Art in the Profession
The most important part of being a professional artist is being able to advertise yourself and your art. Being able to market yourself is immensely more important than any amount of talent and artistic experience you have. Even the most talented artist ever known would not be able to make a living as an artist if they made absolutely no effort to promote themselves. In fact, advertising yourself and promoting your art will make up for a very large chunk of your day to day life as a professional artist.
Think of your art as a product to be sold -- no one will know what you can do, unless you show them! But how should you go about doing it? And what, exactly, should you be advertising?
Find Your AudienceEvery artist is different, and every artist has a unique set of skills. So what sets you apart from other artists? What is it about your art that would make a potential client choose you over someone else?
Clients need to be aware of what it is you’re selling. Are you a vector artist or a photomanipulator? Do you specialize in dark macabre scenes, or bright and cheery cartoons? Your gallery will do most of the talking on this point, so be sure you’re showcasing the type of work you’d like to do in the future. Not everything needs to be kept in your portfolio -- sometimes a small and clean gallery is better than a well-stocked and cluttered one. Think about what type of art you have on display, and whether it’s sending the message you’re hoping to send.Just remember that no one can do it all. Find the one thing you do well, the thing you love to do most, and focus on that. Aim your advertising toward a specific group of people -- whether it’s children’s book authors or TMNT fans. You should have a good idea of who it is that you’re marketing your work to.
The world is a big place, and you can find the market you’re looking for, given enough time and effort. Figure out who your dream clients are, and focus your efforts toward finding them.
Advertising YourselfThere are many wonderful websites and communities out there to help get your career off the ground, but in this article we'll focus primarily on what you can do right here on Deviantart.
Deviantart has some wonderful resources for artists starting out on their professional path. In the Deviantart forum, for instance, there are two different boards for those who are in the business of art. The Job Offers forum is a place where potential clients looking for artists will post descriptions of their projects. The Job Services forum is where you can advertise your own art, in search of potential customers.
Another great way to advertise yourself on Deviantart is to utilize your journal. Let your watchers know you’re open for commissions! Ask them if they have any leads for you. You may be surprised with what you get!
Deviantart AdCast is another great way to get your work out there. By using AdCast to advertise on Deviantart, you can get some great concrete feedback on how well the campaign is doing! You’ll know how many people are clicking on your ad, and you may be able to see your audience increase in size.
There are also many, many groups on Deviantart that can help you advertise your art. If you’re not sure how to find suitable groups, take a look at this handy tutorial: How to: groups (by Salix-Sericea)
Whenever you begin a new marketing campaign, be sure to keep an eye on how well it does. Mark down how many pageviews you’re beginning with, how many watchers you have, how many commissioners you usually get per month, etc. Regularly compare your statistics to see whether the marketing campaign is working well for you. This way, you’ll know whether or not it would be worthwhile to repeat the process!
Communicate EffectivelyBefore taking on any commissions, be sure to clearly write out all of your policies. What if someone requests a refund when you’ve already started sketching? What are your policies on editing the completed artwork? Do you have policies on what the completed art can be used for? The idea is to solve any foreseeable problems before they happen. When the information is laid out right at the beginning, it makes the entire process much smoother.
Be sure to also clearly state what you will and won’t draw. Some artists are happy to draw any- and everything, but there may be things you just aren’t comfortable drawing. Would you draw a steamy romantic scene between two characters? Are you comfortable drawing vehicles or buildings? What about animals or humans? Your gallery will offer the basic information of what you have done before, but it’s also good to list the things you’re willing to do, and what you’d rather stay away from.
Customers should also know what your basic schedule is like. You should have a general idea of how long it takes you to complete the average commission. Some artists can complete a project in a few hours, while others may need several months. All artists are different, and all clients are different -- so don’t be afraid to be honest with yourself and your customers.
Whenever you interact with anyone, be sure to remain polite, pleasant, and professional. There are times when your patience will be tested, there will be customers who are rude and demanding, and there will be those who deeply upset you. These issues may even arise with people who have never commissioned you before. It’s important to remain professional and polite during every exchange, even when you think no one else will ever know. In this age of easy access, any conversation in which you’ve acted unprofessionally or unkindly will haunt you -- and it will discourage potential customers who would otherwise have loved you and your work. It isn’t always easy, but it is certainly well worth the effort.
Along those same lines, it’s extremely helpful to speak in complete sentences and use proper grammar. Just because you’re sitting at home in your PJ’s and chatting online, doesn’t mean it’s appropriate to use chatspeak and improper grammar. Clients looking for artists will respect you more if you speak clearly and professionally.
Success is not a matter of chance: you are in the driver's seat, and it's up to you to decide where your artistic journey leads. Be flexible and adaptive! If something isn't working for you, try a different technique. Never give up on your journey. When you aren't getting the results you'd hoped for, it isn't a sign that you should just give it all up and forget the idea of being a professional artist. It will take a lot of time and effort, and it is definitely possible -- yes, even for you.