***Update*** This article has moved over to illonotes.com, a blog all about the business of freelance illustration.
With the internet, email and the abundance of social media platforms, it’s never been so easy and inexpensive to share your work. But on the flipside, with so many people sharing their art, how do you get your work in front of the right people?
Concentrate on a few social media platforms and be sure to update them regularly (I’m guilty of having a neglected Behance page!). Also, have a think about what kind of content is best suited to each platform. Use Instagram to show off finished pieces, works in progress and behind the scenes type stuff and research relevant hashtags for your work. Twitter is fantastic for getting chatting to other illustrators, art directors and clients. The key thing here is not to come off desperate. There’s nothing worse than endless “HIRE ME” or “LOOK AT MY WORK” tweets. Interact with other people on a meaningful level, get involved in discussions, say nice things about other people’s work and achievements and don’t be afraid to show off your personality and have an opinion.
I absolutely love snail mail and crafting something specially to go in the post. After a few unsuccessful postcard mail outs, I was a bit disheartened until my fellow Pretty Picture Club buddy, Megan Reddi, told me that in her first year, all her jobs bar one were a direct result of her promo mailer. So just what was her secret?! Megan bought a ton of mini love heart sweets and created her own label for them. They definitely stand out from postcards!
Portfolio sites such as The AOI and Hire An Illustrator come at a small monthly cost but the benefit of these are that commissioners are actively searching these sites for the right illustrator. With a profile set up, you’re able to tag your work in relevant categories which makes it easier for the client to find you.
This is a good one to regularly do in order to keep art directors in the loop with your work. First, you’ll need to build up a contact list which is easily done. You can find contact details by flicking through the magazines you want to work for and checking out the masthead or having a look online. Some agencies will have an “about us” page with names of their staff and you can also check on company LinkedIn pages. A lot of email addresses will follow the same format i.e. initial.lastname@ or firstname.lastname@
People are busy so don’t clog up inboxes with long emails or massive files! Keep it short and sweet, introduce yourself, why you want to work with them, and where they can find your work. And don’t expect an immediate response back! Most times, you probably won’t get one at all. But don’t take it to heart, your work might not have been needed at the time you emailed. So do email every few months to remind people you exist and show off new work!
Once you get a rapport going with art directors, you can set up your own newsletter to share with them what you’ve been up to. Mailchimp is fairly easy to use and also lets you send emails for free as long as you don’t have more than 2000 subscribers.
Get out of the house! Not only is it important for your mind and body to get away from the screen once in a while, you’ll meet new people, expose your work to a whole new circle and learn something new. Have a search in your town for events and exhibitions to get involved with, I highly recommend Glug which has chapters worldwide.
Make the most of your quiet periods by having a personal project or two on the go and make it related to the kind of work you want to be paid for. Not only is it something extra to go in your portfolio and show off on social media, but you never know where it might lead to!
Sometimes it can be a bit frustrating when everything you do doesn’t seem to be getting results. Sometimes it’s pure luck catching the right person’s attention at the right time. A successful freelance illustration business doesn’t happen over night so keep persevering and plugging away!