The Art of Business, Success Stories: Small Steps Lead to Giant Leaps for Freelancers by Donya Dickerson
The world is alive with art—in books, magazines, murals, ads, calendars, greeting cards, Web sites, stationary—essentially everywhere you look. And, as an artist, you probably wonder, what’s the story behind all those published pieces of art? Who are the illustrators? And, most importantly, what’s the secret to their success?
For many artists, this secret is actually very straightforward. Success means being dedicated to your art, persistent in contacting markets for your work, and professional in all your interactions. But although it’s straightforward, it’s never simple. Attracting the attention of markets can take a lot of work and understanding the ins and outs of the graphic design and illustration business can be tricky and even a little intimidating.
Stephanie Rodriguez has effectively navigated her own freelance career. Along the way, she’s come up with her own secrets for success, which are shared here. The good news, she says, is that there are markets everywhere—1,800 in this book—that are hungry for submissions from talented artists. Take a moment and learn some valuable insights into what it takes to make it in the art world. Then, use AGDM to create your own success story.
Freelance Artist: Stephanie Rodgriguez
For Stephanie Rodriguez, success as an artist has meant more than just getting her work published. Instead, she says “freelancing for me has been such a rewarding experience because I have had the opportunity to work with people from all over the world as well as work on many different kinds of projects.”
Throughout her career doing interior and cover illustration for books, magazines and catalogs, she’s worked with companies such as plank Road Publishing, newWitch, Apex Sci-Fi Horror Digest, Cemetery Dance, Brutarian, Strange Horizons, Aurealis, Australian Science Fiction and more.
Rodriguez first started sending out her work when she was a senior at The Fashion Institute of Technology, where a professor int
roduced her to Artist and Graphic Designer’s Market. As she explains, “AGDM opened my eyes to all the different markets where I could submit my work. It not only helped me target specific companies, but it also aided me in deciding where and when to send my work, how to personalize cover letters and postcards. I used AGDM to focus in on the markets I thought would best suit my illustration style.”
Her initial mailing didn’t elicit the response that she’d hoped for. “When I first started submitting my work to art directors, the response varied. Some responded within a month, others took almost a year to respond and some not at all. It was very frustrating for me to receive rejection letters.”
Instead of letting this discourage her, she became even more “determined to follow my dream of becoming a professional freelance illustrator,” she says. “I started to e-mail art directors and send out more packages and postcards. I would mail these out relentlessly until I got responses. I also created postcards to send as follow-ups to the art directors hat answered me back saying they would keep me on file and later contact me when they had an assignment available that would best suit my style.”
She began to get responses and soon had her first professional job, with Whistling Shade, a quarterly literary journal from St. Paul, Minnesota. “The assignment,” she says, “was to create a pen and ink cover illustration of Edgar Allen Poe for their ‘Mystery and Crime’ issue.”
In addition to helping her find more markets for her work, AGDM also showed her how to navigate through the often confusing world of being a freelancer, teaching her “about contracts and other legal issues related to specific companies.” For example, one key lesson she learned is to never “start working on sketches or ideas until you have received some confirmation from the art director for a contract. Something unpredictable could happen, and you might find yourself working on a project that will never happen.”
Rodriguez also learned the importance of always acting professionally. She believes this has been the key to getting repeat assignments from the people she’s worked with. “Once I found a client,” she explains, “I do my best to show an interest in working with them continuously. If there is a client that pays me well who I enjoy working with, I ensure that the work is in as soon as possible. You must be conscientious and always be on time with deadlines. This will help you keep the clientele you have as well as gain new ones.”
For anyone trying to make it as an artist, Rodriguez believes hat one of the most important secrets to success is to have patience. “Remember, it takes years for anyone to mature and develop themselves as a professional in any field. Above all, if you are sincere, love your work and have confidence in yourself, you will find the energy to pursue this profession.”
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