-By Serge Birault

Yes, I know, you’re an artist, you hate maketing. Self promoting is too boring and time consuming for you and it’s a waste of time.

You’re all wrong …

If you are a freelancer, you cannot spend your time searching for clients. 20 years ago, I only worked for clients living in my own town or on my own country. It no longer works this way. I’m working for clients all over the world now. The internet is an incredible tool for sharing your work, but you have to find a way to make you visible on the internet. Here are some key points:

* Website :
Having your own website is a necessity. It’s the link you send to your clients.
DON’T DO IT YOURSELF. You’re an illustrator not a designer, it’s not the same job. Ok, you’re able to do good pictures – that doesn’t mean you able to do good designs, it’s often the opposite. Illustrators websites are usually the worst websites ever. Ask to a webdesigner to do it for you. And ask him/her to do one which can be easily updated. Yes, I know – it costs money.
Keep in mind only people who know your name can find it.

* Blog :
A lot of artists have a blog because it’s easier to create and update. It cannot replace a website because it’s not a gallery, and it could be hard to find a specific post or specific pictures. However, you can post articles, news, WIPs and/or videos, and it could be very interesting for those who like your work AND those who have an interest in your processes, articles, videos, etc.
People can follow you so they will be informed if you update your blog and they can share your posts too.Keep in mind most of your followers work in the same field as you.

* Forums :
There are various forums on the internet. The main goal of posting on forums is to have comments or critics of your work; Well, in fact, it should be the main goal. Most of us post on forums to promote ourselves. Yes, I know, it’s a bit weird but it’s true. Of course, we like having kind or constructive comments but the real motivation is only to have your pictures viewed by a lot of people. If you really want honest critics, have some honest illustrator friends give you feedback.
Let me explain to you how it works…
All forums have a front page system, which means moderators choose pictures every day / week / month. All of those pictures have, of course, more exposure than the others. Being a forum moderator is a quite a difficult (and unpaid) job. They often have a list of artists who usually do good work, which they use to choose the pictures on the front page. It’s normal, we can’t blame them for that. They try to promote emerging artists too, but it’s more difficult because they have to sift through all of the pictures submitted. And there are a lot of pictures.
If you are on the list, it’s not a problem, you can be sure to be viewed and followed. The more famous you are, the less your comments are honest. It may sound strange but it’s all about politics. It’s not easy to dare writing negative comments on a well known artist’s picture, and it could be dangerous because we are a community. There are friends, enemies, clans, polite relationships and sometimes hate. That’s why I said : if you want honest critics, have honest friends.
If you’re not on the list, you have to try to be a part of it. So, try to post your better works and be patient, it’s the only solution. A little advice for all the beginners – wait a little bit before posting on a forum. Some pictures I posted 10 years ago are still visible on the internet, and, believe me, I’m not very proud of some of them!
When forums are too big, the list becomes too long. So the people on the list move to another forum, and the forum slowly died. Sad but true.
By the way, a lot of websites share frontpage pictures, and potential clients sometimes find you directly by this way.
Forums are usually owned by publishers. If you have a bad relationship with these publishers, don’t expect to have too much exposure on their forum. Just sayin’.

* Social networks :
A «new» and interesting way to promote yourself. Try to avoid merging your «personal» page and your «pro» page. Sometimes, people who like your work want to learn more about your life. Just don’t forget they’re not «real» friends, just «virtual» ones. Real friendship is not pushing a «like» button. However, you can find new «real» friends this way, from all over the world.
You can easily exchange messages with artists you like too. I spoke for the first time with some of my idols via facebook.
Social networks are great tools to post your works and get quick feedback, sometimes by people who don’t have any interest on illustration and who don’t know you. They can share your work with a simple click. I discovered a lot of great artists who don’t post on CG forums. Sometimes it’s very useful. I use it to post my WIPs and I often have interesting critics or new ideas. On the other hand, social networks are crawling with chaos and VERY time consuming. Use them carefully.

*Clients :
“We cannot pay you but we will promote you”. I think you already know this sentence. Simple advice – NEVER work for free. Of course, you can work for a cheap price if you are sure your client can REALLY promote you, in efficient way.
Don’t forget : Happy clients make good publicity. I worked for a famous Spanish band last year and they mention my name everytime they can.

*Other ways :
You have to know your audience. I know the people who follow me are usually in the CG field, and they follow me because I do technical stuff, so I share my WIPs and do tutorials and videos.
The others are pin up fans, so I share pictures of lovely models, pin up photographers or other pin up artists.

Of course, this is not mathematics. You can have large audience on the internet without all of this. But it’s more difficult. It depends of what you do, your skills, your relationships … A lot of parameters you cannot really control. If you have large audience, know what to do with it. You cannot have news or new stuff to show everyday. You can fill up this empty space in an efficient way by promoting other artists, for example.

*Last words :
It’s a very cynical article, I know. It’s about how to sell yourself. Artists think their works are not products, but they are wrong. We have to earn money with our pictures. So we sometimes have to think about how to sell them.
Promoting yourself is boring and time consuming, that’s right. However, don’t forget that the internet can be a wonderful place. You can discover incredible artists, speak with them and share their works. You can learn new techniques, find inspiration or motivation, etc. The internet is not just a market place.