Freelance Tutorial: Tips to Sell Your Work

Graphic designer and illustrator Mauro Martins gives us advice on how to sell and make our work better known in order to live from illustration

You know that the work of an illustrator goes far beyond drafts, sketchbooks, ideas, software and commissions. What you may not know yet is how to sell your work better, from how to advertise everything you do to how to gain more clients or a loyal audience.

Graphic designer and illustrator Mauro Martins (@mauromartins) summarizes the most valuable tips he has used in his career to help beginners and experienced illustrators who want to learn how to better sell their work. You can watch the video below:

1. Have a side project

If you are not yet living exclusively from illustration, the ideal is to start with a parallel project that you can develop in your free time. This type of activity can be the beginning of some great project in the future and will give you total creative freedom, allowing you to experiment with the formats and languages you like best without the restrictions of a client, for example.

Parallel projects will give you visibility and show the world the what you are capable of, but keep in mind that it may take some time before you can live exclusively from illustration. Don't be discouraged! After all, you've got to start somewhere.


2. Use the common interest to communicate

There are several ways to publicize your work and one of them, the most common and simple, is to talk directly to your own community of illustrators. However, this is not enough to broaden your horizons. That's why you need to find a common interest to communicate more effectively.

Mauro Martins, for example, transformed his experience of life abroad into part of his art when he began to document it through his drawings. In this way, he attracted the attention not only of other illustrators and people interested in his art, but also of people interested in knowing more about living abroad.

My Visual Diary project, Mauro Martins
My Visual Diary project, Mauro Martins

Another good example is that of illustrator Lila Cruz, who describes in Instagram the challenges of her routine as a freelance illustrator. In addition to serving other professionals in the discipline, her experience also applies to an immense number of people who identify with deadlines, procrastination, and other aspects of life as a freelancer.

She creates narratives about her life, showing what goes on behind the scenes, her creative process, answers questions, gives advice, and publishes content that may be of interest to a wider audience. In an age of social networking, you should always look for connections and common ground.

Art by Lila Cruz (@colorlilas)
Art by Lila Cruz (@colorlilas)

3. Use the press to your advantage

Whenever you finish a project, think about how you will advertise it in the press. Plan to create a statement about the project and adapt it to different media, always respecting the editorial line of each outlet. The editorial line is the focus of the publications of that medium, which can be technology, innovation, architecture, etc. Think about how your project can fit in and get in touch with each of them.

It is worth investing a lot of time in this process, as it is very important and will bear fruit. To have more chances of success, also look for specialized press around the world; blogs and social network profiles that show the work of illustrators.

Don't forget to take good pictures of your project, as this makes the journalist's job easier and helps to get people's attention. If possible, maintain a relationship with journalists and media professionals to keep them always informed about what you are doing.

This is a free and effective way to publicize your work.

Article published on Mauro Martins work
Article published on Mauro Martins work

4. Keep your portfolio up to date and contextualized

It is very important to keep your portfolio updated, but not only that. Go beyond the flat image, the vector or the sketch, as clients may have difficulty understanding your work and what you are capable of.

Always insert a photo of the final product, detail the creation process and contextualize the project with a text that explains things like the original briefing or the result you wanted to achieve.

Understanding your clients' language is essential to keeping your portfolio well planned, in the simplest and most understandable way possible.

Mauro Martins portfolio
Mauro Martins portfolio

5. Use social networks

Use social media, but go beyond Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Invest in specialized networks such as Behance, DeviantArt, Dribble, as well as in the Projects area of the Domestika website. Many clients are looking for the work of creatives and illustrators directly on these platforms.

Don't forget to use keywords and categories to make finding your work easier.

Mauro Martins' Behance profile
Mauro Martins' Behance profile

6. Participate in competitions

As a budding illustrator, you will find it tough to capture the attention of larger customers or reach major brands. That's why participating in illustration contests is essential to expose your work to more people.

Use Talent House to find some of these contests, as it acts as a platform to connect brands and agencies with creatives. It's a good way to create more work for your portfolio with a brand that is recognized by the market.

Freelance Tutorial: Tips to Sell Your Work 15

7. Be proactive

It's normal to wait for the customer to come to you, but by being proactive, you can generate new business opportunities that the customer hadn't even thought of: you can suggest new projects to customers you already have contact with or would love to work with.

Mauro Martins' line of cell phone cases with WÜD Phone Cases was born exactly like that, when the artist contacted the brand and proposed the project. The brand liked the idea and the result can be seen here.

Mauro Martins' designs for WÜD Phone Cases
Mauro Martins' designs for WÜD Phone Cases

Don't be afraid to introduce yourself and suggest projects, because even if they are not accepted at first, it is an opportunity to learn and create relationships and contacts for future projects.

8. Be aware of art exhibitions

Pay attention to the exhibitions that are taking place in your city, in nearby cities or even online. They are an opportunity to show your work in a special way.

Exhibitions such as CowParade and Elephant Parade, for example, occur frequently and are excellent for starting out. Visit the websites of these exhibitions to understand the selection processes, talk to friends about the topic, and follow specialized sites and publications that promote new initiatives.

Mauro Martins Elephant Parade design
Mauro Martins Elephant Parade design

9. Find a sales representative

If you don't have the capacity to make contacts with clients, contracts, sales or prefer to focus only on the creative side, an excellent option is to look for a sales representative who will do all this for you.

Since this person usually already works with other artists, they will make it easier to reach certain clients or participate in projects in which you do not have much experience.

Representatives usually charge a percentage of the price of projects, so keep this in mind when looking for one. This is a good way to join forces with a specialized professional to take your work to the next level.

Also, if you work with a very well-defined style, with your own firm, it is even easier for clients to see what they are buying and how the final project will look.

Did you like these tips? You can learn how to create a vectorial illustration capable of transmitting different messages, starting with from the brainstorm, to the sketches, and arriving at the digital drawing and composition, in Mauro Martins' online course Doodle-Style Vector Illustration.

You may also like:

- Introduction to Adobe Illustrator, a course by Aarón Martínez
- The Art of Sketching: Transform Your Doodles into Art, a course by Mattias Adolfsson
- From Beginner to Superillustrator, a course by Puño

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