We all start as amateurs and if we stick around long enough and see ourselves improve, we want to then start making money out of our art. That’s what every amateur artist wishes for. Having done quite a bit of commercial work so far, I’m going to share the things I have understood about making money off of art. This is mostly for all the photo-manipulation artists out there.
1. Are you there yet? Ask yourself this question. There are a lot of people who work below the minimum hourly rate, and usually that work isn’t even close to what you’d call professional. You may be able to make some money if you put your bad quality work out there for very cheap but that will only add to your portfolio as a string of bad work. Focus on improving your art to begin with. Don’t go running in the rat race. If you’re proud of your work and think it deserves to be out there on a book cover or a CD cover, it will be. But always remember why you started creating in the first place. It was for your love of art (not your love of making money off of your art).
2. Have a variety. So one day you create something that ends up getting a lot of attention. You start creating the same thing over and over and over. You may have a big fan following doing that, which is great, but may not necessarily get you a lot of clients. Experimenting is the key. When clients come to you with their visions of the cover, you should be in a position to know whether or not you can do it. Unless you have experimented a lot, you won’t know for sure. There are a few examples of artists who started from where we all did and are earning their living out of art now. Sure there may be a certain something which is common in all their work but they have a variety. So again, experiment with a lot of different stock images, emotions, color tones, lights, elements, genres. Think of scenarios a client may throw at you. Pick up scenes from books and try to create them visually. Going out of your comfort zone is the key. If you mostly do gothic, try fantasy. If you mostly do fantasy, try sci-fi.
3. Look for places to showcase your work on the internet. Once you decide that your work is good and versatile enough to be out there in the market, look for ways to reach out to your target market. If you’ve decided you want to be a book cover artist, start following publishing houses and authors on social networking sites like twitter and facebook. Keep posting and updating your work & maybe just write on their wall or message asking them to checkout your work. Look for forums where authors hang out. Advertise your work there. You could even do ads on facebook with authors as your target audience if you are willing to spend a little money. When you do get work, ask authors to credit you in the book so other people can see who did the cover. Make pages on websites like elance.com where people are looking for freelancers. Keep yourself active online. These things may not have quick results, but once you get one happy client, the word of mouth spreads very quickly.
4. Don’t go cheap. Everybody loves a cover for $50 which might take the artist 4 hours to create but that’s not even the minimum hourly wage. I certainly do not mean that you should price your work outrageously. You have to decide what your work is worth – is it $200, $500? Decide and stick to it. Don’t freak out when you see someone selling covers for 20 bucks.
Again, I do not mean to say that you have to rip your clients off. That will just mean shooing a lot of business away. All I want to say is, you should charge what your work is worth, what you feel is right. Don’t keep one standard rate because all artworks take different amounts of time. Charge according to how many hours it is going to take for you to create it.
5. Working with the client. As they say, “the customer is always right”. While that may not be true in all cases, trust your client. Have an open dialogue. If a particular color theme that a client suggested isn’t working for you, ask the client why it is so important and explain why it won’t work. In most cases, clients have hired you because they liked your portfolio and they trust you in your design choices. So in most cases, a client will understand why it won’t work once you explain it. Also remember, esp. authors and musicians are sensitive about their work as they are not so different from us artists. They are to some extent emotionally invested in the cover as it is going to represent their creation which is like a baby to them. Always respect that fact when you’re working with them.
6. Avoid bad experiences. Do not take up a job that you are doubtful about. The moment you doubt your capability when you get a query and it’s mostly a no go in your head, don’t accept it just for money. It will only end up frustrating you, your client and will end up in a bad experience. A lot of people go to your previous clients to ask for their feedback about working with you before they go ahead with anything. You don’t want any bad experiences in your portfolio.
Think of all the possible things that could create a conflict later, write them down and mention those to the client before you go ahead with any project. For eg., if it is really important for you to be credited in the book, specify. Don’t assume that they’ll understand & do it on their own. Specify everything so you both are on the same page.
Some people would never share tips with other people on how to get work as that would just mean more competition. You have to believe that their is enough work for everyone and we can all live our dreams. Don’t get greedy or insecure. Have faith in your work. Know that if you deserve it, if you have a burning passion for creating art, it will happen sooner or later as long as you keep trying.
These are not hard & fast rules, just words from my personal experience. You can respectfully disagree. Really hope this helps you guys. Good luck!
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