Finding Clients

  • Hi this is my first post here, I was looking for some advice on finding illustration clients to pitch work to. My Goal would be to work on Childrens books but not limit myself to just working with Publishers.

    In my previous position I was working in-house as a Graphic designer and any freelance clients that I have now are graphic design clients. I'm working remotely now from Japan and was wondering If anyone here had any advice on looking for Illustration clients: on-line forums or good videos on youtube giving info etc.

    At the moment my go to sites to check would be Behance, Artstation, Reddit. I looked at sites like Fivver and honestly they don't appeal to me and seem more hassle than they're worth.

    I'm also sending artwork to Childrens Book Publishers and Agents. My question is, are there other avenues/prospective clients I could be hitting up.

    For anyone interested here is a list of 125 Childrens book publishers

    Any info would be greatly appreciated
    Many thanks

  • Pro SVS OG

    Working as AD part-time, I’d tend to say that it´s much more successful the other way round: you want clients to find you. So make yourself visible wherever your intended clients hang out to look for new illustrators (a famous book on social calls them „the watering holes“). In my experience (both as AD and illustrator) Behance, Instagram and Twitter are the ADs` watering holes on social media. Recently, I’ve read and heard a lot about the resurgence of Facebook and LinkedIn, so I’m going to add those to my promotional tools next years. ArtStation is nearly exclusively for VisDev and has a very strong „games“ vibe - so if you target children illustration, may not be the right community. I don’t know anything about Reddit.
    Sending stuff to people via e-mail or snail mail has never brought me any lead, but then - I didn’t do it nearly enough, so that doesn’t mean anything. If you want to plan a postcard or e-mail blast, that´s certainly an option.
    Participating in competitions it´s a good call, especially the most famous ones, like CA, Spectrum, Society of Illustrators and Bologna Children’s Book Fair Competition. It’s very hard to place in any of those, but it would be a big boost to a career if that I keep trying. Also, I got two contracts from one of the publishing houses who were in the judging panel of the Bologna even if I didn’t make it into the show, it helped to participate ;-))
    Annuals are apparently on the dying branch of adverstisement evolution. I only had two in my hands in the past five years working as AD. I do buy them as illustrator, to take a look at current styles, but I never published in one (it’s expensive, ranging from 500 to 2000 dollars for a page).
    Other prospective clients are ad agencies and magazine publishers. They do look for illustrators regularly and the rates can be really attractive. I didn’t really ever market to either of those, but did get two interesting leads from that direction...which unfortunately never got to an actual contract, but are still really interesting clients.
    Content developers (small-medium animation studios, toy-makers, etc...) are also looking for illustrators - I’m working with one right now.
    Since your clients were graphic design clients, have you considered offering them illustration services AND design wrapped in one? Many brands use illustration either as part of the communication activities or even as a core of their brand identity, and they´re often at a loss on how to hire illustrators to do that. They resort to agencies, who charge an enormous overhead and go and hire illustrators the same way they could do (that´s how my day job comes into being, by the way). I always toy with the idea of improving that process in some way....

  • @smceccarelli Thank you so much for the info and for taking the time to reply in such detail. It's refreshing to hear that opportunities can come from competitions even if you don't place in them. You are right I have found that Artstation is predominantly VisDev and games orientated, lots of Marine illustrations with big guns lol
    Thanks again, much appreciated

  • Pro

    What has worked for me the most is finding publishers who do books I can see my artwork working for (right target audience and general feel) and sending them an email. The way I like most to find publishers is going to a library or bookstore and looking at all the books that catch my eye. Of course, the web and social media are effective as well to find publishers. I have a tiny account (around 900 followers) and even still there are ADs in there that follow me so it's a powerful tool.

    I do a big send out every few months, 30-50 emails, and I've always had at least 1 or 2 hit me back. Last time I sent was last month and in that one email batch I got an agent, I got my first book deal and a manifestation of interest from Storytime magazine! I've heard many illustrators say emails don't work, but I found there is something there and it's something proactive to do while also waiting for ADs to find you.

    So that's pretty much my advice 🙂 Make good portfolio pieces, post them to social media, when you have enough of them update your website and send a big batch of emails. Rinse and repeat 🙂

    If you find yourself in desperate need of a job, it's also not a bad idea to hit up the other places you've mentioned. Some unlikely places I've gotten my best clients are:

    • LinkedIn. Great for long-term work offers. I found a client there that sends me recurring work every month.
    • Deviantart forums. Seriously, I'm not even joking! While they are largely a huge waste of time, over the summer when I desperately needed jobs I ventured down there and actually scored myself a $2000 commission, so it can happen!
    • Behance. Behance is great because it's very much a professional showcase. Although my following there is smaller than anywhere else I am, I still get hit up for jobs there regularly without even being active there.
    • Upwork. Again, I'm sadly serious haha. I spent a month on there last summer and found it a waste of time and largely depressing experience... Except that one time I found my single most profitable, recurring client on there. She runs a scrapbooking supplies shop and commissions me every month for minimum 1-2k bucks every time.

    Aaaannd I've talked long enough now haha. Best of luck to you and welcome to the forums 🙂

  • Pro

    @Phil-Cullen I just checked out your portfolio: wow, you have some very very nice work! I think if you contact the right publishers, you're bound to get a response 🙂 Try smaller, local presses too!

  • @nessillustration Thank you so much for the response, I love your Insta your btw your illustrations are beautiful 🙂 It was also great to hear about your experiences on various different sites, I really appreciate you sharing your views, very helpful.


  • @smceccarelli You have given Some really good imformation here Thanks

  • Pro

    @phil-cullen Thank you! Your insta is really nice too! (followed!)

  • Pro

    @aleksanderlon And that has exactly nothing to do with what we're talking about here.

  • @aleksanderlon Think you have the wrong Forum!

  • SVS Team SVS OG

    @NessIllustration and @Phil-Cullen I took care of aleksanderlon. The account has been banned. Thanks for the heads up. I don't get to see all the threads and posts on here.

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