I found myself reflecting recently on the amount of self promotion a freelance illustrator must do to get their work out to the buyers. At times I felt like it was overwhelming as the sole owner and employee of Nancy So Miller Illustration to keep up with it all. Here are some tips I tried and they worked for me. In no way do I make claims that this will lead to work. For me it has been managing my time and how I can get the self promotional work done and then my real illustration work.
If something happens like you get sick or your computer blows up. Don't be so hard on yourself. These things happen to everyone! I think of each new week as a do over. I can just do it again next week.
1. Schedule Send Emails
Every week I send out 25 emails to art directors, buyers, editors and local businesses that might be interested in my skills. I will schedule send them. I have a template saved in Gmail. I schedule them to go out mid week. This really helped my anxiety for sending out the work. Some illustrators I know use Mailchip or Constant Contact.
2. Advertising in Shows
I recently decided to show in the Blue Print Show Online. This show is a virtual show for art licensing and surface pattern buyers. Here is a link if you want to find out more about the show. https://blue-print-online.com/blue-print-online.com/
3. Advertising on Websites for Illustrators
There are lots of sites that promote the work of illustrators. I decided I would look around and do some research. I talked to illustrator friends to see what was working for them. I decided to spring for it and go with Illustrators For Hire. They cap the number of illustrators to 200. I liked the idea that it's curated. Because they limit the number of illustrators on the site I had to be patient and contact them several times till they had an opening. Shout out to my illustrator friend Steph Calvert Art for the heads up! Steph is an illustrator based out of Atlanta, GA and she works on a variety of fun quirky illustrations. She is a highly skilled illustrator so go check out her work!
There are tons of other sites like iSpot, Illustration Directory, Workbook, ChidrensIllustrators.com. Think about where you are in your career and what you can budget for in a year. What site caters more to the markets you want to work in. That something you want to be mindful of.
4. Volunteer To Be A Guest Speaker
I'm pretty comfortable in sharing my working process, art, and anything children's book illustration related. I offer to speak to my art teacher friends and their classes about my work. I like to keep my speaking skills practiced. It's fun and I get to meet some young art students. Volunteer to speak to some local classes.
5. Network With Other Artists
I have friends that aren't illustrators that I've sent postcards and stickers incase they run into someone that needs a cut paper illustrator for children's books, art licensing and pattern design. Start a social group of illustrators you can meet with on a regular basis as well.
I got this advice from Ryan Sanchez, one of the most business savy artists I have ever learned from and he's a wonderful painter! These people will cheer you on for the wins and also make you laugh at the low points. Shout out to Keith Lee Illustration for making me laugh! Keith is a Hong Kong based illustrator that I met during my graduate studies. He's an editorial illustrator and he's won tons of awards. I give him a hard time about that. Lol!
Informational interviews are great for learning and networking. Consider talking to someone in the industry that you want to be in so you can get some advice. If you are sincere and honor their time they will want to share. They remember how hard it was getting started. If you don't have the courage to do it. Feel free to listen to some podcasts. One of my favorites is the Illustration Department Podcast and of course my own My Creative Life. I've interviewed over 100 creatives in various fields. I ask so I can learn more about their industry. Plus it is a lot of fun! I also don't make any money off of it. It's purely for learning and getting to know people I admire for what they are doing.
6. Check Who Follows You on IG, FB, Twitter
I took some time one day and started to look at my followers on various social media accounts. I was fortunate to see the very people I want to reach with my art. I made sure that I sent the mailers and reached out. You never know who is watching. So make sure you keep your social media feed relevant and professional.
7. Sent Out Postcards
Sending out physical promo cards may seem dated, but it works. I was thrilled when I saw a post on the Twitter of an art director that there team had gotten my mailer. See the image below. They notice! I about died from joy that real people get them! YEAH!!! Quarterly mailings is what I plan to do. I also like having printed business cards, and letterhead.
8. Participate In # Events
Depending on the industry you are targeting they have their own monthly or bimonthly # tag events. The one I participate in on Twitter and IG is KidLitArtPostcard. This was invented by the wonderful Gina Perry. I'm a children's book illustrator so that makes sense for me to participate in that month event. It's the first Thursday of the month. #kidlitartpostcard. Agents are looking for new talent and there maybe a future commission. See the image of my recent #kidlitartpostcard. I have to thank TeMika Grooms, children's book author and illustrator for this advice. Thanks TeMika! Please check out her work!
Also try Twitter Pitch Events, Portfolio Day, Inktober, and the conferences you attend will have special # tags for the event. Make sure to # tag the event! I also started a # tag for myself and my art. Incase I need to direct someone to all my posts.
9. Join an Organization or Take a Class
I'm a children's book illustrator, art licensing, and surface designer. Where do I find my club, association or organization? I talked to others and Googled. I joined the Society of Children's Writers and Illustrators and I took a surface design marketing/business class by Elizabeth Silver. I also took a classes at Storyteller's Academy, Schoolism, and SVS Learn.
What the benefit? You are able to attend events, a network of other people pursuing the same dream, and sometimes access to professional industry experience and zoom sessions to get your questions answered. For me it helped to be accountable to keep creating new work.
Consider volunteering with that organization. I mentioned this prior, and I state it again it's a nice way to meet people. The nonprofits can always use more help. It's a great way to meet people if you tend to feel shy about networking. I got that advice from Jamie Zollars. She is fabulous author and illustrator of children's books!
BONUS TIP: Go meet the people you want to work with in person. This may sound old fashioned but I've been getting brave and asking to meet with previous clients and potential clients in person to build those professional relationships.
10. Don't Stress Keep Going!
These measures are no guarantee if you only do them one time. It's about repeat sending of your work. It takes multiple times to have people consider you a real entity and creator. I started thinking if I was an art director or buyer what would I think if some random person contacted me out of the blue? I would think it was spam and hit delete. Sometimes when you don't hear back it is because they are busy. Everyone is busy. It could be not right now but maybe later. Don't stress keep sending your work out! You never know.
Awarding winning children's book author and illustrator, R. Gregory Christie once said it is like casting seeds out in the open. Some of them will take root and grow!
If I forgot anything please comment and share anything that worked for you!
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My name is Nancy So Miller. I'm a freelance illustrator that specializes in cut paper illustrations and is based out of Savannah, Georgia.