How to find clients and contracts



  • I’m still very new to it Ness and it’s a part time income for me. All my illustration work so far has been through Instagram. Some have been through previous contacts who found me on there, got in touch again and said, ‘I didn’t realise you were doing this again, I have a project could you draw stuff for me?’
    I’ve sold a couple of bits from Etsy.
    I’ve emailed a few agents, although one is interested and trialing me, I’ve had nothing yet.
    I just started with Facebook and I’m guessing there’ll be work from there at some point. Nothing yet though.
    I will let you know if I get anything and where it comes from.



  • Have you tried the kidlit411 group on Facebook, it’s quite active and there was a publisher posted a request for submissions, specifically from illustrators, on there the other day.
    The post has been deleted and I’m really kicking myself because I can’t Find or remember who they were.
    I think their name started with Loo....... and I’m sure they are connected to Phoenix kids mag.
    I’m sure there’ll be more though.


  • Pro

    @peteolczyk Etsy is a good one! It's a great additional stream of income for freelance illustrators 🙂 All sorts of things can be sold, not just prints like we all tend to focus on. We can also do commissions and a ton of other products with our art on it. I sell clipart personally and I've had quite decent success with 250+ sales in my first 6 months open. I'm thinking of soon expanding into digital planner stickers, which is hugely popular on Etsy. I'm a big fan Katherine Kay, who's shop Katnipp sells sticker sheets, enamel pins, bookmarks, mouse mats, coasters, etc. This last year it's grown to be her full-time income + 2 part-time employees under her.



  • @NessIllustration These are great tips. Thank you for sharing!



  • Thank you for sharing your insights.

    I started to listen to Giuseppe Castellano's podcast The illustration department. I hear lots of guests on the podcast talking about face-to-face communication in one form or another. It seems to me that there is a good chance to build a relationship with potential clients/agents over book fairs and conferences. I am going to the Bologna book fair next year and will share my experience here if anyone is interested.

    I am very new as well. @NessIllustration. My first/current gig is from Instagram.


  • Pro

    @xin-li That's a good one! Face to face meeting make much more of an impression on people. I really hope I can go to an SCBWI conference or book fair one day, but travelling to another country for that is out of budget right now 😕



  • @xin-li I’d be interested to hear how you get on at the book fair. There’s a few artists I follow who have recommended going.



  • @NessIllustration I will definitely have another look at Etsy, based on what you’ve said. I’d love to see your shop too, have you got a link to it.
    I was thinking of doing smaller originals for Etsy but I never thought about offering commissions on there.


  • Pro

    @peteolczyk Yeah the language on Etsy is different which is maybe why you didn't make the connection. You don't see commissions but you see "custom portraits" or some such thing. Customers are usually prepared to pay higher on average on Etsy for custom art compared to some other art platforms 🙂

    I don't think I've shared my shop here cause it didn't seem super relevant. But I'll gladly show it off hihi https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/SweetSirenCo?ref=seller-platform-mcnav
    It's my baby!



  • @NessIllustration that’s a cool shop Ness, so well organised too.



  • Thanks @NessIllustration ! This is really helpful. My goal this year was to make money from art for the first time and my art has leveled up, but business skills are lagging. Maybe Fiver would even be ok as an entry point to convince my mind that art can be traded for money. 🙂


  • Pro

    @ThisKateCreates Congrats on leveling up! Business skills are hard ^^''' And pushing our art is hard because we tend to see all the flaws and know exactly where we need work. While that's helpful to improve ourselves, it's not helpful to help us build the confidence to reach out for work. We artists are great at practicing, picking another class, improving our portfolios... not so great at selling ourselves. We can all use the reminder that we can do both at the same time. Like.. email 100 companies then take a class while waiting to see if we get any hits from that. Getting paid work is also in itself an experience that helps us level up like no other, so it should be included in our practice regimen 🙂

    As for Fiverr, it CAN work sometimes, but it's a place that can be very discouraging and give you a bleak outlook on the state of the art industry. As the name indicates, most Fiverr customers go there when they only want to spend $5-10 for a job. Finding a worthwhile gig would a lot of searching, a lot of applying, a lot of time wasted, and I usually get away from the experience with a feeling that making a liveable wage in art is not possible nowadays. Which is not true - there are people and companies willing to pay a fair wage for art and there are ways to find and target these people.


  • Pro

    @peteolczyk Thank you Pete! ❤



  • @NessIllustration Thanks! I looked at Fiverr and it does seem less efficient. I'm not so focused on getting publishing commissions, but I would like to sell my paintings. Talking to people in the sci-fi/fantasy publishing community (I spent the last year focusing on higher realism after doing SMARTschool) the market there seems to be approached similarly as children's publishing, just different key elements in the art/portfolio. Right now I think my art is at the local gallery/show/art fair level and I would love to do fantastical/nerdy portrait commissions. I went to Illuxcon this year (sci-fi art convention) and made good connections and learned a bit about business. It sounds like I need more pieces at my current skill level, to finish up my website, a mailing list to keep up with potential collectors, to start sending out quarterly updates to the few art directors I've met, and probably enter art fairs. One art director literally asked me to send updates after my review, and at a large publisher! As the year closes out I realize I haven't succeeded at the stated goal, but leveling up is important. Still need to learn the sales though. :face_with_stuck-out_tongue_closed_eyes: Always a next step.


  • Pro

    @ThisKateCreates It is quite a big goal indeed! I looked over your insta and I really like your portraits 🙂 You may also want to try selling portrait commissions on a place like Etsy, it's a great secondary income for artists!


  • Pro

    Anyone has any other suggestions for things that have worked for them? Anyone tried postcard mailings and other methods?



  • @NessIllustration
    Writing PB is also a way to get new contracts. Since writing takes a LOT of time from illustrating and one or two book contracts is far from enough to survive financially and there is no guarantee that a book is going to sell. On the other hand, illustrators who writes well have a much better chance to stand out and rise to the top.

    I am curious of what you guys/gals think.


  • Pro

    @idid Good point! I too have heard that publishers really like author-illustrators as opposed to just writers. Certainly for an illustrator there's no definite need to write to get work, and this is a looong game. Getting published is a whole other can of worms that's really, really complicated! However, many illustrators really want to work on their own projects. And once you get your foot in the door of publishing houses, you can get a lot more success and freedom that way. Even if we don't necessarily have plans of publishing, working on our own projects can also generate great portfolio pieces and social media boost. This is especially good for new illsutrators who aren't published yet. Having your own book in your portfolio, even if it's not published, is miles better than having none at all o show publishers.


  • SVS OG

    @NessIllustration This is very helpful. I would have never guessed that you could still get jobs from DevianArt or that they’re still up and running. I’ll keep my eyes on those places from now on. Thank you so much.



  • @NessIllustration I am going to try postcard mailing next year. I want to do some cards, and posters for Bologna anyway, so I will also do a round mailing before and after the fair.
    I heard from multiple sources that mailing works long term, but almost never do that magic of getting you hired right away. Many art directors still keep a box of postcards on their desks. They might love an illustrator's work, but they have nothing they think suits the style, and they might contact the illustrator 3-4 years after, you never know.

    I guess post cards is similar to social media in a way - it is a long game.

    One positive thing about doing postcards and posters of your artwork is to see your work on paper. Illustrator's work ends up on paper most of the time if they work with children's books, so it is really good to see the artwork on paper from time to time. I always feel a big difference when seeing my illustration printed out in actual size. I often rework things after seeing a piece on paper.


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