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Illustrator Tips: On Finding Work

Finding work as an illustrator running your own business is a challenge. Assuming you have a strong body of work, a website to show your work, and a system in place which will allow you to provide timely estimates, contracts, and invoices, you still have a major battle in finding paying, reliable clients (those two adjectives are key). 

I found there is no single method that works universally. I've heard of artists finding their big break with a single client, finding their break with 100 small clients, and everything in between. For me, the process felt akin to sowing, reaping, and sometimes simply taking whatever I could get.  

When I had a decent portfolio (enough pieces to clearly demonstrate a consistent style), I started sending out emails to a minimum of 10 studios a day. Sometimes I sent out as many as 30 in a single day, sometimes less.  

At first I rarely heard back from anyone. Every time I hit send I imagined my email vanishing into an eternal abyss, never to be seen again. But then something happened... 

As I posted more pieces, I'd get 1 response back out of 20-30. The response would be something simple like, "Nice work!" or "Great stuff!".  Nothing more, often less. I kept on, putting more pieces online and sending out more emails. Eventually the messages I received back went beyond generic compliments and moved to "We'll keep you in mind!". 

Now, when I first heard a response like that, my inclination was to assume I'd never hear back from them again (and honestly, I'm still waiting to hear from some). But as I continued forward, I'd keep the people who wrote those responses in mind. I began emailing them every month or so as soon as I had a handful of new pieces - just enough to keep myself on the forefront of their mind while being careful not to annoy. 

I finally began seeing the fruits of my labor as I would hear back from an agency saying something to the effect of, "We finally found a project we think would be perfect for you!" only to realize a seed I'd planted with an email and a strong body of work months and months ago was finally beginning to sprout into something more.

From what I understand, established artists slowly reach a place where they have to do less planting and can focus on the harvest. I'm looking forward to those days but the idea is to work as if they won't be here anytime soon. 

Remember, the most important thing you can do is have strong work and some method of getting it in front of people. Clients need to not only see what you can do but also what you can do FOR them.

Its a slow process. Be patient. Keep working hard. Then work even harder. Do what you need to do to bring in honest income while you keep pushing forward. But don't give up! Those fields will one day be full of fruit!