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My goal is to start my own cartography business.


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#1
aqua_marine

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I am new to this forum. I am a geography major in the last stages of college. I have about 3 months until graduate. I just finished an internship with a national park. I gained some experience making maps, and using GPS. I know how to use ArcGIS, Google Earth(the right way, not just as a play thing), I helped update a park map and the park ranger was happy with it.

Making maps isn't the hardest thing for me. For me, the hardest part is selling MYSELF, and getting the business aspect of this down. I don't mind starting small. I don't expect to making 6 figures in a year. I just want something good. I need to know things about copyright when it comes to maps. I need to know about who to market to. Who to market to is the hardest part. This internship I worked with nature-related material. I want to create maps for other purposes. I need to know which markets are the most useful for cartography.

#2
aqua_marine

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I am guessing no one has any answers.

#3
Hans van der Maarel

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I am guessing no one has any answers.


We do have answers, but it's weekend. Even freelance cartographers tend to take it easy then ;)

There's a great thread with a lot of information here: Getting started as a freelance cartographer

And I think the main issue you're running into is one that many freelancers (including myself) have problems with. We tend to be techy people, but marketing is a different skillset alltogether.
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#4
cartdeco

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I freelanced for 12 years and it was the best period of my professional career. Working for yourself has so many benefits, but there are downsides. If you find selling yourself hard, then perhaps freelancing is not for you, because this is the only way you will survive and thrive out on your own.

Establishing a network is THE most important thing. Not just a network of clients, but a network of business advisors and a network of professional colleagues. Attend conferences, participate in forums, put yourself out there and demonstrate that you know what you're talking about and produce top quality products across all media.

Know what your strengths are and sell these. Also, know what you're worth. When you're starting out it's easy to accept the first job that comes along, even if you've had to sell your soul to get it. I would suggest working out an hourly rate and stick to it. Don't work for a rate where it's costing you to create a map.

A good rule of thumb is to calculate all your expenses for a year (electricity, postage, software, computers, accounting, insurance, office supplies, etc...). Allow for holidays, sick leave, superannuation, etc. Add all these figures together to get your fixed expenses. Divide 2080 by this figure. (2080 = 52 weeks a year x 40 hours per week). This will give you your hourly expenses. Next add a profit margin to this, as I'm assuming you do want to make a profit from your hard work! This may be $20 per hour, say which would be $800 per week or $40+K per year. If only it were that simple, but it does give you a benchmark from which to start. review your costs regularly and adjust your hourly rate accordingly, as you will need to be competitive (know what your minimum hourly rate would be to clinch a job).

Be prepared to live off the breadline for the first few years until your networks are established and you've made a name for yourself. These times are the toughest.

If you're still keen to pursue your own business then I'd highly recommend doing a small business course, just to get across the practicalities such as insurance, tax, business structures, etc. Managing your finances can be one of the toughest aspects of small business. you won't get paid every fortnight, or even every month. Sometimes 3 or 4 months can pass by until you see a payment.

Hope this helps.
Craig Molyneux
Spatial Vision
www.spatialvision.com.au
www.svmaps.com.au
craig.molyneux@spatialvision.com.au

#5
Derek Tonn

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I am guessing no one has any answers.


We do have answers, but it's weekend. Even freelance cartographers tend to take it easy then ;)

There's a great thread with a lot of information here: Getting started as a freelance cartographer

And I think the main issue you're running into is one that many freelancers (including myself) have problems with. We tend to be techy people, but marketing is a different skillset alltogether.


^ This. :)

If the cartography classroom is similar to the art/design classroom (where I spent 3.5 years as an undergrad), folks think you're a sell-out for even taking "Marketing 101" or "Economics 101" types of classes. As though they are somehow selling their soul if they actually learn a thing or two about sales, branding, positioning your products and services, developing a marketing plan, etc. Which is precisely why most people fail in their effort to run their own shop (or never graduate beyond hobby-job status or part-time income).

You can make the most beautiful, elegant map designs on the planet and starve. Meanwhile, there are people out there making millions selling the equivalent of used toilet paper when it comes to the quality of their designs. If you don't know much about marketing, management, accounting, business law, etc., find someone who does. Or maybe take a class or two at a local community college (specific to business/marketing). You might feel like a sell-out and/or not feel like you need it or can afford it! But it will be time/money well spent.

Also, CRAIG: Where can I sign-up for that 40-hour week plan? That'd give me a lot more time with Becky and the girls...not to mention more time out on the disc golf course. As it is, it feels more like 40-hour DAYS the past 6-7 years vs. 40-hour weeks. :)
Derek Tonn
Founder and CEO
mapformation, LLC

datonn@mapformation.com
http://www.mapformation.com

#6
Matthew Hampton

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The advice I can give was given to me by "successful" cartographer - Stuart Allan when I asked him years ago if he could give me any tips on becoming a cartographer. He replied "marry someone rich." ;)

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#7
Bogdanovits

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If you'd like to be successful in business try and do something new or better than others.
Consider that now is the end of the paper based culture.

I had 12 years as self employed cartographer wit a small business.
In 1994 I created the first 1:25.000 scale digital Budapest city map (app. 900km2) in AutoCAD and prepared to desktop publishing.
In 1997 I created the first digital made globe in Hungary. Maybe in Europe...
In 1998 I created the first Hungary internet map. Is still workink and is at 1st rank
In 1999 I created the first digital road map for Garmin Fugawi GPS software.
I had printed and sold around 1 million maps.
I was satisfied with my professional and business way but all this need 24/7 working week.
Stress from competition, customers, authorities (Eastern Europe-Hungary).

Now I'm 43 and I'm working for a mining company. My title is no more Cartographer I'm a GIS Analyst.
But my life is better I have time for family, no stress. Of course, now I'm living in Australia.

Best,
Andras
http://mapstart.com.au/

#8
aqua_marine

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I've been away too long. I lost my password, and later became busy with exams.

I have tried my luck with freelancing. So far, I have come up with nothing. I asked an environmental consulting company if they had anything. I sent a piece of my work, as well as my CV to them. According to them, a skill set in ArcGIS, Google Earth, and DeLorme isn't enough. They had nothing for me. So far I'm trying to find other places that might have a demand for my skill set.

Another thing I'm finding is that if I want to go into business for myself, I am going to have to learn programming. The thing is, I've done poorly in programming. One entry level I found, one of the requirements was to have some experience with Java and C#. I have never had a job where either was required. In my internship, I never used either. Now I'm finding myself having to learn something I really don't understand. I do not understand software development that well.

Basically, what I have to work with is the design aspect of cartography. I'm not big in the programming part(Java,C#) of it. Now I'm trying to learn, but I'm getting nowhere.

#9
aqua_marine

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I am guessing no one has any answers.


We do have answers, but it's weekend. Even freelance cartographers tend to take it easy then ;)

There's a great thread with a lot of information here: Getting started as a freelance cartographer

And I think the main issue you're running into is one that many freelancers (including myself) have problems with. We tend to be techy people, but marketing is a different skillset alltogether.


^ This. :)

If the cartography classroom is similar to the art/design classroom (where I spent 3.5 years as an undergrad), folks think you're a sell-out for even taking "Marketing 101" or "Economics 101" types of classes. As though they are somehow selling their soul if they actually learn a thing or two about sales, branding, positioning your products and services, developing a marketing plan, etc. Which is precisely why most people fail in their effort to run their own shop (or never graduate beyond hobby-job status or part-time income).

You can make the most beautiful, elegant map designs on the planet and starve. Meanwhile, there are people out there making millions selling the equivalent of used toilet paper when it comes to the quality of their designs. If you don't know much about marketing, management, accounting, business law, etc., find someone who does. Or maybe take a class or two at a local community college (specific to business/marketing). You might feel like a sell-out and/or not feel like you need it or can afford it! But it will be time/money well spent.

Also, CRAIG: Where can I sign-up for that 40-hour week plan? That'd give me a lot more time with Becky and the girls...not to mention more time out on the disc golf course. As it is, it feels more like 40-hour DAYS the past 6-7 years vs. 40-hour weeks. :)


I just thought of something. I would be more than willing to contract myself out for any projects you might have.

#10
jerseysbest

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I've been away too long. I lost my password, and later became busy with exams.

I have tried my luck with freelancing. So far, I have come up with nothing. I asked an environmental consulting company if they had anything. I sent a piece of my work, as well as my CV to them. According to them, a skill set in ArcGIS, Google Earth, and DeLorme isn't enough. They had nothing for me. So far I'm trying to find other places that might have a demand for my skill set.

Another thing I'm finding is that if I want to go into business for myself, I am going to have to learn programming. The thing is, I've done poorly in programming. One entry level I found, one of the requirements was to have some experience with Java and C#. I have never had a job where either was required. In my internship, I never used either. Now I'm finding myself having to learn something I really don't understand. I do not understand software development that well.

Basically, what I have to work with is the design aspect of cartography. I'm not big in the programming part(Java,C#) of it. Now I'm trying to learn, but I'm getting nowhere.

Have you used Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop? I'm not a freelancer, but I have done a few things on the side, and work full time as a cartographer. Although I'm sure you can get by without it, and some of my coworkers do, I personally can't imagine working without Illustrator, and to a lesser extent, Photoshop.

#11
aqua_marine

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I've been away too long. I lost my password, and later became busy with exams.

I have tried my luck with freelancing. So far, I have come up with nothing. I asked an environmental consulting company if they had anything. I sent a piece of my work, as well as my CV to them. According to them, a skill set in ArcGIS, Google Earth, and DeLorme isn't enough. They had nothing for me. So far I'm trying to find other places that might have a demand for my skill set.

Another thing I'm finding is that if I want to go into business for myself, I am going to have to learn programming. The thing is, I've done poorly in programming. One entry level I found, one of the requirements was to have some experience with Java and C#. I have never had a job where either was required. In my internship, I never used either. Now I'm finding myself having to learn something I really don't understand. I do not understand software development that well.

Basically, what I have to work with is the design aspect of cartography. I'm not big in the programming part(Java,C#) of it. Now I'm trying to learn, but I'm getting nowhere.

Have you used Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop? I'm not a freelancer, but I have done a few things on the side, and work full time as a cartographer. Although I'm sure you can get by without it, and some of my coworkers do, I personally can't imagine working without Illustrator, and to a lesser extent, Photoshop.


I have used Adobe Illustrator. In fact, I have a map I just exported into Illustrator.

#12
aqua_marine

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Now I have something else to think about. I have made demographic maps from downloading shapefiles out provided by TIGER/Line, from the USA census bureau. If I am to start my own business, I need to know the legal implications of this. Should I download shapefiles, or create them from scratch?

I also have a question about basemaps. What are the legal implications on that?

#13
Dennis McClendon

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Works authored by the U.S. Government are specifically exempt from copyright, so using TIGER files raises no problems at all. Shapefiles from other sources (including state and local governments) may be copyrighted or may be restricted by a license agreement, but this is rare for most small local governments. Sometimes fast-growing cities will charge for their data, but it's rare for them to limit the use of it. The main thing they're concerned about is that you not pass it along to another cartographer, because that cuts into their revenue. Urban counties often get good money for their parcel and footprint data, but it's increasingly rare to have to pay much for simple centerline files or hydro.

For the most part, there are no problems at all with digitizing new shapefiles by tracing from existing maps, even commercial maps. Since the 1991 Feist decision, it's been clear in the US that factual information cannot be the subject of copyright. This is not necessarily the law in other countries, and the Ordnance Survey has aggressively tried to protect its Crown Copyright in its maps.
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#14
frax

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Always inspect the license of any data you download. As a general rule - anything you can download easily off the web you can make maps out of (graphic representations) without problem. There might be problems if you want to republish the data elsewhere though.

Some data providers have a clause that data might not be used for "commercial purposes" - I think those things are kind of fuzzy, but it is a thing to beware of.

(fuzzy in the sense, for instance, for me - a commercial entity, but my clients are mostly non-commercial - so I have always interpreted it as not applying to me, as long as I don't sell the maps separately)
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#15
aqua_marine

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Thank you everyone. I am starting to get the hang of everything. I am currently working on a project for my very first client.




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