Crimson Daggers — Art forum

Full Version: How on earth do you get jobs?
You're currently viewing a stripped down version of our content. View the full version with proper formatting.
I'm gonna preface this by saying there is definitely a whole lot I haven't done yet in terms of looking for work, but largely I think that's because I don't really understand how to approach it in a practical, smart way.

I need to find work, any work (doing 2D illustration), freelance or otherwise. I have applied for a few job postings, as well as submitted my work to a few illustration agencies. But, the response has been complete dead air. The only real interest for my work is personal friends who don't want to pay more than beer money for full, custom paintings or designs. Freelance sites work in such a backwards way... What I really want is a small amount of decently paying jobs (I really don't need much, like $1000/month) rather than wasting my time scrounging bucket loads of small-budget jobs.

I've asked around my peer group, but the main suggestion people come back to me with is to do graphic design, or web design rather than illustration. While that is a more viable career field, it's useless to me because I don't have the knowledge or skill to do either well.

So, how do you even get started? I've really only gotten $20 individual commissions here and there, which is a huge waste of time if you want to be professional.

If anyone has advice or suggestions, I'd be extremely grateful.

My portfolio is HERE.
You're gonna want an answer from a professional, and I'm not yet professional. But I've been researching this for a long time, and the gist of how to get FREELANCE (not sure about studio work) is:

- Have an awesome portfolio. (Not just great art, but a good website that's quick and easy to navigate, with immediate access to your email address)

- Make a list of art directors (ADs) - look at artists who do the kind of work that you want to do - What clients do they work for? Some clients have general submission email addresses, but others have direct email addresses for individual ADs. Really think about which of these ADs will be interested in your work: it has to be the appropriate genre, and of a quality which seamlessly fits in with the other art that you've seen the client using.

- Gather relevant contact details for those art directors. Email addresses will be the easiest to find. A physical address will allow you to do some more unique marketing via post, which might be even more effective at getting attention (ADs are flooded with emails).

- Send out emails. You may not hear back from most art directors, so you'll want to contact as many as are relevant. But DON'T just copy/paste the same email or send to 50 people at once. Instead, write an email for each AD which is short (remember how valuable their time is), polite, links to your portfolio (this is essential!) and if possible, has a short statement about why you want to work for them specifically - this shows that you have some knowledge of their brand.

-Wait for responses.

-What if responses never back? Either you're contacting the wrong people or the art isn't up to standard.

- You can contact the same art directors when your art has improved, but wait a few months. They don't want to be spammed.

- ALSO Attend events in person and network. With artists, wtih students, with ADs, whoever. Be part of the community and it will work in your favour.

- Make sure you know about contracts and practicalities of how it works when you actually get a job - check out (it's now free)

For more:
-Check out Noah Bradley's advice. He's very savvy about the business side of illustration.
-Check out

Anyway, that's what I know from my research, but I'm not yet working in the industry, so feel free to take it with a pinch of salt.
OH I forgot one of my fav links:

Hear it from the art directors themselves!
I have been a fulltime freelancer for about a year and a half. My first year was very very hard in terms of consistent work. It is only now ramping up a bit better with better rates and a bit more consistency in work. I went from 100 dollar gigs to 1000 dollar gigs in that time, but the majority are in the 200-500 range.

BadWoolf gave you some solid advice. The only thing I will disagree with is the statement that if you don't hear back you should assume your work isn't up to scratch or you hit up the wrong person. People are often just too busy to respond to everyone especially at large companies, even if your work has interested them. Sometimes it takes months for these things to filter through to actually getting looked at. I got no response at all when I sent my stuff to FFG. 3 months later I got a solicitation email out of the blue.

Your work is pretty solid technically and you have a pretty interesting style which is fairly unique, so you definitely have that going for you.

In terms of your folio, I can see your work being used in children's books, perhaps in editorial work as well, but I would suggest you need to show more of what you can do that might be tailored directly to those markets. Your folio is a little light in that respect. For example there is that grayscale portrait which technically is great but arguably less viable from a client perspective. I like your design work and cool pencil sketches but I wanted to see more finished illustrations, and also more complete scenes that show environment and characters interacting with them. Your stuff has no environments at all, and so much illustrative work will require this as well to some degree, except maybe for pure editorial or straight up character design work which at the moment I don't get from your folio. You have some great stuff showing an affinity for design in your sketchbook do and show more of it if that's what you want to do! The figure study, while cool, probably won't get you any jobs!

The absolutely vital thing besides constantly adding new and better pieces to your folio and taking out the weak links, is marketing. You mentioned sending to a "few" agencies. Won't cut it unfortunately if you are trying to get consistent work. You have to send to hundreds...and keep sending consistently before you start to get bites.

Do your research and target your work to publications or studios/companies that are aligned with what you can do, exactly as BadWoolf said. Also check out all the sites out there that post illustration jobs; artstation has a job section,, even dA forums occasionally posts jobs with decent rates amongst the 20 dollar gigs. I wouldn't bother with the horrible sites like elance or freelancer which use a bidding system. Skip those.

Compile a list of potential clients and when you contacted them last. Update this at every contact point so you can go back and see who you might contact again after some time. Make a routine of it. Do an hour+ of this every day. I do a research run, and when I find a suitable target, I immediately make a draft email with appropriate links and save it. When I am done with my hunt, I go to my list of drafts, finalise them and send right away. If I don't get to all of them, they are waiting in my drafts folder ready to go the next chance I get.

While you might have to take some low-paying jobs I find it helpful to have at least a minimum value which you will not go below no matter what. Don't undersell from the get go even with small indie clients. You can always negotiate down a bit, but you can't negotiate up. I used to have a $100 minimum for any piece. It is now $200. If clients don't like it (yes INCLUDING your friends), I send them on their way politely, but keep the door open for if they choose to come back. If they are serious about your work, they will go away "rearrange" some stuff and come back with something you can work with.
Being a professional artist has a lot to do with attitude and how you present yourself. If you don't value your own work and stand by it, don't expect anybody else to.

Understand contracts and licencing. WELL. ArtPact has great boilerplate templates, which I use to this day.

Post your work in multiple places. Social media (twitter, facebook, instagram, tumblr etc) Create and maintain galleries in all the big illustration websites (ArtStation, dA, cgSociety, DrawCrowd etc). The more you get stuff onto the web, the more it will spread and the chances of it getting picked up by potential clients grows organically. Submit work to imagineFX every so often, eventually you will get feature. They are always on the hunt for up and comers to feature.

Enter contests and challenges with decent exposure. Even just entering things and not winning gets your work out there and visible. Enter the illustrators of the future contest every quarter. I won last year, and got flown to LA all flights and accommodation paid for a week! That's 4 chances a year for a pretty awesome prize, and the pool of contestants is relatively small compared to other contests.
Consider doing some fanart and posting it on the forums that are often run for these IPs. Also post on imgur, reddit etc. It might not be your thing, but doing work on well known IPs has a much bigger immediate audience reach than personal work.

You just have to keep at it and not get discouraged. At a certain point, doing all these things will land you better gigs. Good luck!