The preface of this episode stems from some recent free work I was selected to create. I feel this could yield some value to you if you ever get stuck in the same situation.
Recently, a local pizza joint, Urban Pie, opened up close to me and they put out a call to local creatives through Facebook. They asked for help in designing their massive chalkboard menu as well as their cornerstone quick bake pizza oven. By now you need to know that I’m weirdly passionate about pizza art so I figured why not inquire for more details.
It came back as exposure work…
If you’re like me then you’re not a fan of crowd sourcing artists and paying them in exposure. A lot of companies do this to try and position it as they are benefiting the artist when in reality; they are the ones who are winning.
Before you go rolling your eyes I want you to hear me out.
After consulting my mastermind group and asking the question, “When do you think it’s okay to do free work?”
I got a ton of great responses. I thought packaging up their answers would make a great episode incase you ever got in this position yourself.
Safe to say I took the job. I couldn’t be more excited about it because of several factors that I share in this episode that benefited me in doing free work.
I get it, you want to build a career of doing the work you love. Why would you ever want to do work for free?
I’m at a point in my creative career where I’m making a big transition in taking my freelance game to the next level. There are plenty of bills and loans laying around that need paid and my time is sacred outside the day job.
A part of me tells myself that I shouldn’t be donating any of my work for free as it’s not paying the bills.
Then again, there is another part of me who sees the value you in it…depending on the situation of course.
I’m not telling you to do free work all the time and get taken advantage of—I respect the creative hustle.
Not everyone is going to agree with me on these and that’s alright.
This is about the 7 ways free work may be in your best interest. I’m looking for the win-win scenarios here.
A great time where free work helps you out is when you’re just beginning to pursue your work seriously.
During this time, you’re still developing a style and name for yourself. It’s rare that people are going to throw a lot of money at someone who doesn’t have a body of work showing what you’re capable of. You have no leverage.
Doing projects for friends, family or other acquaintances can help you:
You have to start somewhere, and that means doing free work in the beginning.
If there is a specific style of work you’re already doing in your spare time, this could be a great opportunity to show what you’re made of in a more professional setting.
For me, I already create pizza art on the regular and the project I took on gave me a chance to do this with more intention.
This was a driving factor for why I chose to take on the project.
I have a list of goals written down and it just so happens this projects hit 3 birds with one stone:
When something aligns with your goals, I’d take the opportunity as you don’t know what it could lead to next.
This plays off #2 & #3.
If you aspire to do something and you’re already doing it for yourself in your spare time, doing it for free could open the window to do more of this same work, but paid.
Getting an opportunity to show off my pizza / mural skills in a highly trafficked public setting could lead to bigger pizza or mural projects (as of this writing, I’ve already received 4 local requests for murals and it has only been a week since I completed this project).
For even larger reach, I highly recommend:
This will dramatically improve your odds for attracting similar clients that will pay for this style.
Sometimes having complete creative freedom can be a mind fuck.
Restrictions have a way of breeding creativity, but sometimes having the freedom to do whatever you want within reason is amazing.
It circles around to showcasing your skills that you’ve been crafting behind closed doors in your sketchbook. Now you can let your creativity explode on whatever canvas you’re asked to create on.
In my case, this was a chalkboard and oven.
There may be times where you believe in the cause that a charity or organization promotes. In this case, your work could serve a larger purpose that surpasses the value of money.
A great example of this is my brother Terance Tang of Tinlun Studio. He donates his time and artwork to a local Chinese Youth Camp in Houston, Texas.
Terance states, “The first year I volunteered at CYC, I immediately saw the enormous positive impact it has on the kids - personal growth, teamwork, leadership experience, social skill building, and most of all, unforgettable memories. I knew then and there that this is a special organization that truly makes the world a better place. I definitely want my kids to have the CYC experience.”
Another great example of how artists donate their work for a larger, and in these case a smaller cause is with Inch x Inch.
This is a monthly button club operated by Bob Ewing and Drew Hill that features well-known artist’s work. The duo believes small things (like buttons) can make a big difference. 65% of the proceeds of each monthly subscription go to funding youth art education programs.
Some of the design juggernauts they’ve featured include Draplin, Allan Peters, Clark Orr, Brian Steely and Kendrick Kidd. What’s even better is that is that they recently donated $5,000 split between Art with a Heart (Indianapolis) and 826CHI (Chicago).
Creating free work for a good cause makes a bigger impact than you think.
When you become a known design source, your friends and family will inevitably hit you up for work. You can’t help everyone—saying no is just as important as saying yes…unless it’s your mom asking then you have to say yes.
However, sometimes you may be in a position to help someone get that break they deserve.
A great example of this is Aaron Draplin of Draplin Design Co. and his logo design for Cobra Dogs. Cobra Dogs was a food cart that used a copyright logo and was on the verge of losing everything. DDC came in and created a new logo for them, helping the entrepreneur recover and do what he loves: selling dogs from his food cart.
There will be random opportunities when you could doodle on a kids cast, create a logo for your little cousin in-law’s youtube channel or create some branding for your friend's music festival.
Making time to lend your time and gift could be another person’s blessing.
You see, there are times where doing free work can be a win-win scenario.
I feel when you look at an opportunity from this perspective, it can be worth doing it for free.
Again, I’m not saying to do this for every project. You have bills to pay and exposure doesn’t put food on the table.
As an artist, you have to pick and choose those right situations where it makes sense.
Consult people close to you if you’re unsure like I did. It brought a lot of clarity which let me package this up and share with you if you get in this situation.
Not all free work is created equally, but sometimes that exposure or person you’re helping out just may be worth it.
This week is a very special episode as I’m doing my first interview on the show with my good friend Eric Friedensohn also know as Efdot. He knows how to stay inspired to create for his personal side projects.
Eric is a talented hand lettering artist and designer based out of Brooklyn, New York. He’s worked with the likes of Pat Flynn and taught lettering workshops for Vayner Media. He’s work at We Work and is the creator of the Optimist Project.
He’s big into skateboarding and traveling and it’s an honor to have him as the first guest on this show.
Steven Pressfield states, "The best way to fight the resistance is to do you work."
He encourages the artist to "Go Pro." This mean going from being an amateur hobbyist to becoming a professional because pros don’t make excuses—they do the work.
Many search for motivation when Motivation comes from the act of doing, but one may need inspiration in the first place.
Refusing to give into the resistance and doing the work isn't always so simple and straight forward.
Everywhere you look there are endless things to pursue and they are designed to be addicting distractions.
I find myself uninspired to create when I:
It's important to always remind yourself why you got into creating art in the first place.
If you're always in taking in the same stuff, you're going to end up outputting the same stuff too.
If you’re feeling really uninspired to create art, find something to create totally different like a wild recipe.
Do you ever get in creative funks where you lack the drive to create while feeling invisible to the world?
There are those sinister inner voices that try to convince you that your work doesn’t matter and that you can’t make a difference.
I’m pretty sure everyone goes through these phases whether they admit it or not.
This episode is me admitting this to you in hopes you don’t feel alone in the times you feel invisible as a creative or life in general.
There is light at the end of the tunnel as I’m learning that this is part of the struggle of pursuing something that’s important to you. In due time, it will be important to others as well.
It’s okay to feel this way at times, it’s natural. However, you are capable of pulling yourself out of this creative funk and pushing forward to the next phase on your creative path.
I say this because I’m pushing through one of these phases myself.
From mid-December through practically the month of January, I’ve been in a depressed state of mind and it’s been physically and mentally draining.
There are a lot of variables in play here:
While I still kicked out some uplifting art during this phase, every drawing carried a dark undertone which I feel was me crying out in creative pain.
Scroll through the episode artwork at PerspectivePodcast.com to see what I’m talking about.
During this stretch I felt invisible, like what I created and said through my podcast landed on blind eyes and deaf ears—the new Instagram algorithm doesn’t boost self-esteem either.
I doubted everything I was trying to build with Perspective-Collective and was even attacking my physical appearance.
Growing up I got picked on often for being chubby and those hateful voices still haunt me today. Looking in the mirror during this stretch disgusted me after no gym sessions and polluting my body with holiday shit.
This self-pity mode I was in was really self-sabotaging. I’m not saying this for your pity, I’m saying this because I realize this was a phase and I am able to climb out of this hole.
Here is what helped me.
Usually, an inspiring podcast, audiobook or YouTube video can snap me out of this “woe is me attitude.” Honestly, during this stretch, I could give a fuck less about these forced remedies.
The emotions were too strong and overpowering.
If you’re like me, you’d rather bottle up all your emotions as showing any type of weakness will ruin your “perceived reputation” as a badass.
I’ve come to realize I’m no badass and openly talking about the things I struggle with helps me push through these creative funks—hence the reason I started this podcast.
About 3 weeks into this state of mind, I sought out my best friend which is my wife of course. I told her I just didn’t feel like Scotty and that I’m not sure what’s going on with me.
It was relieving to share what I was going through to someone who cared, even if it didn’t change how I felt.
Next, I consulted a few close members of my mastermind group. Again I was met with encouraging words as they shared their creative funks with me.
The more I talked about it and heard other people admit they deal with this too, the better I began to feel.
Once my nose and throat were almost fully healed, I turned to my Instagram stories to show my face and share what I’d been dealing with.
This wasn’t a cry for help tactic, it was meant to let whoever the hell was watching know that they aren’t alone in these dips of depression.
I didn’t expect any responses as it was more it was therapy to get it off my chest. Surprisingly, there were waves of replies I got from strangers that deal with the same feelings of invisibility.
Your replies are what inspired this show to compile my thoughts and struggles into something more personable and transparent with you.
Sometimes people need to know that they matter and are making a difference.
This brings me to Diane Gibbs. She is an amazing individual who does so much for creatives whether it’s through the Design Recharge show or by teaching her design students.
She showed me the importance of how encouragers need encouragement too.
Outside of creating art, I know I exist to serve and encourage people like you. After sharing my work and receiving support from others, it showed me my potential and it’s my duty to pass that opportunity on to someone else.
It’s a powerful feeling when you know someone took a time out of their existence to reach out and let you know that what you do matters.
This is what Diane did and I think it was the final measure that pulled me out of this dark place. She first text me then called me out of nowhere on a Saturday and it really made my day.
She could’ve been a distant onlooker of my art or listener of my podcast. Instead, she lifted my spirits and shared her own creative struggles as well.
My point here is that you have the ability to boost someone’s spirits when they need it the most, whether they are a friend, family or a stranger.
Sure, your words of encouragement may land on deaf ears. I can’t tell you how many of my “heroes” I’ve sent an encouraging message to and get no reply back. Then again, you should see some of the replies I’ve gotten in return.
Sometimes encouragers need encouragement to pull themselves out of a creative slump and to not feel invisible.
If you’ve had an urge to reach out to someone, then act on your intuition and do it. I’m serious; you could make a lasting impact on someone like Diane did for me.
I want to force this into your head every episode, you have something to offer even though you may feel like no one is listening or watching.
You could be affecting that one person that stats and analytics fail to show. All it takes is one person at a time to make an impact.
You also have the power to impact others through encouragement. There’s enough shit going on in this world and you can be a part of the solution.
Everyone deals with creative funks and feeling invisible whether they admit it or not. You are not alone and I’m in your corner cheering you on.
If you need someone to talk to hit me up at Scotty@Perspective-Collective.com. I’m happy to listen.
Please don’t give up pursuing something that’s important to you. You are not invisible.
It may feel impossible getting exposure when you’re just starting to pursue your creative path.
Believe me, I’ve been there.
I spent over 25 years of my life believing that having a successful art career was impossible. As I’ve become more intentional with my side projects and have seen the potential, my mindset has drastically shifted.
Think about it, technology is in your favor if you start today.
It’s so easy to connect with someone on the opposite side of the globe within seconds. Not to mention that more and more people in the world are getting access to the internet every day.
I really do believe that you are one scroll or swipe away from having your life changed.
Creating the right side project(s) and following these 3 ingredients will aid you in getting more exposure for your work.
These ingredients are:
Obviously, you could say there are more ingredients, but I believe these 3 are great to keep top of mind.
You might get lucky and stumble across an audience waiting to devour your style. However, I’d recommend doing a bit of research to have a plan.
I feel the best, yet the most saturated market out there is Instagram for getting your work noticed. It’s the top platform for engagement right now and I’ve seen many friends blow up and create a thriving creative career from it.
No matter the social platform you choose, research the best ways to utilize the strengths of the platform as you share your work.
I started using Instagram seriously close to 3 years ago when I first became addicted to hand lettering. It started off with me throwing work out randomly until I noticed there were specific accounts and hashtags that surrounded this type of style of work I was producing.
For example, there is the monstrous account of Goodtype that has well over 725K followers curated by my friend Brooke Bucherie. I remember when she had under 10K!
Just to note, Goodtype started off as a side project and has evolved dramatically to become more than just an Instagram account.
I noticed that she featured people’s lettering work who used the profile hashtags of #Goodtype and #strengthinletters on their lettering posts. I began using those hashtags and pushing my skills every day and ended up catching my first feature.
Safe to say I was hooked.
Another way I approach my research is with analytic tools such as Business Page Insights through Instagram and Iconosquare. These tools show you metrics such as your:
Understanding these metrics lets you know what type of work people are engaging with and when you should be posting.
With some research and experimentation, you can begin formulating a strategy while creating your own style that speaks to you and your future audience.
We live in a microwave era where people expect instant gratification and get discouraged when they don’t see immediate results.
The reason many creatives get exposure is because they are consistent and people know what to expect.
I follow people or accounts on social media strictly because they post work I’m inspired by and are posting daily or at a consistent time weekly.
Starting with Bob, he began hand lettering around the same time that I did as he took on the 365 daily challenge. Meaning he hand lettered a word for every day of the year.
Not only did he reach his goal but he ended up extending it to a whopping 534 consecutive days!
Not only did he improve his lettering skills, but he is now considered one of the revered names in a thriving lettering community. This has led to him getting great lettering projects, public speaking and workshop opportunities while building amazing relationships within the creative community.
The other great example of consistency is Charli. She built her career on Youtube by pumping out insightful content targeted to designers on her Youtube Channel: CharliMarieTV. Over this period of time, she’s amassed a following of over 40K subscribers.
On top of her drive, she is just a genuine and funny human being. Her hard work has landed her major opportunities such as her recent job of joining Nathan Barry’s ConvertKit staff.
As you can see, being consistent over time can make some pretty incredible things happen.
First off, I’m not talking about focusing on creating trendy work to go viral.
What I’m referring to is creating genuine work that is:
Instead of worrying about expensive targeted ads to force feed people your work, product or services; focus on creating something that can spark an emotion.
If you can immediately make someone stop and:
You know you’re doing something right.
Awhile back I posted a video called Ketchup Calligraphy. I made a quote saying “You’re the Ketchup to my Fries” while spelling ketchup with a ketchup bottle and fries with actual fries.
I use a lot of ketchup and this was just a funny concept to express my love for it.
This ended up getting featured by million follower accounts like Art Worldly and by the entrepreneur influencer Tai Lopez. What made it even better is that they prompted people in the description to “tag” someone who is the ketchup to their fries.
Next thing you know you have hundreds of people getting tagged to see this post and then all the traffic directs back to my account.
Here’s a quick tip, when you catch on to your work that is getting shared the most on Instagram, you can start giving prompts for people to tag someone who can relate below in the comments.
I think you’ll be surprised with the results if you experiment.
By focusing on work that is shareable, it may very well go viral across social. However, don’t create solely to go viral as you’re setting yourself up for defeat. Don’t force it—create work that resonates with you that can leave an emotional impression on an audience.
I’ve seen people blow up over a year and then there is people like me who have been chipping away over the course of years.
These things take time but I’ve noticed that the ones who blew up more quickly than I knew their research and audience and they posted more shareable work more often than I did.
More power to them, but I’m learning more and more as I go and sharing with you what I learn along the way. I wish I would’ve had these 3 ingredients top of mind when I started sharing art under my side project of Perspective-Collective and that’s why I share it with you now.
It’s rare to watch a side project blow up over night. That’s why I stress the long game as I’ve found the most fulfillment within the creative process and I enjoy the daily challenge of building this into something greater than myself.
So what’s that project you’ve been wanting to pursue?
What’s holding you back?
There’s never been a better time than now to start and technology is playing in your favor down the road.
Scratch that creative itch and start your side project today.