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So I’m back to being a starving cartoonist…

By swenson | December 28, 2009

About 2 and half years ago, I bought a townhome with a mortage and then had one of my largest clients for cartoons cancel on me. I had had enough. There had to be a better way to make a living than drawing cartoons and animation because I never seemed to get paid what the work was worth. It turns out that life outside of cartooning is no better.

Okay to be fair there are winners and losers in every game, but I gave it a shot. I tried working my way up in a mortgage branch, starting in compliance then moving to office manager and then training to be a loan officer, and for awhile I thought I was actually headed “up” for once as far as income even though the work scared me shitless (sales is never fun). Piff! Housing crisis crushed that avenue. Lost my job after the company investor pulled out.

Then I figured, well, with all of the article writing on the web I could maybe find a way to write for money–at least part time. So I did get a crappy call center job and started to write for pay per post blogs like Associated Content, Today.com and Examiner.com (where I tried posting cartoons as well).

Associated Content is the only site I believe treats its writers decently. Today.com kept changing the rules and after I left they removed the header graphic and placed in a bunch of ads. They also treat their writers like kids in a grade school with “special rewards” instead of monetary compensation (which is what they originally offered). Examiner.com buried me after a little while by constantly dividing every writer up into sections and new categories and then even duplicated my title for “Horror Movie Examiner” by giving it to another writer. So to hell with that.

In theory, Examiner.com is a great place to write–but they have so many writers now you only get a small piece of the action. It’s like thinking you’ll get paid well at a newspaper when there are 100 other people writing for the editorial page and maybe you’ll get seen and maybe you won’t. A paper has to believe in a writer and then promote them which is why they put money on the line first. Examiner.com just makes sure you can write and then it’s all about boosting content, not the name value of their writers. If you already have name value you might be able to exploit their system since their pay per view rates were quite good.

Then I took an internship with CDInsight.com where it was pitched that they hire off of internships. That doesn’t seem to be the case, because I now believe they sucker interns in to get free article writing. I will say, to be fair, the editor did give me some feedback and tips to improve my writing, but there was no further opportunity and I never received a thank you from the owner of the site for participating or a recommendation/referral for my writing resume/portfolio even though I was told I did a good job (unless they were lying to  me).

All of the CDInsight.com interns helped boost the site content up and push for images and videos to be added–the site was in the dark ages and still is to some extent (and I thought my old school HTML was bad!). The parent site is TheCelebrityCafe.com which has since relaunched with a more professional layout. Three months of free work and I was at another dead end.

Then I tried partnering up with a colleague from my old job at the mortgage company which looked promising. I would take care of the marketing while he sold the loans. Unfortunately, I think he bit off more than he could chew. He just got married and his wife gave birth to a son.  I never heard back from him after doing a database setup and then had to call the whole thing off.

So I’m back to cartooning because I’m sick of chasing money. Originally I burned out on doing it fulltime because I was always stressing out about getting payments, having a check bounce, or having a project take forever because there were so many changes needed. This time around I plan to keep a parttime job of some sort to alleviate the stress and then aim for projects I want to do and manage them better. My problems in the past resulted from not setting proper expectations with clients and I believe I’ve learned quite a bit from my mistakes.

And really my goal this year is to get several book collections done. I have 3 done now and I’m working on a fourth one. Then I’m drawing new material for several collections with exclusive material. I’ll be showing previews of the work on the homepage.

For this New Year I realize what I want and that is to return to my creative efforts. I am a cartoonist, whether it makes financial sense or not. When I worked in the mortgage biz I saw the brutality of the business–people who wore nice suits and ties and then came to me to vouch for them to get a loan from the Advanced Checking store because they couldn’t make their car payment. I mean I saw grown men cry because they had to go home and tell their wives they got laid off for not meeting their sales quota. On the flipside I saw guys earning 7000 a month. Winners and losers, but even those making it in the game didn’t seem very happy about the work and wanted to switch careers. 

Sales is an ugly profession, but even I as a cartoonist have to sell my work. You put yourself on the line and wait for somebody to either say “Yes!” or crush you with a rejection. I don’t judge salespeople too harshly for sometimes being annoying–it’s either that or they can be under someone’s thumb in a regular desk job (which is where I’m at now). There isn’t much escape from the grind unless you’re a Hilton.

True freedom really is if you can be paid for your own artwork, a rare gift indeed.

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