NUTS AND BOLTS PART FOUR
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Building a Successful Illustration Career
Your portfolio is ready for prime time, just as you want it to be. The studio is open for business, you have your professional support team ready to roll into action and you are ready to man the phones or watch the job requests flow into your email. But the only callers are friends and the e-mails are spam. What you may be lacking is “brand recognition” i.e. a recognizable look for your business and a plan to make it known within your field.
Part Four Nuts and Bolts: Building Your Brand
This can’t be stressed enough: No matter how talented you are, if potential clients don’t know you are there, you can’t get the work. Results of a recent 3x3 survey of 200 international illustrators showed that a majority promoted themselves once a year, spending a maximum of $500. But those who considered themselves “successful” spent considerably more on consistent promotion throughout the year. Now is the time to invest your allocated promotion dollars. Take another look at your mission statement, remind yourself how you want to present yourself to the industry remembering to clarify what distinguishes you from other illustrators. Whose illustration problems do you think you can solve? Who are your dream clients? This will help you in targeting your potential clients.
The buzz-word for selling in this faster than the speed of light world is branding. In the same way you can picture the shape of the original Coke bottle, wouldn’t it be wonderful for someone to close their eyes and visualize your illustration as the solution to their communication problem?
Make your list, check it twice
Doing your own investigative work is the best way to create the most qualified hit list. Start by perusing illustration annuals, noting those companies and individuals who have used your kind of illustration. Next, note names of illustration users as you look through the racks in magazine and book stores. Another way to add to your personal client list is asking a satisfied art director for a referral, resulting in a prequalified introduction to a new contact.
Lastly, and only as a supplement to your own research, you might want to subscribe to a list service. Among others, two services providing regularly updated contacts are Agency Access and Adbase. No matter if it’s broad based or targeted marketing, the lists are most effective when you assess each company and their noted decision makers, adding only the most appropriate ones to your list.
To complement all this traditional marketing it is important to socialize and network, giving a face and personality to your brand. Establish a presence in various new media forums to engage in dialogues with other industry professionals, keeping in touch with your community through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn all help create an awareness of your name and your work—your brand.
Find out about industry events, openings and parties and then circulate among the crowd, boldly displaying your name tag, introducing yourself and exchanging business cards. People generally feel most comfortable working with those they have actually met, putting a face to a name. Likely you’ll will find that socializing creates work for you through word of mouth and who you know.
You deserve for your career to flourish. So please remember that being a successful illustrator is synonymous with being a successful small business. And to be successful, your potential clients have to know that you are there.