Suggestions to get more portrait commissions during the Holidays season?



  • I want to make the best out of this season by following the AIDA model. Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action. So first, how to get NEW people to become aware of my work as a portrait artist? It makes no sense for me to post this type of ads on Facebook groups that are meant for illustrators, and the other groups may not welcome ads. Any ideas?



  • Go for the low hanging fruit first.

    First thing I would do is email all of your past clients. And let them know if they are wanting a commission as a xmas present they need to get back to you before November 30th (or whatever date you choose). If you want, you could do an ‘Xmas special’ have a discount for the first X people. Offer this to existing clients first (saying something like, ‘as a past customer I wanted to offer this to you first’)

    I would then also post the same thing a day or two after all over you social media.

    If you don’t have a budget, find instagram hashtags that let people know you are an artist for hire: eg #artistforhire #portraitcommission – I made those up, so make sure you do your research.

    There are also a couple of reddit forums that you can post on, eg r/artstore
    You could also participate on r/redditgetsdrawn - When you post up your submission you can state you also do commissions. I've seen people get work that way.

    Here's the thing, if you have already been posting up stuff on your social media etc, they are already through the first three steps of AIDA. This will get them to take action.

    That’s just a quick brainstorm. I’ll post up any more ideas if they come up. Let me know how you go.



  • @concept great ideas!
    I want new clients so I can raise my rates. I have new leads who haven't hired me yet, but my current network won't pay what I want or won't pay at all, working free is not something I welcome. I'm not on reddit so i'll give it a try, also will try different hashtags 😃 thank you so much!


  • SVS OG

    Heidi, you can take this for what it's worth, but I'm happy to offer you what experience I have in portraiture.

    I used to be a professional portrait artist in the 90s and early 2000s and I had as much work as I wanted. This was before digital and websites were such a thing, but I always got my work by word of mouth and still believe it's the best way because of the nature of the work. I did some low cost portraits for a few influential people, and then upped the ante. I also took out one ad in a residential interior design magazine (the best option at the time), but I don't think I got any work through it. It really helped, I think, that I got started in a place where portraits were a strong tradition, the southern US.

    You may be wanting to do something entirely different, but I can tell you how most full-time portraitists work in the US. They go to the home of the subject's home, get to know them, and take their own photos--lots of them. Now I'd recommend video as well, or even some kind of 3D modeling if that's possible, just for reference. Because the artist isn't working from one photo and yet the style is realistic, the photo shoot and getting enough reference material are extremely important. Sittings are also extremely helpful if your subject can sit.

    Also, clients want to document their families as being established, and that's why they are willing to spend so much money on a portrait. They also wanted, at least when I was working, an oil on canvas or pastel on paper and access to framing options, though there may be some market now for digital as well. So much of it was about the final physical product. It was almost a form of interior design, which I also had experience in. A lot of the process is about instilling confidence in the client that you know what they want and that they are getting an heirloom that they will pass on to their children. The higher prices are based on this ability. There are also portrait brokers, portrait societies and now portrait group websites. It's very much a specialized career, but if you want to try to enter it, some people do really well.

    One reason I don't do oil portraits any more is that I no longer live in a place where they are such a tradition (or in the US at all), and traveling to the place where I used to live and dealing with the bureaucracy involved in international shipping would make me too expensive to be competitive with other portraitists. I don't know what it's like in your area, but if you know anyone else who is a successful portraitist or if there are artist cooperatives in your area, that might be a good place to start asking how viable it is and looking for advice.

    You obviously have the ability to create realistic digital paintings that look like oils, which could be handy for editorial illustration, book covers, etc., but I wonder what a traditional private portrait client would think if they went to your site. Far be it from me to tell you I am an expert on websites (I'm definitely not!), but based on what I've heard some people here say, I think you might get more work if your website had a clearer focus and were cleaner. You might even create separate websites for various specialities or decide where your focus is going. I know I have this same problem in my Instagram at the moment, because it started out as more of a tourist account and now I'm doing more illustration, but I think that the clearer the image you can present of yourself, the better. It looks confident, and confidence counts for a lot!

    Hope I haven't entirely missed your point here, but that's my take on the clientele you are going for with portrait commissions.



  • @lauraa You bring some really reasonable points.

    I'm an illustrator who loves portraits, character design and telling stories.... I'm being pulled in 2 different directions and can't choose between them, realistic vs cartoony. so I'm trying to create something in between as my brand for the next year. a cartoony style with a semi-realistic textured rendering kinda thing. still figuring it out.

    I used to work in real oil paints back in the day and until I graduated from Fine Arts then stopped for several reasons. I work in other traditional media now and I even used to have an Etsy shop and closed it, shipping was going to cost people sometimes more than the product itself. Traditional is just not the way to go for me.

    I already worked for local studios and I know from experience that unless I work for BIG studios, working for locals would mean to work for pennies or even for free, so this is out of the question.

    I don't know how to make the best out of the Holidays season by reaching out to businesses in the publishing industry abroad, so I'm reaching out to individuals. May be a few of those individuals have the connections, who knows. but I do love painting portraits so it doesn't matter who I do it for as long as I get paid what I want. I'm actually making an offer especially for the season to market my work to new people hopefully.

    You may be right about having separate websites or at least separate instagram accounts for different services but I'm already stretched too thin and can't add more to my workload 😣

    Thank you for explaining the whole status thing behind portraits, I thought that was long gone when cameras were invented!



  • Curious to hear how this has been going for you so far?



  • I'm doing custom Christmas cards for a few clients. I simply posted on my town's various local Facebook buy/sell/trade groups. I gave some basic pricing points and included a picture of a completed card. I also made sure to mention that I only had 3 commission spots available and that it would be first come first serve; this was my attempt to generate a bit of urgency. I tried to throw out some key words, like "fun", "personalized", "unique", etc.

    The biggest issue I've had with people is price. They don't want to pay more than $50 or so for this type of thing. Good luck to you!


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