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Q: What is your job title and what industry do you work in? How many years of experience do you have in this field?

A: I call myself a freelance artist. As far as I know, that's how most graphic designers work (or at least all the ones that I know, personally). Even when a company keeps calling me back, keeps giving me work, I'm still technically going to be just a hired hand. Most of my work is in the field of video games, which is booming right now with independent game developers. I've been at it for about five years, professionally.

Q: How would you describe what you do? What does your work entail? Are there any common misunderstandings you want to correct about what you do?

A: I do everything from creating animation to building 3D models, cartooning, texturing, photography, directing videos... If there's any misunderstanding about what I do, it would be that some people seem to think that your art guy is your art guy, your writing guy is your writing guy, etc., when in fact, modern companies that deal in creative properties tend to have a much more open structure. I've even done a bit of programming now and then to ensure my graphical work is implemented correctly.

Q: On a scale of 1 to 10 how would you rate your job satisfaction? What might need to change about your job to unleash your full enthusiasm?

A: I'd say a 7. I'm still only doing it part time right now, but doing it at all has been pretty exciting. I'd like to be able to support myself full time on graphic design alone.

Q: If this job moves your heart – how so? Ever feel like you found your calling or sweet spot in life? If not, what might do it for you?

A: What I'm really looking to do as an artist is connect with an audience. Anytime something I've done really touches someone, that's what keeps me going, even more so than the money. I'd be doing this for free if I had to.

Q: Is there anything unique about your situation that readers should know when considering your experiences or accomplishments?

A: I spent the first year of my life homeless so I come from a pretty poor family, and self education has made all the difference in the world for me. If I had never picked up the right books and spent time drawing, I'd probably be stuck in a dead end job right now. In my opinion, self education is everything.

Q: How did you get started in this line of work? If you could go back and do it differently, what would you change?

A: I've always been inclined to draw, paint, make videos, and so on, and eventually I realized that I could make a living at it, so here I am. If I could change anything, I wish I'd spent more time when I was younger learning technical skills that go along with drawing and painting and so on. I have a degree of natural talent, but taking the time to really study the craft back then would have saved me a lot of time, now.

Q: What did you learn the hard way in this job and what happened specifically that led up to this hard-learned lesson?

A: Always get half of your money up front. It only took getting ripped off one time for me to learn that.

Q: What is the single most important thing you have learned outside of school about the working world?

A: Being the best at something isn't gonna happen. Instead I've tried to be the most (fill in the blank). Being the (blank)est at something, being the funniest or most traditional or loudest or most vulgar will always get you more work than trying (and inevitably failing) to be the "best", which is subjective, anyways.

Q: What’s the strangest thing that ever happened to you in this job?

A: I've been closed down by the cops more than a few times while trying to shoot video and photos for a project. Another time I had somebody request two hundred three minute long cartoons for a total of thirty dollars. Not the strangest thing that ever happened, I suppose, but one of the most absurd requests I could ever receive. I was to write, direct and animate all of them, a project that would take me years of my life, all for less than I'd spend on lunch for two at a burger joint.

Q: Why do you get up and go to work each day? Can you give an example of something that really made you feel good or proud?

A: Sometimes the project excites me, sometimes I'm not feeling it at all but I need the money. At the end of the day, supporting a happy home probably makes me prouder than any project I've completed.

Q: What kind of challenges do you handle and what makes you really want to pull your hair out?

A: When a client wants something that I find incredibly boring, but ultimately that's the kind of challenge that makes me better at what I do. They say a great actor could read the phone book and make it exciting.

Q: How stressful is your job? Are you able to maintain a comfortable or healthy work-life balance?

A: Other than deadlines, I'd say not stressful at all. It's what I want to do with my life, and if I ever felt the work itself was stressful, I'd probably find something else to do.

Q: What’s a rough salary range for the position you hold? Are you paid enough and/or happy living within your means?

A: I probably average around thirty thousand a year, around half of that coming from graphic design and the rest coming from writing and other freelancing projects. One of the most important things I've learned is to never turn my nose up at an opportunity. Unless I take a moral issue with a project, there's nothing that's beneath me just so long as I'm getting paid a fair rate for it.

Q: How much vacation do you take? Is it enough?

A: Rather than long term vacations, I maintain four day work weeks and take a day off whenever I want. If I felt like working a little harder, I could take week and month long vacations, but I much prefer taking it easy day to day to working my butt off all year except for a couple weeks on the beach.

Q: What education and skills do you need to get hired and succeed in this field?

A: I've always gotten hired on the quality of my work alone, never for what degrees I hold. This is the one field where what you learn in school will be more important to you than the degrees you hold. I don't think anyone ever got hired to direct a film just because they had a degree from NYU. I don't think anybody ever found success self publishing a comic book because they had a completion certificate from Will Eisner's master class. At the end of the day, good work counts more than a degree when it comes to being an artist in a professional context.

Q: What would you tell a friend considering your line of work?

A: Learn to draw. All skills that make up graphic design begin with the ability to draw. That, and develop your people skills. A lot of artists tend to be a little on the awkward side, socially speaking. You spend hours on end cooped up at your tablet doodling, you get shut off from the world. This can cost you work when you realize you have trouble communicating ideas with a client or a partner. The answer to both of these issues I think is to take a drawing class. I've always found them to be enormously helpful both in getting a better grasp of my technical abilities, and in getting to talk with other artists.

Q: If you could write your own ticket, what would you like to be doing in five years?

A: This, but more of it. The market is pretty competitive, and there are quite a lot of dead ends. Most freelancers I know actually work in multiple fields, they don't just draw or just do websites or just do animation. They do a little bit of everything. I think that being happy as a graphic designer means being happy doing just about anything creative, anything that lets me apply myself to a visual medium, whether that's with video game graphics, doing a music video or cartooning. I may have started out only wanting to draw, but I've since developed a passion for just about everything that freelancing entails.