Download the July 2015 Desktop
To download your copy of the July desktop, please right click on the version you’d like and select “Save As…”:
I’m very excited to be able to finally announce that I’m currently working with the lovely people at the Wildlife Conservation Society in the US to produce 60+ Illustrations for the ‘Ocean Wonders: Sharks’ exhibit that will be housed in the new $157 million re-build and transformation of the NYC Aquarium.
As a shark freak, this is a dream project and by far the highest profile and hugest job I’ve ever worked on (literally, with Illustrations ranging from 5cm to a whopping 4 metres!)
I’m nearly half way through the final artwork, but won’t be able to share anything until the Aquarium is re-opened in 2016. However, I have been given permission to share a sneak peek of one of the shark Illustrations from a huge shipwreck scene…
I feel very fortunate to be working on such a fun and very worthwhile conservation project, helping to educate future generations about these amazing creatures.
Here’s an animated walk through of how the exhibit will look when finished – it looks amazing!
To download your copy of the September desktop, please right click on the version you’d like and select “Save As…”:
This illustration of Lonesome George is available as a print through the Endangered Species Print Project, with all proceeds going to conservation charities.
To download your copy of the June desktop, please right click on the version you’d like and select “Save As…”:
I’ve also released a print based on the June desktop Illustration called ‘Lunch!’.
To purchase a copy of the print (framed or unframed) from my Society6 print shop, please click on the image below for sizes and prices.
To download your copy of the May desktop, please right click on the version you’d like and select “Save As…”:
I’ve also released a print based on the May desktop Illustration called ‘Peace & Quiet’.
To purchase a copy of the print (framed or unframed) from my Society6 print shop, please click on the image below for sizes and prices.
Why Do This?
…Because it’s a great way to continually improve the way you work with clients.
…Because feedback and testimonials from real clients are a great marketing tool.
Why Do This?
…Because it helps you see whether you’re on track to achieve your financial goals.
…Because it eases the admin stress come tax return time, and instead makes it a breeze to do.
Why Do This?
…Because your illustration portfolio should reflect your latest & greatest work.
To help improve your paperwork, we put together this template for you to begin to create your own (online) Client & Job Database….
Why Do This?
…because unless you do, you could be setting yourself up for a whole world of hassle later down the line.
…because until you do, you can’t provide a quote accurately or assess whether a proposed fee is worth it.
“Newer and smaller businesses often do not have a good understanding of how business should be conducted. Creating a good working relationship is even more important when working with these clients because you will often have to take them by the hand to educate them.
For instance, one of the biggest problems you will encounter is “scope creep”.
Scope creep happens after you have signed a contract or agreed what the scope of the project is going to be and then you are asked to create more work.
Example: Your client wants you to illustrate a dog, cat, and mouse having dinner together. You agree on all of the specs, price, and deadline.
After you send in sketches your client informs you that he/she would also like you to include a donkey at the dinner party.
Since there was no possibility of satisfying the sketch on the first pass it is unfair to ask for this extra work without offering an additional amount of money.
If you’re a good designer you know you can’t just “add” an donkey into the sketch without redesigning the entire composition. If I were doing the painting for $1000 I might ask for an additional $50-$100 for the extra work.
The most important thing in handling these situations is to be informative in a kind way.
A careful explanation of your position should help most clients understand their error in expecting something for nothing.
You might even offer to do it for free this time so you can help preserve the relationship knowing that if it happens again you will hold them to paying an additional fee.”
Why Do This?
…because all parties need to be clear on who owns the rights and how long they own them for; these terms then form part of the fee.
“Some editorial companies will try for perpetuity, which in my opinion is completely outrageous! The acceptable term is one-time use within the magazine/newspaper, and 3 months use on their website and within the article it was commissioned for (there is some movement on this, but it’s pretty standard).
Sometimes – mainly in packaging or adverting – perpetuity is unavoidable and you will need to make the decision as to whether you are happy with this, and that the fee reflects the buyout of the image.”
Here’s a checklist of key aspects that need to be agreed upon:
Why Do This?
…so you can be paid what you’re worth!
…so you know what you’ll be paid, and when you’ll be paid it.
Here’s a great article on how to calculate your fees, which includes the following advice on how to set your hourly rate:
[Annual salary + Annual expenses + Annual profit] ÷ Annual billable work hours = your basic hourly rate
Annual salary: What would you like to make a year? Consider this as a business expense (paid out to you as your own boss).
Annual expenses: Includes purchases and overheads for your business.
Annual profit: This is the profit charged over and above your expenses. Our friend Ilise Benun suggests 10-20% of your salary as the norm.
Annual billable hours: 365 days minus vacation, sick time, weekends off, and time you spend doing administrative stuff, and multiply by the number of hours you work a day, approximately.
Basic hourly rate: This is a guide, not a rule. You may choose to share this with a client as your hourly rate, or you may just build it in when you give a project fee.
When you’re calculating your fee, remember to consider the following:
And finally, be sure to confirm the payment details & schedule which means clarifying what and when you can actually expect to receive the monies from the client.
The following are often up for negotiation:
Why Do This?
…because things change. Always.
…because when they do, you’ll already have agreed the process to manage these changes.
For advice on what to do when things change AND you still want to be paid, watch this (it’s for designers BUT highly relevant). WARNING: NSFW…
Why Do This?
…Because unless you do, you won’t have a leg to stand on should anything go wrong.
…Because it doesn’t need to be a scary, legalese document – it can simply be proof of everything that’s been agreed in writing (and emails still count).
If a potential client is resistant to the idea of beginning with a contract, run away! Contracts exist to protect everyone in the professional relationship.
The biggest problem, however, is that most artists don’t work with a contract of any kind. They never even have the contract conversation.
It’s easy to villainize clients, but I rarely hear of an artist actually doing their due diligence and ensuring that a contract is arranged at the beginning of a job.
So all that’s to say, always work with a contract and on the rare occasion that a potential client is resistant, don’t work with them.
And one final but brilliant tip that comes from this excellent article, is this:
Be clear that the written agreement is the final agreement…
“This is the parties’ entire agreement on this matter, superseding all previous negotiations or agreements.”
If so, why on earth would you jeopardise that, throw away all your hard work and start saying ‘No!’ to turn down projects that come your way?
The simple answer is this:
When you say “No” to the wrong kind of clients, work and projects, you make space for the right ones to show up.
But even though you intuitively already know this, it probably doesn’t help if you’re struggling to make ends meet and earn a decent living from your illustration. So let’s explore this in more detail…
Why does it make you feel this way?
What does it mean – to you and to the recipient – when you say “No”?
…because often a simple “no” means none of those things, it simply means “No, not this time but thank you so much for asking me” (which is a great way to clarify your “no”)
As a professional person, it is your duty to set and then maintain and protect your boundaries. If you don’t, this is typically what happens:
If you want the opposite of all of the above: Respect, trust, appreciation, gratitude, acknowledgement and more, then set and respect own boundaries. If you don’t, why should anyone else?
When you are in negotiation about a project, as the protector of your business it is your job to do what’s best for it (and you).
No-one else has solely your business’ best interests at heart – not your clients, not your agent, and sometimes not even you. From now on, make it your sole mission to protect the business you’re building, and say “no” when something isn’t in its (your) best interests.
You may already know how we feel about having a plan (Hint: We’re big fans!), because having a plan gives you some very definite criteria (and boundaries) to stick to.
When you have a plan, and you know where you’re aiming to get to with your business, it gives you much clarity when an opportunity comes along because all that’s required is to ask yourself the question:
“Does this take me closer to or further away from my goal?”
If something is likely to take you further away from your ultimate goal, then it requires you to weigh up whether any other perceived benefits and advantages are truly worth it.
One of the main reasons people have a hard time saying “no!” is because it feels personal.
Remember this: When you say “no”, you are protecting yourself and your business’ interests in the same way the potential client is protecting theirs.
It is absolutely NOT personal, it’s a simple act of weighing up the benefits and drawbacks for your business, and communicating this professionally.
Who on earth are you to start saying “No” when potential clients come your way?
You are the sole protector of your boundaries, your business’ boundaries and your interests, and it is your absolute and sole responsibility to say “No” when something isn’t the best fit for you or your business. Right? Right 😉
Why ask this?
…because it gives you feedback on which of your marketing activities are working.
…because it helps you figure out where to focus your future marketing efforts.
Why ask this?
…because it enables you to review your own business goals and decide if this is a good fit.
…because it gives you clarity on what’s being asked and what’s expected.
Why ask this?
…because it enables you to manage your own schedule.
…because it gives you an additional criterion to decide if this is going to work for you.
Why ask this?
…because ultimately, you do have a choice, and it’s always good to recognise that.
…because sometimes a job just isn’t the best thing for you or your business.
Ah money, that lovely thing! Did you know that even when you think you have none to manage, how you manage money determines whether you’re likely to get more (or not)?
It is called cash FLOW for a reason – it is designed to flow in and out of your business, and so the process of financial management needs to focus on managing that flow of money.
In this 101 Guide, we’re going to start with the basics…
You may have a partner or accountant who manages your finances – and it seems easier and more fun to leave it all to them because they’re good at it and you’re not.
You may however notice that people who you might call “bad with money” do this frequently…they abdicate responsibility for managing their finances and never step up.
If that’s you and you want to make more, have more, spend more and see more money, then you are going to have to step up.
Make it your responsibility to know where you are at all times, to be conscious of how the money is managed and to learn how to do this.
If someone else does this for you, you’re lucky – you have a teacher right there to teach you. Learn from them.
Top Tip: Try You Need A Budget – it’s not just brilliant software but they have a wonderful (and effective) approach and email course to help you manage your money.
If your approach to your finances is to bury your head in the sand and pretend all is rosy, STOP right now! You need clarity.
Having a full and clear picture of where you stand financially is imperative if you are ever going to heal your relationship with money and start making more of it.
Get clear – check your bank balances and credit card balances now and give yourself the full picture so you know what you’re starting with and where you want to go from here.
Do you dread checking your bank accounts? Inwardly clenching whenever you have to? Use EFT to stop this emotional response.
Cultivate the habit of checking your balances at least weekly so that you always have a sense of your financial landscape.
Do you have a tricky relationship with money? Maybe a legacy of childhood learnings from your parents (frugality, money being bad etc. etc.). If so, start here…
Money is your friend; it is nothing more than a currency (energy). Any negative associations you have with it are down to you, not it.
Here’s an exercise to do which makes many people very uncomfortable at first, until you get comfy and realise that money is your friend…
1. Think about how much you earn per month right now. Are you happy with it? Are you comfortable with it?
2. Think about how much you’d like to earn per month. Would you be comfortable with that? Can you imagine earning that much money? (Really and truly imagine it, I mean).
3. Take the figure above and double it (or triple it!), Are you comfortable earning that? Can you imagine it?
If your response is, “No way – I can’t even imagine earning that” – then that is precisely what is likely to happen. There’s no way you’ll earn that.
The point here is to make friends with earning money – to get comfortable with it, and to feel comfortable about it. Try it – it makes all the difference.
The one area many illustrators neglect to structure well is their banking and bank accounts.
Any accountant will tell you to keep your business and personal finances separately but very few people do it. Pay close attention: It is a MUST do.
Set up a separate bank account for your business (it doesn’t have to strictly be a “business account”, it can be another current/savings account – current is better if you want to easily make payments from it) and use that and only that to receive any money and pay any expenses related to your business.
This might be a faff to sort out – especially if you get into the realm of having to move direct debits and standing orders around – but it is worth it in the long term.
Not only is it simpler to do your accounts every year, by separating your business finances from your personal transactions it also gives you a clarity about your business finances you may well never have had before.
Alongside restructuring your bank accounts, this goes down as one of the other most important financial practices you can cultivate as an entrepreneur.
Set a schedule to pay yourself a salary – as an employee of your business – and stick to it.
Whether it’s weekly, fortnightly or monthly – pay yourself a salary. It doesn’t matter if sometimes that’s only £5 (if that’s all you’ve made), still pay it and log it in your records.
Don’t fall into the trap of just paying yourself whenever, whatever as the money comes into your business…
This is one thing that separates successful, profitable business owners from those who only ever get by.
This is so important because it acknowledges the fact that you play two separate roles when it comes to money management:
Paying yourself a salary helps you keep these 2 roles separate: You manage the business’s money as its CFO and you manage the money your business pays you as you would as an employee of any other company.
This may seem strange, complicated or overkill to some of you but believe me it is absolutely vital if you want to maintain the flow of money and cultivate good money management habits as an entrepreneur, try it for a while and then tell me it doesn’t work.
Logging your transactions daily (what comes in and what goes out) on your spreadsheet or in your tool of choice is an excellent habit to get into…
– and one that will save you hours and hours of hassle and headache when tax return time comes.
Top Tip: Log your daily expenses in your spreadsheet under the tax buckets/categories used on your tax return – this will save you spending hours having to classify them come tax return time.
Cultivating your relationship with money to become someone who is ‘good with money’ (earning and managing it well) is a great place to start. We hope this helps…
Running a business can be a complicated affair – made even more so if you’re a typical creative and not the most organised of people 😉
After just a few years in business things can pile up – accounts, paperwork, reference materials, inspiration, and books. Even the pieces of your own work can become disorganised, unruly and something on your list ‘to sort out’ someday.
If you’re a seasoned illustrator, there are a few signs and symptoms which may sound familiar:
While this may not appear a problem, it can be – in more ways than you think…
All of the above can stifle your creativity, block your progress and (negatively) impact your income and earning potential.
If you’re new, take heart – you can set things up right now so you don’t become that person…and if you are that person, take heart – there are methods and means to help you
In this 101 Guide, we’re going to walk you through a number of suggestions so you can set up your business to be lean, agile, responsive and progressive – all the qualities needed to thrive in the fast-paced 21st century and beyond.
Having well-defined, consciously-designed processes that you follow for each and every illustration project you work on, means you can quickly identify bottlenecks, respond to them and adapt/streamline as required.
As a bare minimum, the following processes are worth thinking about:
When you have clearly defined processes – ones that you stick to for each and every project – you can be confident that:
In this era of cloud computing and online tools for everything, there is no need to lose important paperwork or to even have to deal with physical paperwork unless you want to.
The benefits of online tools to run and manage your business are many:
Some of the most useful online tools to manage your business include:
From a purely physical perspective, we’re agile and lean because we can carry everything we need to run and grow our business in a backpack – this gives us a mindset of agility and freedom.
We don’t need to invest anything but time if we want to change our entire business, because we can…
We can be this agile because we’ve learned the skills necessary to be able to take control of the key assets in our business.
The assets in your business include:
Skilling up in the ‘softer’ skills of running your own business – alongside your own creative skills – enables you to keep your business agile, responsive and lean.
If you need to call in the cavalry every time you want to make a minor change, it’s always going to be a barrier to making the change that’s needed.
Most of all, running a lean and agile business is a matter of mindset. For example:
It’s easy to get stuck in the belief that things have to be done the way they’ve always been done.
Fortunately these days, there are pioneers leading the way across all industries…will you become one of them?
One of the most unexpectedly time-consuming (and often tricky) aspects of running your own illustration business is handling and managing your projects.
As the service provider and (usually) the project manager, you’re the sole point of contact and have responsibility for the entire, end to end process, from securing the client to sign-off.
There are any number of potential sticking points, such as:
These sticking points can be exacerbated when you work purely online – not on location – by the lack of face-to-face contact and the fact that things can very easily be mis-communicated, misinterpreted and misunderstood with online communication channels.
We’ve summarised below some of the key stages of an end-to-end project process where you might come unstuck and how to prevent this from happening in the first place…
This is a MUST – and it doesn’t have to be a formally written contract, as long as you have the key aspects in writing (email) agreed and confirmed before you start the project.
At the very minimum, have confirmed agreement on the following aspects of a project:
If you have agreed on an initial payment upfront/deposit, ensure you receive it before you start any work.
If you hand over an initial concept/sketch before a client has paid the agreed amount, you’ve given away any leverage you might have had, with which to bargain.
While your agreement/contract can include a summary of the agreed work, always ensure you get a full breakdown of what you’re creating and providing to a client.
For example, your contract may state “illustrations for a book” but ideally you’ll clarify this to state “10 x A4-size illustrations for a book etc. etc.” so that both sides are clear from the start what the core deliverables are.
Nail down the specifications and a detailed brief as tightly as possible – when it comes to something as subjective as design & creativity, it’s always tough to satisfy personal tastes & preferences.
A well-constructed and fully completed brief from your client can help you prove (should you need to) that you’ve delivered what was requested, irrespective of whether a client might personally like it or not.
Be clear upfront (in your agreement at the Pre-Project stage ideally), how many concepts/sketches a client can expect to receive, and how many rounds of revisions/tweaks they’re allowed before being charged a supplement.
If you don’t do this, a project can get stuck here in an endless round of the client requesting new concepts until they finally find one they like.
Red Flag: If a client ever says to you, “I’m not sure what I’m looking for, but I’ll know it when I see it” be very wary!
It’s also important to add a gating step at this stage – that is, an ‘official’ signing off of at the sketch/concept stage which allows you to lock it down and move to the next stage of the process.
Once this ‘sign off’ is received from a client – it can be as simple as an email confirmation from them ‘signing off’ the sketch – you have something to fall back on should any major changes be mooted later in the process (or the dreaded, “We don’t really like it” comment once the project is complete).
If you’re working on a more complex or longer term project, it can be easy to let additional requests creep in, that aren’t in the orginal request and aren’t covered by your fee.
Phrases such as “Oh, could you just add X, Y and Z? I know it won’t take long…” can become commonplace and before you know it, that cover illustration for a book has turned into a cover plus 5 extra internal illustrations, with you taking on the extra work for no additional fee.
Ensure you highlight and communicate any potential instances of this as soon as they seem to be happening; producing – by default – any extra illustrations, and then mentioning that these weren’t in the original agreement puts you in a weaker position to re-negotiate any additional fees for the extra work.
Defining what constitutes the official end of a project ensures it won’t drag on and on with endless requests for amendments, tweaks or additions.
Typically this is the ‘official’ handing over of the final deliverables – graphics, images, files etc. – whatever it is, be sure to define and communicate this to the client.
Ensure they know that this constitutes the official end of the project and that any further work will be subject to further fees.
It can be daunting to set your boundaries and stick to them in this way, but contrary to your fears, you may find that clients respect your professionalism, your well defined process and the fact that you are protecting both your own interests and theirs when you consciously and mindfully manage your projects in this way.
The bottom line is this: Never assume that a client knows how you work nor what the process is (or should be). It’s your job to communicate this to them, it’s not theirs to simply know.
At the end of each year, with the festive season in full swing, it can be hard to concentrate on your business and move the needle much further until the new year ‘lull’ comes round.
But if you can find a few quiet moments to begin thinking about the coming new year, you’ll be able to get back into the swing of things much more smoothly when the festivities are over, and focus on what matters most to grow your illustration business each year.
Here are 4 of our top recommendations to help you do this…
Has it been the year you wanted? If not, why not? What didn’t work so well? What did?
There are a lot of ways to conduct an annual review, we like to keep it simple. Grab a pen and make 3 lists, as follows:
This gives you a very simple action list that lets you (a) Review what’s happened (b) Clear the decks and (c) Re-focus your efforts on what matters.
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
“I don’t much care where –”
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”
~ Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
If you’re typically a ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ type illustrator, and it’s not been working out so well for you thus far, perhaps now is a good time to try something new…
Creative people and plans don’t often play well together, but there’s a strategic planning tool that Lea has developed that works well because it’s not a long-winded 30-page business plan, but a simple 1-page plan.
The crux of a good plan is this: Know what you’re aiming for…
What do you really want to be illustrating and who do you really want to be illustrating it for?
Until you really get clear on this, anything else you do for your illustration business is pretty pointless.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that your work will do all the talking when it comes to your personal/professional brand – and sometimes it can – but if you interact on social media, attend networking events and generally perform other activities to market your business (which you should be doing!), then honing your brand for all these activities can really help.
Consider the following questions:
If your work looks the same/similar to fellow illustrators, your brand – how you (re)present your work across all different channels and media (including you, as the illustrator) – can set you apart.
How well does your brand currently work for you? What can you do next year to improve it?
I’m sure we’ve all done this (I know I have)…you work on a lovely new promo mailer and send it out.
Then, several months later you think ‘Ooh, I haven’t sent out a mailer in a while’, so you create a new one and send it out. There’s no set schedule, it happens when it happens.
Creating a Promotional Calendar in advance can help you plan this into your schedule so you know what’s coming up, and can incorporate it into your workload.
The biggest benefit of doing this is that you will have an ongoing stream of marketing activities happening – to a plan – rather than the sporadic, ‘market when you need more clients’ type of approach so many creatives default to.
With this new December 2013 desktop, it marks 3 years since I started creating and releasing them – this is probably the longest illustration project I’ve ever stuck to!
These desktops have been an important part of my work – giving me a space to experiment with new ideas without a client looking over my shoulder, and also enabling me to share a taster of some of the client jobs I’ve been working on at the time.
To celebrate, I wanted to do something to take the project to the next level and also tie it in more with our endangered animals website, Then There Were None.
So, thanks to my lovely business strategist wife, I have a new plan!
Each month I’ll be releasing:
Week 1: The desktop to download, freely.
Weeks 2 & 3: Prints of the desktop; on sale for a limited time until they become extinct forever.
Week 4: One unique, hand embellished and signed version of the print.
Without any further ado, here is the December desktop available for immediate download…
Please right click on the version you’d like and select “Save As…”:
With the print that will be available in week 2, I’d like your help to decide which one goes on sale…
I’ll be adding these 2 prints to the Jonathan Woodward Studio Facebook page and asking you to vote there. Alternatively you can leave a comment with your vote here on the blog.
Polar Bear Family
Polar Bears & Narwhals
I also thought it would be fun to take this opportunity to gather all my previous wallpapers together in one place and see how they’ve changed and progressed over the years…
In response to the devastating typhoon that hit the Philippines and to try and help the people over there in some small way, I’ll be auctioning off my framed original Kingfisher collage to the highest bidder.
The auction is being run via my Jonathan Woodward Studio Facebook page, is already underway and will run until midnight on Friday (GMT). I will be covering the cost of postage and packing to anywhere in the world.
My wife and children are Filipino by genetics so I feel even more compelled to try and help, but more than that, I’m a human and fellow humans are currently going through something we probably couldn’t even begin to imagine right now. So, please do hop over to the Facebook page and take a look >>>
I’m delighted to say that the final, winning amount bid for the collage was £100. Thank you very much to Mary Murphy, who is the new owner of my Kingfisher collage.