How to find clients and contracts

  • @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.

  • Pro

    @Nyrryl-Cadiz It's worth mentioning that it's rare to find a decent contract on there - but it happens! I only go there once every few months, but usually what I do is I'll check the newest posts in job offers twice a day, never bother replying to anything underpriced, and copy paste a message linking my portfolio or email address to the rest. I usually get a hit on one good job within a week 🙂 Then promptly leave Deviantart for the next 5 months hahaha

  • @NessIllustration Thanks a lot sharing. I've gotten all my work through Fiverr. Terrible pay. Some nice portfolio pieces have come out of that, but that's pretty much it. I'm looking forward to try the postcards next year. But tomorrow I'm using your techniques because Fiverr clearly does not do trick


  • Pro

    @Jose-A-Nieto Yes it's terrible! The whole concept of Fiverr is being a place people go to when they need a job done and only want to pay like 5 bucks ^^''' Fiverr's target audience is just not the kind that's prepared to pay good money for top notch service. It's more like a dollar store kind of place, where no one is prepared to pay anywhere near a fair wage.

  • Does anyone have any experience with I heard about it through One Fantastic Week's webshow, one of their mentees mentioned using it for freelance. It seems interesting and higher paing than Fiverrr but I was wondering if anyone is on there and could speak to it. I started to fill out a profile and their staff has been emailing me to finish it but i'm not sure if it will be worth it or just another platform where I have to field low-ball requests.

  • Pro

    @StudioLooong This seems interesting, thank you for the tip! I've never heard of it before but I might set up a profile during the holidays and see for myself if it's worth it 🙂 In the illustration Q and A they say people should be looking at 2k-10k for illustration ranging from book covers to fully illustrated books, so at least they're setting up realistic expectations for the clients.

  • @NessIllustration I might do the same and we can compare notes!

  • Pro SVS OG

    What a beautiful Etsy shop @NessIllustration !!! I’ll put it at the top of my list of inspiration! I’ve been thinking of opening an Etsy shop since a couple of years, but it’s such a lot of work and I never seem to find the time.

    I’m rarely on the forum these days (I’m an old SVS alumna), but I wanted to tune in for @xin-li because I’m going to Bologna too in April (like every year), and I’m always happy to meet new faces with shared experiences. If you’d like to meet, just DM me and we can set up a place and time for a coffee and chat.

    I work nearly exclusively in book publishing and I can confirm that Bologna is a great source of contacts and contracts both. Most of my work is from return “clients”, and many of them I met at Bologna. That first contact is often the start of a multi-project collaboration, that keeps growing and evolving. If it’s your first time in Bologna, feel free to ask how to “walk the fair”.

    To contribute to the topic: I get work from my agent (I’m repped by Transatlantic Literary), book fairs (Bologna mainly - I’ve just started going to Frankfurt this year) and sometimes from Behance. I got my very first book contract from Instagram but I think that it’s a very rare occurrence. I think one contract in a year for a literary agent and a debut illustrator is not bad - it gets more and more when the first books come out and you get a bit of a “name”. The publishing industry moves very slow, book projects take a long time, etc... But once you’re in the door with medium-large publishers, contracts keep coming and keep getting better.

    I’ve done my first book in 2016 and now, at the end of 2019, I was in a place where I could quit my day job to do full-time book illustration. Maybe now I’ll have the time to open that Etsy shop!

  • @smceccarelli Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us. I will contact you via email when it is getting close to Bologna. Would love to meet up with you for coffee and chat. So excited.

  • @NessIllustration Brilliant - thanks for sharing all of these ideas. I've only recently gotten into illustration so I haven't tried anything yet - I'll let you know when I do!

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