Advent of the Insurgent Creative, Day Sixteen – Freelancers

So you’ve studied and practiced and learned, and yet there are still some things that you can’t quite manage for yourself. There’s no shame in that. For example, despite years of practice, my illustration skills are nowhere near the level where I feel comfortable relying purely on myself for that sort of work. So in that situation, what’s an Insurgent Creative to do?

Hire some freelance help.

There are sites all over the internet where freelancers can be hired for everything from web design and application programming to personal assistants and illustrators. In fact, many of these freelancers are Insurgent Creatives themselves, making their living by providing their skills to others (and you should consider supplementing your own income in this way as well — every little bit helps, after all).

The most secure option is to use a site which connects you to freelancers, and also brokers payment between you — like Elance. Elance allows you to post a job, and take bids from freelancers who have passed admissions tests based on skills. Once you’ve found a freelancer, both of you are protected by the site accepting your payment and holding it in escrow — the freelancer knows the payment is there, and you know they’ll only get paid if you’re satisfied. The freelancers are from all over the world, so you can set a task and have it completed by someone on the other side of the planet, who work while you sleep! The site handles freelancers in tons of different categories: Programmers, Designers, Writers, Marketers, Admins, Consultants, Finance and more. A brief overview of how to hire a freelancer is provided here:

Another site on the same model is ODesk, which offers a similar method. Posting a job, finding a freelancer anywhere in the world (or searching and contacting specific freelancers, based on portfolio and skill), and handling all aspects of the job brokered by the site itself. They provide a video overview of their service as well:


In addition, you can search for freelancers via portfolio sites: Artists via Deviant Art, for example, allowing you to browse artists galleries and then contact them via comments or email. Forum sites also often provide places to post jobs: the Penciljack forum is a good place to find artists. The Kindle Boards offer a specific thread for people offering services to independent authors. There are literally hundreds of other such sites out there, and, of course, it’s also worth using your social media resources — chances are, you know somebody who knows somebody who has the skill you need.

Just because you’ve decided to go around the traditional gatekeepers doesn’t mean that you have to do it alone. An insurgency is strongest, after all, when it’s a connected network.

Storm the gates.

Advent of the Insurgent Creative, Day Fifteen – iTunes U

To be an Insurgent Creative, you need to be a Jack-of-All-Trades. A multi-tasker. If you’re going to make a go of it yourself, you need to have as many of the necessary skills as you can possibly learn — skills which in the old model were provided by the gatekeepers. It’s not enough for you to just be a writer, or an artist, or a musician — you must also be a marketer, a web designer, a finance manager, etc. It is possible for you to hire freelance contractors to do some of that for you (see the next entry for more details), but that will cost. If you’re looking to keep your costs down, that means you’re going to need to throw yourself against some fairly steep learning curves. Time to go back to school.

Thankfully, this doesn’t have to be a bank-breaking prospect. Apple has launched iTunes U, a service that distributes free course lectures, videos, readings, tours, documents and podcasts from learning institutions all over the world, directly to your iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, or computer. Courses on any subject, with video lectures, class materials, and more — and again, this is free.

There are many courses that would be incredibly useful to any Insurgent Creative, including:

  • iPad/iPhone Application Development by Stanford University: Development of touch-based mobile applications in IOS5. The top download at iTunes U.
  • Building Dynamic Websites by Harvard Extension School: Instruction on site design using Ajax, Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP, how to structure with XHTML and CSS, programming in JavaScript, etc.
  • Elements of Drawing by Oxford University: Teaching the basic principles of drawing, links to a browsable online collection of additional materials.
  • Digital Media, Part 1 by Michigan’s MI Learning program: A massively comprehensive course covering digital production in Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop.
  • Essentials of Advertising and Marketing by Arizona State University: Introductory course in the form of audio podcasts of lectures on the principles of communications in marketing and advertising.
  • Yale Entrepreneurial Institute Series by Yale University: A series of podcast lectures and guest speakers from the program devoted to helping Yale undergrads and graduates start new ventures.

…and this is just barely scratching the surface. Take some time to dig around in iTunes and see what’s available. You’ll never know what you might find applicable to your work, anything from Business courses to lectures on History or Philosophy. Time spent learning is not time wasted — and remember: The more you’re capable of doing yourself, the less you have to depend on others to make your living.

Storm the gates.