What am I doing wrong?
LauraLane last edited by
So I’ve been working on becoming a freelance illustrator for about a year now. I’ve sent out emails (in leu of postcards because, pandemic) to children's book art directors every 3-4 months. I got some response the second time, but the last two it’s been crickets. I need work and I’m feeling a bit defeated. Sorry, I’m not trying to whine. I really would just love to know if anyone has any thoughts on what I’m doing wrong? Or, to say it more positively, what could I do better?
My website is lauralaneillustration.com. I kinda stopped posting on instagram a couple months back cause I kind of hate it. Is it worth it to start trying to post regularly again?
I could really just use any advice. Thanks so much for taking the time to read this
Kim Hunter last edited by
Maybe you can find some local jobs drawing things for businesses, advertising, logos, etc. May not be your end goal but could help you get started and keep some food on the table.
Jeremy Ross last edited by
Hi @lauralane, perhaps you can consider having an agent help you find work? Your portfolio is nice and your artwork is consistent.
@lauralane I think one problem is that people in the industry might give you wildly different advice just based on their own personal journey.
The previous podcast episode that highlighted Cam Kendell, who's a super successful illustrator, flat out told people he'd be homeless if he didn't have family helping to pay the bills as he spent 7 years slowing building up. My hunch is that most successful artists probably have a pretty slow incline. I'm willing to bet the artists that came out of the gate making decent money only to keep increasing that are in a very small minority.
Freelance, like any other business, runs primarily on connections. Who you know vastly changes your ability to grow and get better and better jobs. For every great contract there are hundreds of qualified artists that can do it, but the artist with the right connections typically gets the job. I think the hardest part of building the business is that initial "plug" into the network.
If you are young and you went to art school, a lot of the people you interacted with from faculty to students will go on to most likely work in some area of the business. And being young you're not making a ton of money anyway so that slow movement upward is less noticeable. But out of the gate, you have a somewhat pre-existing network to lean on as you all move upward into the business.
If you worked for like an animation studio, or a video game company, or something similar, there are tons of co-workers or colleagues or clients you worked with that are all moving around in the industry that are another kind of pre-existing network.
But if you don't know anyone and you're starting from absolute zero, the lack of connections has to be compensated by a ton of effort on our part to increase the chances that connections are made. Once you start working with someone, you can ask for introductions to other someones, and you slowly begin to build that network out. But that first break into the industry I think can be a real doozy because it can take different people a lot of different amounts of time to get into it. I think it's a combination of persistence, consistency and luck.
I say just keep planting those seeds. Keep sending those emails. Find art contests to participate in and see if you can get any accolades you can include in your communications. Reach out to a local scbwi chapter and try and get plugged in. Call local design companies and ask if they ever have clients that look for custom illustrations. And I think one of the most important things is just keep asking people for work and to be introduced to people that might benefit from your kind of art. People for the most part inherently want to be helpful. They're just busy and it doesn't always occur to people unless you ask.
Melissa_Bailey last edited by Melissa_Bailey
Hello @lauralane, your work is beautiful. Don't give up and keep working on your craft!
The reality is, there are a lot of illustrators and authors out there who are also trying to get work and gain the attention of art directors and editors. Sometimes it takes a lot of perseverance ... and possibly some creative solutions!
Have you submitted to agents yet, as @Jeremy-Ross suggests?
Have you submitted dummies or sent emails to smaller publishers? That could be a stepping stone to larger publishers, and it will give you invaluable experience too.
Have you joined SCBWI? (Not only is it a great resource for honing your writing and illustrating skills, it's a great opportunity for networking. I also usually get a job or two every year from people seeing my portfolio on SCBWI. Not saying that every illustrator who is a member of SCBWI gets work from their SCBWI illustrator gallery, but it can get you work.)
I see you're an author-illustrator. While author-illustrators have an edge with agents, editors and art directors, their writing skills should be just as strong as their illustration skills. Are you honing your writing skills as well as your illustration skills? Are you part of a critique group? If you're not, you may want to consider finding/joining/creating one. A critique group will give you safe, honest feedback about your work -- what you're doing well and what could be improved.
These are not quick fixes to find you a job immediately, but they will help out in the long run.
My recommendation would be to have a main job or secondary job that will bring you in steady income while you're building your illustration business. It is possible to be a freelance illustrator (I've been illustrating for 11 years, 7 of which without a secondary income ... which sometimes has worked out and sometimes has been really tight). But it is rarely steady like a 9-to-5 job, and having a safety net will help reduce stress and will take off that pressure of feeling like you need to have an illustration job now.
Don't rush. Keep doing what you're doing. And if you haven't tried it already, join SCBWI (or another similar children's book organization) and get yourself in a critique group.
Asyas_illos last edited by
I don’t think you’re doing anything wrong your portfolio is beautiful and website very well put together, I love how the color flows from each Illustration to the bottom. Just. Keep trying! Also listen to the latest podcast they talk a bit about this (sending postcards during pandemic). And like others have said try agents. Are you making sure the art directors and editors you are sending to, represent illustrators like yourself. That was a point they went over in the podcast. Good luck!
KathrynAdebayo last edited by
Just want to say, I think your work is wonderful.
xin li last edited by xin li
@lauralane beautiful work, Laura.
Publishing industry has a very slow pace compared to other creative industries. It is a long game. I worked as a graphic designer and UX designer for over a decade before switching to do illustration. I remember I began to make a decent living within 6 months after my design school graduation. This kind of speed does not happen in publishing. I was told to prepare for 5-10 years before I can make a full-time living doing art along.
I have been working as a freelancer illustrator for a couple of years now. Finally, I might have a chance to make a full-time living during 2022. And prior to that, I also spent more than a year to build a decent portfolio.
Everyone (who eventually work in publishing industry for long period of time) had different ways to get by for a number of years in the beginning of their career, some keep a side-income throughout their illustration career.
You do beautiful art. I hope you keep making them. A year is relatively short time, and there is no reason to doubt yourself yet. You did not do anything wrong, you just need keep doing it for a bit longer time: make art, send out emails to ADs, editors, and agents, post them online if you want, and repeat.
And always keep doing one personal project :-). My most well-paid project so far is developed from a personal project. I have heard so many other artists and illustrators talked about the same thing.
@lauralane I love your work, one thing I can think of is to have more art on your landing page of your website, I don’t know that art directors will do a lot of clicking to find more work. Good luck!
carlianne last edited by
I think your work is beautiful and you are skilled enough to get professional work!
I think the issue might be that right now you're not showing enough range in your portfolio. For example almost all of the images are of girls around the same age, body size and skin tone. Then there are 4 images of bugs from what looks like the same story. All of the images are outdoors as well.
If you listen to the podcast on what you should have in your portfolio Will talks about 100 things to include like various genders, skin tones, ages, interiors, exteriors, weather, night, day etc. I don't think you need to have all 100 things obviously but right now you're showing a very small amount of those things.
As an art director I would only be able to use you if I happened to have a fantasy story with a young girl in a soft magical world because that's all you've shown me you know how to do.
So my advice would be to keep going! Just add more variety to your portfolio. ️
TessaW last edited by TessaW
I don't have anything to add to the wisdom other people have shared, but just on a quick critique note- I love your art and style and think you are definitely good enough to get work- I just question whether you have enough variety displayed on your website when you first land on it.
Yes, you can click on each image to see expanded examples and more variety, but I wonder how many people actually click on them? It would be my instinct to get more variety of characters and settings right when you land on your website. Clicking on each image would just be a bonus from there. I feel like whenever I see pro illustrators organize their website like yours, they also have a good variety on their landing page. I sometimes hear the advice from Will Terry that if an art director doesn't see evidence that you can do something, they will err on the side of caution and not choose you. Right now you mainly have young women characters in landscapes with some animal interactions and bugs. Old people? Babies/toddlers? Men? Interiors? Architecture? I'd consider if there might be a different way to arrange your work so we can see the variety right away. Pulling some pieces hidden away in your different sections would help instantly and then you could fill in any gaps with new pieces from there. Just something to consider! It can be tricky to figure out the way you want to organize your website for max impact and organization.
I also noticed that sometimes when I go to your website I get certain examples of your work, and other times I get three more examples on your main landing page, two of which doesn't seem to match with the rest of your style. (The girl with the net/boy with the star and Le Jardin Zoologique)
I also just want to point out that if you mainly like illustrating girls in naturey scenes, I think that would lend really well to social media and having your own print shop. I think the ones in your editorial section would work especially well. That maybe another way to diversify your income.