Landing good freelance art jobs is a hustle. Creatives must be self-motivated, persistent, actively preparing, and seeking to connect with potential opportunities. Drumming up new clients and gigs isn’t a one-pronged approach. You must build a solid and consistent social media presence, maintain and grow your network, have an up-to-date and accessible digital portfolio, and produce high-quality work for existing clients to get referrals. Here are five strategies to generate leads and what to do once inquiries and freelance gigs begin rolling in.
1. A Unique Personal Brand Helps You Stand Out from the Crowd
Building your freelance career and creative business requires more than just hustling for projects and producing high-quality work on deadline. Getting hired for those coveted freelance art jobs is about presenting a vision of who you are and how you work so potential clients can decide whether they want to work with you.
Author, designer, and brand adviser Marty Neumeier defines a brand’s concept like this: “A brand is not a logo. A brand is not an identity. A brand is not a product. A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, or organization.”
What’s your brand? You’re a unique combination of your skills, experiences, philosophy, and work style. To stand out, it’s necessary to articulate your value to your clients, what differentiates you from others who offer the same service, and why someone should feel good about hiring you.
Leadership expert Simon Sinek, known for giving one of the most widely viewed TED talks of all time (nearly 45 million views), goes a step further in his book Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, stating that ‘people are just as interested in what you do as why you do it.’ How clients feel about you helps define your brand:
- How do clients perceive you? Does this match how you want to be perceived?
- What experiences have you had with clients?
- What would clients say and about you, your work process, how well you accomplish your tasks?
You may need to revise your brand strategy if your responses to any of the questions above do not align with your vision. You don’t want to build a brand around something you or your company do not adhere to. Most importantly, focus on the points of differentiation that may be attractive to potential customers and highlight them in your branding efforts and other marketing strategies.
Whether you are a graphic designer, illustrator, writer, art director, or photographer, it’ll be much harder to get the freelance art jobs you want if you don’t put in the time to ensure your brand is clearly defined. A strong personal brand demonstrates professionalism, initiative, and pride in what you do—just the correct equation to put potential clients at ease so you can get the job done efficiently.
This means robust curation of your social media channels, a creative logo, and a polished resumé or CV. Your brand should be clear and consistent across all platforms and ensure that potential clients like what they see.
2. Discover Your Best Potential Customer
A target market of potential customers is a select group of people most likely to hire you or buy your product or service. When marketing to potential customers, your marketing message must connect with the customer personally, showing them that your service fulfills their needs and solves whatever problem that hiring you will solve.
Many artists and art businesses target large groups of possible customers, thinking that the more people they reach, the more work they will get. That type of marketing strategy is highly inefficient. Customer needs can vary dramatically, so crafting a message that encompasses all those customers is usually so broad that it doesn’t grab anyone’s attention.
Instead, group potential customers by their needs and wants. Choose the groups most likely to need your service and are also the least competitive to reach. Then promote to those targeted groups with the marketing messages and graphics that will appeal to them.
For example, let’s say you are a photographer with a broad skill set. You can do product photography, portraits, real estate photography, event photography, and more. In researching potential targets, you discover that there are a lot of event photographers and real estate photographers out there, and the competition has forced the pricing for those services to be very low. On the other hand, there are few portrait photographers available in your area. You also discover that many of the portrait photographers don’t specialize, they just advertise as portrait photographers and many of their clients are people looking for headshots and anniversary photos.
You realize that one types of portrait photography that nobody in your geographical area provides is pet photography. So you create messaging and buils your brand targeting pet owners. You also find that baby photography and product photography are also limited in your area, with both having a high potential for customers and so create messaging and branding for those as well.
The target marketing approach allows you to be the big fish in a smaller pond. You will have a much higher success rate at a much lower cost because you don’t have to reach as many people. However, you can’t get complacent, either. The needs and wants of those customers and new competition from other artists can impact the market. By continuously reviewing the data, insights, and research on your customer’s needs, you can adjust your messaging to remain the most appealing.
It would help if you also kept evaluating the market to ensure it’s stable and that new targets aren’t viable due to changing industry perceptions or other factors. Understanding your market takes more time, but it is worth the effort. Knowing what your targets want, what they like, and what they do will pave a clear path for them.
3. Meet Potential Customers Through Networking
Opportunities for freelance art jobs can be generated in person and on digital platforms. Creative freelancers should devote time to developing both a physical presence in their local community and a virtual presence.
Leah Gibbs-Gore, a Senior Account Executive at Creative Circle, one of the country’s largest and most successful creative recruitment firms, praises the idea of constantly showing up. “People launch their careers by making connections with other people in the industry,” she insists. “You have to put yourself out there and be assertive. The more you throw yourself out there, the more likely you will meet the right people.”
Creative Freelancers, artists, and designers have many options for tapping into their local arts, design, and creative community. Take advantage of opportunities to introduce yourself at local shows, art openings, networking events, professional meet-ups, open studios, and peer reviews to become a consistent presence in the local scene and to build a strong network. Register with your local Chamber of Commerce; offer to facilitate workshops and presentations to professional networking groups or others in need of your services.
Join professional associations to gain more networking opportunities and members-only benefits, like access to directories and job boards. Many associations have local chapters that you can get involved in, as well as professional development workshops.
For virtual networking, it’s beneficial to be active on social media and engage with your audience frequently. Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn are essential tools for creatives to share their work and brands.
4. Show Off Your Skills with a Polished Digital Portfolio.
While being a constant presence in your local community is paramount, having a solid web presence is just as important. Consider uploading your digital portfolio to spaces like Artrepreneur, Behance, or Dribbble, where potential clients scout talent.
To generate freelance art jobs directly, try Upwork or 99designs. These platforms allow you to post your creative services listings and digital portfolio to create new leads. They have excellent search engines, so members of your target market looking for your services can easily find you.
When creating a profile with a digital portfolio online, be mindful that the information is consistent across all the sites and focus on the personal brand you have made.
Start with the basics: select a professional photo, craft an easy-to-understand headline, and connect your social platforms. Potential clients are likely to skim through the search results from these platforms quickly, and your headline and artwork examples will be the first thing they see. It would help if you created a solid first impression, so they stop and look for more about you and your work.
Your headline should cut straight to the point. Stick to a single line with copy that doesn’t rely heavily on industry jargon—leave this for the actual profile. Craft a headline informing potential clients of the most important details: your job title, specialty, and years of experience.
Get rid of the selfie and opt for an appropriate headshot that demonstrates confidence. Hire a professional photographer if your budget allows. If not, you can take a DIY professional headshot with your phone by following this guide. Your headshot should be impactful and reflect you and your brand accurately.
If your portfolio examples need to be shot, be sure they are clean and professional. The images should be crisp, clear, and without blown-out highlights or shadows lacking detail. The color should be accurate, and the photos should be cropped appropriately to avoid distracting elements. Again, if possible, you should hire a professional photographer specializing in artwork. If you want to photograph your own work, watch our video tutorial on Photographing Your Art.
Regarding which artwork you should include in your digital portfolio, focus on the works that will be most appealing to your target audience. The groups of work should be limited to ten or fifteen pieces in each group, and each group of work should be tight and cohesive so the potential client can get a sense of what they will receive if they hire you.
It may be hard to choose the right works since artists are so invested in their work it can be hard to be objective. The work you love the most may not fit. Consider asking someone less familiar with your work to help you decide what to include, or hire a portfolio reviewer to help guide you.
More importantly, consider adding stories to your work to give them context. Sometimes, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” but more often than not, the image of your work only tells part of the story. It may look beautiful, but if someone is going to hire you, they may want to know more about the process, objectives, costs, timing, and other project-related information so they can better evaluate your work product.
Gabriela Williams, a Recruiter at Creative Circle, recommends adding the following point to the description of your sample work.
- You need to explain the challenge and end goals you were hired to tackle.
- What was your contribution? What were the ideas that you brought to the table?
- What was the impact? Were the goals met?
“This needs to be articulated for hiring managers,” Williams says. “The worst-case scenario is that whoever reviews your digital portfolio has questions unanswered. With so many candidates, it’s easy for them not to care enough to ask because someone else did provide the answers.”
5. The Best Freelance Art Jobs are Won Through Thoughtful Proposals
Suppose you are actively looking for freelance art jobs through job boards, recruiters, or other creative job listings or are sending out proposals to prospective clients. In that case, you are also potentially competing against dozens of other artists going after the same job, so you need to shine above the rest. Many artists will send out the same or similar cover letter, art examples, and resumé/CV for every freelance job application.
To stand out, you should tailor your submission or proposal to the specific job and client that demonstrate your personality, professionalism, and initiative in that particular type of job.
First, read the job postings carefully and pay attention to any specific qualifications or questions that a job poster would like you to fulfill. Follow those directions closely. It is okay to bid on jobs even if you don’t meet all of the qualifications, but be sure to verbalize why you should be considered regardless. Always proofread your bids carefully for spelling or grammar mistakes before hitting send.
Provide only examples of your work that are related to the job opportunity. For instance, submitting examples of your logo designs would probably not be advantageous if the proposal is to design a company’s product catalog. Suppose your resume focuses on both your graphic design and photography skills. In that case, you should minimize or remove the photography sections since they have no bearing on your ability to complete the graphic design project.
Also, when crafting a bid or proposal, don’t be afraid to be yourself. Clients ultimately want to feel confident that the person they are hiring can do the job. Your skillset, experience, and samples will be the bread and butter of the bid, and you should play those attributes up, but it also helps add a human element to the exchange. Scratch overly formal language in favor of your voice. Likewise, don’t be afraid to show initiative and share how you would tackle the job.
Finally, be sure that your pricing is in line with the market. Don’t price based on your value but on what the market can afford for that location and client type. Pricing for a 3-minute video that promotes a product for a multinational corporation headquartered in New York City will be very different than a 3-minute video for a non-profit organization that tries to get donations to help build shelters for the homeless.
It can be difficult to price your services appropriately, so lean on fellow creatives or members of creative organizations in your community. Many will have more experience than you and may have a better understanding of industry norms. Larger online communities like AIGA, a membership organization of professional designers with more than seventy chapters around the country, also offer extensive resources, including a freelance rate calculator to help you gain confidence in your pricing.
Freelance work can be inconsistent and episodic; feast one day and famine the next. You either have too much work or not enough. That’s why cultivating and securing creative freelance art jobs can sometimes feel overwhelming. However, you’re in business for yourself, so consistently executing the abovementioned strategies can help drive your success, so there is more feast than famine.
How do you get your freelance art jobs? Have you used any of our tips and have they been successful? Let us know in the comments below!