Hey Badasses!

Many of you requested that I put my lecture notes from Monday’s talk online, so here they are (just click the “Read More” link below this paragraph — it’s a mother of a post and I didn’t want to clog up everyone’s dashboards).

I mention Jonathan Lethem’s wonderful essay on creative appropriation — The Ecstasy of Influence — down in the “Suggested Reading” section, but reading through this outline really makes me want to reiterate just how many of these ideas I have lifted or regurgitated from other creators. I’ve given credit wherever I know how to, but know that this stuff gets said a great deal because deep down we all know it.

The information is simple. It’s doing The Work that’s hard.

I challenge you all to make something tomorrow. Something small. Start as small as you can. But make something.

Good luck.

We who are likewise about to make things salute you.

Freelance Badassery: Class Notes

1. What are you doing?

  • - What are the things you lose track of time doing? What consumes you? (Note: FACEBOOK/TUMBLR/ETC DO NOT COUNT.)
  • - Where do your interests and passions overlap?
  • - What inspires you?
  • - Do you have a dream job? What does it look like?

2. Why are you doing it?

  • - For love? (Yes.)
  • - For money? (No.)

2a. Clarifying Note: You ARE getting paid, but you’re not in this game because you want to get rich quick. You’re in it because it fuels you. It loves you, and you love it back.

3. How do you do it?

  • - Creativity is A HABIT. It is HARD WORK. Set yourself up for success.
  1. Commit to small goals every single day.
  2. Make a box sheet (Thanks, Natalie Nourigat!). Be honest, work hard, be forgiving.
  3. Consistency is your friend.
  4. Be sure to schedule breaks and rewards! Working yourself to death is never the answer.
  • - Don’t Wait Until You’re “Ready.”
  1. You’ll never be ready.
  2. Do it now. Do the best with what you have.
  3. Know when “seeking inspiration” turns into “procrastination”. Don’t invest too heavily in people who give advice (i.e. Me, The Person Giving This Presentation/writing this post/saying this thing on the Internet).
  • - Be an omnivore.
  1. Consume everything (not just work in your field of interest).
  2. Steal like an artist (Austin Kleon).
  • - Practice Productive Percolation.
  1. Let ideas gestate for a while. Let your mind wander. Allow connections to form.
  2. Don’t rush.
  3. Take technology fasts. Turn off every device.
  4. MOVE YOUR GODDAMN BODY. Take a walk, go to yoga, do jumping jacks.

4. How do you get hired to do it?

  • - Be visible!
  1. Build a web presence. This means Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, etc.
  2. When people Google your name, what comes up?
  3. Make good work & share it with people (The Secret according to Austin Kleon).
  4. It never hurts to network. Meet people who do what you want to do.
  5. The world is small. Be nice to everyone. (Especially on the Internet.)
  • - Be dependable!
  1. Know your habits.
  2. Estimate timelines REALISTICALLY, not optimistically. How long do you think it will take? Triple that number.
  3. Be accommodating. Don’t be a diva. Play well with others.
  • - Get serious.
  1.  Never call yourself an “aspiring” ANYTHING. You are a writer/director/cartoonist/musician & that’s IT.
  2. Have business cards. They don’t have to be fancy. Make sure your passion is on there. Make it real for yourself. If you think it’s a lie, sell the lie. You’ll believe it, they’ll believe it, and before you know it things are happening.

5. How do you get paid to do it?

  • - Know that your passion is worth money. Never let anyone tell you otherwise.
  • - Don’t work “for exposure”. PEOPLE DIE FROM EXPOSURE. (Thanks, Dylan Meconis.)
  • - Get used to talking about money directly and calmly.
  • - Get used to talking about money BEFORE you do the work. Know the facts up front.
  • - Communicate with your client. Alert them if things are taking longer than planned.
  • - GET IT IN WRITING. (Questions about contracts? Talk to Katie Lane. Looking for awesome contract templates? Check out Docracy.)

6. How much do you get paid to do it?

  • - There is no right answer to this question, but it’s almost always more than you think.
  • - Start small if you must, but raise your rates as you gain experience.
  • - Hourly rates do not reward efficiency. Instead, use them to estimate an overall price.
  • - Talk to other professionals in your industry! Ask for advice — politely.

7. What about all that nitty gritty grown-up financial stuff?

  • - Find an invoice template. Use it.
  • - Track your receipts.
  • - Open a business account.
  • - Get pumped about deducting expenses.
  • - Find a tax person. Learn from them.
  • - Buy a tiny notebook. Write down EVERYTHING you spend for a week, then a month, then six months. Figure out your “monthly nut”. Know how much you need to earn to support yourself.
  • - Set up a forced savings transfer every month. Try to have an emergency stash that can support you for three months.
  • - Get educated! Knowledge is power — especially when it comes to money.

7. How do you get better at it?

  • - Do it. Do it all the time. Whatever it takes, do it.
  • - Ask for advice and feedback from people you respect.
  • - Learn how to take criticism with humility.
  • - “But that sounds like it’ll take a long time!” “Yup. Sure will.”
  • - Challenge yourself.
  • - Compassion, work ethic, joy.
  • - The Work may seem to cause fear, anxiety, and doubt. This is an illusion.
  • - Doing The Work can get you through all these things and more.
  • - Ever tried, ever failed? No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better. — Samuel Beckett
  • - Trust the process.
  • - Honor your passion.
  • - GET TO IT.


Totally Awesome Stuff You Guys Mentioned During the Workshop:

  • - What you’re doing is a CRAFT. It takes SKILL. Don’t sell yourself short.
  • - Hang around people with definite goals. Hang around people who push you to do better. To be more. Phase out people who are going nowhere. Be ruthless.
  • - Don’t forget the carrot! Rewarding yourself is just as important (perhaps even more-so) than pushing yourself. Don’t skimp. Don’t distract yourself. Be serious about your rewards.
  • - When taking a break, write down your next step before you get up and walk away. It gives you somewhere to start from when you return.
  • - Make tiny to-do lists. Prioritize. Feel accomplished. Rinse. Repeat.
  • - Practice saying “Hi, my name is So-and-So and I am a Whatever-It-Is-You-Want-To-Do” in front of a mirror until it doesn’t mean anything anymore. Say it in public. Meet new people specifically so you can say these words to them. Convince others, convince yourself. It’s MAGIC!

Links that Inspire Me:

Write Like a Motherfucker - Dear Sugar

Part Wild - Advice and Exercises for Writers - Deb Norton

The Ecstasy of Influence - Jonathan Lethem

F*ck You, Pay Me - Mike Monteiro

Brain Pickings - A weekly digest of interestingness.
Specifically this list.

The Dark Art of Pricing - Jessica Hische

1000 True Fans - Kevin Kelly

The Secret of Making Things Happen - Joe Peacock

Resources for Freelancers - Katie Lane, contract negotiation & creative rights consultant. Katie’s entire blog is gold — and she’s started doing video segments this year! Go learn from her vast experience.

Getting Things Done - Merlin Mann

On Passion - Ken Robinson

Super Obvious Secrets That I Wish They’d Teach in Art School - Phil McAndrew

You Are Doing Fine - David Malki!

Artistic Veggies - That blog I mentioned where I post a weekly Drawing Challenge. Come join me!

My favorite books of the moment on creativity/productivity/freelancing/STUFF:

The Creative Habit - Twyla Tharp
Steal Like an Artist - Austin Kleon
Art & Fear - David Bayles and Ted Orland
Bird by Bird - Anne Lamott
The Writing Life - Annie Dillard
Willpower - Roy F. Baumeister
Outliers - Malcolm Gladwell
What It Is - Lynda Barry

Martha Graham to Agnes de Mille (one of my favorite quotes of all time):

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. … No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others”

Joe Prado’s Commandments for Artists (via George Schall):
(Note: replace “drawing” with your verb of choice. The sentiment is the same.)

1) Always keep drawing.

2) Draw for fun.

3) Draw for obligation.

4) Practice without stop.

5) Respect opinions.

6) Listen to opinions.

7) Listen to opinions of those who know more than you.

8) Accept your limitations.

9) Study to overcome them.

10) Study anatomy.

11) Study perspective.

12) Study lighting.


14) Be humble.

15) Be disciplined.

16) Look – in reality – for the elements of your “fiction”.

17) Be open-minded.

18) Pay attention to the moment we’re living — its tendencies and trends.

19) Keep drawing, and never give up.

20) Nothing is impossible.


And that is it, my friends! If you read this far, I applaud you. NOW GO FORTH AND MAKE AMAZING THINGS!

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