A few weeks ago, I introduced a new book I'm working on called Your Career in Comics (YCC) that will attempt to take a comprehensive look at the business and legal aspects of being in the comics industry. (See Your Career in Comics: An Introduction). Last week, I talked a little bit about the Creator Owned Path in Comics (See The Creator Owned Path). This week I'd like to look at the second of the four major paths in modern comics: The Work for Hire or Freelance Path.
General Concept: A freelance or work for hire artist produces stories and art for a property they do not own. As a work for hire, you create intellectual property for your clients. Publishers and creators of all sizes hire freelance artists to work on some or all of the creative aspects of their property. Some freelancers work for one publisher at a time, while others might juggle several projects for several different publishers at once.
Benefits: The main benefits of being a freelance artist are cash payments, exposure and reduced responsibility outside of your art. Instead of having to worry about how to pay for the production of the book, the freelance artist gets paid as a part of the production process. Instead of having to create a character or world from scratch, the freelance artist might be able to work with their favorite characters to read or the most famous characters of all time. Instead of worrying about marketing, printing, sales, returns and a thousand other little details of publishing, the freelance artist makes his art, collects his fee and moves on to the next project.
Challenges: The main challenges of being an independent are lack of stability, time, and control. A freelance artist might go through dry periods without a lot of well paying work. There might be other times where there are several major deadlines piling up, each with their own financial and professional penalties. Publishers run on deadlines. Books are solicited months in advance. The freelance artist is a fundamental part of the publishing process, but their work has to be delivered on or before a certain date of the process falls apart. And the lack of control can be a real challenge to creativity. Instead of making all the decisions on your own or with a partner, now you have to deal with an editor, maybe an editor in chief or multiple other levels of approval depending on how the corporate nature of your client.
Legal Considerations: The lack of ownership in a work for hire situation reduces the amount of legal agreements you’ll need. At minimum there will be an exclusive or nonexclusive work for hire agreement between you and the client and tax documents to help deal with the IRS. Some companies have a version of the character creation agreement, but that’s not universal at this point.
Next time, I'll talk a little bit about the creator driven path and how they can thrive in the world of comics.
Success in the comics industry requires an understanding of the business, creative, and legal aspects of the medium.
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