Saturday, March 24, 2012

Don't be a Jerk: Contacts and Connections

Contacts are people.

If you want them to remember you well, be respectful and don't act as if they are inexhaustible gold mines that can be pushed to hire or commission you. Most people want to help you and will do what they can to either commission your services or set you up with someone who can. Even if they can't use you at the moment, they could possibly in the future.

Most contacts aren't instant work.

For people you met at a career fair, don't call them all the time. Constant checking in is actually counterproductive. The people that come to these events are already overloaded with emails and calls. Don't expect them to remember you personally right away. Remind them of the highlights of your conversation and your strengths as a way of jogging their memory, but keep it down to a couple sentences. Ask them about projects they had mentioned (if they did not mention anything, look them up online to see what they are currently working on). Check in with them a couple times, but if you don't get any response after a two or three times it may a good idea to give them some time.

Treat a contact as though they are a formal version of a friend, hopefully this is what they will grow to be.

Only cold call if necessary, these sporadic conversations tend to make everyone uncomfortable. Try to build an actual human relationship with people you want to keep in contact with. You know, the type of relationship that would make someone want to keep up with you and your work. Keep sending emails to check in with people from a Career Fair, but ask them if you can put them on a newsletter. Not only is this a more permanent and positive image, but it is also much more professional than being one of hundreds pleading to them for jobs on a biweekly basis.

Always ask before adding someone to your newsletter, and keep introductory emails short.
A long email describing every virtue you have is not likely to attract new contacts.

In short, treat contacts how you would want to be treated, and treat them online as you would in person. Many people see someone they meet on the internet as a place as a tool for success instead of a human being. The same applies to Career Fairs and similar opportunities. Be concise, remind them why they were interested in you, let them know how they can benefit from working with you, and ask them about current projects.

Checklist for Contact Etiquette:
  1. Don't cold call unless necessary (especially repeatedly). 
  2. Don't email the same email thing more than once. If individual emails to someone seem inappropriate, ask if they would like to be added to your mailing list and send relevant quarterly updates. 
  3. Make honest, relevant, and concise conversation. 
  4. Be patient. See contacts in long term, not short term. 
  5. Be open to unlikely sources. 
When you get a job be friendly, professional, deliver work on time and in the correct format etc. 
Future work relies on good work and good communication

Checklist for your Professional Hit List:
  1. Make a spreadsheet of all known contacts. Separate contact info, how you know them, what they know, what they like/dislike about you, what you can do for them, and what they can do for you.
  2. Whether twice a year or quarterly, go through that list and send updates. 
  3. This is where that newsletter comes in handy. It may be a good idea to fine tune a newsletter for each contact. Whether one is more personal, or another is geared towards a separate market, just make sure its relevant to its recipients. It should contain new work, new projects, and a brief overview of what you've been up to. Bonus points if it's pretty. 
  4. I personally have a spreadsheet of people I would like to work for. It helps me make think about who I actually want to meet/work for and take steps towards doing so. Its actually very helpful. 
  5. Record any responses, feedback, who you talked to, and their contact information. This allows you to mention what they said or who you talked to in future conversations with the company/person. 

-If you are in college it is by far the most effective to just talk to your career counselor about the issue of meeting and maintaining contacts...that's what they're paid to do.

-Basic examples of proper email etiquette for the completely lost.

-Excellent article that agrees with me :)

-Recommended Reading: Keith Farazzi's Never Eat Alone (making contacts) and Who's Got your Back (keeping contacts)

Friday, March 2, 2012

Software Free For All: A Loris Attacks Video Tutorial

From a traditional artist seeking a better way to transpose ideas onto the canvas to a digital visual effects wizard with a small pocketbook, the following tutorial will be of great use to you.

I've spent the last several weeks researching packages that are not only free but have a strong user-base behind them.  It is important to have resources to turn to if there are bugs or issues, so simply being free was not enough for a program to make our list.

Download Gimp Painter
Windows only, for a cross platform version of regular Gimp go here.

Loris Attacks Digital Paint Workflow (the concepts apply to Gimp as well)
Gimp Paint Studio Introduction
For Traditional Artists:
Gimp Painter is an intuitive way to quickly sketch out ideas and play with color/light concepts without ever having to use up precious materials.  Saves money and time in the long run.
For Digital Artists:
Photoshop and Corel Painter cost money, granted there are free version available, but if you want all the features in one package without torrenting or purchasing then Gimp Painter is your new best friend!

Download Sculptris
For Mac and Windows
For Traditional Artists: 
Perhaps you may not be the best digital sculptor, but that does not meant that you cannot benefit from the possibility of viewing something from any angle to sketch or paint!  You can download free .obj models (here, here, and here) and load them into Sculptris for an object, character, or place in the round at your disposal!  Free reference that allows your creative freedom to flourish?  Yes please!
Does importing a strange file into a (perhaps) terrifyingly digital program sound like a bit of a stretch for you despite the benefits?  Here is a quick guide to importing those .obj models and even getting started with a bit of sculpting yourself!

For Digital Artists:
What if you could have the ease of use that Mudbox offers, from the makers of ZBrush, and all for free?  That's the beauty of Sculptris, you can build up your texture and modeling portfolio for free.
Download Google SketchUp
For Windows and Mac

For Traditional and Digital Artists:
Google SketchUp is fantastic for pulling perspective on tricky situations.  
With only several minutes spent, it is possible to rough out an entire environment of primitive forms that serve as excellent reference.
From digital paint to oils, Google SketchUp is a handy free tool for everyone!

Download Blender
For Windows, Linux, and Mac
Crazy Amazing Things you can do with Blender!

For Traditional Artists:
Unless you are planning on transitioning from traditional artist to digital animation or visual effects may not want to touch this one.

For Digital Artists:
There are some people who have a strong hatred for Blender simply because of how genuinely good it is.  If Blender were a presidential candidate, the media would ignore it.  This is a dark horse of a program simply because it is programmed by and for digital artists.
As a free alternative to Maya, 3DS Max, and Cinema 4D, Blender is fantastic.
I personally like this program better than all of the programs listed aside from Maya.
Blender is polarizing, yet impressive.

Download Picogen
For Windows or Linux
Gallery of Images made with Picogen 
For Traditional Artists:
Sometimes the fantastic or surreal landscape you want to paint or draw does not exist.  The ability to generate an environment from your mind's eye to use as a reference is valuable, the nonexistent price tag is an added bonus.
For Digital Artists:
Whether you need a landscape for an environment sphere or a dynamic plate to base a matte painting off of, Picogen is a nice (free) alternative to Vue.