I’ve been a fan of Alex Mathers and his Red Lemon Club blog for quite some time. The site provides really solid advice for freelance creatives of all kinds. Alex’s own speciality is illustration, a topic covered by his other site, Ape on the Moon – so he talks from experience – and of course this means all of his sites and products are extremely well designed.
Alex is releasing a new ebook today designed to demystify the latest social network from Google that hardly anyone seems to know how to use properly, Google+. The guide is designed specifically to help creative freelancers to attract new clients and simplify their online presence. As you can see from the below interview, he knows his stuff.
Please can you describe who you are and what you are up to at the moment?
I’m a London, UK-based self-taught illustrator and writer working on various illustration projects, including something for Wired magazine right now. I run a website called Red Lemon Club that aims to help other freelancers, entrepreneurs and creatives with going it alone, finding clients, doing business, and so on.
I’m about to make a move to Tokyo to experience things from a different perspective and can’t wait!
Did you always know what you wanted to do (creatively) or has it been a process of trial and error to get to the point you’re at now? If it’s the latter, how did you decide what to focus on?
Practically everything that I’ve ever done up until this point has been a result of trial and error, and gradual change. I like to try out new things but also make a point of sticking with something once I’ve started it, and allowing it to evolve over time, fine-tuning as I go.
I’ve stayed focused on particular things, like my illustrations, by always having a vision in mind of where I would like things to go. The thing is, that vision always changes slightly (but not dramatically), and that’s how things progress. When I first started illustrating, things looked a lot different to how they do now.
You’re both a skilled illustrator and writer. In general do you recommend creative people specialise or do you think those with multiple interests/skillsets can be as successful?
I always talk and write about people needing to specialise when it comes to a certain skill. For example, designers should work towards developing a style that sets you out from the rest as a brand, so that you benefit from being memorable and better off in a supply and demand sense.
I do, however think it is possible, and in many cases good sense, to branch out into other skillsets, and be as successful in each of them, as long as you operate under a different brand. My illustration, for example, comes under a different branding style to my writing on Red Lemon Club.
People like to associate a certain working style with a certain brand, and if a brand contains too many skills or styles within it, it confuses prospects and can turn them away.
A lot of your advice at Red Lemon Club centres around the benefits of a solid online presence and use of social media. If you could give one piece of advice for confused creative people who don’t know where to start, what would it be?
I do focus a great deal on having a prolific online presence because it makes logical sense for people who want to do business and win new projects. This is where you can have access to and develop ongoing professional relationships with people, when you previously couldn’t.
However, much of what you do online holds little value unless you are well positioned as a product or service provider within the marketplace, just as this has always been an important part of doing business in the past. This means that you need to firstly have a good product or service, secondly, you need to set yourself out from the rest, and thirdly you need to know who your target clients/customers are. With these in place, you are off to a good start.
Given the success you’ve had online, are you concerned about recent threats to internet freedom such as SOPA or do you think artists need more protection in terms of copyright for their work?
I’m all for people protecting creative work, and piracy is something that needs to be cut out if the creative industries are to thrive. The SOPA way of doing it was a rushed and poorly planned strategy that, with a great deal of opposition, has now been scrapped. SOPA would have destroyed the web as we know it because it banned any reference to any potential form of copyright infringement, which was not the right approach.
There need to be tighter restrictions on sites that allow you to download film, audio and media that people would otherwise pay for, and perhaps more control on restricting major acts of copyright infringement.
For the most part, however, people need to chill out on what gets distributed and simply deal with working around the inevitability of things getting shared on the net.
You have just published a guide to mastering Google Plus. Do you have any additional advice for creative people who are struggling to find the time for yet another social network and are concerned their productivity could suffer?
The course was written knowing full well that people already have a lot to deal with when it comes to having an online presence and taking action with social media.
This is why the approach in the course is to view Google+ as a means to actually save time and increase productivity. I view Google+ as a kind of online control panel, from which you can do most, if not all of your professional and personal online engagement, from sharing social media updates, to engaging and networking with others, to presenting a portfolio, and sharing blog posts.
With a few tweaks to the way you currently do things, which I show you in the course, you can use Google+ very efficiently and productively. The platform is gaining a new influx of users, which is continuing to grow at a very fast pace, so it’s looking exciting for Google+ and the freelancing crowd in general.
It’s evident that you’ve worked really hard on both your art and business. How do you motivate yourself on a daily basis?
I’ve chosen to work on things that genuinely interest and excite me, so motivating myself to do what I do is not usually necessary. The business side of things normally takes a little extra push, but because it is related to the fun stuff I do, it’s normally not that big an issue. I have an accountant to help with the boring stuff. In terms of getting inspired, exercise, electronic music and a good film will put me in a creative mood!
Cheers Alex! If you found this post useful please leave a comment and make Alex welcome. I know what he has to say about branding has got me thinking about my own freelancing plans.
Meanwhile I have read and would highly recommend Alex’s guide to Google+ for Freelancers. It contains a bunch of really smart insights and strategies which will give anyone who uses them a significant edge over the competition. In fact I’m not sure why I’m telling other people about it!
Particularly good are the bonuses that come with it – combined, these ebooks are a great primer on how to set up a “prolific online presence” as Alex describes it, and to really give your creative career a shot in the arm.
Please note that as usual, this is an affiliate link, which means I will get a cut if you purchase it. As you know though, I only recommend resources I’ve actually bought and found useful myself.