Freelancing: What’s in an Invoice?

Invoices are the lifeblood of a freelancer: they’re how you get paid! So what needs to go into one?

What you’ll want to make is a template, that you can re-use as you (hopefully) do more work for the same client, or that you can repurpose for use with a new client. Your invoice should include:

Your name and contact information
Invoices usually go through HR, not your contact (or not only your contact), so you’ll need to make sure you have your name, phone number, and email address. I think these days physical addresses are optional, unless you are getting your checks mailed to you! Make sure you update this if any one of these items changes.

Invoice number
You’ll need to have invoice numbers on your invoices for each client you work for. It’s on you to keep track of these, and to keep the invoice numbers for each client separate. Some employers will have a format they prefer, but if not, I suggest coming up with two letter company codes to go before each of your invoice numbers.

For example, if you were working for Pepsi and Coke, you could keep track as follows:

PE001
CO001
PE002
PE003
CO002

Of course, you’ll be keeping a list of your invoices (see below), so they’ll be separate—I’m just demonstrating here for the example.

Invoice submission date
It’s critical for both you and your client to know when you submitted your invoice, so please include the date under the invoice number. And be honest with your dates!

The personal name to whom the invoice should be addressed, the client’s company name, and the company address
You always want to make sure this information is on your invoice, in case it gets misplaced or misdirected within your client’s organization!

A table for filling in the actual work you did
Using a table will make filling in future invoices much easier. The table should include the following columns:

  • Quantity
  • Project serial number (optional)
    • This is meant for jobs where any assignments you get come with a project number (for example, when I was a freelance proofreader, this would have been for ISBNs).
  • Title of project
  • Hours spent/pay rate quantity
    • The title of this column will vary, but it is meant to indicate the quantity by which your pay is being calculated. For some people, that will be hours spent; others, the pages/images/illustrations completed, etc. Label this in a way that makes sense for you.
  • Pay rate (your total pay per that line item)
  • The final line should have a “total” column, for the total due per the invoice.
  • A notes area
    The value of a notes area will become clear as you start freelancing—this is where you can create stipulations for your work and for payment of the invoice. This is where you’ll want to create and include rules for all the things you do/don’t want to happen in your client relationship. For example, if the client says they pay in 30 days, include a “Net 30” here to make sure your payment should be processed on time.
  • Signature lines for you and your client (optional)
    In our digital age, few invoices are actually truly signed anymore. However, by adding a signature line, you’ll give the expectation that the invoice should be signed, and honestly, it just looks more professional.
  • PROTIP: KEEP A RECORD OF INVOICES YOU’VE SUBMITTED
    After you submit an invoice, make sure you keep a record of the invoice number, amount due, date submitted, and date of expected payment. Keep this document private and secure, but refer back to it at least once a month (I’d advise every two weeks) so you can make sure your invoices are being processed and paid.


    When you start working with a new client, make sure you read over their invoicing policies thoroughly, and ask any and all questions you need to in order to make sure you know how it works, and that you and your client are on the same page about how, and when, you’ll get paid. Happy invoicing!

    Freelancing: How to Find Clients/Work

    This is a big topic, and honestly, there isn’t a one-size fits all solution. Here are some tips I’ve found that have worked for me, or that I’ve heard working for others, but please let me know if I’ve missed something crucial!

    Networking

    As with most everything I’ve talked about so far, networking is the most reliable way to get new work as a freelancer; but again, I don’t mean just throwing cards to whoever walks by. It’s crucial to develop strong networks of people who are in your industry, people who use your services, and experts and mentors in your field and adjacent fields, as it’s these networks that may lead to opportunities being sent your way. However, please don’t build your network with the sole intention to get work—build your network to learn from others, to teach what you know, and to find compatriots with whom to share successes and to compare rates, employers, and general industry trends. Your network is your professional base, and can take the place of coworkers as a freelancer. Value these people as your friends and VIPs, as in freelance more than anywhere else they will influence the future opportunities you receive. After all, freelancers generally pass work along to those who they trust to handle overflow from their own clients, and stake their name on sending you as a recommendation. Good standing in freelance networks is everything.

    Industry events

    These are crucial for building your network. As always, I recommend volunteering—this gives you the opportunity to organically meet new people (including crucial people!) in your industry, for them to see you at work (even though your volunteer work may not be your day-to-day job), and for them to associate you with responsibility. Of course, “volunteering as exposure” is a dangerous road. Only volunteer for organizations or conferences which have a demonstrated record of good work and whose mission you support. A great volunteer strategy I heard about the other day is to still invoice for any work you do (this is intended for, say, graphic design work—not for volunteering at a conference in exchange for an attendee badge) and to “discount” your official rate so the invoice zeroes out. Not only does this let others know your real working rates and are aware of what they’re getting for free, but it gives you firmer ground to stand upon when you are being asked too much, or when you want to start charging for the same work.  And as a freelancer, one of the first things you should develop is an invoice template. We’ll go into this next time.

    Previous Jobs

    Many companies rely on freelancers to deal with work overflow, and who better to ask than someone who already knows how to do the work? When leaving a job (if you want to continue working with the company (and aren’t being terminated)), let your manager know you’d still be interested in doing some freelance work. You can always reach out to companies you worked for years before, as long as you left on good terms. Keep in mind that the longer ago the job was for you, the more likely procedures and processes have changed, but some companies may be willing to bring you in and bring you up to speed with some (paid!) training. After all, it will be cheaper for them to train someone who knows most everything than to find and train an unknown quantity.

    Industry-oriented sites

    I suggest these with a huge grain of salt: Many internet forums and databases for freelancers can be rife with predatory clients, and with fellow freelancers based worldwide who may be able to work for cheaper than you can compete with. That being said, good clients can still be found on these sites. Do some Googling and ask around your network to find the appropriate sites for your industry, and to ask how they work—best practices for applying for jobs, posting, etc. And if you do find a good client through one of these sites, make sure to follow up with them after the job is done to ask if they’ll keep you on their roster and keep you in mind for future work. If they offer feedback, take it—people rarely take the effort to give feedback if they don’t think you’re able to improve.

    Social media

    This one is risky, so again, take the big grain of salt. By posting your portfolio and rates on social media, and by posting your expertise and engaging with others when possible, you can broaden your reach and find clients through Twitter, Instagram, and especially (for some industries) LinkedIn. Building your organic network is still your priority on these sites, but you may find work coming your way through them, too.


    No matter which method you use, remember that vetting your clients is a crucial step. Make sure they know your rates beforehand, and that you establish a pay schedule that works for both parties.

    Freelancing: Starting Down the Freelance Path

    I promised I’d talk about freelancing, too, and here we are. These posts will be interspersed throughout upcoming topics, because freelancers may need to handle certain concepts differently from those employed at an established company.

    I’ll start with a disclaimer: I freelanced for about five years for three different consistent clients (and little projects for others here and there), but freelancing has never been my sole income or activity. I freelanced through language school and graduate school, which was the perfect part-time job for me. Thus, my advice is not intended to be the end-all resource for building a freelance career. I hope to provide some advice and resources for you to think about if you’re interested in becoming a freelancer, but please read across people’s experiences and advice for a better view. Freelancing is a very individual experience, and with it more than anything, your mileage will vary for any advice you receive. However, I also work with freelancers on a daily basis, so I hope I can provide some insight from the client side as well!

    Whew! That’s out of the way. Still interested in pursuing freelance work? Before you get your business cards made and website open for business, consider the following:

    Freelancing is a slow-build business
    Freelancing requires clients, and clients take time to develop. You may leave a job which will want to keep you on as a freelancer (hey, great!), but often that won’t be enough to pay the bills, and basing your entire paycheck on a single client that doesn’t have regulated supports for you (as they might a full-time employee) is risky—what happens if they go out of business? The real rub is that developing clients is always easier after you’ve already been hired a few times, which makes those first few jobs and clients absolutely excruciating to find.

    That being said, be strategic and proactive about your networking and about building clients. You’d be surprised how long it some prospective clients will be radio silent before reaching out to you for work, so just keep networking and checking in (more on this later…there’s more than one right way to check in, but at least one absolutely wrong one), and go out and hustle some more. For now, just keep in mind that it could take a while until you’re totally self-sufficient as a freelancer.

    Few freelancers are financially stable all the time
    This, of course, ties right back into my first point. Clients can disappear, be put on budgets, or projects can end, leaving you with a vacuum. And even though your June could be totally empty, everyone will want to hire you in July. Freelancers often find themselves in feast or famine conditions, and so you’ll need to adjust your finances and cash flow expectations as you learn the ropes. You’ll also need to plan to buy your own benefits and withhold your own taxes, for which I recommend you save half of each paycheck to pay (and you may need to pay your taxes as estimated taxes to avoid being fined, so be sure to look that up, too!). Keep rigorous track of your income and expenses, especially expenses you can write off at tax time. Only by keeping track will you be able to come up with a structure for becoming a financially-stable freelancer.

    Your publicity skills will set you apart
    I wish being hired as a freelancer was based strictly on skill and merit, but it, like many other things in this wide world, is not. Though sometimes your clients will recommend you to others based on your skill, or take you with them if your contact person switches jobs (which is awesome), there are very few instances (save for the arts, perhaps) where you’ll be pursued and hired based on the quality of your work. More often, your clients come from your hustle. Find networking and industry events in your area, and concentrate on making personal connections. Bring business cards, but don’t just hand them out to anyone—have real conversations with potential clients about what their needs might be. Have an elevator pitch for yourself and your business. Mention previous clients, if you have any, and if the appropriate moment comes up in the conversation. Keep your LinkedIn and any other online portfolios up to date.

    Online spaces are included in this, too. Expertise-sharing gives you credibility. Start a blog or contribute a guest-blog. Become an active member of industry forums. Connect (politely) with others on Twitter. And listen! See what others are talking about—your industry may be moving toward or settling on a certain program or best practice, and by becoming the expert in it, you may be able to score more work. No matter what, your skills selling yourself are going to be more initially critical than your active work.

    “Setting your own hours” is rarely as glamorous as it sounds
    Freelancers are infamous for working a lot, and that’s often the draw of freelancers—hiring someone who can work outside of a 9-5 workday, or someone who can turn something around overnight or over the weekend. As a freelancer, you may be hired with the expectation that you are always available, and even though you may initially be okay with a totally open schedule, trying to work crazy hours over a long period is how many fledgling (and, who am I kidding, even expert) freelancers find themselves in burnout, unable to work at all. Establish your preferred and possible working hours early on, and keep an eye on them as you develop clients.


    Freelancing can be fantastic, with its flexible hours and “be-your-own-boss” mentality, but it comes with many drawbacks and potential pitfalls. Just make sure you’re prepared to do a job where most of the effort will come from you.

    The Job Search: What Kind of Employment are you Looking For?

    You’ve sorted out your resume and your online presence, and you’re ready to apply like crazy. Great! The next step is to figure out what kind of employment you’d like! The following breakdowns give only a very wide overview, but they’re things to think about when you’re deciding what type of employment is right for you.

    Full-time

    Full-time employment has long been touted as the end-all goal, but while it’s great for some, it can be too confining for others.

    Pros:

    • Usually offers benefits like health insurance and paid time off
    • Usually salaried
    • Often offers consistent schedules (often 9-5, M-F)
    • Often comes with clear career advancement
    • Projects and work can be longer term

    Cons:

    • NDAs and Non-Competes can complicate personal projects and side work
    • Full-time hours may not leave enough time for creative projects and other work
    • Full-time hours may not offer enough flexibility for caretakers

    Contract and Contract-to-Hire

    Contract work is exactly what it sounds like—work where you’re hired for a set amount of time (often from 3-12 months). Some companies also offer contract-to-hire, where they may bring people on full-time at the end of their contract if the team is given the resources to do so.

    Pros:

    • Can give you a taste for the company and the work before committing to a full-time position (at the same company or a similar one)
    • Can offer similar benefits to a full-time position
    • Is a guaranteed amount of work for a set period of time, allowing you to count on the money and plan around the work

    Cons:

    • May leave you looking for a new position if you are not hired after the contract ends
    • May not offer the critical benefits you need
    • You may not get to participate in the kinds of projects you’re interested in
    • Your time is still promised for a certain period, which may not offer the flexibility or time off you need

    Part-time

    Part-time work can be great because it offers the stability of a position with more flexibility than most full-time jobs, but some can offer both too much flexibility and too little at the same time.

    Pros:

    • Offers hours at a standard rate (with the exception of jobs which rely on tips)
    • Offers coworkers and socialization
    • Offers some flexibility in hours, depending on the position
    • Usually have opportunities for advancement

    Cons:

    • Schedules can change week to week, and it can be hard to ask for the time off you need
    • Many do not offer benefits
    • May not offer the hours you need

    Freelance

    Last but not least, freelance! Freelancing can be great if you’re self-driven and want to be your own boss, but it also means a lot of hustle to find work and clients, especially when starting out.

    Pros:

    • Can set your own hours and rates
    • Can do the work you’re interested in
    • Gives you the flexibility to pivot
    • Depending on the work, can be easy to work remote

    Cons:

    • Work is not guaranteed, so there’s a need to constantly hustle for new work and new clients
    • No benefits except ones you purchase privately
    • No tax withholding (we’ll get into this later, but always save 50% of what you earn!)
    • No built-in coworkers
    • No concrete path for advancement

    Again, this is a starter list—we’ll get deeper into some of these things (especially freelance!) as we go forward, but for now, look over these points (and let me know if I’ve missed something critical!) and decide which kind(s) of employment is right for you!

    The Job Search: Your Portfolio

    Okay, creatives — this time, I’m looking at you. And I’m not just talking about visual artists, videographers, musicians…no. Anyone who has a body of work that they’ve done creatively, from white papers, lectures, online courses, or infographics, should have a place where their work is featured online.

    I’m talking, of course, about the portfolio.

    There are plenty of ways to format your portfolio, but the baseline is this:

    Feature your best creative work in one, easy-to-use, easy-to search hub.

    The idea is to make it easy for potential employers to find your work and hire you based on what you have featured. It should go to a permanent link that you can include on your resume, digital job applications, Twitter and LinkedIn profiles, and in the signature of your emails. The fewer clicks someone has to go through to find it, the better.

    Profile the work that exemplifies the work you want to be doing.

    If you want to be doing sequential work, feature sequential pages you’ve done in the past, in order of how much you like them. If you’re a musician, do the same with your demos. You can always rank your work depending on what you think others will like, but committing to your preference early will help you to get the work you enjoy and work you’re proud of, not just work-for-hire in a style that isn’t yours. By being intentional about the work you want to be doing, you can more easily find the clients who will be interested in that work, too.

    At a bare minimum, your portfolio needs to include the following:

    • Your contact information (and how you prefer to be contacted)
      • Even better: Also include a timeframe in which you will respond to inquiries. This can save you a ton of headaches and emails, and gives you some breathing space when responding to potential jobs.
    • Your brand
      • Use the same avatar/icon you use on other social media, and choose a color scheme that looks good and represents you! This will reassure clients and potential employers that it is, in fact, your site, and they’ve found the portfolio they’re looking for.
    • Your work
      • Duh, right? Make sure it’s:
        • Easy to access
          • This is the most important part of your portfolio, so don’t hide it away! Make sure it’s easy to find and loads quickly.
        • Easy to scroll through
          • You don’t want to make someone click in and out of separate images. Make sure everything follows logically, and is formatted so someone can quickly go from one piece to the next.
        • Working as intended
          • No broken links!! Nothing will send a client away quicker than a site that doesn’t work.
          • Make sure your site isn’t internet-dependent, if you plan on walking around conventions or conferences and need to show it off!
    • Appearances
      • At conventions, conferences, etc — if you’re interested in networking, let people know where you’re going to be!
      • Past appearances: Do you have a talk that’s been recorded? Try and see if you can include a link to it.

    Other things, like rates, can be included, though you can always opt to hide those or make them negotiable if you would rather not have a flat rate.

    And, the biggest tip: Include only your best work. Employers and clients usually have limited time to make a decision, and won’t be scrolling through more than a few of your pieces before they decide whether or not they go further. Make a note on your calendar every 3 months to update your portfolio, and commit to keeping it up-to-date. Not only will the newer work hopefully be a better reflection of your current skill, but it also shows you’ve been continuously working, and are invested in your creative work. Just be careful not to include anything that may break a contract.

    For visual artists, a mobile- and tablet-friendly solution is key. Though there are many sites and apps that are good ways to show your portfolio, comic artist, Hiveworks editor, and most importantly, my friend Sarah Stern suggests Minimal Folio for iOS ($3). It lets you display swipeable images — great for when you’re on the go and want an easy-to-use, sharp solution.

    Your portfolio is going to be possibly your best resource for getting new work, so put the time into it that you put into yourself when interviewing and networking. And don’t be afraid to ask friends/industry peers for advice (if it’s someone you know well, or if someone offers), but keep to your own code, too. Not all advice will necessarily work for you!

    Thank you to Sarah Stern for being a resource for me on this post!

    Finding Your Dream: Guest Post by Morgan Beem, Comic Creator

    Full disclosure: Morgan is a good friend and someone I’ve known for years, which is why I asked if she’d contribute on the Finding Your Dream series. Ever since I met her on the second day(!!) of high school, she’s wanted to be a comic artist and creator, and through better and worse she’s made it happen. I’ll let her talk about her experience in her own words!

    All bolding is added by me.

    Find and follow Morgan here:
    Website
    Tumblr
    Twitter
    Instagram


    Hello Team,

    My name is Morgan and I am an American comic book artist. I’m here to share with you what the path to my dream job has looked like up until now, and what all I did for, before, and around to get where I am.

    I am one of those people who has always known what I wanted to do for a living. I won’t drone on about this, but since I was young, I was obsessed with comics. Reading them, making them, entering contests (who remember’s Tokyo Pop’s Rising Stars of Manga??)—I was pretty focused.

    You would think being the type of person who has always had a clear idea of their dream job would also mean my path there was pretty clear, but I did my share of other things before ending up where I am now. At eighteen, I was very naive and not too confident in my ability to make big and decisive life choices. I (and my parents) saw art school as too much of a closed/niche opportunity. What if I changed my mind? What if it limited my opportunities too greatly? So I ended up going to a liberal-arts college instead.

    Now, full disclosure, I grew up with a lot of privileges, and attending college was something that was always expected of me. To be honest, part of the problem was at eighteen, I didn’t really understand deep down that one goes to college in order to get a job (whoops). We have been put on the school conveyor belt for so long—finish one level, move onto the next, that I didn’t really question much about moving onto this next level. I thought more about the things I was interested in learning, and less how those things could be a building block to a future career (if you are starting to look at colleges for the first time now, don’t be like me, kids). That being said, I did love my time at undergrad. The education I received (and people I met) helped me grow up a lot, and shaped me into the adult I am today.

    Another thing that I was doing throughout high school and college that helped shape who I am was working various day jobs. The list of jobs I have had over my life ranges anywhere from cleaning houses to selling booze and hotdogs out of a golf cart. I am mentioning this now because, at the time, these job were just to earn a paycheck, and I considered them having no bearing on what I actually wanted to do. Much like my college degree (I was an Cultural Anthropology major with a focus in Asia), I thought none of these things had anything to do with being a comic artist, but that turned out not to be true. You need a lot of life experiences to be a good storyteller, and all these things have come to together to give me a unique angle that others don’t have. I am telling you this because if you feel like you have chosen poorly up until this point, or wasted time and are “starting late,” don’t. I promise in one way or another the things you have done up until now have nourished the parts of you that will succeed in what you want to do in the future.

    I graduated college still pretty naive, and simply started working full time at the part-time job I was working while in my last year of college, as a commissioned-based, high-end watch saleswoman. This job, in hindsight, was a blessing in disguise. It was by far the WORST job I have ever had. It was truly miserable—a toxic work environment; angry, angry high-powered customers; and a poorly-managed…well, everything. This job was so stressful that I would literally cry every morning while talking myself into going to work, and sometimes (a lot of the time) the stress of going made me physically ill. The blessing part of this (other than just being lucky enough to have a job in San Francisco during the recession, no matter how bad), is I KNEW I had to do something else—and soon.

    I knew that deep down in my heart, I still wanted to make comics as a profession, and that there was really nothing else I could picture myself doing everyday that would make me happy. I also knew that I had no idea how to even start making this dream a reality. And so it was around this time I began to look into comic (or sequential art, as it were) graduate programs. This search introduced me to the Sequential Art Department at The Savannah College of Art and Design

    Attending grad school was not an easy choice. SCAD is not a cheap school by any means, and I was terrified by how much debt going there would incur—debt I would probably never pay off—and how much of a gamble it was to make it in comics even with proper training. But I knew that if I didn’t do this, I would never work in comics (now I want to add here this is something I knew about myself, lots of people make it in comics without school), and I knew if I never tried, that “what if” would haunt me.

    I can say now, some five years out of grad school, that attending SCAD was the best thing I ever did. It was also the hardest (and most expensive) thing I ever did. The program at this school pushed us incredibly hard, which in turn prepared us for an equally demanding industry. I was very lucky that my peer-class at SCAD was also exceptional. Everyone in my group wanted to work hard, and push themselves to make the best books they could, and they are still some of my closest friends to this day.

    The program at SCAD not only taught me the craft of making comics, but it also taught me how to network and get ahead in the business. Working in comics, for better or worse, is ALL about networking, and most of that networking happens at comic conventions. To break into one of the traditional publishing houses (DC, Marvel, Image, etc.) you really have to hit the floor running. Print samples of your work to leave with editors, stay out late buying drinks and getting to know people. It doesn’t have to be forced and aggressive, but you do have to get yourself out there and start meeting people to get ahead in comics. You have to hustle. SCAD has a great event called Editor’s Day, where once a year they invite editors from different publishing houses to sit down and give portfolio reviews. This was a really golden opportunity to get ahead in networking, and one that has given me lasting relationships with people in my industry to this day.

    People often, especially in creative careers, seem to have an expectation of starting in their field right after they graduate. If you have graduated and are still working a retail or whatever kind of job, DON’T WORRY—that is the norm. I was told on average it takes about five years of consistently working professionally towards your goal to break in. I would say five years is about true to my experience, and I’ve had some luckier breaks than most.

    After grad school I started out taking any small freelance gig I could: pitches, anthologies, commissions, etc. I worked for cheap, but never for free, unless working for free greatly advanced me in some other way. I also worked part time at an art supply store in Denver. Again, this day job turned out to be greatly beneficial to my growth as an artist and storyteller, due mainly to my co-workers—other very talented artists working to break into their own fields. Being artists, but not in comics, they were able to teach me about and expose me to a vast number of things I had missed artistically by being so focused in my field, and I am much better today, for it.

    If the job you want to do is a freelance or creative job, having to work a day job does not mean you have failed, and doesn’t mean that you are not still a person working in the creative field. For the majority of us, it is just one step in the process, do not let it discourage you. But do not get trapped either. You must keep going—you must keep creating. This is where is can be really hard; I know it was for me. You come home from your day job, you are tired and fussy and just want to read something or sleep, or see some friends over a drink, but you have to prioritize your real career. It’s hard, my social life definitely suffered, but I made sure that my nights were dedicated to life-stuff (paying bills, laundry, etc) so that on my days off I could sit in a cafe from 8 am-8 pm and work all day on making comics (I would work at a cafe because there it was just me and my work, and it helped me not get distracted). I am finding more and more that the people who eventually make it in are the ones who just didn’t give up. Who went home and continually and consistently make things and put them out there, day after day.

    I love my job, and I feel very lucky to be able to do the work I do, but it can be very tough. It is a lot of long hours and not a huge amount of pay. And being freelance, sometimes the work dries up all together, and you have to go back to a whatever-kind of day job. But to me, I have loved the process, and the times when it is good are so good, they make all the hard times worth it.


    Hey, Lauren again.

    First — thank you, Morgan!!!! I appreciate you sharing your wealth of experience, and I hope my readers do, too!

    I wanted to quickly expand on a few things Morgan wrote:

    School:

    Morgan realized two things about school: that for her, college may not have been necessary, and that art school absolutely was. I think many people get pulled along on a life track that’s expected of them, without taking the time to think about the practical returns of the choices they’re being told to make. Of course, as a teenager it might be hard to be so self-aware, especially enough to argue against a set path that’s been laid out for you by people you trust, who have more power, wealth, and life experience than you. Honestly, this is a dynamic that will be true all your life, so it’s important early on to start making informed, conscious decisions about how you spend your time and money, especially in pursuit of professional qualifications. Research on how schools, certificate programs, internships, and work-study programs benefit their graduates, as well as deep introspection on how school and other programs work for you personally, will help you get the most out of any one you decide to attend (and will help you avoid things not worth your time, no matter how well they work for others!).

    Non-Career Related Work and Other Experiences:

    Morgan has worked a ton of jobs. Morgan’s made jobs work for her needs in the moment. She’s part-timed a lot of places. She’s worked terrible jobs much longer than any reasonable person might. But the important thing is that she took something from these experiences. She learned lessons from them, and applied those lessons to her next job, and to her real career.

    I can’t tell you how much I love that she used the phrase “real career.” We live in a world here in 2018 in the U.S. where “side-hustle” has become a common term, where the expectation is that there may be jobs you need in order to pay rent, but they also might be to support your passion project or personal calling, on which you devote your intentional time and energy. Your real career is what I’m trying to help you zero in on with this blog, and what I want you to keep in mind as you go through your life. Every experience, as Morgan demonstrates, can get you closer to that real career, and hopefully get that real career to pay your rent, too.

    Networking and Peer-Group Friends:

    Here is an area in which Morgan has truly excelled. I’ll get more into it in future blog posts, but the importance of networking cannot be understated. Morgan started networking with her peers in grad school, which is an especially valuable group, as they’ll be alongside her at similar levels as they all continue to improve and advance within the comics industry. They can support each other creatively and provide congratulations and consolation; but they also refer each other to jobs and potential employers, champion each other’s works, and help each other grow when the professors and mentors are no longer around. These peers help broaden her network as they broaden their own, and she returns the favor by introducing them to her own connections.

    Not only did Morgan network with her comics friends, though — she also made friends and connections in different parts of the fine arts world through her job at the art store. These connections are also awesome: They’re people with whom she’ll never be in direct competition, and have exposed her to art forms that are not inherently a part of what she does, but are adjacent and related. These connections may find out about neat opportunities open to fine artists that comics artists might not know about, and they can be a sounding board when her peers and chosen industry drive her crazy (not a small thing!).

    The point I’m trying to make is that peer groups and networking are important not only through your own industry, but through adjacent pursuits, and even in life as well. You never know when someone’s skills or expertise will be handy, and having more good, reliable people in your life can never hurt (we’ll go into making and keeping the right connections later, too).

    Hard, Dedicated Work in Pursuit of a Goal:

    I hope its clear that Morgan is a hard, hard worker. She made the choice to go back to school, and after, to put in the work on her real career around the time she spends on immediate paying work and the time and emotional labor she puts into her non-work life and relationships.

    But her callout to the time it takes to succeed is critical. I’ll be covering how time relates to success as well in the future, but for now, it’s enough to know and realize that, as much as the American Dream would have us believe overnight success through one’s own efforts is achievable…it’s actually a rare fluke, and true, lasting success takes time and repeated, intentional, peer- and connection-supported effort. If you’re looking for a magic wand, this is not the blog for you (but best of luck!).

    Knowing Yourself:

    Finally, why I asked Morgan to contribute in the first place: Morgan knows who she is. She’s known forever that she’s wanted to be a comic artist, but for her, knowing was the easy part. Getting from having a dream to achieving the dream was convoluted and took many years of trying and failing, but she kept her goal in sight the whole time, and knew enough about herself to make decisions that would get her ever closer to that final goal. She evaluated each step (and got better at evaluating her pivots and next steps!) and figured out whether or not it would work for her and how she operates.

    This is the hardest thing to know, but the most critical. Knowing how you work, what makes you happiest, what you absolutely cannot tolerate — these things will help you get closer to your best career.

    Morgan — thank you so much for your candid contribution! Again, follow Morgan and her amazing work at the following places:
    Website
    Tumblr
    Twitter
    Instagram