Establishing a Productive Online Presence
There are three key aspects to self-promotion and networking which play a huge role in the development of a successful freelance career. Regardless of how talented you are if no one sees your work you might as well be drawing stick figures. It’s also important for a freelance artist to learn how to properly conduct themselves and effectively promote their art.
The 3 most effective means of self-promotion include:
- Practical and Personal Interaction: This may involve attending conventions, workshops, gallery openings and other public gatherings where you can meet artists, verbally talk to companies or art directors, sell prints and other content as well as connect with fans. However; this can become time consuming and costly. In certain cases it’s also not a viable option for some artists.
- Print and Published Media: There are annual book series that allow for free open submissions as well as art magazines and self-publishing options. Having your art printed in a book or a magazine can be a very effective way of reaching fans and potential clients. A hard copy book sold as a collectible can also serve many purposes for promotion and financial profit.
- Internet, Social Networking and Digital Content: This is the easiest and cheapest method of interacting with others, promoting your work, keeping up with what's going on in the industry and establishing a reputation along with an online following. It allows for instant feedback, and it also provides the ability for business opportunities to be conducted in a timely manner.
Now this doesn't go to say that solely using the internet is the best or most effective way to get your art and your name out there, but it's definitely one of the quickest, easiest and generally the cheapest platforms to help promote your work. It's also a safe bet that it will reach the largest and most diverse group of artist and art fans. I would still recommend using all three of these self- promotion options if you have the means.
Building an Online Presence:
A few important elements to building an online presence involve choices and decisions that really lay the groundwork for how people perceive you as a personality and as a talent. It has a lot to do with the way you conduct yourself, the way you respond to fellow artists, fans, and how you manage your ego. Make no mistake, the art will always speak for itself and that’s the number one attraction that will draw people to you. Though as mentioned, it’s not the only factor at play.
The quality of your work is what will catch the attention of your fans and peers. Word of mouth will follow suit, providing a domino effect as people become familiar with your art. Though your art and word of mouth will only take you so far. There are quite a few other ingredients that help mold a productive and more respectable online rep that provide a further reach when it comes to capturing the attention of those who are outside your immediate social groups.
It’s great to be recognized by your peers who obviously have a deep connection with art and the industry you’re trying to establish yourself within, but don’t forget about the non-art related crowd – the fans who love art, films and games but aren’t actually artists themselves. There are other ways to engage aspiring artists or people who simply appreciate art as a creative form of expression.
So how do you reach those individuals who aren’t artists themselves?
It helps to give back to the community and your fan base with tips of advice and some freebies. These are things that are solely for your loyal fans, whether they’re looking to begin a career in art or they simply enjoy looking at your work – taking the time to reply to Q&A or posting some insider tricks of the trade never hurts. Show them a bit of your personal side and share some of your interests.
If you love taking photos of animals and scenery, writing short stories, playing video games or researching and learning about the latest tech – those are things they can relate to. It’s definitely in your favor if other artists, art directors and fans love your work, but let them also get to know who you are as a person. If you’re personable, willing to share information and you’re not afraid to engage and interact with others – it will open up more doors than you might imagine.
- How People Associate the Art with the Artist:
First and foremost you have to decide how you want people to recognize and remember you. Some artists use aliases and others use their real name. Next you'll need to manage a professional website - a place that is simple, effective and a more powerful "visual" representation of you and your work. In addition to a website it helps to manage a few additional online venues to be used as secondary portfolio services. This can and should also include social networking sites and places where you can send out mass written or verbal and visual content relating to your most recent work and other career related updates. As mentioned, it’s not always simply about the art.
- Alias vs. Real Name:
There are some advantages and disadvantages to having an alias. If your name is rather difficult to spell or remember, you may want to use an alias that is unique and something that perhaps represents you as an individual or the art you produce. However; let's imagine you're meeting people at a convention or a workshop for the first time and they ask who you are. Will you introduce yourself as "your name" or "your alias"?
Personally, even though my last name may be slightly difficult for people to remember or spell, I prefer to use my name rather than an alias. The reason is simple, it's who I am and when someone does a search for my art and they search my name, it won't bring up any conflicting imagery that may have been used in an alias.
There are times though when an alias is almost a necessity for some artists. If your name is generic enough that there are more than a dozen other people who share the same name it’s something to consider. I've seen cases where there is more than one artist who shares the same name. In such scenarios you may want to consider alternate methods to help people identify your work with who you are. One other thing – never forget to sign your work. Whether it’s including a text label of your name and or your website, it’s extremely important that people can identify who the creator is once the image starts to float around the web. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve saved artwork and it’s impossible to figure out who created it. It also helps if you include your name and date in the file name.
In Part 02: I’ll cover websites, additional online promotional options, social networking and most importantly some of the things that can really hurt your reputation.
Colonia, NJ (USA)
Mike has nearly 10 years of experience as a freelance Concept artist and Illustrator for the Entertainment Industries. He has worked for companies such as Liquid Development, Radical Entertainment, Applibot Inc., Paizo Publishing and Hasbro Inc., among others.
He excels in creature design, which he also taught as an online instructor for the Academy of Art University along with several workshops published in ImagineFX Magazine, 2DArtist, 3DTotal and Advanced Photoshop Magazine.