Last time, I shared the biggest myth in surface design – I have to produce a lot of art to earn good money – and the first step to solving it: adding to your portfolio strategically. But that’s not the whole picture because focusing on your portfolio alone won’t get your art licensed.
It’s one of the biggest missteps I see from artists: they focus almost all of their attention on their portfolio and then wonder why they haven’t gotten anywhere. Well, I’m going to answer that with the second step to overcoming that myth which is…
Do more marketing.
Did you just get a little uncomfortable reading that? If so, you’re not alone.
Most artists associate “marketing” with words like sleazy, obnoxious, or pushy and it’s not surprising given the fact that most of us have never been taught how to market ourselves as an artist.
But what if you approached marketing not like a sleazy car salesman trying to make a buck, but as a creative problem solver? Companies work with surface designers because they need art to help them sell more products.
So by reaching out and marketing yourself to companies, you are actually HELPING them solve their art problem!
In order to grow your business, you should spend a minimum of 30-50% of your time on marketing (and all that entails), especially for the first few years in business. And MOST of that time should be finding and contacting companies (no, scrolling endlessly on Instagram does not count).
Now you might be thinking that’s all great, but I still need to find time to make art, don’t I? And you’re right! But you can can create far less art than you think (like 5 to 6 pieces per month) AND still grow your business.
Don’t believe me?
How about I share some numbers from my surface design business to prove it? Here’s each year I’ve been in business with the number of designs I created and my surface design income.*
Year 1: 2016
66 designs – made $3k
Year 2: 2017
66 designs – made $12k
Year 3: 2018
41 designs – made $27k
Year 4: 2019
41 designs – made $29k
And what about 2020 so far?
I’ve only made 11 designs (gonna be honest and tell you that I haven’t done any portfolio work since May), but I’ve made $24.5k …and it’s only August! So not only have I made less art each year, but I’ve also increased my income every single year (and plan to this year too, even with a pandemic).
So how did I do it and more importantly, how can you have the same results in your surface design business?
The key to survival in this industry is having a healthy contact list and repeat customers.
And that brings us back to marketing. If you have killer portfolio, but you don’t send it to anyone (or only send it sporadically), how do you ever expect to build a contact list and your income?
So find companies and email them your art… a LOT.
It’s as simple as that!
However, I realize that even though it’s simple, that doesn’t mean it’s quick or easy. You also may have a lot of questions like…
What are the best companies for my art? Choose only those companies that are a GOOD fit for your art style and the markets you want to work in.
How do I package my designs to share with art directors? The simpler the better – you don’t even need to bother with things like mockups (yes, really)!
What do I say in the email? Keep it short, personable, and make it about THEM, not you!
And you’re not alone in worrying about these kinds of details!
It’s why I developed Pitch Your Portfolio, our signature course that shows you step-by-step how to find, connect with, and present your art to companies. Enrollment opens once a year, so if you’re interested in learning more about the program and want to join its 600+ students, just click the link above.
*Please note that the income numbers are ONLY from what I made from surface design (licensing, buyouts, and freelance projects with companies) and does not include my other income channels or reflect my total yearly income.