THE THREE T METHOD
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Great news! You received a medal for your illustration.
So how come you're broke?
Even if your art has been acknowledged with awards, your business must be consistently tended if you want your illustration to support you financially. A successful career consists of equal parts talent, tenacity, and targeting.
As we must assume a level of talent since you are reading this column, we will delve into Target marketing this time and Tenacity in the next issue.
Whether you are just getting started or accelerating your career, a successful illustration career must grow from a sturdy business foundation.
1) Think of yourself as an art business that produces an excellent product for your clients and offers them superior service.
2) Describe the essence of your "product" in about 5 seconds, or in 10 words. BE SPECIFIC: "I'm an illustrator" does not offer enough information, but "I paint watercolor caricatures" does. Or you might say "I create high-energy multimedia illustrations" or "I'm a conceptual line artist" or "I draw animals and children with colored pencils" - specific descriptions help art directors discern if your work may be something they can use. If it is, wonderful! If not, you have saved the time and money spent promotion yourself to a person who doesn't use what you do. Use your description to quickly convey what you do when you send e-mail or speak to someone. Practice saying it aloud until you are comfortable and confident hearing it - practice with a friend or listen to yourself on a recording.
3) Present only the work you want to do. Do NOT show work that has been supporting you financially but not aesthetically. If your assignments have not resulted in imagery that you like, then create samples that show the kind of work you want to get. What you show is what you will be asked to do.
4) Create a user-friendly portfolio and website. Make the content the star, NOT the form.
5) Design a memorable business card and/or promotion that visually conveys the essence of your illustration.
6) Organize your studio with access to professional-level equipment and support services.
7) Network. Network. Network. Read the trades, look at websites, scour annuals for clients who use your kind of illustration, go to shows, join organizations, go to meetings and openings, talk to other illustrators, cultivate contacts.
8) Use who you know. It is likely that every art director you want to contact is also being pursued by many other illustrators.
Who you know is important - ask people with whom you have networked to make an introduction. When networking is productive, it's a win-win-win situation.
Your contact will enjoy making a successful match, the art director will be happy to see someone who has been pre-screened for them, and you will get to present your work to a targeted market.
9) Build a list of viable potential clients using what you've learned as a result of all this networking and researching.
10) Consider yourself a master of Talent and Targeting when you've done all of the above. New samples are complete, your product is defined, presentations and promotions are in order, market research is complete, and support systems are in place.
There is just one more "T" to go: Tenacity. Our next column will discuss how to maintain your Tenacity and have a resolute and positive mental attitude towards success, money, negotiating, and self-trust.