There are many different ways to promote yourself. Some will work for you and others won’t. Sorry if that is ambiguous, but it’s true. Everyone’s illustrations have a different appeal. Some people will have to turn over every rock to find the right market for their work. Others can just announce their presence and people will stampede towards them to offer them jobs.
You can enter contests or do pro bono work for companies or charities. This can get your name out there and earn you notoriety. Illustration is sort of like shopping. Most people want to buy the name brand product over the generic, so getting your name out there is important.
Many illustrators send out promotional cards or packages. You can order postcards with your artwork on them at Modern Postcard or VistaPrint for a fairly low price. You’ll need a list of clients to send your hundred or so postcards to. You can buy a list of art directors, get a book like the Artist’s and Graphic Design Market with a list of art directors or go to a book store, online or to a library and look for art director contacts in magazines, book publishing, etc. I don’t know how many promo cards art directors get per day or what they do with them. In my mind, I imagine a giant paper mache dinosaur sculpture made from postcards. I’ve never really had much luck with my mailing campaigns, but I probably don’t send them out as frequently as I should.
Artists also buy ads in illustration annuals. Some of the different ones out there are Play, Black Book and Directory of Illustration. A page in one of these annuals can cost several thousand dollars, so it is sort of a leap of faith that it is going to grow your business. Some people swear by them and others say they didn’t do much for them. If you do get an artist’s rep, they may require their artist’s to advertise in these books.
An artist’s representative can help introduce you to new or otherwise unreachable clients. The problem with reps is that they are a catch 22. To get some of the bigger better clients you need a representative, but reps only want to take on illustrators that work with the bigger better clients. My experience with courting reps was fairly positive. I sent out emails expressing interest in their services and a link to my portfolio. Most of them sent back a response that they weren’t interested. I had one ask for a portfolio that they could show to potential clients and gauge their interest. It ended up not working out for me, but getting back responses is always positive. The Graphic Artists Guild Handbook has more info on how to choose an agent and typical relationships and responsibilities.
Web promotion is another way to drive potential clients to you. First, you want to register your site with search engines like Google, Yahoo, MSN etc. This is free to do and you will come up in people’s searches. Dmoz is another good search engine to get into. It is peer reviewed, so it is a little harder to get into. If you are having trouble getting accepted, try becoming an editor of a category your site fits into. If you do become an editor, try not to eliminate other sites in your category. Even if you think they are terrible, you should respect another editors’ decision of including that site. Other ways to drive traffic to your site is to exchange links with other sites. You can also pay for advertising or buy keywords on the search engines.
This post was written on IllustrationInfo.com Content copyright 2007 Cory Thoman.