As a addendum to the blog post on Escape from Illustration Island, I thought I should re-post my comment and expand it a bit to explain the problems with being an "artist".
UARTS in Philadelphia had a strong program with serious professional instructors. The chair was adamant about the business, and stressed preparation and practices… this didn’t sink in with kids that saw themselves as "artists", not business majors.
We had been told more than once, by a few different instructors: "Of you thirty in this class, only one or two will stick it out and become professional illustrators..."
That should have been a wake-up call to re-assess career goals and question the dollars spent on a university degree. I've been fortunate to have a career in the arts, but that is through bull-headedness, as much as luck.
Historically, I have been ripped off by the big three: Family, State and Church… each as past clients, so I enter each contract and business deal like a wet cat. It takes some hard knocks to become business savvy, and nothing can teach like experience… The universities can teach, warn and direct, but it still is a sink-or-swim world out there (here).
I failed to mention that the Big 3, Family, State and Church had all burned me while I was an artisan woodworker. I was spanked by a state Supreme Court Justice, a Parish Priest and a dear old Auntie that all felt they were within their right to "Eff" with my life.
Each rip-off stemmed from work continuation and "add-ons" to the original contract, that weren't documented properly. I was always on the trusting side of the fence, since I used to believe that people were generally good, and should be given the benefit of the doubt.
NO: People are jerks, everyone of them, and you test each one by allowing them to prove themselves otherwise.
I teach this to my own kids... don't got blindly into a situation thinking someone else has your best interest at heart...
You need to have set parameters, solid and clearly written understandable contracts of what is expected by you, them and by when. A contract is your only friend in a business deal. The stress of everyday life can turn a "cool guy" into a cornered badger when they aren't making payroll, or see you as a frivolous expenditure for that month. Word of mouth and a handshake are only feel-good items, they mean nothing in a dispute. Cover your ass with a contract...
If you read my blog, or are curious about what it takes - Learn this one thing. Business Contracts are everything. You need to learn what you can about them. You need to abide by them, and hold others to them.
If it's not a signed contact, I don't start working. The deadline is looming, so you better push it through "legal".