Finding freelance work as an artist and designer is in its self a full time job.
When I first graduated from grad school at the end of 2013 from the Academy of Art, I never thought that finding work as a freelance illustrator would be rough. I found myself without any real resources, not more than 6 months of savings, and no real plan or strategy about how I would go about finding work.
I get quite a few emails on LinkedIn from students who just graduated or people switching careers from a full time job to go completely freelance. Most of my career has been freelance, except for a few places I was lucky enough to work long term.
Many people wonder how I’ve managed to find work and the answer I’m going to give you is that I had to put it in a lot of effort looking for work! When I graduated in 2013 from Grad school, I found that there wasn’t a lot of support for job placement.
What I did looking for work, ended up working for me.
Looking for work is a full time effort! It wasn’t an easy process but I literally spent the first half of the day looking for work online and calling recruiters. Then I would reach out to my network and contacts. If I had time leftover, I would work on portfolio pieces to add to my website. I mean I hustled!
And I stayed consistent, persistent, and I wouldn’t let anything bring me down! I learned how to pick myself up when the going got rough and learned how to bounce back. I kept moving forward and trying new things. If one thing didn’t work, I tried a new strategy and I stayed in a positive mindset.
But before I decided to look for work, I got really clear about what kind of work I wanted to do and focused on the environment and company I wanted to work with. Visualize where you want to be.
You have to be willing to put yourself out there
and tell people what you do.
Here’s what I did to put myself out there:
- I signed up with a bunch of creative recruitment agencies, there’s quite a few out there. My personal favorite : 24Seven Inc Los Angeles, they found me some of the best jobs and companies to work with. Which included landing a short animated commercial project at Skechers USA in Manhattan Beach and a short two day project at WME in Beverly Hills. I also signed up with Creative Circle, The Creative Group, and Apple One (Which sometimes they have graphic design jobs.)
- I put my portfolio up everywhere there was an online community. I have smaller versions of my portfolio on Coroflot, Carbonmade, Behance, and Freelanced.com. I even made a Tumblr and Facebook Page to get my stuff out there and to put out a presence online. I guarantee you somewhere down the road people will find your work online that may need your services. I even posted ads on Craigslist and occasionally found work on Craigslist. Luckily people have been finding my work online and that’s how I get some freelance opportunities.
- I went out and attended networking events and mixers constantly! I brought my business cards where ever I went and treated every moment as an opportunity to meet people that may be working in the industry I wanted to be in and asked a lot of questions! You never know who you’re going to meet or who you happen to be randomly talking to – you may just vibe with them and want to help you along the way. I also went to events where there were lots of recruiters and I also got in touch with them and sent over my resume. I suggest looking on EventBrite for event happenings every week, I also suggest Network after Work and the Ad Society LA – were my favorite networking events to attend, its all going to be dependent on the city you live.
I always say: Keep creating opportunities for yourself and Stay Positive! It can be frustrating looking for work.
- Create an elevator pitch for yourself. Who are you? What differentiates you from the crowd? What is a unique trait or skill set that you have that makes you unique? Craft something unique and clever that you can talk about yourself and what you do to get other people’s attention.
- Work on your art or designs constantly and stay in the habit of regularly updating your work online. Be consistent. If you want to target only a certain market than cater your portfolio towards that. But I look for both graphic design and illustration jobs because I like both. I found that people who wanted to hire me on projects was because I draw a lot of girl characters and my style is adaptable. I’m not your typical artist where I stick with one style, but I like the exploration and variety of drawing in different styles. You have to figure out what’s going to work for you and focus on that, and hopefully you can find work through what you have in your portfolio.
- Make sure you are on social media! I’ve had people also find my work through instagram, twitter, and Angel.co, Society6 and Dribbble. I’ve even had people reach out through LinkedIn messaging and my new favorite a business networking app called Shapr. (I’m resourceful)
- Follow up on your contacts. Make sure you send them an email, a text or a call on the phone to let them know that you are still looking for work or are still interested- and this applies to recruiters, people you’ve worked with at companies, people you meet at networking events. Find a way to stay in contact and keep the communication open.
Good luck out there and don’t give up!
I made a video after this article was written:
Anyway, I hope this helped you in some way! If you have any questions please feel free to shoot me any questions through email! This article was originally published on LinkedIn in 2017.
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Image Source from Unsplash https://unsplash.com/@mikehindle