Start Your Art Career Today!
Hi there. It’s been a while since I’ve shared some basics on how to use Artist’s Market Online (AMO). Below is an article with everything you need to know to get started on your way to a successful art career. Even if you’ve been using AMO for a while, a quick review will help you brush up on your skills and make sure you’re getting the most out of your AMO subscription.
If you’re brand new to the site, you might also want to check out our intro video to find out how AMO can help you build your creative career. If you’ve been using the site for a while, check out this tutorial on how to save your searches to receive market updates.
What are you waiting for? Get started and watch your art career grow!
How to Use Artist’s Market Online
If you’re using this site for the first time, you might not know quite how to start using it. Your first impulse might be to do a few searches and quickly make a mailing list, submitting to everyone with hopes that someone might like your work. Resist that urge. First you have to narrow down the names on this site to those who need your particular art, design or photography style. That’s what this site is all about. We provide the names and addresses of art buyers along with plenty of marketing tips. You provide the hard work, creativity, and patience necessary to hang in there until work starts coming your way.
The site is divided into market sections, from galleries to art fairs. (See the search pull-down menu for a complete list.) Listings are the meat of this site. In a nutshell, listings are names, addresses, and contact information for places that buy or commission photography, design or artwork, along with a description of the type of work they need and their submission preferences.
Articles and Interviews
Throughout this site you will find helpful articles and interviews with working artists and experts from the art world. These articles give you a richer understanding of the marketplace by sharing the featured artists’ personal experiences and insights. Their stories, and the lessons you can learn from other artists’ feats and follies, give you an important edge over competition.
HOW ARTIST’S MARKET ONLINE WORKS
Following the instructions in the listings, we suggest you send samples of your work (not originals) to a dozen (or more) targeted markets. The more companies you send to, the greater your chances of a positive response. Establish a system to keep track of whom you submit your work to and send follow-up mailings to your target markets at least twice a year.
How to Read Listings
Each listing contains a description of the artwork and/or services the company prefers. The information often reveals how much freelance artwork is used, whether computer skills are needed, and which software programs are preferred.
In some sections, additional subheads help you identify potential markets. Magazine listings specify needs for cartoons and illustrations. Galleries specify media and style.
Editorial comments, give you extra information about markets, such as company awards, mergers and insight into a company’s staff or procedures.
It might take a while to get accustomed to the layout and language in the listings. In the beginning, you will encounter some terms and symbols that might be unfamiliar to you. Refer to the Glossary to help you with terms you don’t understand.
Working With Listings
1. Read the entire listing to decide whether to submit your samples. Do not use this site simply as a mailing list of names and addresses. Reading listings carefully helps you narrow your mailing list and submit appropriate material.
2. Read the description of the company or gallery in the first paragraph of the listing. Then jump to the Needs or Media heading to find out what type of artwork is preferred. Is it the type of artwork you create? This is the first step to narrowing your target market. You should send your samples only to places that need the kind of work you create.
3. Send appropriate submissions. It seems like common sense to research what kind of samples a listing wants before sending off just any artwork you have on hand. But believe it or not, some artists skip this step. Some art directors have pulled their listings from Artist’s Market Online because they’ve received too many inappropriate submissions. Look under the First Contact & Terms heading to find out how to contact the market and what to send. Some companies and publishers are very picky about what kinds of samples they like to see; others are more flexible.
What’s an inappropriate submission? Here’s an example: Suppose you want to be a children’s book illustrator. Don’t send samples of your cute animal art to Business Law Today magazine—they would rather see law-related subjects. You’d be surprised how many illustrators waste their postage sending the wrong samples—which, of course, alienates art directors. Make sure all your mailings are appropriate ones.
4. Consider your competition. Under the Needs heading, compare the number of freelancers who contact the company with the number they actually work with. You’ll have a better chance with listings that use a lot of artwork or work with many artists.
5. Look for what they pay. In most sections, you can find this information under First Contact & Terms. In the Book Publishers section publishers list pay rates under headings pertaining to the type of work they assign, such as Text Illustration or Book Design.
At first, try not to be too picky about how much a listing pays. After you have a couple of assignments under your belt, you might decide to send samples only to medium- or high-paying markets.
6. Be sure to read the Tips. This is where art directors describe their pet peeves and give clues for how to impress them. Artists say the information within the Tips helps them get a feel for what a company might be like to work for.
These steps are just the beginning. As you become accustomed to reading listings, you will think of more ways to mine this book for your potential clients. Some of our readers tell us they peruse listings to find the speed at which a magazine pays its freelancers. In publishing, it’s often a long wait until an edition or book is actually published, but if you are paid “on acceptance,” you’ll get a check soon after you complete the assignment and it is approved by the art director.
When looking for galleries, savvy artists often check to see how many square feet of space are available and what hours the gallery is open. These details all factor in when narrowing down your search for target markets.
Pay Attention to Copyright Information
It’s also important to consider what rights companies buy. It is preferable to work with companies that buy first or one-time rights. If you see a listing that buys “all rights,” be aware you may be giving up the right to sell that particular artwork in the future. See the “Copyright Basics” article in this section for more information.
Look for Specialties and Niche Markets
Read listings closely. Most describe their specialties, clients, and products within the first paragraph. If you hope to design restaurant menus, for example, target agencies that have restaurants for clients. If you prefer illustrating people, you might target ad agencies whose clients are hospitals or financial institutions. If you like to draw cars, look for agencies with clients in the automotive industry, and so on. Many book publishers specialize, too. Look for a publisher who specializes in children’s books if that’s the type of work you’d like to do. The Niche Marketing Index lists possible opportunities for specialization.
Read Listings for Ideas
You’d be surprised how many artists found new niches they hadn’t thought of by browsing the listings. One greeting card artist read about a company that produces mugs. Inspiration struck. Now this artist has added mugs to her repertoire, along with paper plates, figurines, and rubber stamps—all because she browsed the listings for ideas!
Once you narrow down some target markets, the next step is sending them samples of your work. As you create your samples and submission packets, be aware that your package or postcard has to look professional. It must be up to the standards art directors and gallery dealers expect. There are examples throughout this book of some great samples sent out by other artists. Make sure your samples rise to that standard of professionalism.
Join a Professional Organization
Artists who have the most success using this book are those who take the time to read the articles to learn about the bigger picture. In our interviews, you’ll learn what has worked for other artists and what kind of work impresses art directors and gallery dealers.
You’ll find out how joining professional organizations such as the Graphic Artists Guild (www.gag.org) or the Society of Illustrators (www.societyillustrators.org) can jump-start your career. You’ll find out the importance of reading trade magazines such as HOW (www.howdesign.com), PRINT (www.printmag.com) and Greetings etc. (www.greetingsmagazine.com) to learn more about the industries you hope to approach. You’ll learn about trade shows, art reps, shipping, billing, working with vendors, networking, self-promotion, and hundreds of other details it would take years to find out about on your own. Perhaps most importantly, you’ll read about how successful artists overcame rejection through persistence.
Hang In There!
Being professional doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a gradual process. It may take two or three years to gain enough information and experience to be a true professional in your field. So if you really want to be a professional artist, hang in there. Before long, you’ll feel that heady feeling that comes from selling your work or seeing your illustrations on greeting cards or in magazines. If you really want it and you’re willing to work for it, it will happen.