Being a freelance illustrator can be very daunting. Especially if you’ve only just taken that big leap of faith and jumped straight into a world of unknowns.
In between juggling 3 projects at once and periods of absolutely no work, you might start to wonder whether an illustration agent would be useful to you.
Illustration agents are great at promotion, negotiation, licensing and standing up for an illustrator’s rights – most importantly, for many artists, they have existing client relationships and know how to deal with all the paperwork so you can focus on what you know and love.
Having an agent sounds like a pretty good deal – so, how do you get your folio ready?
Finding an agent can be a little bit tricky since, of course, you need to find someone who is a great fit for you and your art style.
However, today’s art agencies are just as picky about their choice of artists as you are about choosing them.
Let’s go through 5 top tips every Illustrator should be aware when preparing their folio in advance of starting their search for an illustration agent.
Tip Number One – On Trend or Trend Forward
Your work is for tomorrow’s products so it makes sense that it needs to follow tomorrow’s trends. Agents are always looking for illustrators who are steps ahead. Whether it’s about colours, techniques, character designs or themes, it is essential to be just ahead of trend.
The illustration world is ever changing, new design and new trends derive from what is out now and so should the artworks produced by you.
But remember as creative people it is important to be authentic. If we are merely copying what has been made already, we do a great disservice to ourselves.
An illustrator who hasn’t yet found their voice is more susceptible to following changing trends rather than creating them. Therefore, it is important to do your research. Have a look at websites such as Adobe Colour, which allows you to browse through current colour trends as well as helps you understand complementary colours for your works.
Look around at current illustrative campaigns; follow examples of other trend sites.
Self-initiated work is the oxygen to your fire.
Tip Number Two – Showcasing a focused body of work
By the time you start sending out your portfolio or links to your social media pages you should already have a good-sized portfolio for the agents to view.
-It may need editing, so make sure you show them all of your relevant work, it can work against you to show too much of a variety. Leave out the wedding invites, club fliers and whatever else you may have created for one of your pals 5 years ago. Pieces that aren’t quite your style are irrelevant.
-The presentation should say: “this is what I do”. Make sure in 5-10 pieces they see all of your skills straight off the bat. They want to be wowed! You can easily get minus points for showing images off message.
-Do some research on the styles and industries the agency already works with as well as who their clients are. Give them work tailored for exactly that, there is no point in sending trendy conceptual work for magazines to a children’s illustration agency.
Play to your strengths, if you’ve gotten a lot of positive comments about a piece of work, it is definitely worth including.
Tip Number Three – Ability and Creativity!
Are you creative or are you able?
Creativity is the skill and talent to use our imagination to create and solve. Whereas ability is all about technical skills in your field, such as your capabilities using digital programs like Photoshop, Illustrator etc.
As an up and coming Illustrator you should have an accomplished style as well as being creative about it. Are you able to skilfully execute your creative ideas? If you have not mastered the techniques you need in order to make your vision come to life, take some more time to practice and get it right.
Some important things to keep in mind when creating an illustration piece are continuity in characters, your use of colour and camera angles.
Let’s say you’ve drawn a cute young child with beautiful blue eyes – in the next scene your character can’t suddenly have green eyes (unless they somehow got coloured contact lenses – very unlikely!) It’s critical to keep an eye out (pun intended) for little details throughout your works.
Tip Number Four – Feature your artworks in action
It’s a good idea to show some of your work in context. Although the illustration agencies want to see your works as they are (in high resolution), it can be great to see your work in action, for example, applied to a product.
Even though art buyers are great at visualizing their products using your artwork, sometimes it’s a good idea to do the work for them and really convince them of your work’s potential.
Now this does not mean fill your whole portfolio with mock-ups of your work, but go ahead and put a couple in there.
You don’t need to be tech savvy to be able to create some mockups. There are many platforms online where you can easily find mock-ups to download. Many cost absolutely nothing and are very easy to use.
Some of my go-to sites to get free mockups from are MockupWorld, Pixeden, Graphic Burger and even Behance.
Tip Number Five – Be easily found!
Maybe you didn’t get a reply from any of the agencies yet but don’t worry it could just be about timing, they will find you.
Illustration Agencies are constantly searching for new talent, it’s important for you to keep this in mind. Your online profiles, therefore, need to be updated and ready to be viewed at all times.
It’s key for you to be connected to a mix of platforms. Some of my favourite places to look through while searching for fresh talent are Behance, Instagram, Dribble, Pinterest and Artstation. Now, you might think this is a pretty obvious step and possibly even the easiest one. But there are three main rules that need to be kept in mind regarding your social media platforms.
– Use your real name. Imagine trying to find someone by the name of Cat lover– trust me, it’s not an easy task and most people don’t have time for a full Google investigation
– Link all of your social medias. If I come across your Instagram page, you should be putting links to all of your other platforms in your bio so I can easily access them
– Provide contact information on every platform – unless you’re not interested in anyone getting in touch with you.
Finally, at International Talent Search ITS all about understanding exactly what you are looking for, what are the key characteristics in that person and knowing where they reside. While you might be searching for an illustration agent at the same time we scout for the sources of creative talents and tap into it for our clients. Once the research is complete the list of appropriate candidates is checked and verified by the talent scout who can start the introductory process to ensure the best fit. You don’t hear this often in this market, if you get the fit right, longevity will follow.
You might think that there are a lot of things to keep in mind and do throughout your search for an agent. But not to worry – we are very keen on helping you out. If we see potential for a great fit between an artist and agency we happily spend time developing your work with you. We want to help you showcase all of your talent and we will make sure your portfolio is ready to impress the illustration market.