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Don’t Forget to Promote Yourself

It’s very easy as a creative individual who loves what they do to forget that they’re running a business, and that for a business to survive, it needs to make money. Producing beautiful illustrations and artwork are all well and good, but even a starving artist has the occasional exhibition to sell their work so they can put food on the table… and buy paint. I’m in a perpetual state of disbelief at how many students with a degree in illustration complete their course with no idea of how to set themselves up as a freelancer and run a business. Getting an in-house job as an illustrator is quite rare these days, and if you do manage to find a position, there will normally be an in-house style which you have to abide by. This means that for the illustrator’s own style to shine through they would still need to be taking on freelance work if they wanted to build a portfolio that represents them rather than the company they work for. I may be wrong (and I’m certainly not always right!), and some university courses may cover this stuff as I know some amazing lecturers who do everything they can to prepare students for the market place, but as far as I’m aware, there’s not normally a module focusing specifically on tax, accounting, client relationships, self promotion, and advertising. Even contracts and licensing, along with keeping proper records, is barely touched on in many cases.

Getting an agent isn’t a way to solve a lack of experience or business know-how either. Agents range from one extreme to another and the better ones are less likely to take on students unless there’s something really special about their artwork. The best way to look at agents is, if you’re a successful illustrator, having an agent makes sense as it will allow you to grow, manage more clients and take on larger jobs. If you’re after an agent because you don’t have enough work, you’re not doing it right and an agent isn’t going to solve any shortcomings.

I believe knuckling down and teaching yourself how to run a business is essential to becoming a successful illustrator. Just look at the artists who have made something of themselves over the last couple decades. It’s not just down to talent; they appear to know what they’re doing, because they do. They offer a service and they know how to sell their work along with communicating with their clients. Plus more importantly, they get paid because they know how to manage a business.

I run Hire an Illustrator and I think any illustrator worth their salt should be a member of the service… I’m not just saying that. To run a business you need to promote it and get advice when you need it, and that’s where HAI comes in. Being part of a thriving community is also a plus. Additionally, for those who didn’t learn how to run a business at university, there is “Make Your Art Work” from artist Marc Scheff. It’s basically a bootcamp for kickstarting a creative career, and well worth checking out. Marc and his partner in crime Lauren Panepinto have a long history of putting freelancers on the right path and I’ve never heard anything but good things about them.

Now go, run a business, and enable yourself to do the thing you love.

Image Credit: Monkey Business by Tijmen Ploeger

Scott Dubar’s Tips for 365 Drawing Challenges

Scott Dubar posted his top 5 tips back in April on how to complete a 365 day drawing challenge after completing one himself. For most I’d assume it sounds like an impossible task especially when you’ve got impending deadlines and what not, but with Scott’s tips you’ll be well on your way to becoming the quick-thinking illustrator you always wanted to be.

Visit: http://scottdubar.com/tips/…365-drawing-challenge/

If you do start one yourself or have done one, we’d love to check it. Send us an email or message with a link.

ProjectCast with Kyle T. Webster

Following on from Drawn + Drafted‘s stonkin’ live podcast with Thomas James, they’ve got a new ProjectCast coming up with Kyle T. Webster (Kyle’s Brushes). It’ll be broadcast live on Monday 15th May 10:00 PM GMT (London) and you can reserve a spot here.

Not to be missed, Kyle is an international award-winning illustrator who also happens to be the founder of kylebrush.com, the world’s best-selling Photoshop brushes.

Save a spot: crowdcast.io/e/projectcast-kylewebster

So you want to be an illustrator?!

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The LCS isn’t the bustling creative web portal it once was due to the sudden and all engulfing rise of social networks like Facebook and Twitter. However, we still keep an eye on things and occasionally post an article or run the odd art related project (like Mail Me Art) when we get the chance. But when it comes to career-related and general advice, our new home for publishing these sort of articles is the HAI Staff Blog. We try to write and publish them when we can, but there are only so many hours in a day, as every self-employed person knows. Here is a list of all the freelance illustration advice riddled articles you may have missed over the last year.

Lots of people want to become or train to be illustrators. Some people take up the trade because they have a natural talent and others end up as artists because their mothers incessantly told them how good they were and they started to believe it! However you became or will become an illustrator, we’ve all got to start somewhere. As we live in a multimedia-rich world these days, it’s never been easier to find information and advice about the industry we all love.

The LCS Illustration Agent Directory

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The LCS isn’t as fast moving as it use to be, but we still like to keep the content turning over when we can. So as part of the LCS’s ongoing mission to be useful, we’ve published our personal illustration agent database for all to use and share. If there are any agents missing or any you’d like to see removed, please get in contact and we’ll do our best to update the directory.

Visit: The LCS Illustration Agent Directory

Budgeting for Illustration, Know thy Client

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Part of what I do at Hire an Illustrator is have clients send me their job briefs and then make appropriated recommendations about who they should hire for their projects in the form of a list of candidates. As the Little Chimp Society is a community of illustrators and people who love illustration, I though I’d share a bit about how it works when it comes to budgets and negotiations, from my point of view.

If I know a client doesn’t have a budget for an illustration job I tell them they need to find one. If they have a small budget and they’d like to work with a quality illustrator I tell them they need to find a bigger one. If they don’t tell me their budget, I don’t ask them unless I suspect they don’t have one. The thing is, negotiating fees is between the illustrator and client. I can make recommendations or offer advice, but there’s a huge variation in what clients can pay and what illustrators charge. People are normally surprised at how affordable custom illustration actually is, even though it’s a very unique thing and not cheap.

A client is buying a custom piece of work and while it can’t be compared to say a custom piece of furniture, it has a lot of the same attributes going for it as far as it being a unique creation is concerned, so there isn’t an off-the-shelf cost. Plus it’s actually quite complicated when it comes to quoting on a job: there’s the experience and reputation of the illustrator to consider; there’s copyright; there’s usage; and there’s the size of the client and the industry they belong to, along with the value an illustration will bring to their project. As I said, it’s complicated. Life would be so much easier if we were all carpenters, we’d measure the space and then price for materials and labor without ever needing to take projections or alternative uses into consideration.

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When a client approaches an illustrator, unless they’re an experienced art director, they should be prepared to have the illustrator ask them questions they may not have thought of. Plus the client should make as much information about the job available to the illustrator from the start. This will allow the illustrator to create an informed quote. It also really helps if the client can tell the illustrator what their budget is, as only the client knows what they can afford. Most of the time a particular illustrator is approached because the client wants to work with them and if the illustrator wants to work with the client, they’ll try to work to the client’s budget. If the client’s budget doesn’t cover the illustrator’s fees, they’ll kindly refuse the job, or try to come to some sort of licensing or other arrangement that’ll make the budget work. Alternatively, if there’s any flexibility in the budget it may go up, it may go down. What it comes down to is both parties needing to negotiate the terms to find something the client and illustrator are happy with. It doesn’t have to be a long drawn out process, but the more upfront the client is and the less fishing they do, the quicker it will be. Illustrators know what rates they need to charge, clients know what they can afford.

Supply and demand is normal in the commercial world, but should be an afterthought when it comes to illustration. Every piece commissioned is custom and for something specific from it’s inception. Not working to a supply and demand model may be a foreign concept to a business-orientated client who primarily works with numbers, but this is why an illustrator should be aware of this and should know how to handle a client with that mindset… if the client’s expectations aren’t already being managed by an art director or middle man. What clients tend to miss is the inherent value a good illustration can bring to a project, not mentioning the creativity and ideas an illustrator may have. This is why a license is always a good idea too, even a simple illustration has a lot of inherent value and if an illustrator was to hand over the copyright, lock stock and barrel, they’re also transferring all of the image’s value and future worth. Clients don’t normally (and vary rarely) need the copyright to an illustration and it’s worth a lot more to the illustrator than it is to the client. This is why if a client demands the copyright to an image it can add 50-100% (sometimes more) onto the cost of a job. But licenses can have varying terms that allow a client to use an image for their needs. With an illustrator retaining some of its value via the way of a license, budgets and costs can normally be drastically reduced.

Finishing up, what I would say is if you’re an illustrator, make sure you understand the value of your own work and be ready to explain that to your clients. You know what you should be or need to charge and your clients know what they can afford. Communication is the key, work it out.

Artist Credits…
Research World Magazine / Ben Aslett / http://illo.cc/12408
The Lonely Goldfish / Andy Smith / http://illo.cc/10139

Get your professional conduct on!

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There’s a new post up on the Hire an Illustrator blog and it goes into the ins and outs of how to conduct yourself when it comes to talking about clients after the fact on social networks like Facebook and Twitter. We’ve been guilty ourselves of having the occasional rant, but when your reputation is part of a professional community as a whole… You do need to keep yourself in check. Visit the HAI blog and have a read at hireanillustrator.com/i/blog/1113/

Finding your niche!

It’s all well and good telling people you’re a Jack of all trades… if you’re a handyman. But even if a client doesn’t have a specific style in mind, you’re not going to stand out from the crowd. Not being able to show people that special thing you do means you’re not special at all, or to finish the saying… a master of none.

Judge Dredd - The Natural ©Rebellion

Judge Dredd – The Natural © Rebellion

I’m not saying people shouldn’t expand their horizons, it is just that it takes time to build a business and you shouldn’t run before you can walk. Illustrators should find something that they’re really good at and make sure any potential client knows it. You want to pigeonhole yourself and make sure you’re the go-to guy for something specific. Deciding to play to your strengths doesn’t necessarily guarantee work, but it does mean you’re competing for clients in a smaller field with less competition. By narrowing your market you’re actually making more work available to yourself and not less.

Where's Stig? The World Tour - BBC Books

Where’s Stig? The World Tour – BBC Books

For example if someone’s looking for an animator, they’re going to hire an animator and not a children’s illustrator who dabbles in animation. The Jack of all trades might not even be on the client’s radar if they’re not specified what they specialise in for the sake of wanting to not miss out on a job. The same goes for comic book artists – if that’s what you do, that’s what you should call yourself. People will hire comic artists for more than graphic novels and comics, but they tend not to hire people for comic work if they’re not a ‘comic book artist’. Also as far as I know, specialists or people who work in a niche market tend to get paid more too. Have a look at successful illustrators, I’m pretty sure you’ll agree the common thread is that they all have a specific style and that they tend to work for similar clients and do variations of the same kind of job, time and time again. There are exceptions to the rule, but not everyone can be Damien Hirst.

Find your thing and make it yours! The world is your oyster.

Artist Credits…
Judge Dredd / Graeme Neil Reid / http://illo.cc/528
Where’s Stig? / Rod Hunt / http://illo.cc/9747