Being an artist in the current market is tough work. It seems as if there is less work than ever, and more aspiring artists who want to snap it up. So how do you get ahead as an illustrator, and find those elusive jobs? Here are some tips for finding paid work as an illustrator.
Create a website
If you don’t have one already, it’s vital that you create a portfolio website for your illustration business that shows your work. That way, you will show up in Google when potential employers are searching for your particular niche, and you can point leads toward your site to see examples of your work.
If you’re not a website programmer yourself, there are many website services available online to help you out, ranging from completely free to paid. One option, of course, is Foliotwist, the sister site of EmptyEasel, but there are many others as well.
The key to a good illustration website is to keep everything very simple, and let your illustrations do the talking for you. (Also, make sure to include all your contact details, otherwise, you’re definitely not going to have much luck hearing about jobs!)
Visit job boards
Many illustrators cut their teeth on freelance job boards like eLance, iFreelance and Freelance Switch, or even through answering Craigslist ads. On these sites you pitch or bid on a job, and the client chooses the illustrator (and the price) they feel best fits the job.
Critics claim the only people looking for illustrators on these sites want quick word for bargain prices, but the reality is somewhere in the middle.
If you have a decent portfolio and you’re wanting some work to tide you over during a quiet time, placing bids on bidding sites and job boards could be a quick way to acquire some new clients.
The key to success on job sites is to be choosy about the type of jobs you apply for, and, if possible, follow up with potential jobs after a few days.
Become a networking expert—that’s the secret sauce for success in any creative career. Why? People are much more likely to contact an illustrator they know personally, so make sure your name is on the lips of as many companies in your industry as possible.
This means attending conferences, networking events, and participating in discussion forums. It means talking to people both offline and online, sending letters of introduction, and buying potential clients an awful lot of coffee. It means writing for blogs, offering to help at events and generally being a kind and creative person. It means not being afraid to shove your business card at everyone you meet.
Networking takes practice, so many illustrators ignore it, but it’s an important skill to master. The more you do it, however, the more you’ll realize how easy and fun it can be as well.
Ask for jobs you want
I’m a firm believer in going out and asking for what you want. I keep a file of companies I’d love to work for, whether they are children’s publishers or brands with quirky mascots or t-shirt companies that fit my aesthetic.
I’m constantly adding new names and contact details to this list. Every week I sit down and email or call companies from this list and introduce myself. I send off my portfolio and ask to be kept in mind for future projects. If possible, I pitch something right then and there.
The bottom line is, if you want jobs as an illustrator, you have to get proactive about going out and asking for them. If you’re creative and nice and your portfolio is decent, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t quickly pick up some work.