|Updated to reflect current Streaming status (or lack thereof).|
Once upon a time there lived a Yoko. She was very happy in her corner of obscurity on DeviantArt. And then she started making friends. Then life was even better. The End.
Current Age: 27
Current Residence: Narseaville in the State of Fatticorn
Favourite genre of music: eclectic (I really do listen to just about everything)
Operating System: Windows 7 Professional
Tablet: IntuosPro Medium
Programs: Photoshop CS6, Clip Studio Paint EX, SketchUp
Broadcasting software: Xsplit
Broadcasting sites: Picarto
Audio supplier: Spotify
Art Trades: Closed
Hi Yoko! I hope this question isn't too personal, but when you first started doing colors for DotL, what kind of contract did you and Meg have? Did you make a flat amout per page? What about now? Is it a flat amount, or do you two split what the comic makes some way? Please feel free to share this with her before answering of course. I just can't send an ask to two people at once... (I'm asking because a friend wants me to be part of a project, and I dunno how to set it up). Thanks!
I’ll answer as much as I can without giving specific numbers (the numbers themselves aren’t as important as the fact that both of us agreed on the numbers). I’m answering publicly for the benefit of others who might be curious, since I have been asked similar questions in private about how I work with Meg and how much I’m compensated for my work.
I know I’ve said it before, but I’d like to reiterate that I don’t advocate that other artists go about getting work like I did. It is definitely an edge case/exception in which two independent artists who’ve both worked freelance agreed to the arrangement, knowing full well exactly what we were getting into and the conditions on which the agreement could/would change and with the understanding that if either of us didn’t like how things were working out, we were free to leave and pursue other projects.
So! When I first started working for Meg, I was essentially working for free. She paid me what she could afford out of pocket because at the time what money the comic was making on Patreon went to another contributor on the project- at least that was my understanding. We had a verbal (as verbal as an email can get) agreement that when the comic started getting substantial financial support we would talk about negotiating a formal contract. And we did. The contract has been edited or renegotiated a couple times to either iron things out or adjust what I get paid according to how much support the comic has. As far as how we agreed on my rate, currently I’m paid a flat rate based on an hourly wage- that is, we agreed on an hourly rate, which is then multiplied by the average time it takes me to color a comic page. This number is multiplied by the number of pages I color a week (2) and that is multiplied by the number of weeks in a year (52). Then that number is divided by twelve to break it into a monthly flat rate (since patrons are charged on a monthly basis). It is, in all honesty, the best freelance work I’ve had to date, both financially and socially, but it was something Meg and I had to build on together with lots of communication, respect, and trust.
Two of three requirements must be filled before I accept joining any job, but they don’t have to and shouldn’t be the deciding factor because each offer is/can be unique with its own set of circumstances.
- Does it pay enough?
- Do I have enough time for it?
When I say, “Do I love it” I mean the project. Often times you can be asked to join a project by a friend, and your attachment to them drives your acceptance more than anything else. This can be a bad trap to fall into- and while I’m sure that most friends do not intentionally offer bad deals, accepting one because a friend asks without getting further details is just as harmful to your friendship as it is to your financial status. Most collaborative projects between friends start with little more thought than, “hey we should do [X] together” and then it falls apart just as easily because logistics, responsibilities, and future development are never discussed.
- Do I love it?
When you have determined that the project has enough basic reasons to join, it’s important to know more about the organization of the project, or at least have the dedication to try and actively make things work well.
Whatever number you agree on isn’t as important (in my opinion) as how well you get along with your partner/client. A bad partnership can sour any financial gain and make work feel like a paycheck prison, whereas working with a good partner, even if you’re not making as much money as you’d like, will keep your passion and dedication to the project alive. Here’s a couple things I’ve found work best for me when starting a joint creative project and I believe they’re the reason Meg and I work together so well.
-Some ONE has to be in charge. Creative projects especially are a matter of taste and subjective points of view- what one person likes another may not. One person has to be captain and have the final say. That doesn’t mean they steamroll over everyone’s opinions and suggestions, but when it comes down to the wire, someone has to have the authority to make the final call and the others have to respect that call. If there’s no respect for the chain of command then things will fall apart. And yes, you can absolutely maintain a chain of command and be friends with the people you work with. The two are not mutually exclusive.
-Leave your ego at the door. Art is subjective, but when you’re in the business of creating it, you have to be as objective as possible, especially when working with others. You may color something a specific way and someone may change what you did in the next step of the process. It’s not a slight against you, it’s an objective decision made about what’s best for the project and you can’t take things like that personally (even and especially if they were meant to be personal). When you work together on things you’re gonna catch things they missed and they’re gonna catch things you missed. It doesn’t mean someone’s not good at their job, it means that you’re looking out for each other in the interest of the project’s success and that’s a GOOD thing.
-Everybody’s responsibilities should be clearly defined. I’ve been involved in enough ill-conceived projects to know that when you go into a project, you should know exactly what’s expected of you and what you can expect from the others working with you. You should be comfortable with what you’re being asked to do, the time frame in which you’re asked to do it, and how much you’re being paid for your time and your work. If you are not comfortable with any of these, then DO NOT agree to anything and ask for more information or negotiate your stance. If you come to an impasse or further information makes you more uncomfortable, then WALK. AWAY.
-Open communication is a must. You have to be able to bring up anything relevant to the project to anyone else on the project. You’re not on a covert operation, you’re creating something together and you should be able to say things like, “You forgot [X]’s bracer in panel 3, I went ahead and drew it in and sent you a jpeg- if it looks okay lemme know, if it looks bad, feel free to add it in yourself and send me the new psd.” or “is [Y] supposed to look like this? I thought we agreed on [insert stylistic choice].” or “I have some issues with the dialogue on this page, I think I understand what you were getting at, but I don’t think many readers are going to understand you’re meaning and might take some heavy offense to the implications here.”. You should also have more than one way to talk to each other- you should be able to send them messages via email, phone, text, social media, etc. You have to be accessible to each other or communication will break down and people will stop talking to each other.
-It’s easy to get upset when things go wrong, ALWAYS make an effort to congratulate and point out when things go right. There are going to be a lot of times when as much as you love the project, it’s going to fight you tooth and nail and the only reason you get work done is because the deadline is in a few hours and your obligation/dedication to your team and the project is what keeps you going after everything else- even the love and personal investment in the project- seems to fall away. You’ll feel like a failure every time you finish a task and you’ll wish things were going better, that you had more time, or you hadn’t gotten sick, etc. How do you keep yourself dedicated to the team? By actively appreciating those you work with and building professional and personal friendships with them. Those things do not happen randomly or naturally, they take hard work and time and active social participation. People who feel appreciated for their work will work better. If you tell your client/boss/employee/partner that you appreciate their hard work and admire what they do, consciously or subconsciously they’ll do better and a lot of the time reciprocate those positive feelings. This doesn’t mean you should make stuff up or try to cover up/ignore failings, but you should be actively engaged in seeing the best in those you work with and yourself.
-Own your failures and keep moving forward. Failure is an integral part of success. In any new venture where the future is unclear, you need fixed marks that help you plot your course to your end goal. Like stars, failures, pitfalls, and wrong turns are not your end goal, but they help you understand more about the context of where you are and how to move forward. If you ignore them and don’t acknowledge that they exist, you’ll never learn from them and you run the risk of doing the same thing twice and getting nowhere just as fast. Small things like realizing most computers people use to read your comic aren’t calibrated well so your comic with dark shading on a high contrast screen ends up looking like a complete mess, to big things like being unable to keep up with your goals on Patreon and having to shut the whole thing down for six months while you figure out what it is you really want to do and losing followers and patrons, and all things in between aren’t stumbling blocks, they’re steps. You can stare at them, argue with them, and stubbornly ignore them, but when you own them and use them to your advantage, they become experience and your best advantage to helping you move up and out.
I hope that some part of this helped in some small way. Hopefully it wasn’t too rambley.