
The do’s and do not’s of using social media for networking.
“I think it is a legitimate danger that people should be aware of focusing so much on getting better or getting popular that they forget why they wanted to paint in the first place.”
Benjamin Ee hugely believes in that the most important thing about being an artist is recognizing your own individual uniqueness. He also voiced concerns that many artists nowadays can find themselves in the toxic black hole of social media – using social media to validate the value of the art they created and forgetting the reason to why they started drawing in the first place.
While dialog and discussion about art (after all, who doesn’t like a bit of attention from their own hard work?) is important, he believes that artists should understand that passion behind their art and the message they want to spread to the world. This is the key to finding the perseverance to a long art career.
As he himself said, it doesn’t have to be something overly artsy and meaningful and it could be something as simple as a silly drawing that makes people smile. Even with a simple reason, remembering the meaning behind it will help on the days when you don’t feel like your art is not worthy.
Got any questions or comments for Benjamin Ee? Do leave the comments below and I will forward the questions to Ben!
Hello people! In Art of Commissions, I personally really want to try making this place the area where artists can get resources on starting their own freelancing career.
It is an overly intimidating idea and there are a lot of rabbit holes people can get stuck in while exploring this massive field of freelancing.
Hence, I decided one of the best ways to get resources on this site is to hear from other people that is not me. I will have other artists talk about their experiences and what is that one thing they really want you to know about freelancing.
With that said, we do have our first ever artist feature: Rachel George!
Rachel George is an amazing freelancing artist that specialized in LGBTQIA+ publishing houses. However, as you will find out soon, she didn’t exactly found her start to be easy and that there were definitely some missteps in her career before she finally found a niche that she LOVES working in. There are some cautionary tales and some insights to why passion and money might not be exclusive items in the equation.
With that said, I am very happy to introduce Rachel George as our first guest to Art of Commissions.
First of all, a little bit about yourself — how did you found yourself in freelancing?
I’m a freelance illustrator from England, I’ve been freelancing for over 10 years now.
When I’m not working, I’m playing video games… I really like retro games and frequently visit car boots/swap meets to try grab some bargains. Additionally, I will also be attempting to get through my backlog of unread books (and buying more to add to the pile, it’s a problem) and hanging out with my wife – probably playing video games together.
I got into freelancing when I was around 17, I’d been doing a few private commissions here and there and decided I REALLY liked getting paid to draw. So, I enrolled into university to learn how to illustrate/sell my skills professionally. While I was there, I sent out hundreds of email enquiries to various different companies I wanted to work for.
There were hundreds of “no thank you’s” but I stuck to it!
Eventually I got a “Yes” from a small indie publishing house, and everything started from there.
What are you doing now as a freelancer and what were you doing before that?
I’m working fulltime as a Publishing Illustrator now.
The bulk of my work comes from LGBTQIA+ publishing houses, something I’ve wanted to do since I started reading Lesbian Fiction at the tender age of 15. Before I got into it fulltime however, I started off working as a graphic designer for NHS health pamphlets. The sort that you’ll find in a doctor’s waiting room. Back then, I’d taken that graphic design job as it was the only thing I could find at that time. I needed to pay bills and took the first thing that came along (even though I disliked it as it was the furthest thing away from what I wanted to do).
Eventually, I got a gig working in a publishing house focused on children books in Canada, where I worked for 2 years before moving back to the UK and freelancing again.
When you gave up what you thought was a more monetary-awarding freelancing career to one that you actually have passion for, was there any sacrifices you made? Was it worth it in the end?
If anything, I don’t think I gave up money over passion. It was actually the opposite for me.
When I was a graphic designer for the health pamphlets, I was trying too hard to force what I thought; that what a client would want wasn’t the health pamphlets. I also tried too hard to do everything at once; photo manipulations, photo touch-ups, graphic design, and illustration. I was stretching myself too thin and ended up making mistakes and getting in over my head – all just because I was taking on work I hadn’t a clue about because I was desperate for money. I ended up completely screwing it up.
After I stopped trying too hard to do work in what I THOUGHT would lead to money (it didn’t), I focused on what I really wanted to draw. I actually ended up gaining a lot more clients for it.
I think when you actually have passion for your work, it reflects in your art as well. My work reflected my love for the work I do instead of a monetary necessity when I started working for publishing houses.
Not to mention, when you have love for your work, the clients became equally as enthusiastic about paying me for my work.
So, when things were difficult and you were going through that particularly tough moment in your life and you thought you were in over your head, how did you bounce your mentality back into a positive career progression?
At one point, I was juggling three jobs just to make the rent, I worked two part time jobs and, at the end of each day, I’d come back and work on my freelancing until I had to go to bed.
It was tough and mentally taxing, but I pushed through out of sheer determination to finally drop one of the part time jobs to work on my illustrations more. After a good solid six months of non-stop work, I was able to drop down to one part time job. And then after 12 months, I had enough returning clients to go solely freelancing. It was worth it for sure.
What kept me going was honestly the enjoyment that my freelancing brought me and knowing that no other job could bring me that level of satisfaction. I think it helped that I’m obnoxiously stubborn too!
I went from working on NHS pamphlets to the children’s publishing gig by chance. However, it was mostly due to talking to people and making connections. I knew someone in Canada and I took a gamble on going out there to try something new.
While I was there and looking for a job, I did a lot of networking online. Then through my networking, a children’s book author found me via Hire an Illustrator. She contacted me and we chatted and I ended up working with her. I’m still working with her after 5 years since the initial meeting! She’s one of my best clients.
Sending out a TON of promotional mailers helped direct traffic to my website and allowed for my client to find me. Building a web presence is really integral to my marketing strategy as well. I was really active on Hire an Illustrator, Twitter, Facebook, and some Canadian based social websites — all promoting my work. So, I think that really helped kickstart my freelancing career!
If there is one advice you wish you knew when you were first starting — other than the one about passion, what else will you want to tell your past self?
TALK TO PEOPLE.
Get on twitter, talk to other illustrators, look at what they’re producing and be inspired by them.
I made the mistake of being anti-social as hell and not reaching out to my other illustrators for a whole year and it resulted in me not having a clue about what I was doing and not learning from others.
Also, DON’T EVER DO THAT CRAPPILY PAID OR UNPAID JOB. You will regret it, you will hate your life. If there’s one thing I can be 100% sure about, it’s every single client I’ve worked for and received little or no pay from, I’ve hated it, and they never treated me with respect.
Without fail, I can say that clients that pay properly will treat you with more respect than those who pay nothing/next to nothing, it’s not worth it, ever.
But honestly, if you’re mulling around the idea of taking your enjoyment of art/illustration to a professional level, go for it! It’s honestly the most rewarding job I’ve ever had, I’ve had a few jobs in my life and nothing has come close to the satisfaction of holding a product in your hands with your work on it.
It takes a lot of hard work, perseverance and really thick skin. However, if you put the hours into not only your art, but with promotion as well, talking to people, sharing your work, building a presence, and networking, it’ll pay off. There’s no secret formula in this, it really comes down to hard work and it’s honestly worth every hour you put into it.
I just want to add an add-on to what Rachel is talking about and that there is a lot of good points she brings up.
As a starting freelancer, you’ll be tempted to make a lot of sacrifices. And if anything, you’ll think that is the right way. This is including taking up free jobs, doing projects for a niche that you don’t really like, dealing with nasty clients, etc. The list can go on forever, because there are a lot of people out there that thinks design and art is cheap.
Don’t let them fool you, don’t let them convince you otherwise. There are also a lot of people that believes that art has value, design has value. You just need to be patient and spend the energy to finding them instead of catering to the wrong crowd.
Secondly, Rachel is actually one of the biggest reason to why I started freelancing as well. She is right, don’t be hesitant to reach out to your fellow illustrators. We are here to help and we understand how hard it can be!