The Downside of Freelancing

The adage is that freelancers spend 80% of their time seeking work and actually completing assignments the other 20% of the time. Of late, my life seems to be more 95%-5% as several projects of mine have been unexpectedly postponed, leaving me to find replacement assignments.

Since falling into the fulltime freelance life in August 2007, this is the first serious dry spell I’ve encountered so I’m in very new territory.

The problem is, publishing – comics or books – does not work terribly quickly. I went from being booked solid through April to suddenly learning in March things were slowing down to a crawl and then stopping.  Not only does this mean the cash flow dries to a trickle, it is also a kick to a person’s self-esteem.

A publisher I began discussing a project with in December has been AWOL ever since. A book editor I pitched something to in March has yet to rely to the notion despite discussing it with him prior to the formal pitch. In April, sent off a Young Adult novel proposal and the editor has yet to respond.

And since I have returned from Spain, I have been working on three different graphic novel ideas for publishers I met over there. They want to see a synopsis, character designs and 3-4 pages of storytelling. So, step one is whipping up a synopsis then working with my Spanish host, Edu Alpuente, on lining up an appropriate artist. Then come the character designs – but artist A suddenly got a paying assignment so work on the storytelling is relegated to the back burner. On the second pitch, the same artist is involved since it was his idea. On the third pitch, the character designs from Artist B are finally tweaked and today I’ll write the sample script pages after spending yesterday taking the synopsis and breaking it down to 46 pages.

As you know, we continue to try and raise money to get ReDeus off the ground in July. I have other pitches with other people and the law of averages says that things should be turning around sooner than later so I remain cautiously optimistic that life will improve.

Until then, I continue to write my reviews at ComicMix and my twice-weekly columns at The Patch so at least I continue to maintain a presence in a few arenas.

7 comments

  • Stick to it, Bob. This happens to every freelancer from time to time. It can be brutal, but my money’s on you cracking it.

  • It is bloody frustrating and you can’t even assume projects that seem likely will happen. Freelancing turns you bipolar, that’s for sure:)

  • Joe Zhang

    I guess karma is catching up to you in regards to John Byrne. Your nepotism towards him over the years has soured your name in the comic book community.

    Why won’t Lord Byrne work with you on some creator owned work? Oh yeah because he is a cheap miser who only worships the almighty dollar and won’t help out a “friend”.

    But you knew that already.

    • Joe,

      Are you sure you’re screeching at the right person? My nepotism towards John Byrne? I’ve bought a handful of work from him during my years at DC and we never worked one-on-one on anything long-term.

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  • Hi Bob,

    I’m going through the exact same thing right now. I went from being a bit overextended to having absolutely nothing to work on. First, the Red Circle books were all cancelled, then all the kids’ comics DC publishes are being farmed out to Wildtorm, and the word I’ve been getting from editors at DC is that they can’t push for new series until the new regime is ready. Answers are vague on when this will happen, though apparently new projects are being okayed as long as they’re written by what they consider their top tier of writers. Everyone else is in limbo. I like to believe I’ll still be writing things like “Scooby-Doo,” but have heard nothing from that front to alleviate my anxieties.

    I do have one project moving through the pipeline, as you say very slowly, but at least it’s moving, though I’m beginning to think this one’s going to collapse before it comes to anything. The development process is almost as brutal as the waiting.

    I, too, tell myself that something will start up before too long, but the waits feel too long, and having to tighten our belts is no fun in the meantime. I’ve been trying to be productive in other ways. I can’t afford to have my website overhauled like I’ve been wanting to, so have been doing other things to give it a temporary sprucing up. I’ve started a new blog for kids about how comics get made (http://johnrozumforkids.blogspot.com/) and I’m writing some articles simply for love, just to feel like I’m doing something.

    It’s times like these that I think that even stocking shelves for eight hours a day wouln’t be so bad. At least the pay is steady and I wouldn’t be constantly trying to set up a new job in case the current one ended.

    Sometimes it’s good to know you’re not the only one. When the work’s not coming in, it often feels like everyone else has new projects but you.

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