Understanding The Market.
Most of young artists believe that in order to be successful they should just publish their art work and hope that people would naturally come to them. Some even believe that by wasting money on Ads they will start to grow an audience and have more sales. Most popular artists would even tell you "just keep on drawing and it will happen naturally." If that's you then you are being mislead to believe in something that isn't true and it's actually damaging your career.
Lets' break things down so you get a better understanding of what is like being a freelance illustrator.
1. Going to university will help me improve my art work and I can land a job!
This is actually extremely inaccurate! The chances of you landing a job is extremely low unless you major in fashion, graphics design or in some cases photography. What they don't teach you at university is how to be an entrepreneur because their mentality is you are working for a grade not for a career and that's where you will realize you are just wasting money away for a piece of paper. You will find that you actually learn more from college or by yourself than what you do at university. Yes you can have a good university experience but you aren't gaining anything from it. They don't prepare you nor teach you how to survive outside of university. You are having to do the research yourself and find out how the market works, if you fail you will learn the hard way! The art industry is the toughest industry next to acting since its rather brutal and extremely hard. You can roughly get by but its a small percentage because most people would quit in order to get a normal job and pay their bills and other stuff. If you plan to do this then you better know that you are risking everything and you are being serious about this. Being an artist forces you to sacrifice everything and forces you to take risks. I am not going to sugar coat it and say "Yeah its the best and its easy." It takes a lot of hard work and dedication so be prepared.
But if I go to to university clearly I can learn more and improve my skills right?
The truth is...NO. They don't help you improve in any way, they are actually there to make you understand your own style and the area you wanna major. Example I thought I wanted to be a character designer so during that time I was constantly doing research on character design in different fields, like gaming, comic, anime and so on. I didn't actually learn anything new or something that will change my life, they don't even help with your portfolio, websites, promotions or anything that will help you out. As far as learning a new skills goes, you might as well learn from books or YouTube. You aren't exactly missing out on too much. You need to learn to be an independent artist and learn how to be a entrepreneur.
2. Treat Art as a business NOT as a hobby.
You are your own boss and you are responsible for your own business and its success. Being your own boss means you are in control of everything that happens in your business and you get to choose how to run it and when to run it. You haven't got anyone to tell you when you need to start or finish working on a design, you make your own decisions. Sounds fun being your own boss right? It can be if done correctly but you can't slack off to play games and let the days pass you by without doing anything as you won't make money that way. You need to have a strategy on how you want to approach your business and the goal behind it as this will help you not lose focus and get sidetracked by other things. Since you are your own boss you WILL need to accept criticism and you must try to keep a positive attitude as people on the web will bash your work to Kingdom come and you can't let those comments drag you down and make you think your work doesn't matter because it does. Be persistent, manage your time, be creative and be positive. The most important advice is to always learn from your failures as it will help you grow as an artist, so don't be ashamed to make mistakes as the more you do the wiser you will get and will help advance.
3. Work Wiser not Harder
Let's just say that you wanted to be a manga artist, then you need to do the research on how that market works and the process to create a manga. You don't have to move over to Japan to start your own manga as there are free online webcomic sites you can use that pays you to publish them. Example: Tapas Comic that works like YouTube, you get paid for views.
When marketing your work you need to know the insight of your business as it will help you narrow down your target. I will show you how it works using my Facebook Page as an example.
Based on the day you can see that my weakest days to publish my designs are Tuesdays, and the best time to publish and promote my designs is on a Mondays, Thursdays and Sundays around 3pm since there are more people around those times. Keeping that in mind it will help me the next time I publish a design because I will have more people sharing and liking my work.
Knowing my target Audience I can see that my work tends to attract both women and men raging from the age of 18 to 44 years of age. Based on the top locations I can see that USA, UK and Indonesia are my largest audience so when posting a design I need to keep track of their time zone, it wont help you posting a design at 11am when people in the US are sleeping, and you don't want to post at 1am when those in the UK are not awake. You need to know the right time that will suit you areas and know when its their most busiest time that are online, that way I can gain more traffic and more followers.
Most social medias can you figure out who your audience is and what's the best time to publish your designs, so always check your stats to see when its the best time to post and interact with your audience.
An audience won't come to you just naturally no matter how much you post your work, which is why you need to go out there and get them for yourself. Imagine you've just opened a shop, you won't have many costumers just because you've opened one, you need to post it in Newspapers, you need to put flyers, you need to interact with the public and welcome them in. Most business fails because they haven't done the proper research and marketing let alone have a proper strategy to help them keep the shop.
Question: How do you Promote your work? By sharing a link?
Yes and no. You'll find that most people won't look at a link because they think you are a "Hacker" so in general links don't always work. So how do you get noticed? First you need to break this into sections:
✔ Your website is the heart, the main base for your portfolio
✔ Social Media is the spine that will help you reach out and attract a larger audience
✔ Networking face to face is the brain because you need to know how to sell yourself to be able to get potential clients and buyers, so you need to be clever in doing this.
I will explain each one.
Your website should be the ultimate base, the impregnable fortress that people will come to know and admire. A great website can show the kind of Artist you really are. If you create a strong solid website, clients and companies from all over the world will want to Hire you and will be eager to buy your work.
On average a person will only spend approximately 2 minute on a website before moving on, so its vital you have a strong solid website to capture the audience attention and once you do that they will spend more time on your site. They will see the kind of work you produce, your style, the type of person you are and what you really represent. A person will take a few short minutes to decide if to hire you or not so its best to put your foot forward and show your best work! DO NOT POST EVERY DESIGN YOU'VE EVER MADE! Its no different from a job interview, what matters is the first impressions and the last, so they won't ever forget you and will always come back to you.
If you are struggling to build a portfolio the best advice is to critic your work like you are critiquing another artist's work. When putting together a portfolio ask yourself what shows your skills, your talent, who you really are, what you represent, what makes it unique and different and if it shows determination, spirit and heart. You may not realize this but if you don't give your 100% on a design it will show and people can tell if you got lazy, where you gave up, where you lost interest and more so it's important that you are showing passion in your portfolio. You don't have to post 100 different designs, you can easily just post 3 designs if they are your strongest designs and let them know why they should hire you. Quality over quantity.
Some artists tends to forget to update their website because they show a few drawings and call it quits but there is more to a website than just posting a portfolio and leaving it alone. You need to always refresh and update your profile so it's never on a stand still and be forgotten. You need to make sure it's active by updating them and keep them engaged, cause the more traffic you build the higher it will go on Google Search and more people will start discovering you.
✔ Social Media / Networking
You need to build an audience first and the best way to do this is through Instagram and Facebook. Millions of people spend every day posting, liking and sharing content on Facebook and Instagram and since its a bigger market you will want to reach out to those people. Understand that both Facebook and Instagram have a different way or sharing and building an audience. Let's go through it together so you can have a better understanding.
Facebook wants you to run Ads and it tries to get you to spend money on those Ads. The problem with Facebook Ads is that it's never going to help you reach out to the right audience, it won't help you reach out to the right people or market and nor will it bring people in unless you spend more money on their Ads. They expect you to spend at least 10 Dollars or £8 pounds to advertise your post, hoping it will help you reach 79,000 click post in ONE day. Realistically speaking you will most likely hit the 3,000 post click view and maybe a couple of likes. It's better than 100 views and 5 likes right? Yes but at the same time No. You see you can share and advertise your work for free and get a bigger hit than what Facebook can do. Not a believer? Here are the top 3 biggest popular designs that I've promoted myself.
Wolf Design reached 201,886 views within a week. Samurai 73,408 Views and the female with the wolf, 59,136 views. My work got posted on top Facebook Page, my page likes gone up during that time to 1,000, my Redbubble sales gone up to selling 5 T-Shirts per day. What's the secret? It's simple. You join Facebook Page groups that are related to your target audience and relevant to your post. Make sure you join groups that are larger than 5,000 and are active, and also message Facebook Pages that are also active and get them to post your Link on their Page, just be sure to say Thank you and equally promote their page in return. My work got posted on Several different Facebook Pages, one including the National Geographic and the Dutch Ballet. It's hard work cause you have to spend the entire day promoting your post and get people to like it and share it. What gets more people interested is when you leave an open question to your post.
On this design post I have asked everyone a simple question:
"For the kitty ears, which one do you like most 1 or 2?Also I still don't know what to call her, so if you have any suggestions let me know. Thank you"
The post alone had 14 Likes, had 20 plus so comments, and had 1,138 views organically. If I where to promote this design I would be getting around 35,000 views and 100 Likes within the three days. I know this because every time a post hits a certain target by itself, I know it is worth promoting and when it doesn't I know it won't get so much attention. I've learned this through experience and through analytics. Don't get sucked in to their scams in getting you to spend money on something that it will never work and you are just damaging your wallet in the long run. If you are going to invest in something, invest in books to help you promote, learn the market, learn the audience, learn what is required to succeed.
They are a good sample to read so check them out. Also I suggest you read books like the "The richest man in Babylon" and "Rich dad, poor dad" as it will help you understand more about investment and how you can manage your company and gain success.