Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Interview with Jon Cockley from Handsome Frank

For my research report I am doing an industry report on the role of agents for freelance illustrators so it's important that I can get lots of primary research from agents and illustrators to inform my research. I have come up with some thorough questions and sent them out to illustrators and agents and the other day the illustration agency Handsome Frank replied to my email. I arranged a phone call and interviewed Jon Cockley, co-partner of the agency with Tom Robinson.

Paul Blow @ Handsome Frank

Jon Cockley has a history in sales and so runs that side of the business such as arranging client meetings and promotional events which meant he could tell me a lot about how they promote and sell their artists. It was really interesting to hear what he had to say as they are quite a unique agency in that they cover most of their artists fees and allow them to manage their own clients as well as the work they get through the agency which is very generous compared to the policy of most agencies. Here is a selection of our conversation:

C.R.:       Are your illustrators allowed to take on work outside your agency or do you ask for it to all come through you?

J.C.:        No, that’s a good point, that’s another thing that we felt strongly about when we started up the agency. I just felt that we had no right to go ‘ok we will sign you but you owe us part of all your income’ you know I felt that was really unfair. As I said a lot of our illustrators promote themselves, lots of people we signed have been working very successfully as freelance illustrators already for say five or ten years so we felt it would be an unfair thing for us to have a percentage of your earnings from your own black book. 

C.R.:   What areas of illustration do you bring jobs in for? Do you get a lot of editorial or advertising?

J.C.:    It’s a real mix; we do a lot of editorial work in the UK and in the US. We get a lot of work for people like GQ and The Guardian we’ve started working with quite a lot. The editorial work is great you know it’s fast paced, quick turnaround but I think everybody in the industry knows it’s not the most lucrative work; they don’t tend to have huge budgets. So as much as we love editorial work, it’s great because it gives us work to talk about and go out and show people, I think the clients that we most proactively target are advertising because you know it tends to have bigger budgets, but you know we work right across the board, publishing, editorial, advertising and in the music and film industry and those kind of secondary markets.

C.R.:      Do you have a target number of jobs you want to get completed per artist a year or do you have a target workload?

J.C.:     Obviously as any business we have targets that we want to achieve both kind of financially and as a tick list; it’s great to work new projects so it’s not always about how much a job is worth, sometimes it’s great to do a project with a really big client or something that has a huge amount of profile. I’d say we’re very comfortable with that fact that some artists on our books will get more work in a year than others and there are a lot of reasons for that. Some of our artists are quite kind of niche really, as well as traditional hand-rendering and vector illustrators we have people that work with paper and embroidery and modelling clay, and naturally more niche a technique is the less jobs that person might get but we’re very comfortable with that. There are some people on our books who are flat out busy all the time and have numerous jobs per week and people who we will find less work for. It’s essentially the case that when you find jobs for those people they’re bigger jobs. There’s no kind of target as such, there’s no kind of quota they have to have to hit or anything like that.

C.R.:    How many staff do you have working for you?

J.C.:     There’s just two of us full time. 

His answers will be really helpful in defining and supporting my research report. A phone interview seems to definitely be a much more thorough way to gather research as I can really delve into the questions but unfortunately not everyone is available by phone!

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