One thing I love about what I do for a living that is somewhat unconventional is being able to work with awesome people, collaborate (vs compete) and pimp out those cool people to other cool people that need talent.
What am I talking about?
Freelancing is to a certain degree very competitive. I think it's somewhat ingrained in to the community that you have to hustle and undercut the competition in order to get gigs. I disagree with that.
I think in order to succeed as a freelancer you need to be yourself, be cool, be professional and the work will come. Maybe not as fast as the uber-competitive guys, but the work will be more solid and you'll build a long-term relationship with the folks you work with.
It's kind of like the "nice guys finish last" thing. I dig being the "nice guy". I think it goes more like this "Nice guys finish after the not-nice-guys...but have better, more solid relationships and in the end are far happier."
That's how I work. I'm no superstar artist. I have a bit of a niche (which I'm trying to expand out of) and I'm nice and I'm more than anything professional. My shit is always done on time. I don't take shortcuts. I always do what I'm asked to do without the "Artiste' Drama".
Art directors just want the job done. They want what they want with a minimum of drama. They want it right and on time. They want artists they can bank on. This makes their job easy. I'm down with that.
I've worked with some great ones, and it's wonderful to pimp out my brothers (sisters) when they need a good solid artist. Hey, if I'm unavailable, I know others who can do that job! I gladly pimp out my friends who are also looking for gigs. Even if they are better than me, or anything like that. Am I worried that they'll become my favorite art director's pet artist? Not at all.
I think the best thing an artist, or any creative for that matter can do is let their work and reputation as a cool professional speak for itself. Definitely help out your buddies. Word of mouth recommendations are worth their weight in GOLD. You get those by being a collaborator instead of a competitor.
Just be yourself. Be cool. Be professional.
Reputation: If you build it...they will come.