How do you go about selecting projects to work on?
Tom: For commercial projects, I want the product or service to be worthwhile, it has to have a reason to be there in it's current marketplace. The project should come with a reasonable timeline and budget. I want to work with kind, honest, hardworking people.

How would you define success, in terms of being a multi-disciplined Illustrator?
Tom: Being able to do the kind of work that I find enriching for the audience, the client, the people who work with me and for myself. Being able to change directions so new challenges and growth are possible and opportunities for exciting developments can be encouraged.

What piece of advice should every Illustrator/Designer remember?
Tom: Always do the things you love doing. Don't feel swayed into following trends, always try and do something that stands out from the crowd and just be yourself.

Is it possible to have both, making money and doing good work?
Tom: Quoting from Minale Tattersfield: "In my experience, every designer whose prime aim in going into business was to make money while at the same time producing good design, failed on both counts. I believe that designing is something you have to do for love. If you are committed first and foremost to producing good design then you'll make money as a by-product because good design is something people are willing to pay for. But that financial reward will be a bonus, a gift." I completely agree with this.

What financial advice about running a business would you give to an Illustrator who’s just starting out?
Tom: Use time sheets. Use contracts. Keep everything recorded and down on paper. Stay small. Take in more money than you spend as you will need it for when the work gaps come. Work hard during the week but don't work weekends unless there is a real emergency. Budget wisely.

How do you know when to say no to a potential client?
Tom: When the product is really bad. When I dont like them or their ethics. When they have rush jobs (clients who are bad at scheduling a job are often bad in other areas too such as payments).

Did you have to invest a lot of initiative or did you have to work without profit to increase the recognition of your name in the beginning? Could you give us an example of the efforts you made?
Tom: After a very successful degree show at New Designers, London I proactively began advertising myself across the web putting together concept projects and refining my style. I was rewarded with multiple feature awards across behance and it all started from there. I caught the attention of BBC Films and Sky, although the latter never got round to contacting me further. My first job was with an exciting retail brand developing flavoured Ice Teas by the name of Guru Fresh Break. I have since been developing advertising work and packaging designs ever since.

What are you favourite projects that you have worked on so far?
Tom: I would say the work I have bee doing with Guru and also the sports advertising work that I have been doing with agency Esfera br Midia and music illustrations and poster designs with Bristol's Ansum and the Vibes. I like challenging projects but also ones that allow me creative output such as my sports illustrations with Esfera br Midia.

How do you go about pricing your work?
Tom: I currently use the pricing guidelines used by the AOI (Association of Illustrators) to determine project costs. This is then compared with how much time the client has given me, I always try and insist on clients having their own deadlines as I can't say for sure how long a project will take. Sometimes a client will say the initial quote is too expensive or outside their budget, this can sometimes be problematic as the Illustrator/Designer does not work on minimum wage, advertising work is expensive so therefore decisions have to be made to leave the project or negotiate a lower fee. 

How do you deal with clients who try to make your life difficult, unexplained late payments, refusal of payments or general unprofessional behaviour?
Tom: I would avoid these clients, thankfully I have yet to experience this but you never know. Normally you take their name and details to the AOI and have them backlisted. Also many illustrators spread those names to be avoided all over social media - even sharing each others statuses. This quickly spreads like wildfire and is a very, very effective way of ensuring the problematic client does not work with an Illustrator again. Illustration is a professional industry and is not to be taken advantage of.

Tom J Manning Design & Illustration

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