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9 Tips to help you promote your artwork

By Franklin Ayers, Joseph Draye and Harry O'Connor.

As a professional artist or creative, probably the single most important skill you can have is the ability to promote your work. You could be the greatest artist in the world, but if no one knows about it then you are just creating for arts sake. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but if you want to be an artist full-time you need to be able to pay the bills.

Three questions were asked on the forum and the answers are below, hopefully they will be useful in helping you promote your own artwork.


Question #1: If you had one single tip to give to others regarding promoting your work and getting published/commissioned/noticed, what would it be?

Franklin Ayers
The single most helpful thing I ever discovered about getting published was to research your target. Find out what was published in the past. Find out their subject matter or pick a client based on subject matter you enjoy doing. Make initial contact and don't be discouraged if you are not hired right away. Send reminder post cards or e-mail. Remind them you exist. Most of these people are very busy and deadline oriented so the more you can get your stuff in front of them the more likely it will be that you will have something in front of them when they need to hire for a job. Patience and don't be discouraged.

Joseph Draye
Learn to be aggressive. It's a bitter pill to swallow for some artists, but art is a business, now, just like any other. And in business, the meek do not inherit the earth. There are millions of artists on this planet with one-person shows...in their living rooms. If you want the prize, you have to fight for it, you have to let people know you are the best, and you have to put sensitivities in the shadows.

Harry O'Connor
Diversify. Sometimes in life we have to make compromises – think of it this way: supposing you want to be a fine artist but you unable to get the work in as you are unknown. However, you already have a small illustration portfolio. Which is better, creating illustrations or working in the local supermarket? The more skills you have to more options you have, its as simple as that. Originally I wanted to be a fine artist, then I studied animation, next I did my degree in illustration and now I work full time as a web designer. I have found what I really want to do and have built up several skills in the process.

Question #2: If you work as an artist, how did you give up your day job? Was it a gradual process, did you borrow money or rely on a partner for example?

Franklin Ayers
I was working in the restaurant industry at night and making cold calls and appointments during the day. This was back when websites weren't in vogue. I just kept going out meeting people and shaking hands. Some times it was difficult and there were a lot of times when I had little sleep, but slowly I built up clients. When it got to the point that the money I was bringing in from Illustration was greater than the money I was making as a chef, I quit and jumped in full time as an Illustrator. It was difficult, tiring and took a lot of stamina and endurance, but I finally got there after about 5 years.

Joseph Draye
Never give up your second career, no matter how much you hate it. Use that other life to finance your art. That income allows you to reinforce an image of success. It lets people know you are willing to reach your goals, no matter what. Hard work and perseverance does pay off.

Harry O'Connor
I started to build up a portfolio whilst working full-time. It was hard work coming home tired and putting in the extra hours but it paid off. Eventually I was lucky enough to cut down my full-time job to just 4 days a week. After just a couple of weeks I had the work and confidence to hand in my notice. I realised it was a big risk but I knew if I worked hard enough it could all be worth it. I have been working for myself for 4 years now and I'm glad I took that leap of faith.

Question #3: We all learn from our mistakes - have you made one that you have learned from and would like to share?

Franklin Ayers
As I mentioned before you have to target you client. I have to tell you that I wasted more time showing art to people that were too polite to tell me that it was totally different than anything they would need to promote whatever they were producing. I was showing editorial illustration to advertising agencies. Once I started being more sensitive to my clients' needs and put my ego to the side a bit I started getting more work. Humility goes much further than pretence when trying to get work.

Joseph Draye
I've made hundreds that I've learned from. That is the learning process of creativity. Crawling before you learn to walk. I have returned to my mistakes, many times, and rectified them, and even used them in future works. Mistakes keep you grounded as an artist, and keep the hunt fresh, for that one perfect image you haven't created yet.

Harry O'Connor
I have made many mistakes and learned from a lot of them – but like everyone I still make them (all the time!). One thing I did learn eventually was to not be too emotionally attached to my clients. Clients are people that need your skills and pay you in return but its easy to get too involved. Its important to listen to them and what they want but sometimes they are wrong, so don't take it personally if you disagree with them. I think it's healthy too keep an emotional distance from clients hence why working with family can often be a recipe for disaster.