A few years ago I became friends with Lauren Tharp of LittleZotz Writing. I didn’t know she was a freelance writer, only that she was the significant other of my incredibly talented artist buddy Ramiro. When I did find out about her occupation, I was mildly interested simply because I wanted to get to know her. Little did I know exactly how invaluable it is for an artist to know a good freelance writer, or how mutually beneficial our friendship would prove to be over the years.
Here are a few reasons why you really need a good freelance writer in your life too!
1. They know formal and proper ways of dealing with hellish clients.
We both have them, but artists might not always be as practiced in making articulate written communications with clients, debating over important points in the contract, renegotiating, and so on. Your writer buddy may have had to do this a thousand times over, even early or mid-career. The next time you have no idea how to politely tackle a rough client and avoid burning your bridges (or getting screwed) ask your writer friend for help!
2. They believe a freelancer should actually be…you know…PAID FOR WORKING.
Artists are prone to have their work severely undervalued or valued at nothing at all. People will often stare blankly when you suggest they should pay $20 for that print on $5 archival rag paper that you spent 10 hours carving on a $3 linoleum block. Worse, this doesn’t just come from prospective clients. I have heard plenty of artists speak as if they were ashamed to ask for payment.
Your writer buddy is working in an industry that is at least slightly more inclined to pay them for working. Their clients are used to the concept of paying by the word or the article, and most people seem to realize that journalists, editors, novel writers, ghost writers, script writers and the like are supposed to be paid for their work. Sometimes when you as an artist are tempted to give your hard work away or ashamed to ask for more than a few pennies (or deviantART points), your writer friend can remind you that YOU DESERVE TO BE PAID FOR WORKING.
3.They know people who constantly need art assets for their articles and books. Heck, they might even need art themselves.
This is great because your friend is a trustworthy client you resonate with, who you know won’t cheat you. (See #2.) They, in turn, don’t have to hook up with an artist they don’t know and possibly get burned. You both win big time. By the same token, if they point you towards one of their business acquaintances, you’re dealing with a potential client who has to some extent been vetted by your friend. Having a little knowledge beforehand is always preferable to approaching clients out of the blue.
Incidentally, you might need a writer someday! Wouldn’t you rather have someone you know and trust?
4. They know people in tons of disciplines because they have to constantly interview people and write articles about diverse subject matter.
They might even write an article about you someday! Connections and referrals are essential to your life as a freelancer, so here again you can both help each other out handsomely by pooling your knowledge and your networks. Both of you increase your reach, and you may end up getting more exposure while your friend gets more things to write about, and hence more work and a richer portfolio.
5. They’re always having to learn website and SEO skills to maintain their online presence.
The discussions you can have together about this can be absolutely invaluable to your art presence on the web. In my case, my friend is great at SEO and I have a bit more experience in web design and coding. We give each other advice and help all the time, when it’d cost money for us to be coached by other experts. Better, since we’re friends we can solve each other’s problems and help each other while in the midst of the fun conversations we actually want to be having. (Retro gaming! Nail Polish! Cat stories! …okay I found your coding problem. Surreal Japanese movies!)
6. If you’re up late working alone, chances are they are too. Encourage each other and keep each other company!
It’s so much better with a friend at your side. And trust me, having a friend to share all the ups and downs of freelancing with (the dreadful hours, the never-ending cycle of learning new programs and tools, the agonizing process of actually getting your money and then fulfilling tax and bookkeeping obligations…) may well be the thing that keeps you sane through your next project.
To summarize, I believe Artist/Writer is a beautiful and beneficially symbiotic friendship.
I formed my friendship without having a clue how useful it would end up being to my career. But if you’re interested in making new friends, you can’t do better than a writer, except possibly “Rich Art-Appreciating Fellow with Rich Art-Appreciating Friends.” And if you do meet that rich fellow, introduce him to your wonderful writer friend! They’d probably love to do an article on him or help him ghostwrite his latest Rich-People Novel.