Trying to figure out whether I should look for an agent or not?

  • I've listened to the podcast here about finding an agent, and the takeaway I got from it seems like they all got agents when they started getting somewhat famous. Jake mentioned he had a few books out and a pretty big following already.

    I'm having a hard time building a following online and it seems like I can't bet on that to get "famous", I've self published a few comics but I've never gotten anything mass published, and even though I've improved my drawing skills and portfolio over the past year, and post work on instagram that gets around 100 likes at least twice a week, my follower count never changes.

    I was thinking originally that an agent or agency could help to get more work since they have more connections and leads, so it seemed like a way I could build more exposure while getting client work. After hearing the podcast it seems like my idea was wrong and that I need to somehow get famous first before even reaching out to an agent, so now it feels like a catch 22.

    I'd like to know opinions and experiences people have had and if maybe my assumptions are just completely wrong and I'm going about this the wrong way

  • Hello!!

    I think there are a number of threads on this forum tackling the agent issue (how to get one, the value of it, etc). From the top of my mind, I think @NessIllustration is knowledgeable in that field and gives good advices. Have a look! Good luck!!

    And don't worry about getting only 100 likes/post on your insta (ny the way I think it is very good already). It just needs one image getting viral and it expands exponnentially! Besides there is some strategy behind the successful profiles too. I haven t seen your insta, so I don t know in which extent you follow the most common tips. A good one to look at is the IG from the Australian artist furry little peach. She is good at it!

  • Look at @Nyrryl-Cadiz posts too. She got an agent recently!

  • @Julia Thanks for the tips, as for instagram, I had a couple images last year that went up to about 500 likes, with 7,000 "impressions". It brought me maybe 3 new followers πŸ€·β€β™€οΈ

    I need to read up more on these tips because I'm clearly doing something wrong

  • SVS OG

    @timidpoker hi! Did you watch this 3rd Thursday video of theirs that goes in depth in whether you’re ready to get an agent

  • @Nyrryl-Cadiz Yeah, that's the one I was watching (listening to).

    I've heard from some people that partnering with an agency is a good way to get more work than if you were trying to seek it out all on your own, and the advice I heard before is that it's good for your early career to get you more exposure.

    It seems like everyone in this chat was already doing well on their own, and that's when they started working with an agent. As for me, I've been struggling to put together a portfolio to get client work after spending so much time in another industry. My skills aren't bad or anything, but hearing this was kind of a downer since I haven't gotten anywhere close to the level of success they have, and success on social media has always seemed to escape me no matter what I've tried

    Sorry to be depressing but I was thinking that seeking out an agent who works with new artists was an option, but if they're only working with established (semi-famous/famous) artists, I feel like there's not much hope

    I mean, I get pretty good engagement on my artwork when I post it, but nobody ever asks me for commissions or anything, and when I've tried applying for gigs, I just get ghosted

    Are you somewhat new to the industry and started working with an agent? Or have you been doing a lot of stuff for a long time already?

  • Pro

    @timidpoker You don't need to be famous to get an agent πŸ™‚ An agent just helps you get some work. They probably won't be able to provide you enough work for full-time, so it's good to be able to find clients by yourself too. For instance, my agent gets me about half my work at this point, and I find the other half myself. However, Instagram is not the best way to find work, and the number of likes you get on pictures is no indication of how successful you are as an illustrator. I've been working full-time as a freelance illustrator for over 2 years now, and I've only gotten one single job from Instagram: a tiny portrait commission, not even a real contract. So don't focus too much on exposure and getting Instagram famous, instead send out your portfolio to publishers and art directors, offering your services! That's the best way to find work.

  • Pro

    @timidpoker The main reason to seek out an agent to to get paying contracts, not to get exposure. And agents can help you do that, true, but you still need a portfolio to send to the agent to convince them to sign you. So the first thing you should do is get that portfolio website done. Without that you can't get anywhere, so forget about social media for now and get your portfolio done πŸ™‚ That's the best thing you can do for your career. Success on social media is NOT the same as success in your illustration career. I know illustrators with 10,000 followers who can't find work. I know illustrators with 50 followers who get too much work and have to decline half of it πŸ™‚

  • @NessIllustration
    Good to know. I know those guys were trying to be helpful in their video but I don't know if their cases are typical. They made it seem like you need to be pretty successful already before even approaching an agent in the part where they ask "are you ready for an agent"

    What you said above is what I was assuming about agents. I didn't think I'd get all my projects from them, but it would help supplement my own search (I hope).

    Knowing that you've been working for only a couple years and are already working with an agent is good to hear. I'm sure it was a lot of work to get up and running but I think 2 years is still pretty new.

    I'll get off social media and get back to my portfolio now πŸ˜ƒ , thanks!

  • SVS OG

    @timidpoker do you have a website or ig account we can check?

  • Pro

    @timidpoker If I remember I think they said that if you're already successful then it's easier to get an agent, and you're also in a better negotiating position. That's true for sure, but not the only way to do it. I actually got my first agent about 6 months after I started. But we weren't a good fit, I left and joined another agency that I really like. There's really no rules set in stone with agents. Sometimes they sign brand new artists if they like their portfolio enough, even if they have no experience. Sometimes they'll sign a veteran artist. Everything goes. For sure, if you're able to find your own work it sounds more appealing to them, because you're already "tried and tested". They know if others have hired you, it means they'll probably be able to find you work too. But if your portfolio is smashing enough, they might go for you anyway πŸ™‚ The portfolio is the bare minimum though, you can do anything until you have that.

  • SVS OG

    @timidpoker i absolutely agree with @NessIllustration. Illustration agents base their decisions on your portfolio rather than your social media following. In my opinion it all boils down to your work.

  • SVS OG

    @timidpoker yup Jake, Will and Lee definitely were in better positions when they got agents. Will first cut his teeth during the golden age of editorial illustration then got into children’s book and got an agent, Lee was the valedictorian of his class from Art Center which is one of the best art schools in the US, Jake first worked as a visual developer for blue sky and started Inktober. But like @NessIllustration said, theirs are not the only ways to get into an agency. Illustrations do give chances to beginners as long as your work is up to par.

  • My advice kind of strings alone what some others had said, but I want to put an emphasis on 2 things.

    The first is: Social media, I think by nature of what it is, is very overrated for the overwhelming majority of people. I think a direct correlation can be made with gaming streamers. The hype is that there are all these people that are making boatloads of money playing games and streaming online. But the people that are even making a living doing it are very slim, and the wealthy streamers are an extremely small percentage.

    Marc Burnet, a concept artist, is pretty transparent about some of his revenue streams, and with his YouTube channel even at 350k subscribers can many times not even crack $1,000 a month. That's so far beyond what I can imagine as a following for myself, and it really gives some perspective. Becoming 100x more "famous" than I am right now would mean making half as much as minimum wage on a popular platform.

    The allure is that somehow you're missing out. That your numbers aren't good enough. That you aren't posting enough or getting enough engagement or something is wrong if you're mailbox isn't overflowing with commission requests. That's precisely how it was engineered to make us feel. Men and Women's magazines were never created to help people feel good about themselves. They were made to make us feel inadequate enough to keep buying the magazine so it could help us not suck so much and buy products. Same thing, different media. The only REAL winners of the social media game are Facebook and Twitter. The house always wins πŸ™‚

    I'm willing to bet if you quadrupled your following, the number of jobs would likely not increase in a significantly measurable amount. To me, it seems like Instagram is sort of like a secondary business card for artists. You really can't showcase what you can do in one piece, so people use IG to confirm what they think about your capabilities.

    And second: as some others have mentioned getting an agent isn't a ticket to full time work even in the best of times. The most important thing you can do is learn how to beat the street and create work. Freelance artists are small business entrepreneurs and literally every single principal that applies to marketing your small business applies to you if that's what you want to do.

    Consider if tomorrow you got laid off from your job. Then let's assume you decide you're going to do what you're passionate about and make money with art to feed you or your family. What would you do? I'd call every single person I knew and asked them to start asking around for people that need design work done. I'd call every single web development and graphic design firm in my city and introduce myself and ask for work. I'd contact every magazine and newspaper and ask if they have editorial work. I'd post online that I was looking for design work. I'd contact schools, universities, community colleges and sports organizations and start running down names of who gets that kind of work and how you can get some too. Then I'd hit LinkedIn and start contacting every freelance job on there. I'd go on Steam and look for every indie game company I could find and contact them directly.

    I'd be looking at building a folder that was overflowing with ways to make money here and there. And if you produce good work, and are easy to work with, and are reliable before you know it you'll have more work than you can handle. Then you can get choosy!

    If you feel like you're not in a spot that #2 is possible, I'd say work on your stuff until it feels that way - that you're confident enough all you need is someone to hire you and then you can provide them what they want.

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