Drawing Funny Pictures for a Living

*An excerpt from 2001 Artist’s & Graphic Designer’s Market.

Canadian cartoonist/illustrator Sean Parkes recently contacted us to let us know Artist’s & Graphic Designer’s Market helped jump-start his freelance career. Parkes, who has been freelancing for five years (three of them full time), started out drawing a comic strip and doing spot illustrations for a youth magazine. Soon after, he placed an ad in a small Canadian paper offering his illustration services, which resulted in a few clients. “When I started, I had about ten steady clients but I really wasn’t getting ahead,” he says. “It was putting Kraft dinners on the table and paying bills, so I wasn’t complaining.”drawing funny pictures

But Parkes wanted more. “I was getting frustrated since I wasn’t advancing, so I had to take action and felt I was ready for the next step,” he says. That next step was to join the National Cartoonists Society, in the hope of meeting other freelancers who were actively doing what he wanted to do. “That turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made,” he says. While attending his first Reuben Awards (the Academy Awards of the cartooning profession), Parkes met many talented and inspiring cartoonists. “After returning home from the wonderfully inspiring weekend, my adrenaline was flowing and I made the decision that things were going to be different. I’d met professional artists who had been succeeding in this freelancing business for many years and now I was going to do the same.”

Parkes picked up the phone and called two cartoonists he’d met at the Reubens. “They told me to go and buy a book called Artist’s and Graphic Designer’s Market to get mailing addresses of potential clients who buy art. The next morning I went out and picked up the book, designed a portfolio-type website that would be accessible to potential clients around the world, and was more determined than ever.” With his website up and running, Parkes sent out his first mailing of 500 postcards. It was hardly a smashing success, but it was a start. “Out of 500, I had a handful of responses that resulted in only one paying assignment,” he says. But he didn’t give up. Two months later he sent out 500 more postcards, which resulted in seven responses and five paying assignments. Since then, his client list continues to grow with each subsequent and five paying assignments. Since then, his client list continues to grow with each subsequent mailing. “To my surprise,” he says, “these new-found clients have not only been extremely professional, but they pay within the Graphic Artist’s Guild’s pricing and ethical guidelines.”

Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market 2016As his freelance career grows, Parkes continues to look to established artists for advice. “For many years,” he says, “whenever I had questions concerning freelancing, pricing, promotion or markets, I’d call either Rick Stromoski or Bob Staake, both fantastic and very successful humorous illustrators, who have been my guiding lights in the dark and cold world of freelancing. They have taught me three keys to a successful career in freelancing: first, to learn the business side of cartooning, second, to study and understand the market, and third, to promote yourself!”

And promote himself he does. Parkes uses his website, www.seanparkes.com, to get the word out and he also places and ad in the Dictionary of Illustration. He continues to use Artist’s & Graphic Designer’s Market, as well as Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market, to find new clients. “How could life get any better?” he says of his life as a freelance artist. “I draw funny little pictures for a living, get paid for it, and to top it all off, no more Kraft dinners for this Canuck!”

For more art tips and interviews, check out these titles:
2015 Artist's & Graphic Designer's Market Photographer's Market 2016


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