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November 26, 2010

Inside Comics: Working Freelance

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Written by: jeffbalke
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I’ll be honest: being a freelance artist of any kind is really awesome!  BUT, there are some “bumps in the road” you need to watch out for.  And unfortunately, they happen everyday.

When you’re looking to get into most any business, you just want to hop in and work with the #1 company.  Well, it’s not that easy.  Mainly you are freelance until someone hires you.  The comic book BUSINESS, it’s the same way.  Luckily in this industry, if you want to create in any way, there are SO MANY venues you can turn to, to find work.  You can work with other Indy companies, independents and so on.  And this is where things can get a little tricky.  Let me explain.

Working for an Indy company or a smaller company than Marvel or DC is great!  Trust me…I know.  It gets a little “thick” when someone comes up to you and says they want to hire you to work on a project but there’s no money involved.  Is this ok?  YES!  Of course no one wants to work for free, but you have to get your foot in the door and get some kind of work published.  That just makes it so much easier for an editor or anyone in the industry to check out your work.  YES, they can just go to your online profile or portfolios and check out your work there, but many people want to see it in published form (some way or another).

When that one person walks up to you and wants to hire you, you’re pretty damn excited!  You’re going to be published, you’ll be a professional and all that jazz.  You’re just all revved up and ready to go.  Well slow down there, kiddo.  There’s SO much more that goes into that person walking up to you.  You are going to have to talk about the most important thing of all which a lot of people (including myself) don’t like to talk about or ask about: MONEY!  How and when am I going to get paid.  More than likely that may be the first question out of your mouth right after someone comes up to you…ha!  And talk about it…seriously.  Don’t say we’ll talk about it later after you have already started the project.  Talk about it BEFORE you start the project.  And make sure you get some kind of agreement (even if you’re doing the work for free).  But let’s say they are going to pay you $20 a page.

It may not be the highest paid job, but it will be paid work.  And that in and of itself is awesome!

Really, before you start the work, make sure both parties (you and the person hiring you) understand how the payment arrangement goes.  Neither of you want to get “dinged” in any way.  At least have some kind of agreement or contract over email (or however you guys work it out).  This just makes it a little harder for the person hiring you to back out of the project after you have already started.

Every once in a while I’ll have someone walk up to me and say they would like me to color for them.  They’re paying gigs, but they want me to do the work first, then they’ll pay me later.  I’m not a big fan of that unless you are a big company or someone who’s very reputable in the industry.  Reason being is because, someone off the street may take their time paying…IF they even pay (regardless of what we’ve agreed on) at all.  I can go into some horror stories (and many people in the industry have them…lol) about not getting paid for work I’ve finished…including a company I was doing some work with years ago who never paid me for two books.  But I was new, I didn’t know what to do.  After a while, you kind of wise up!

All in all, what I’m saying is, just cover yourself.  This is an AWESOME industry to be in, but don’t forget, it’s a “business” too.

Jeff Balke



  1. Billy

    Great stuff man. Yeah, I totally agree about money being the one thing getting in the way of things. As you said though, someone really reputable will know how this works and take care of that right away. Oh, your page for buying artwork is fantastic by the way, some great pics for sale on there. 😀

    • Hey Billy..thanks for the kudos =D

  2. Good points and thanks for the advice!

    • No problem..and thanks for reading =)

  3. Definitely some good pointers for those that are interested in the field.

    • Awesome!!!!!

  4. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by DeWayne Feenstra, Comic Attack. Comic Attack said: Check out the latest installment of INSIDE COMICS written by colorist, Jeff Balke! http://dld.bz/A8U5 @jbalke08! #comics […]

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