On Thursday, a bunch of dudes met up for breakfast at a Panera in Newport, KY. It was the visual arts equivalent of the Algonquin Round Table… designers and illustrators and photographers, oh my. (They let a few writer types hang out too… including a hack named dubbatrubba.)
I was fortunate enough to work with many of these fine fellows back in my ad agency days. They’re an amazingly talented bunch… and super-nice as well (sometimes those two qualities can seem mutually exclusive).
A lot of the folks who attended the breakfast are self-employed. Some by their own choice; others have had their hand forced by ad agency layoffs. Freelance is a tough row to hoe, especially in the Fiverr age where it can be a “who can do this cheapest?” race to the bottom. Not only do you have to be a standout in your chosen field, but you also have to be a salesperson, a client coordinator, a project manager and an accountant. You’re on your own for healthcare. And vacation? No work, no pay. As one of the gents there put it “I’m always on vacation until the phone rings.”
My friends do mostly commercial work, but you can’t commodify what they do. It’s art. Period.