Anon asked: I’d love some posts aimed towards illustration. Wanting to be an illustrator, I find it difficult to find answers to my questions about an illustrative career path, maybe even freelance. Any advice about what to do concerning this? :)
Whilst this isn’t an area that I am hugely expertise in, there are quite a few people I know who are in the same boat and perhaps this can be of some help to everyone wanting to know the answer to this question!
I think it is much harder to get the breaks in an illustrative career than just a normal graphic design career, especially as most illustrators are so individualistic and it can be hard to find avenues to channel your attention towards.
So here are a few suggestions to help you out;
- Make sure you have an online presence where you can showcase your work. Set up an account on behance.net and get your work out there to people browsing through. Also, I think it is important that illustrators have their own website that echos their illustrative style; whether it is a flash based website that really looks like it could be a page from your sketchbook, or a simple html website that highlights your work effectively, it is just important that your work is the main highlight.
markallenillustration.co.uk is a good example of how a illustrator can use a simple html template to showcase their work. It is basic, yet shows off a degree of thought as to how best to compliment his work.
- Join the Association of Illustrators if you are in the UK. They have many different opportunities and ways of showcasing your work, as well as having competitions and events that can help with your networking and the business side of the industry. It is also something that will enhance your cv when you are sending it to different companies.
- Whilst trying to find some paid work, try signing up for Society6, which for a nominal $1 sign up, you can start earning commission for every product you sell. Although this may not be the route to all riches, it is something that you can earn a little bit of money on each month - but beware the turn around of how long it may take to clear any received funds.
Laura Childs Illustration - Society6 page - it is a quick way to get your work seen and purchased.
- Social media again is another way to get your work seen. Follow other illustrators, design agencies and magazines, and try to get in touch with them to see whether you can do some interning. Unfortunately in this world, you may have to work a little bit for free, but look at the end game, the more professional projects you get where you can show where you have worked to deadlines and against a brief the better! Utilise your work on your Twitter background, set up a Facebook page promoting your work, you can always showcase or offer prints to people that way.
- If you have the access to funds for a small start up, you can get into producing your own printed products and sell them through on-line shops such as Big Cartel. But beware, do your research and find out products that consumers would want before committing to a bulk order of 100 t-shirts or 1000 posters. If you can promote your work through networking or social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr don’t be ashamed, do it! I recently spent about $50 on Jordan Debney’s illustrational work because it is unique, original and exciting! Below you can see his Big Cartel shop.
He knows his audience, has a massive following on tumblr, twitter and instagram - don’t neglect any audience, the wider you cast your net, the better!
- Find methods to enhance your portfolio, whether it is doing illustrational work for club flyers, tickets, posters - whatever, it can really help build your portfolio and show potential employers again, just that you can use your illustrations, and develop your style for a definite audience.
- I also started up Ampersand Magazine to help new creatives to showcase their work effectively - lots of people have got a lot of interest off the back of featuring in magazines like this - it widens your appeal and gives you another avenue to showcase your work. Unlike most magazines though Ampersand only features up and coming designers - no hooks from famous names etc, just a pure focus on talent. The magazine is always open for submissions, and looking for new creative people to feature, and has a readership of thousands (over half a million people have read at least one page!) so it is a great way to show potential employers how exciting your work is! (shameless plug over!)
- Sign up for some creative agencies - if you don’t make yourself known to people, chances are out of the millions of illustrators in the world, they may not find you! Put good examples of your work up for potential employers to see, making sure they are diverse and give an accurate reflection of your style and quality.
- Don’t be afraid of being a bit pushy! Get in touch with magazines or companies you may want to work with, send them your cv, or a little gift pack that shows off your illustrations and your creativity - work with graphic designer friends to help you out with this - a good quality product will look good for both portfolios, and also enhances your networking skills! Designers and creative people love tactile and lovely things - ask yourself, would you read a Microsoft Word CV or would you rather receive this:
- Be proactive! If you aren’t getting anywhere with companies, and you do take a more ordinary job, don’t whatever you do forget about your desire to be an illustrator! If you want it you have to work for it! Put together original storybooks, make the most of your time! Learn new methods, make sure you are well versed in different software, as this makes you more attractive to any design firm. Use places like Blurb to get your book printed, even if it is just a one off, it can show potential employers your full range of creative skills!
- Network - go to gallery events, sign up for networking parties, be cheeky - ask to be put on guestlists - if you can convince yourself that you are a grade A illustrator, then chances are you can convince gallery and PR companies that you are as well. These type of events can be uncomfortable, mostly hob-nobbing, but dress smartly, have your cards ready, speak to everyone, hand the cards out - make sure that when they leave they remember that met a really cool illustrator who could perhaps do a bit of work for them!
- Don’t give up! It is hard to get a foothold in any industry, but the more you take the chances on offer, or better than that, creating your own opportunities, the more likely you are going to gain success in your chosen field.
I hope that has helped in someway and if anyone else can give any more tips, just drop them in the ask box and I’ll be sure to create a post with the best responses!