If you’re anything like me, you take work with you to bed and it leads to restless nights.
“I need to add that link to my sidebar,” “I never wrote that client back,” “I’ll never finish this page in time for my flight,” and, “If I just worked harder, accomplished more like so-and-so, my comic would have taken off by now.”
Understandably, it’s hard to sleep with, “It’s my own fault my career sucks” in bed with you.
If only we could work less and finish more. But if we don’t do the work, who will? Most of us run a-one man-show and if we stop to catch our breath, it will all fall apart.
Beware Of The Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing:
Some opportunities are genuinely too wonderful to refuse.
But most opportunities are more ambiguous. The pay is great, but it will take us further from our goals. Or the project is fantastic, but the client doesn’t want to pay. Sometimes it’s downright gray: the job is in our wheelhouse, offering a decent rate but we just aren’t passionate about it.
We get fevered thinking that every opportunity might be the one to unlock the door to our dreams: financial freedom, creative freedom or the freedom that comes from notoriety.
Sadly, many “opportunities” we take actually lead to stress and creative frustration instead.
Yet the promise of “what if” is so irresistible that we wind up saying yes because we’re afraid of missing out.
Companies prey on artists, promising things like “exposure” in lieu of a respectable paycheck. But “having a portfolio piece” or “being published” doesn’t mean much if you hated the project and the work isn’t good. So if you were underpaid and wind up not wanting to use the piece in your own portfolio, what have you gotten out of it besides another chip on your shoulder?
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Risk Vs. Reward:
Here is a hypothetical project that I’ve seen a hundred times:
Someone offers $100 for cover art. They’re a budding publisher that you’ve never heard of… and neither has anyone else. They promise that they are up and coming and wave the elusive “publishing credit” carrot in front of you.
If the job takes two work days—16 hours—to do full, colored art, you just made $6.25 an hour.
Now tack on revisions—half a day’s worth?— and you’re down to $5 an hour.
You just spent half a work week on a project that brought in less money than you could make at a drive-thru window.
There are better ways to spend our time.
The above example was a relatively small time sink, but when a big project comes your way, it can be far more dangerous.
Tempting freelance gigs steal time from your personal projects. But are they worth it?
Someone comes to you with an exciting number for a 100 page graphic novel: $5,000!
Lets say you can finish a page a day, though few of us can. I’ll make it a 10 hour day just to be more realistic.
- 10 hours per page x 100 pages = 1,000 hours.
- Working five days a week, this is five months full-time.
You’ve just made another $5 an hour as you work on this soul-sucking project that leaves little time for much else.
In the end, we’re left with nothing but regret.
What if you had put that time into your own project? Even working at half the speed, you could finish your own book in ten months.
The sad reality is that projects like this get in the way of real opportunities.
You can’t say yes to a real opportunity if you’re neck deep in the middle of an un-inspiring “wolf opportunity.”
Let Your Yes Be Yes:
Ask these questions before saying ‘yes’ to a job:
- Does this publisher/client truly have the means to give me the exposure they are promising?
- Am I excited about the project? Is it something I want to work on?
- WILL this take me closer to my ultimate goal or MIGHT it?
- Do I have the time available that I estimate this project will take?
- Is the wage fair and not insulting?
Answering “no” to any of these is a red flag, and you should really weight the cost before taking the project on.
Answering “no” to all of them is just crazy.
Phone a Friend:
I had an opportunity recently that promised me exposure to an audience I want to reach. The client regretted that he could not pay me, but gave me readership statistics for his publication to woo me into a “yes.” He thought it would be “mutually beneficial.”
I went back and forth on the opportunity.
Time wise, it was a relatively small project. But I have a lot of commitments on my plate, and adding another always makes me wary. But the promised exposure kept tickling the back of my mind. My husband didn’t like the idea so I turned to a mentor for advice.
He told me he thought it was a bad idea. The most important thing on my resumé is The Dreamer (my comic series) and if this other project would lessen the quality or regularity of The Dreamer it is an easy no.
He told me he didn’t think the publication was as prestigious as the editor had suggested. It sounded like a distraction of a project and an insult of a paycheck.
He wrote, “it is always better to do a few things really well than lots of things poorly.”
His advice as a physician against over-committing is powerful, so I’ll share it with you verbatim:
“When your spouse balks, pay attention. …opportunities are manifold; the love of one’s life a rare treasure. Attending the death bed, I have never heard patients regret the speaking engagement they declined. But I have heard relationship regrets aplenty, related at a time when there is no redress. Life is not a dress rehearsal, as one of the self-help gurus has declared.”
The truth is that by saying no to that “opportunity” I left time open for something else to come my way.
And something else did: a paid opportunity, to the same dream-target audience, in a much more prestigious publication.
Don’t panic and think every opportunity is your last. Often times no job is better than a crappy one because it leaves the door open for something better to come along.