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January 2010

January 2010 -- Time

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  • EMG News:
    News for 2010
  • Wombat Droppings:
    Ten Years of Rendering the Chicken
  • Ask an Artist:
    Troubleshooting Watercolor
  • Behind the Art:
    More Experimenting With Collage
  • Artist Spotlight:
    Interview with Tiziano Baracchi

    Features

  • On Finding Clients as a Freelancer

    Fiction

  • Fiction: A Whole Year in One Key


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  • On Finding Clients as a Freelancer
    by Amy Edwards

    I wouldn't have written about how to find clients, because I feel myself not expert enough to have anything to say. But when a friend asked me how I find my clients, I realized that I currently have enough work to turn some I'm not especially interested in away.

    So I guess I must be doing reasonably ok.

    Not great, since I'm kinda poor still, but in a time of 'economic crisis', when supposedly there's less work about for artists, I'm getting more and more work. I must be doing something right.

    So I'll share what I know, which applies to freelance illustration and website and design work in my life, and may be the same across other areas of freelancing too.

  • Be Findable

    It's all well and good deciding you're going to be a freelance whatever, but potential clients need to be able to find you. There's work there to be had, but if you're out of reach of a client, you'll never get it.

    For me, this involves several things. I have my own website, but to be honest that doesn't draw that many people. I get a lot of traffic to my website by people searching for my name, which obviously means they already know who I am; they've already found me previously.

    What has worked best for me is having a web presence generally.
    What this actually means is spending time on forums relevant to what you do, maybe having a journal or blog, hanging out in chat rooms where people in your line of work hang out. Join facebook, join twitter, join as many free galleries as you can. Pop into the forums daily.

    In fact, at the start, set aside a couple of hours a day just for your social networking.

    Not only do you learn from other people, but you hear things like "oh, this company is looking for artists", as well as having people in the business (fellow artists, fellow designers) get to know you as an artist (or writer, or whatever it is you're doing).

    Perhaps they'll mention you later. Perhaps they'll send work your way. A huge project I'm currently working on was sent my way by a fellow artist who thought it was a decent project, but turned it down as it didn't suit them. They thought of me as a good artist for it, let the client know, and now I'm working on a pretty good job thanks to them.

    It might seem a bit hypocritical, me talking about community activity in forums and chats and the like since I'm a bit of a hermit with that kind of thing these days, but I first had my work published in 2004 through a project I got involved with through a community forum back when I was very active in online art communities. Once you get going a bit, you can afford to drop off some forums and devote your time to other things.

    That said, I am a chronic lurker. I read forums (some daily) that people don't even know I still visit -- that way I still keep myself reasonably up to date with some things, but don't waste too much time chit-chatting about what I ate for breakfast or who's cat looks funniest in a Santa hat.

    There are still some places where I try to be active, as it's how you maintain friendships and relationships with your freelancing peers. And you need them. Sure they send clients your way, which we've already covered, but they are also a great source of advice, strength and motivation.

    Maintain those relationships!

    Simply put, it's so much easier for clients to find you when you're out and about.

    To give you an idea, I think almost all my clients have found me though a public community gallery like Deviant Art or Epilogue, or been referred to me through a friend I made through a forum, often on the same sites. Off the top of my head, I can think only of ONE who found me through Google. Google won't get your clients to you. Being visible generally will.

  • Be worth seeking out.

    A potential client might look at 50 artists before deciding who to email. My approach is to try to make sure my stuff sticks out enough that clients find it hard to just pass me by.

    It's not enough for potential clients to find me -- they have to want to employ me.

    This part is simple enough in theory, and very hard in reality. You have to keep improving. Make your stuff stand out from what is around it. Be the best you can possibly be in the hopes that when a client looks at your work, they say "Wow, that's amazing and I love it, I'd LOVE to have this artist do something for me!" as opposed to "Eh, it looks cheap, I guess maybe I could afford it." You want them to REALLY want to work with you.

    This happens with time, but don't skimp on trying to improve yourself. In the end, you can have a million people seeing your stuff a day, and if it's rubbish, not a single person will contact you for work. Of course, sometimes you find a great artist who can't get work, and that's often the opposite problem -- all skill and no marketing or networking, and you want to avoid that too.

    Bottom line is, put time and effort into becoming a better artist (designer, writer, whatever you're doing) and you become more employable. It pays off enormously.

  • Seek out jobs you want.

    Clients don't always come looking for you. Especially at the start of your career.

    I landed my first jobs by hunting them down.

    I approached companies and publishers, usually by email, and picking out a few of my best images relevant to their interests to link to in the email, as well as including a link to my bigger portfolio. (It should be noted that I wrote each email to them specifically too -- sending out "Hai I want to work for uz guyz" form letters is a huge mistake. Be professional right from the start.)

    The next question I get asked whenever I mention this is "who can I email?" There is no 'email these people' answer. Do research. Find the people you can email.

    For me, I wanted to do some book covers, but big companies weren't going to take a little fish like me, so I Googled small e-book publications and send messages to companies there. With success too, I might add.

    You could do the same for all sorts of companies -- be inventive, and send as many as you like.

    Emails cost nothing, and although there may be nothing suitable for you at the time, often these places will hold onto your details and contact you for work at a later date. I've had that happen more than once with places I'd given up hope on.


  • And there you are.

    Only three things, but these are the things I've done and had work for me when seeking out work. KEEPING clients, though, is another thing entirely, and is something I'll write about in another post at a later date.

    Amy Edwards
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