Aug 19 2008

How to Sell Freelance Art

Published by at 4:37 am under Art,Technical Advice

B. Mac, a regular customer of freelance art, offers this article for freelance artists that want to maximize their sales.

1) Make your query letter specific. “I am interested in your project and experienced with the photorealistic style you’re looking for. Please see the best representatives of my work in that field here, here and here.” (Obviously, not every client will want a photorealistic style, so tailor the pitch as appropriate).

A link to your porfolio is necessary, but not (by itself) sufficient. Offering specific examples of your work will help the contractor feel that you are attentive to his needs.

2) Establish your artistic expertise by giving the contractor a plan to consider. Lay out a preliminary description of how you might do the project. For example, if the contractor is looking for a book cover for a novel about an IRS agent that’s a human and a Homeland Security agent that’s a mutated alligator, you might try something like this. “One way I could do the cover is by drawing the characters at waist-level, showing the two characters holding something symbolic. For example, the human might hold a clipboard and the alligator might be holding a briefcase or a badge.” Even if a contractor doesn’t like your proposal, offering one will help establish you as competent and imaginative.

3) If the project is large, consider submitting a watermarked sketch. In one case, I was considering a portfolio that reminded me of Samurai Jack: competent but disastrously ugly. His portfolio did not seem remotely similar to what I was looking for, so I rejected him. He responded with a brief sketch describing what he had in mind for the project. It took the artist only 5 brilliant minutes to redeem a portfolio filled with art that looked like this.

4) I’d recommend being cautious with contractors that won’t name a price. Besides avoiding them altogether, you have three options… A: You can wait for him to give you a price, but it’s in your interest to learn whether he plans to pay meaningfully early on. B: You can quote a price-estimate, but doing so will ruin your negotiating position. Unless you’re extremely cheap, most smalltime customers will probably reject you in favor of a teenager that is thrilled to make $25. Unless your art is genuinely impressive or you are that cheap, giving a price estimate first is not likely to maximize your revenue. C: Quote an hourly estimate. This will help you both figure out approximately how much the job will cost without completely destroying your ability to negotiate the price. If he wants to work with you, when you’re agreeing on a price you can always adjust the estimated total number of hours later.

5) As soon as he says he’s interested, iron out details like your timeline and how much time you are willing to put into revisions. If the contractor doesn’t know when you’re going to send him the next piece of work, he’s probably going to harass you with e-mails. Telling him when each step is ready (inked lineart and first colored draft, for example) will give you some space. As for acceptable revisions, I’d recommend something like 1-2 hours for a project up to $50.

6) Please show the contractor the line-art before you start coloring. If the contractor decides that the proportions need adjustment, it will be much easier to edit the drawing before you have started coloring.

10 responses so far

10 Responses to “How to Sell Freelance Art”

  1. Peter Quinnon 19 Aug 2008 at 4:59 am

    Hi. I am a long time reader. I wanted to say that I like your blog and the layout.

    Peter Quinn

  2. Ragged Boyon 27 Oct 2008 at 3:18 pm

    Aah, I’m not skilled enough yet to work for someone yet. How would you find people that need an artist? and do they tell you what kind of style they need?

    I myself what classify my style as action cartoonism because its not a comedic looking style and the body shapes, proportions, and movements are made for the character to look natural while fighting. Although it has mange aspects it’s not manga. I love my style it’s so me.

    I’m going to try to link you to one, but I couldn’t scan them so the pictures look a little dark and their may be alot on the page, try to make since of it haha

    I’m not exactly sure how to post a link, here goes:

  3. Ragged Boyon 27 Oct 2008 at 3:28 pm

    Oh, sorry I’m posting so much, but these are at least 6 months old so I have gotten considerably better. Also there isn’t much in there but I plan on scanning some new pictures now that I have a scanner

  4. Jacobon 27 Oct 2008 at 6:44 pm

    To become a freelance artist, I’d recommend going to a site like DeviantArt and posting your gallery online. They have boards where you can offer to take art jobs and boards where customers us will post descriptions of jobs that we’d be willing to commission an artist for. Although DA has options that sometimes make it feel like Myspace, I’d recommend trying to use your DA account as professionally as possible. When I’m browsing through DA galleries, I’m looking to add a (temporary) business partner.

    For an example of what a customer will ask for, you can see one of our projects here.

    It’s a very competitive industry. Artists in Indonesia and the Philippines are getting increasingly internet-savvy, which makes pricing very delicate. For example, we paid $25 each for the color portraits of the black superhero and the IRS agent in our header. If the artist could only give us the lineart (without color), that wouldn’t be worth nearly as much to us. So I think that you will increase your potential earnings considerably by adding color to your portfolio.

    At the beginning of your career, it’s likely that you will have to accept working for outrageously small wages until your skills and portfolio are developed enough that people will look at them and decide that they couldn’t let you go. Unfortunately, until you’re notably better than a lowgrade Indonesian, you will only get work at lowgrade Indonesian wages.

  5. Ragged Boyon 27 Oct 2008 at 6:49 pm

    Yeah, I just recently started coloring. so waht did you think of my overall style. Be brutal

  6. Ragged Boyon 27 Oct 2008 at 7:00 pm

    Honestly, I don’t get how you use DeviantArt

  7. Ragged Boyon 27 Oct 2008 at 7:03 pm

    Wait you said I’m as talented as a lowgrade Indonesian. Ouch

  8. Jacobon 27 Oct 2008 at 7:21 pm

    Good question. I think your pencilwork is pretty good. A few suggestions.

    1: Adding a few illustrations of well-known comparable series to demonstrate your anatomical skills will probably improve your odds of making a sale. For example, let’s say I like how Sketch looks but I want my character to look more like, say, Spiderman or Superman. If you have Spiderman and Superman in your portfolio, it will really help.

    When we were looking at portfolios to determine who was qualified to handle Agent Orange, a mutant reptile, we found it very helpful when the artist’s portfolio included a picture of Godzilla or dragons or real-life reptiles or Lizard from Spiderman or Bowser, etc. I vaguely remember that we ended up hiring our first artist based on his sketch of the Geico gecko. Anyway, the more versatile your portfolio is, the better you’ll be prepared to deal with a wide range of customers.

    2: I highly recommend expanding into color. If that’s not possible, at least start doing inks. An inked drawing will almost always look cleaner and more professional. Also, it’s very hard to sell penciled work.

    3: I know you don’t want to hear this, but I feel that your work has at least a few elements that seem very reminiscent of anime. For example, the eyes, mouths and facial expressions are very anime, I think. Including a few anime staples in your portfolio (Naruto, Dragonball, etc.) will tap into a fertile market, I think. Even if you don’t like those series (and really I don’t understand how anyone could like Naruto or Dragonball), it’s good business sense.

    4: You mentioned above that you didn’t want anyone to see what else was on your Myspace page. OK. I surmise that you may have personal stuff there. That’s fine. However, on your art page, I’d recommend carefully trying to screen out everything that isn’t work related. It might seem a bit unprofessional.

  9. Jacobon 27 Oct 2008 at 7:29 pm

    Lowgrade Indonesians set a surprisingly high bar in terms of quality. Your work shows talent and it will get better with time and experience. Right now, it comes off as as maybe too flamboyant and crowded. The problem is not your execution so much as your character design. If you try characters that you have not designed (like Superman and Batman, etc.) I suspect that your work will look remarkably better. If you colored it, maybe even good enough to sell.

  10. Ragged Boyon 27 Oct 2008 at 8:07 pm

    Damn you anime! Awesome suggestions I’ll try some other characters besides by own and work on my character clothing (upon review the outfits are a little over the top haha). I’m starting with color soon. Thanks a bunch

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