unrealistic deadlines art by bob ostrom

How to Handle Unrealistic Deadlines

Artists & Deadlines

Artists work on deadlines all the time. It’s how we get things done. It’s the nature of our business. Sooner or later though, you’re going to run into an impossible deadline. So, what’s the best way to handle a job with an unrealistic timeline?

Managing your time

The first thing you’ll need to do is gather the facts.
  • How long will the job actually take to complete?
  • What other jobs do you have that may cause conflicts?
  • Can your other obligations be shuffled around to meet the new deadline?
  • Does the client have any flexibility, if so how much?
  • Is there additional money in the budget to help expedite the process?
Many artist underestimate the amount of time needed to complete a project. In a perfect world we would have no obligations, no previous deadlines, and no other projects cluttering our desktop. Problems show up when we have to balance more than one project at the same time. The more projects you have the trickier things get.


When a job comes in unexpectedly My advice is to double the amount of time you think it will take to complete. This might seem overly generous but I recommend it for several reasons.
  1. Because there are usually other projects to consider and those projects have deadlines. Deadlines have a tendency to shift. This will give you room to breathe.
  2. If you’re like me, you have a tendency to get excited about new prospects. Sometimes this clouds judgement. Doubling your deadline gives you time to assess the project and be sure you allow the proper amount of time for completion.
  3. Let’s face it, sometimes life gets messy. Extra time allows for things like corrections, new ideas, redo’s, updates and all the other things art directors love to add to improve the final product.
One last quick note on extra time – This one’s super important. It’s always better to ask for more time at the beginning of a project then it is to beg for it at the end. Asking up front gives your client a chance to adjust. Begging at the end puts them in a very difficult sometimes expensive position.

Ask for more money

If there’s no flexibility in your deadline then the next best thing is to ask for more money. Having more money will help you in three ways.
  1. It allows you to hire additional help if needed to meet your deadline.
  2. It pays you for you time, time you could have spent working with other clients on other projects.
  3. It eases the pain of all those extra hours you’re going to put in.

Run like hell

So what if there’s no flexibility, what do you do then? You have two choices. Accept the job and suffer the consequences or just say, no. Sometimes you just have to know when to live and fight another day. This can be painful especially when your finances are shaky and you really need work. Believe me I understand desperation but there’s one very important thing to remember. You are under no obligation to make up for other someone else’s poor time management skills. If they are are unwilling to make any concessions to help you, help them, then it’s time to walk away.There is no shame in turning down a project. You are a professional and as a professional you deserve respect. Respect yourself enough to know when to turn around and run from a bad deal. Trust me you’ll be happy you did.
finding work as an artist illustration by bob ostrom

What are Art Directors Looking for?

Finding work as an artist

You’re looking for work. You’d like to connect with an art director or a creative director but you don’t have a clue where to start. Where do they hang out? What are they looking for? How do you reach out and make a connection? There’s so much competition these days how do you even get noticed. Here’s short list to help shed a little light. Keep in mind other creative directors may have different opinions so what works for me might not with another. With that said… Here is a list of three things you can try that will hopefully get you noticed and working on your next job.

1-Be a pro

Be a pro (even if you’re not). One thing art directors want to know is if they give you the job, can you handle it? I can spot a rookie portfolio a mile away and I avoid them like the plague. Why? Because it’s a huge gamble. I don’t have time for gambles that’s why I work with pros. Being professional means delivering top quality work that is consistent and reflects the art in your portfolio with no surprises.

Your art director needs to know they can trust you and you won’t leave them hanging. The best way to do that is by demonstrating your abilities. In other words, show your work. Who are your clients? Do you have recommendations from previous clients? Do you write about your process in your blog? Are you posting consistently on your site and/or social media? Professional experience counts but so does great work. Which brings me to my next point…

2-Show your work

How do I find artists. Most times when I need an artist I have someone in mind but when I don’t here are a few things that will help you get to the top of the list:

  • Make it easy to find your information because there are probably 4 or 5 other artists I’m looking at as well. Most of the artists I work with I find through some sort of connection but I also love discovering new artists through social media sites.
  • My favorite site for viewing art is Instagram. If I have time I might go to a portfolio listing site too as long as the site is easy to use. I don’t want to get mired down with some shitty sales pitch or by a site that isn’t well designed. If you’re going to put your art on a listing site make sure it meets the qualifications. If it’s your own site same deal. Easy in, easy out. Contact information up front and center. Brownie points if it’s in more than one place.
  • Post often. Get in the habit of posting something everyday. The more you post them more likely you are to reach the person who might hire you. Developing a following gains trust. Trust wins jobs so post often.

3-First come first serve

I can’t emphasize this enough but once the field has been narrowed down the first artist to respond is usually the artist I hire. It’s heartbreaking when late responses come in but unfortunately most jobs have strict deadlines. Waiting for the artist I had hoped to work with VS the artist who’s responded quickly isn’t an option. It pays to get in touch quickly.

Please, please, please have your preferred contact info in an easy to find location. Put it right on your home page up top. That way you won’t miss a call. Make sure you have a contact page with up to date information. The more ways I have to get in touch with you the better chance we have of connecting. If you don’t have your own site put your contact info somewhere in your actual portfolio. Usually up front and then again at the end. You would be surprised at how many artists turn this into an Easter egg hunt. Don’t fall into that trap. Make it nice and simple and I guarantee it will pay off for you in the end.

Bonus – Side note

I know I said three points so let’s just call this a bonus. This is something I run into from time to time and I thinks it’s important to mention. It has to do with scheduling and availability. I don’t care if you have a full time job. It’s not important to me unless it’s going to get in the way. How you manage your time is completely up to you but I don’t want to work around your full time job schedule. If you can meet my deadline great. If you can’t because your full time job is going to get in the way please don’t take my job. You missing a deadline because your job got in the way is not a valid excuse. I understand your desire for extra work but sometimes saying no is better than saying yes to a job if your schedule can’t support the extra work.

Be available and easy to reach calling you after hours or only on weekends sucks. Do I work odd hours? Sometimes, but those are my hours and I guard them very carefully. If I didn’t I would be working all the time and I don’t like working all the time. So think carefully before you agree to take a job. Say no if your schedule doesn’t support you giving it your full attention.

Hope these tips were useful. Good luck in your search. See you all next week!

publish anyway art by bob ostrom

Why is it so hard to publish?

I’ve been posting stuff online forever yet, here I sit with my finger hovering above the publish button again. What if my post is riddled with spelling mistakes? What if there are embarrassing grammar mistakes? What if people reading this article are too polite to point out my errors and I just come off looking like an idiot? What if I get snarky comments? What if? What if?…

It’s easy to fixate on the negatives. The problem is that if you do, nothing gets posted, nothing gets done. It all just sits in the sorting bin waiting to be revised over and over again while you search for the perfect words. Here’s a little tip. There are no perfect words. It’s quicksand. The more you struggle the deeper it gets. If you want to make progress you need to let go of the idea that everything needs to be perfect. It won’t. It will never be. You’ll always find mistakes, better ways to do things and excuses not to publish. So, my advice? Take a deep breath, let it go and hit the publish button.