Thursday, September 9, 2010


I have some email questions that are starting to stack up. I'm going to try and take some time here and there to answer some on my blog. Hopefully, I can provide a little insight for anyone else dealing with these issues. Feel free to add your own tips that may have helped you in your journal to being a successful artist.

"I have a couple questions about the interesting life of being a freelance illustrator. I feel like I'm running like a chicken with it's head cut off, and not sure were to find work. I'm kind of grounded in the city right now, so commuting out of state for work is out the question. I figured you could give me a few pointers. Like what to look for when doing a freelance job search, and how to bypass a lot of BS and bogus jobs. I guess what I'm asking is what do I need to work on, who do I need to reach out to, and what are some of the key things in helping you find work. I mean besides an actual BOMB portfolio. Anything you can tell me I would greatly appreciate it."

What to look for when doing a freelance job search, and how to bypass a lot of BS and bogus jobs.
I would be wary of doing any work for a person who is hiring artists for their personal project ie children's book, graphic novels etc. They don't have a company’s budget to use as payment. Often it's their own personal savings and they expect a lot of work for a little money. A client should have a contract set up for freelance artists. If they don't it's a red flag. If you ask what their budget for a job is or what the deadline is and they don't know it's a red flag. A person who hires artists regularly should, at the very least know these things and have a contract to offer.

What I'm asking is what do I need to work on, who do I need to reach out to, and what are some of the key things in helping you find work. I mean besides an actual BOMB portfolio. Anything you can tell me I would greatly appreciate it.

What to work on: The number one thing that I notice about student level work is people are not taking their own good(“good” is the operative word here) photo reference and applying that to your sketches. This applies to just about everyone that was in my class and most aspiring artists that I meet. And for some reason everyone seems to fight it. Not sure why that is.

Finding work: Ugh, Welcome to the world of being a professional artist. There are no guarantees for work. A few things to consider. Not in any particular order
1. Networking. Staying in touch with people from school; teachers, classmates, artists from conventions etc. You emailed me so....check.
2. If you’re not working on freelance jobs you should be working on your portfolio. Even if you get to a point where freelance is pouring in they were never quite as fulfilling as personal work. This has helped me to grow as an artist and also get the work that I enjoy and resonates with my artistic needs.
3. It may help to pick out the top ten places you would like to work. Provide each with a nice customized portfolio package geared to reflect what you think they are looking for. You should also follow up with potential clients. If you only have 15 quality pieces in your portfolio think about sending eight now and seven or eight in a month or so. So you don’t give out all your goods at the same time. AD’s get flooded with work so it’s good to remind them you’re still around as often as possible.
4. Promote yourself consistently. This helps if you have new work to promote with. See #2
5. Competitions, Conventions. Gallery shows, Meeting local art directors etc.
6. If you have a group of talented friends consider forming an art collective where work and money is divided to make promoting the group as a whole a bit easier.
7. Note, all the promoting in the world will do little if the work is subpar, mediocre, or just good. Good isn’t good enough. This probably should've been #1.

Here’s what I came up with off the top of my head. Hope this helps.


Kam said...

Great post.

JJacks said...

wow thanks so much for making this public. this really helps. :)

Angela Matteson said...

We discussed promotion during my kidlit art chat last week, and I asked about postcards vs. packets. I was told that your well-designed website has replaced the need for packets and that your 1 image postcard needs to grab them to want to check it out. But, at conferences I've heard ADs say to send 3-5 pieces which would suggest packets, so I'm still confused at what's best?

Jon Woodward of Zero to Illo joined us for last night's chat. I'm going to order his 12 Week Challenge Kit to focus me on getting my illustration career off the ground.

Quidfish said...

Great post. Lots of useful information that I know I need to work on :3 Thank you for sharing.

EricFortune said...

Angela- Good points. I don't think it has to be one or the other. One can send out a well designed packet. Then send some of the best images from that packet during the interim as a reminder. Maybe the best image from an upcoming packet so the AD's can tie the artwork together "oh, I remember this artist"

A great website is mandatory. Blogs are good too. And sharing your art through all the social networks are valid.

However, laptops at conventions to show people your work isn't the best way and you wouldn't want to leave that behind. Although perhaps the IPAD would be better for this. Then you could have a leave behind to give out afterward.

I had some artists showing me work via laptop during a convention. They seemed unprepared. Time wasted trying to figure out where they placed a folder and program freezes made the experience less than enjoyable and very unprofessional. Showing up at the convention showed some initiative. Being a little more organized would have helped greatly. Make viewing your art as easy as possible.

The number one thing I had to say to aspiring artist "get better reference"

MJC *-* said...

Thanks for the tips.
I listened to a podcast lately about marketing, it's for designers and illustrators, so really helpfull!
You can find it in Itunes (if you have a mac) and search for Marketing-mentor. You can listen to it while working on your next masterpiece!
I say, make a client dream list. Send samples, email and call afterwards. Repeat this every three months!
Stalkers united :)

Morgaine Faye said...

Thank you for sharing this Eric, I posted a link so some of my classmates could read it. Love your work, and thanks for the inspiration!