As soon as we decide to take money for what we love to do, a new era in our life begins. Often this is the step from a casual hobby, from an amateur to a professional mindset. Suddenly it’s all about delivering, meeting expectations, deadlines, and much more.
The fact that we usually sell ourselves short at the beginning is inevitable. That’s because we misjudge the workload due to lack of experience or endlessly tweak the design out of insecurity before presenting it to the client. Or maybe we’re just happy to make a little money doing what we enjoy the most.
When I decided to go into illustration, I quickly realized that my prices were too low. But at the same time, I realized what I needed to work on to change that. With the increasing quality of my work, an optimized working process, and a focused, sophisticated online portfolio, I would be able to raise prices confidently.
So it’s all about working on ourselves first. The best part is that with the increasing quality of our work and the courage to share it with the world, people will take notice and eventually hire us. And that’s so much more pleasant than knocking door-to-door and making uptight sales pitches.
By doing so, we are making a few promises to ourselves and the people we try to reach.
For weeks I wrestled back and forth. What do I want? Am I a graphic designer, a T-shirt designer, or a communication designer? What job title or description should I put under my name?
In and out of college, I developed many interests. To survive in the marketplace, I needed to serve a niche. That was clear to me from the start. As an all-rounder, it would be difficult for me to be successful and, above all, happy.
Sergio Ingravalle – Illustrator
When I called and recognized myself as an illustrator, my life became easier. Even though I had already done some illustration jobs by then, this step was precious.
An illustrator illustrates.
He doesn’t create corporate designs, program websites, or layout magazines. He creates images. He draws, paints, cuts, glues, doodles. And that’s what I did from then on until people who visited my homepage could clearly see what they could expect from me.
Our portfolio should only present the works that we like to repeat. Especially as beginners, we tend to show everything we have created. We should definitely resist this. Especially if the response to one of our works was strikingly positive, but we felt little ambition and passion about the work itself. Being good at something does not obligate us to do it for life.
Goethe says, “I can’t get rid of the spirits I called.” If we are not careful, we find ourselves doing years of work that do not fulfill us. Our hands may do it well, but our heart longs for something else. This will not make us happy.
Especially when we as illustrators are at the beginning and want to set foot in the market, we need attention to attract potential clients. There are some basic requirements to achieve awareness. We have a portfolio website, have found our style, and share our work regularly on social networks and platforms.
Another method of doing this is beneficial: We reach people when we make illustrative works on topics they already know. This can be movies, music, video games, sports, celebrities, politics, or the latest news. For example, a caricaturist gets more attention when she illustrates famous musicians instead of drawing her family members.
Reimagining the familiar builds a direct connection with viewers through the element of surprise, and there’s a greater chance they’ll forward the work to friends and family. Perhaps this type of connection is even more promising than the originality and quality of the illustration style.
When a client hires freelancers, be they web designers, art directors, translators, or illustrators, they are looking for anchors for safety hooks. Usually, the client does not know the freelancer personally and wants to work with him for the first time. Of course, this involves risks for him. It’s about quality, reliability, speed, flexibility, openness to criticism, friendliness, and positivity.
Once these values and qualities have been conveyed, the subsequent price negotiation is the most minor step. What good is the most beautiful work of art to the customer if it is not delivered on time for the printing deadline? Leonardo da Vinci regularly infuriated his clients by putting them off for years or never starting or finishing orders.
Contracts or no contracts, especially when international collaboration, where litigation is complicated, building trust is crucial. The portfolio is our digital front door. Our business card. We signal here to potential clients that they are in good hands with us through the following points:
Clarity: What do we offer? How can we be reached?
Professional presentation of our services, e.g., low-resolution pictures on our homepage, does not show our exceptional attention to detail. Illuminated photos of our work, on the other hand, do.
About us-page: A portrait photo, a few words about us, and images of our workspace give the client additional insight and a face to the work, emails, and voice on the phone.
Listing of clients and agencies we have already worked with. One completed client project shows that we can reliably bring projects to completion.
Recognition: Whether internationally won awards, online interviews, or local newspaper reports. Every recognition testifies to our professionalism and seriousness.
Testimonials: Words that are worth their weight in gold. Quotes from customers about a successful collaboration are the ultimate confidence builders.
Other ways to build trust:
A blog or vlog with additional behind-the-scenes insights and creative processes.
Behavior on social media: how and what do we write under our posts? How do we formulate comments and answer questions?
In the creative industry, the term graphic designer describes an all-rounder. His portfolio is full of different works from various fields. He designs logos, posters, brochures and offers illustrations and web design on the side. At first glance, the everyday life of a graphic designer is diverse and therefore exciting. He acts like a Swiss army knife. But something fundamental missing distinguishes him from an expert – a recognizable, individual signature in his work. Even if he masters his craft and reaches customers with his service, he dances on a razor’s edge. Because he doesn’t specialize in a niche, it’s difficult for him to develop his own style that would set him apart from his competition. He simply lacks the necessary time to do so.
“Do it once to lose the fear of it. Do it twice to understand how it works. Do it three times to see if you even want to do it.”
To find your own style, a series of work on a particular subject is mainly, but not only valuable in illustration. Whether for the application portfolio for college or for the first job afterward. Series not only help us in our personal development, but they also say a lot about ourselves. More about this topic soon.