Suggested Reading for Freelance Creatives

I am a bit of a bibliophile…. Okay more then a bit. It’s always a toss-up for me, do I cover the walls in art or books? I even have the kindle download on any computer I use regularly. I need my book-based resources at my fingers tips. I don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t just reach out and grab a book! I might cry, a lot.

This “list” is a collection of books, with links to buy them. These are generic resources most creative types, be they artists or sculptors, may find useful. Before purchasing any of them please see the reviews on the sales web site, and/or checkout any reviews I may have written to make sure you are buying what you need.

This list is one I intend to keep updated regularly.  I’ve made this informational book list into a post rather then a page, as I want to hear from you as well. What books would you suggest? Which ones have you used? Where did you buy them from? Do you prefer digital copies, physical copies, or both? Let me know!

* If your links are affiliate links, please note that in your post.

The Bookshelf

Artist’s Guide to the Law by Richard Amada
With the expansion of the internet, and how much more exposure an artist gets when they bring their art online, it becomes even more necessary that we learn what’s legal and what is not legal. Although copyright and IP rights are rife with gray areas, and it is better to obtain legal advice from an actual lawyer, books like this help educate one from making very poor and extremely amateurish mistakes.?/5
New Tax Guide for Writers, Artists, Performers and other Creative People by Peter Jason Riley
Freelancing is a tough business. Not only do you do the work itself, but the marketing, the advertising, the customer service, and the accounting work to keep track of the income produced. This means tracking your taxes and deductions as well! (
Tax Deductions A to Z for Writers, Artists, and Performers (Tax Deductions A to Z series by Anne Skalka CPA

Notes:  $
Did you know that the purchase of a new laptop for work purposes COULD be a good tax deduction? There are a lot of things creatives need to keep track of in regards to outgoing expenses. Ofen it’s the little things that get missed, and those do add up no matter how small they seem!?/5
Annual Tax Mess Organizer for Writers, Artists, Self-Publishers & Craftspeople by Kiki Canniff
Not all artists are disorganized with major “pile file” systems in place for paperwork. But for those whose creativity often overshadows organization of something as important as supply reciepts, this book is for you!?/5


Thumbtack: Local-Freelancer Service Finder

I’m always on the look-out for new income streams. I learned a long time ago that seven small streams that trickle in can add up over time. As Ben Franklin said “A penny saved is a penny earned”. This is why forms of passive income as well as active income make for a good balance.

Thumbtack is a new one to me though they have been in business since at least 2010, and the way they run their services  is a lot like some of the bigger freelancing sites. However their fees and how they charge, as well as how they connect people is what makes this one so unique. So I opted to try it out and created my profile – Drakenhart Studios, on Thumbtack.

What’s so special?

First you pay a small fee per “credit”. These credits are used to purchase a bid on a job. I’ve seen a ton of other sites do this too, and it’s a simple way to pay for hosting services and other overhead costs.  The fee itself is nominal. As of this writing it’s less then $2(usd) per credit.

When you bid, however, you do not need to worry about competing against twenty or thirty other freelancers. You are pitted against up to four other people and that’s it. So the chance of shining and getting the job increases quite a bit.

There is also the simple idea that your credits are refunded if your bid isn’t seen.  Now the downside to this is that once the bid is seen, those credits are gone. I had erroneously thought otherwise because of a misconception. However if, within 48 hours, your bid is ignored you do get those credits back. So you are not entirely out of luck when purchasing credits for bids. The reason for this, their system does not track negotiations nor bid acceptances.

Now I’ve seen other sites that once you place a bid that’s it. You are out of those credits and there is nothing more that can be done about it. So it is a lot like playing the lottery. With Thumbtack, even though the system is similar, you have a higher chance to win the bid and if you play it smart you have the chance at a refund, so you don’t loose out on too much money.


If someone looks at your bid, your credits are used. This isn’t as bad a thing if the client accepts your proposal.

However, there is also the chance that the person looking for work won’t hire you once you place the bid. Or they may not hire anyone at all. This happened to me recently and put a crimp in my otherwise bright outlook on this service.  Even with adjusting the bid, and dropping the rate, no one was hired. No one.

There is also the issue that Thumbtack does not let you know if your bid was accepted. You have to let them know if you’ve been hired. The client contacts you and lets you know if they want to use your service or not. Everything outside of finding the job for you is done by you and by the client.

Upon accepting the bid the client is given your contact information and it is up to them to start the negotiation and communication process. This has a lot of downsides, as just about anyone can sign up to be a client and gather personal contact information on people. As a freelancer outside of the net, this is a risk we take in general. We assume that people won’t sell of pass on our information to just anyone. Or if they do pass it on it is to someone who might benefit from the services we offer. However it is an assumption based on trust in someone’s moral and ethical standing that we take for granted. Scary to think about it that way isn’t it?

However, with Thumbtack the clients are faceless and generally nameless. Usernames do not always reflect personal names. So you don’t know who is gathering your information. Again this is based on trust that the client’s intentions are to find freelancers and not be jerks.

There is also no payment gateway between client and freelancer. Thumbtack acts more like a job “thumbtacked” to a cork board, rather then a typical freelancer-client site. Hence, I’m believe, the name.

So what now?

Well, as I spiff up the profile and work on getting my first assignments, I’ll write up more about it later. For now, if you have any comments, questions, or stories about working with thumbtack, please leave them in the comments below.


Review: The Truth About HTML5 eBook

Book Review on The Truth About HTML5 by Luke Stevens article header title image.

Book Cover Image © Luke Stevens – used here only for visual informational purposes.

I have a number of e-newsletters that drop random bits of awesome into my inbox. From the website, I found this little gem. Written by Luke Stevens, “The Truth About HTML5: for Web Designers” comes in two formats – as an ebook (kindle, epub, and pdf formats are available in the download) or paperback. It is a self-proclaimed critical review of HTML5 (per the spec and not the extra bells and whistles of CSS3 and JQuery), touching on why it does what it does, why it doesn’t do what some people think, and how we can use it to benefit our clients.

I love the web design community because it’s filled with smart, excitable, curious, opinionated folk who will call you on your BS. This is an opinionated book, not a dry explanation of the technology, and I’ll be stating my views pretty strongly. I look forward to you doing the same. Passionate, considered debate makes us all smarter. So please, write it up on your blog, send me happy/sad/angry emails (, talk to me on Twitter (@lukestevens), or whatever you like. I look forward to the discussion.

~ Luke Stevens. The Truth About HTML5 (For Web Designers). Indie Digital Pty Ltd. Kindle Edition.

So, I shall take up the challenge. Beware Mr. Stevens, I am quite opinionated!

The Short Of It

1. This book is not a text book, nor is it for beginners. It seems written for those who have been following the trends and evolution of web design, the markup behind it, and the web-politics that drive some of it.

2. Opinionated doesn’t touch how many “conversational rants” are embedded into its pages. The sections within the chapters are short and to the point, but can sometimes over lap previous gripes and arguments. Again, this points to a more “conversation” book rather then a “text book”.

3. Educated and well researched. Most of the points Mr. Stevens broaches are documented through urls linking to various articles and documents from a wide number of resources. It made me wonder how book research has been so thoroughly replaced by internet research – and just how expansive our ‘net really is, when you think about it. Thought provoking.

4. Enjoyable if you like books written more as the author speaking to you, then a more traditional text-book, or informational article. Downright funny as well!

5. I endorse picking up a copy of it, if only to get your teeth into some of the less know and less understood aspects of where HTML5 was born, who came up with it, and some nit picky details about the specs. Good Read.

6. Although it provoked a few negative knee-jerk reactions in me, personally I found it to be a challenge to my world view. After reading through it more, I came to better understand his points. I may not agree with them all (due to various non-web-design business related experiences under my belt), but I was glad to have his points to review my ideals against.


First, the way this book is written is more like listening to a conversation then reading a technical, educational, how-to manual. Often books that go into code and design can be rather stale or they lack a personality, because these books are written to pass on as much information as possible about a topic that can often be very complex. You know the type; “text books”.

So, some people may find this style of writing hard to read. Their expectations of this book may derive from the area of “it’s about HTML5, so it should be more dry”. If you are looking for something more like a Visual QuickStart Guide that is very “text-book”-like – go purchase a Visual QuickStart Guide instead.

So, from that aspect of it, I do not believe this is a book for beginners just wetting their toes in creating web sites. It’s better suited to those who have been following the trends, or have already a good solid understanding of the code itself. It is more thought provoking. Now, don’t get me wrong. It does educate, in terms of bringing to light some aspects that many designers and developers may not have realized at first glance. However it is my opinion that it is just not something for newbies who have never really crunched code before now.

Indeed, this particular book is different by and far. For example:

Shea’s view was a popular one at the time, and certainly reasonable given our faith in the experts in the W3C. But we never made it to XMListan. The car ran out of gas, the wheels fell off, and the engine exploded about two blocks down the road.

~ Luke Stevens. The Truth About HTML5 (For Web Designers) (Kindle Locations 99-101). Indie Digital Pty Ltd. Kindle Edition.

The wheels fell off… Heh-heh.

Speaking of Exploding…

Although it does offer information about HTML5, it’s tags, and specs, it discusses them. In some places the author rants about them as he points out some lesser known issues with how HTML5 is being spec’d out.

It also discusses a lot of the more widely accepted (and thus written about) “best practices” that may in fact not be truly best for designers to adopt. This made me sit up and wonder. “Best practices” are there to help unify, simplify, and keep things tidy, right? After reading his commentary about these so-called best practices I started to wonder about them myself.

There is a lot in this book that I found myself either nodding along with laughing all the while, or growling in the author’s general direction as I disagreed with some of his points.

So, if you are into a more thought provoking, conversational style writing perhaps picking up a copy for yourself is a good idea. Just beware, it may challenge your personal ideas, ideals, and previous beliefs about what HTML5 is really all about.

So as an educational book – it may be a bit too biased. As a conversational book that educates – it does it’s job well.

Personal Points of Interest

As he goes on to talk about the history of HTML, XML, XHTML, and on, I get a glimpse of some forgotten (and for good reasons!) memories of my college days. The lure of the internet beckoned to me and I self-taught in the early days of HTML 4, just so I could have a website about dragons! Yes, dragons. Surprised? I didn’t think so.

I do remember the kerfuffle over the XHTML 2.0, and looking over the specs at the W3C made me want to weep. I liked the idea behind it. I liked the organization it offered. However, like many others also thought, it was too abstract and too over-the-top to be really useful. The idea that XHTML 2.0 wasn’t backwards compatible reminds me greatly of “the levels of stupid” involved with the game console wars.

Say what? Let me clarify the analogy. There are functional websites out there that may never see the light of a revisionist hands, because they are “good enough”. (Just like some of my favorite games.) However, the push for better code means that some code gets left behind, also know as depreciation, (old consoles being replaced with “newer” and “better”). So eventually you are left with games you cannot play, unless you have a computer with an emulator….even then it’s not the same. Eventually the console breaks down (just as the depreciated code is eventually no longer supported by browsers), and you are left with functional games, but no way to use (view) them the way they were originally designed. A website that hasn’t been touched since the early days of html, may just not work anymore. It /breaks/ in the browser.

What did I take from XHTML 2.0? A desire for neater, cleaner, more efficient code. That’s when I discovered CSS.

Now, he presses on a point I don’t entirely agree with. Call it a “Supply and Demand” perspective, wherein the end user is the one that drives the browser wars. However, I see it from a slightly different angle. If there is NO supply, the end user will complain – but not to us designers. They will complain either to the company that put together their computer, and thus to the browser makers. Or they will go after the company who owns the website itself.

I was “raised” in the “Add a disclaimer to the bottom of your websites – “this looks better in x browser of x version”. I’ve always been in the group of “screw the browser” designers. If the browser doesn’t stick to the specs offered by the W3C, I find a minor work around and go about my day. I can choose not to use a given browser, code to suit the non-spec browsers, and note the visitors to use “x-browser type and version for best effect”. In fact many sites, even governmental ones, have thrown me pop-ups stating that my browser “wasn’t good enough”, and to use “x-browser type” instead just to avoid “issues”. This has often lead to the back and forth of browsers trying to catch up with each other. Well.., except IE.

But then, I despise IE. With a passion that makes lava look cool to the touch, I dislike how clunky and slow IE is for general web use.

So though I do understand his point, I do not agree. The browser makers do not control design, they create a program that displays the design. Like the creation of GIMP, someone, somewhere is going to have a fit and look for someone else to create something that suits their needs, wants, or desires. This is the basic concept behind supply and demand as I understand it.

I’ve had too many years behind the retail lash. I have a good handle on how many of these bigger companies like to pretend to think and what they really do believe -or at least how they enact their “ideals” in reality. Money moves mountains for these groups, and where is the money? In the pockets of the general consumer. So, although the mega-corporations out there like to think they control things, ultimately it’s the customers that do.

The mega-corporations want to make a profit, they cannot do that if people won’t buy their products. You can only con a group of people to think they NEED what you make for so long before they wise up. Yes, sometimes that mass-enlightenment doesn’t happen right away, however in my experience it does eventually happen.

When given a choice they will do just that – choose. This is why Firefox got so popular, and then Chrome. Opera is used as well, but it’s not as prevalent with the general public as the other two. But what about IE? Microsoft tries to leverage it’s power by forcing the user to use the pre-installed browser on machines that have Microsoft’s OS pre-installed. This is what is general available for the general consumers to buy. Seriously, go look at any major retail chain and see how many Linux or Unix boxes are out there next to an Apple OS computer or a Microsoft OS computer. The only competition you see is Apple versus Microsoft.

However, net-savvy folks know they have choices available. If their sites are going to look better in a different browser, they will eventually install that browser. Those who are not net savy often have a friend or relative (even kids, yes) that are more net savy, and will install the better browser. It’s just a matter of time.

This is where the designers muscle lay, in terms of guiding both the consumer and the browser creators both. How? We make things look good. Humans are visual creatures and like things that look good. If something doesn’t look good in one browser, we do have our options. If, for the browser makers, complaints won’t budge them into complying, we can choose just not to use their products. This hurts their pockets. If, in terms of consumers, they aren’t getting the experience we are offering them, we can tell them about other ways to enjoy that experience.

However, we cannot force the issue on the end users. People just don’t like that. So as designers we need to find ways to show them without pushing them. How? Simply code around the non-compliant browser, tell them it looks better in “x browser” with a link to download that browser, and then just let them choose. This endears people to you, when you give them that freedom to choose. Some may not follow suit, but others will and that will be passed by word of mouth. It’s an idea rooted in niche marketing, to be honest.

Note, as a designer I have the major players installed on my machine and hop back and forth as a user and a designer. I despise IE even though I use a Microsoft OS run PC primarily. I used to dislike Netscape, but IE has over taken my dislike levels. I’m not the only one either. As a designer, it’s crippling, backwards, and so “last century”. With the mobile market on the up swing, and with more and more people (kids included) becoming more net-savvy, Microsoft will have to get with it or loose out to other browser makers.

Supply and Demand.

Purchase the special priced eBook here: >The Truth About Html5 by Luke Stevens< from

However if you’ve missed that deal you can still grab a copy of it from the physical book here: >The Truth About HTML5 [Paperback] by Luke Stevens< or the eBook here: >The Truth About HTML5 [eBook] by Luke Stevens<

Find the author on Twitter: >Luke Stevens<

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Art Thoughts on the Prayer ACEO Series


Prayer:Tree is my favorite (so far) of the Prayer series. It has a warmth and a depth that the others do not have, in my opinion. However, it is only the first in a line of experimental ATCs.


This was crafted on watercolor paper, and used techniques I learned from an online workshop which Strathmore Papers hosted. The teacher is a great person and offers online tutorials for sale (as well as freebies). I highly recommend her work.

I also experimented with a layering technique that is normally used with acrylics  Due to the nature of watercolor you can’t really over lay one color on top of another without it getting muddy. Even if the previous color is dry, watercolors tend to be transparent. You can layer darker colors on top of lighter, but not the other way around. So I had to keep in mind what I was crafting, in terms of composition, where the main tree was going to stand and where the bushes and leaves were going sit. Then as I built up the layers I avoided these areas with the darker colors of the tree and branches until I was ready to paint them the darker greens of the leaves. Then I lifted off the darker colors, just a touch here and there in some places, to give a feeling of sung spot higlights.

I also have a tendency to try and add very fine details. So this was practice in keeping these details to a minimum. It was difficult to be more of an impressionist and less of a perfectionist, but it paid off in the end. Working through that personal barrier, it was as much a physical feeling of walking through thick mud as it was a mental sensation of fighting against what I normally do.

One will never improve until one pushes oneself outside of one’s comfort zone.

A sketch of a insect-looking fae-like dragon hovering in prayer.But, Prayer: Tree started with a simple sketch. The fae-insect-dragon-creature that is seen on all of the Prayer series ATCs is a digital copy of the original sketch.

It started with a sketch I made several years ago of an insect-inspired dragon anthropomorphic creature. I found it randomly in some long-misplaced, semi-abandoned, slightly dusty sketch book. I was surprised and rather delighted at first glance, barely remembering that I had created it. It was like finding pirate treasure or the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Then the memories came back more clearly and I felt surprised at myself as, like many other artists, sometimes I doubt my skill and talents.

It isn’t until a piece has sat and “simmered” out of view for a little while that I realize how nice it actually looks. I’m more often so wrapped up in what’s wrong with a piece of work, that I have a hard time seeing the beauty that others are able to see. So when I find an old piece of artwork, I end up looking at it with fresh eyes.

It is the same advice authors are often given when trying to write a book. “Put it on a high shelf and forget about it for a few weeks or months. Then later come back an re-read it with new eyes.”

I smiled. I looked it over with “new eyes”. Although I could see the flaws inherent in it, I wasn’t as disappointed in it as I was originally. Yes, I had been very disappointed in it due to it’s flaws and the short cuts I took to hide those flaws. But now I could see the beauty in the delicate lines, the soft blended shading, the detail in the hands, and more.

Interesting how time has a way of mellowing one’s emotional reaction to a piece of personal art.

So I scanned the sketch in and it stayed in a digital format on my hard drive for another few years. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with it, but I did want to color it. As much as I now liked the sketch, I wanted to see it in color. I could not decide how I wanted to do it.

Sketch layout for the ATC Prayer: Mother's GreenLater down the line I got involved with the creation of ATCs. This gave me the outlet I needed in order to color Prayer. I created a sheet of duplicates in a graphics program and printed out several copies of the (now shrunk) original Prayer sketch as ATC sized cards on good quality watercolor paper.

I remembered what a professor in college told me about using the computer to practice my art skills – by making a print out of the sketch, I’d never “ruin” the original sketch.

Brilliant how technology can free us from many of our fears! And yes, I still have that original sketch! It’s safely tucked away in that same sketchbook.

Prayer: Mother's GreenFrom there I was able to share my art with my kids. I gave them a couple to color for themselves, while I worked on various different techniques on different cards. It was fun to be able to share my art and the creative process with my kids. I was amazed at the various different ways I was able to play with color ad composition.

Now some of the series are nicer then others, some are a bit muddier then I would have liked, but all of them are successful in their own ways. Each taught me something more. I was free from worry about “ruining the sketch” which set me up in a win-win situation in terms of color experimentation.

I do have an offer of creating a personal version of Prayer for others as a simple commission  However, this won’t stop me from just crafting versions of this until I have “used up” my creative juices on this simple and yet effective technique of experimenting.



5 Tips for Success on Fiverr

Below I offer you five tips and suggestions on how to make money on Fiverr™. I’m always on the look out for more ways to boost income through Fiverr™ in truly “white hat” methods.

So look for more!


1) Follow their Suggestions…

Fiverr™ started out as a simple, single job, basic payment scheme business. Eventually, as user input from both buyers and sellers rolled in, they expanded beyond their very simple roots. They now have users “levels”, which gives them a variety of bonuses like extra Gigs™ or increased sales profit per Gig™. If you visit the Levels page, you will see a brief explanation of this feature. Below that are steps to ensuring one becomes a “top rated seller”.

Follow them.

No, seriously. Follow them to the letter and you will find yourself on the fast track to becoming a Fiverr™ superstar! They are simple, to the point, and a great way of exercising your freelance muscles on smaller, less complicated jobs!

2) Customer Care is Vital!

I’ve been taught, all my life, that customer service is the way to go. I’m not talking Wally-World styled “customer service”. I’m not talking about the old-old-school style of, er.., “service” either. No, I mean good, considerate, thoughtful, customer care. What is this I’m talking about? That which doesn’t exist anymore in most major mega-corps? Yes, that thing you do where you actually give two flying rainbow unicorn poos about doing the job right, the first time, with your “happy face” on, please and thank yous added for flavor, and actually take into consideration the client’s needs over your own need for WoW time.

Yes. The REAL Customer Service!

Oh, and if you do mess up or have issues completing the task, own it. You messed up. Life kicked you in the pants. Your grandmother’s dog died. What ever it is that kept you from such a (minor) job, apologize, explain the situation (but don’t make excuses), and the Fiverr™ system does it’s thing. You’ll get smacked with a lower rating, but at least you’ll keep your dignity and your client’s respect.

Why is that important? Consideration breeds consideration, respect begets respect, and a customer that liked your offer in the first place might just return to try it again when you are in a better spot. When they do, do a gold-star rated level of your best work – that in itself is a personal thank you to them for coming back!

Why do this for such a minor micro-freelance niche style job? Why not?

3) Videos made the Fiverr™ Superstar!

Videos are important to Fiverr™ success. Featured Gigs™, getting customer attention, adding more information about your Gig™, letting people see you or your product/service, YouTube access to more potential clients, the list goes on and on.

Getting your Gig™ featured helps to draw more people in, but if you notice you generally see only Gigs™ with videos that have been picked as featured. Look under any given category and you will see all the offered featured Gigs™ have videos. Even if the Seller isn’t exactly a “top rated” seller, a Gig™ that is impressive is one that sports a video describing it’s content.

4) Uniqueness vs Needs

Do your research before offering Gigs™. Take a look under the categories that interest you personally. Check out the sub-categories that you may have a skill set, or an idea you think might sell. Use the search feature to see what is being sold, how popular the Gigs™ are, and if there is more Gigs™ then buyers (you can do this by check the first three or four Gigs™ that have similar offers and see if they have more then one or two buyers.)

What skills, products, or needs can you fulfill? Think in terms of needs. What would someone “need” in this digital age? What sorts of annoying, or small-time tasks could you take up to make someone else’s life simpler? What sort of skills do you have that would take a minimal amount of time on your part to accomplish. (For example: Some people are better typists then others. While other people have a knack for tweaking resumes that might take someone else hours upon hours to get “just right”.)

Do you have an idea you think is awesome – if so chances are it may only be “cool” to you and a small handful of people. How can you tell if your “cool” idea will be worth it to post  Gig™? Ask yourself how it can be used by businesses to promote, improve, or make the running of their business easier on them? If you can come up with a number of reasons why your idea will be helpful, then offer that in your description.

5) Quality of Service vs ROI

Yes, we all know it’s a task that you only get 4 dollars out of the five. That is enough to make a lot of people turn their noses up at the whole idea of mirco-freelancing. Some people even may shrug their shoulders at the quality of their work, and jury-rig something in two minutes rather then take some effort to make something nice.

First, the better quality service, product, or need fulfillment you offer, the more likely you will get clients buying your Gig™. This means more sales. More sales mean more money. As Ben Franklin noted that a penny saved is a penny earned – and anyone who has saved their pocket change to take to the bank (or coin counter machines) knows that can add up over time.

Second, the quality of service shouldn’t overwhelm you. It is only a small amount of money you get in return for your investment. Don’t let your ROI fail because you are overwhelmed. Some of the Gigs™ out there, like the full website design services for $5 makes me raise an eyebrow. You get what you pay for, and sellers get in return what they offer for the prices they allow.

Don’t undersell yourself, you’ll regret it in the end. Yet don’t cheat the client either, as it gives you a nasty reputation if you spurn enough people.