So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #018: The Fallacy of the Gig Economy

Welcome back to my little corner of the internet, kiddos. It’s been a while, I know… but to be fair: my editor told me to watch and annotate The Handmaid’s Tale, and frankly it caused me to be a moapy-weepy-sad-cis-mess. But, I shook off the cobwebs to see what’s been grinding my gears lately concerning pop-culture.

And frankly? I got nothing.

I thought about writing an entire article about micro-transactions and DLC for video games — and why I find it to be the most despicable trend in the known universe. But frankly, I get it. If they had sold extra characters for WWF Royal Rumble for my Super Nintendo, I’d have smashed my bank into little kosher piggie bits for the chance to add Duke the Dumpster Droese to my roster. And while I’d love to say I’ve never been tempted by the siren song of an extra five moves in Candy Crush… well, I’d have to be as honest as our current Cheeto-In-Chief in my denial. Moving on.

I then gave some thought about what else I’ve been consumed by lately in the Pop Culture Proscenium. I’m really enjoying The Kominsky Method on Netflix… but c’mon. It’s a show where old white dudes cuss, talk about their dicks, and Lisa Edelstein acts drunk. For that I should waste 1000 words? Feh! And when I’m not making my way through that? I’m literally on my 27th run-through of the entirety of Scrubs. And frankly, you don’t want me to write the 10,000 word screed in my heart as to why that show is the single greatest sitcom of the last 30 years. Fight me. 

My mind drifted towards the trailers for Aquaman, Captain Marvel, and Avengers: End Game. But I honestly don’t want to waste time predicting plot points, dissecting trailers for Easter eggs, or just giddily squeeing about the impending joy I’ll have enjoying them when they debut. One benefit to being a father is knowing the few and rare times I get to leave my house with my wife to enjoy a movie is knowing that even if the movie turns out to be absolute horse-poo… 3 hours without my amazing, adorable, brilliant, loving children makes anything I partake in absolutely flawless.

So, that brings me to the only thing left going on in my life… my moonlighting career as a freelance artist and designer. Now, you might be interjecting… “Hey! Bearded Guy! You have an indie studio, Unshaven Comics, and last we checked, you should be working hard to release the next issue of The Samurnauts! Well, bucko. I should be. But I’m not. Because dad has got bills to pay, and The Samurnauts ain’t keeping food on his table. So, I beseech your kind heart to allow me my digression.

From time to time, I have been truly blessed to connect with friends and acquaintances seeking to work with me to produce some very cool things. Heck, this year, I’ve worked on a comic-strip advertising campaign for my hometown that made me nationally recognized for 10 solid seconds (if you read the AP Newswire or a handful of real-estate blogs). Doing that led me to partner with a plethora of folks throughout my suburb… to help their budding small businesses rebrand, build, and market themselves. In doing that work, honestly, I’ve made some new friends for life. I’ve even reconnected with old teachers, mentors, and lost-friends who are now well-woven in the tapestry of my present life.

But through all this sunshine must come a heavy cloud. The downside to being a freelancer is to know the pain of the purchase. When Unshaven Comics puts up a commission sign on our table at a comic con, the transactions are simple and direct. Want some art? Pay us the rate on the sign. Money in hand means my hand starts doodlin’. Easy-peasy. But in the world of local artist/designer/marketer, it’s not so easy. Projects are pitched, estimates are dispatched, and because I’ve been the forgiving kind? The work starts immediately. Mockups are run over with a fine-tooth comb until they are tamped down into accepted work, and are gleefully transferred to my client. Afterwards, I’ve made the consistent mistake of figuring the aforementioned estimate would come with said client squirreling away their shekels to place happily into my palm upon completion of the work. I’ve been met (lately) with a rash of rather fickle folks with sudden bouts of ghostism. Where my upturned palm is met with a hasty “I’ll get you tomorrow, buddy!” followed by the wispy outline of said client/friend/well-wisher dissipating into the ether as my hand grows cold.

As does my once forgiving heart.

Perhaps it was within the throws of verdant despondence over partaking in the misadventures of Offred that I found myself gleefully completing work without thinking twice about collecting payment in a timely manner. My need to balance the sheer despair I felt over June’s crippling at the hands of the patriarchy made me sympathetic to my fellow suburbanites in need of logos, posters, or drawings of their loved ones. But just as Fred Waterford must shed his lesser impulses to treat people with respect or dignity, perhaps I must learn from his cold and dead soul. Or maybe I should employ the use of micro-transactions. Want to see how the project is coming along? Send me $5 to unlock a mockup! Maybe instead I should learn from my favorite sitcoms… and deliver project updates with a giggle and a music sting to imply that we’ll be right back after some paid endorsements. Or, maybe I’ll release bits and pieces of the work the client wants in 10 or 30 second trailers, or pre-teaser-trailers where I just float innocuous turns-of-phrase like “When they needed to see it the most… All they had to do was open their eyes… and wallets.”

Whatever it is I ultimately decide on? Suffice to say it will be a solution meant to spare me my withered feelings of hope and positivity. Just as Nelson and Murdoch needed to eventually turn away the proverbial barrels of fish for payment… This Fish will officially be turning away clients who don’t barrel me over with money down, and money for final file delivery. And you can take that to the bank.