Monthly Archives: August 2011

Debut Gallery Work

After weeks of feverishly working away on Dinosaurs (hence the radio silence on Twitter), I finally squeezed in time to finish the 3rd and final large scale collage for my gallery debut.

Having taken them to be photographed this morning before dropping them off at the gallery to be framed, I finally have decent images of each piece to share here on the site.

As of mid-September the 3 collages will be on display and for sale at Trent Galleries in Newark, Nottinghamshire (UK).

The Grey Heron

Traditional cut paper collage / 580x450mm

The Hare

Traditional cut paper collage / 235x275mm

The Golden Eagle

Traditional cut paper collage / 480x350mm

 

Dinosaurs, dinosaurs, dinosaurs

I was recently commissioned by a publisher to work on 15 collage dinosaurs for a children’s pop-up book – being an avid dinosaur fan since I was a kid, this was pretty much a dream project and I loved every minute of it (even the late 2am finishes every night for the past 2 weeks). I’m practically a qualified Palaeontology Professor now after all my research 🙂

The publisher gave me permission to post one of the dino’s on my blog, so here is the T-Rex (one of my favourite ones to work on). Mostly traditional collage with a few digital details.

The encouraging thing is that this was the first commission I’ve received through a publisher finding me on my Hire An Illustrator portfolio. (For those interested in giving Hire An Illustrator a try, I’ll be posting a review of the service on my Illustration resource blog zero2illo in the next few weeks ).

No time to rest though – it’s straight back into the gallery collages as my deadline to take my 3 finished pieces in for framing is Tuesday. It’s an exciting time though as it feels like this art and illustration thing is finally starting to gather some steam and for that I’m very grateful.

How Does Your About Page Measure Up?

It usually comes as a shock to many illustrators when they check their stats and realise that the 2nd most visited page on their site – after their portfolio – is very often their “About” page. {You do have one, don’t you?}

As an illustrator, the good thing about this statistic is that it gives you a golden opportunity to make your “About” page more than just a boring potted history of you and your education.

Your about page gives you a chance to make a real connection with someone – an art director, an art rep or an agent – who may be looking to commission you for an illustration project. Why?

Consider two similar-looking websites…

Both illustrators work in a similar style, their portfolio pieces are equally as good, maybe their fees are similar too.

But one illustrator has an “about” page which gives a real sense of who they are, why they’re in business and why someone should hire them; the other illustrator has a standard bio with not much more information than where they went to college.

Who would you feel you had a stronger sense of? Who might you feel you knew better at this stage? Who might you be more interested in getting in touch with?

Here are a few simple ways you can use your “About” page to greater effect:

  • To share more of the real, authentic you – to reveal the personality behind the art, the one which people can really and truly connect with and, ultimately, want to work with as an illustrator.
  • To showcase testimonials and what other people say about your work and hiring you a.k.a. establishing credibility using external validation.
  • To encourage people to sign up to your newsletter or mailing list.
  • To highlight your most successful projects and artwork.
  • To make it even clearer which kind of work and projects you’re looking for.

An effective “About” page can do all of the above and more but there are a few questions you need to consider to help you craft an “About” page that works…

Why does your illustration business exist?

If you can’t articulate the reason why your business exists and why you’re an illustrator (other than to earn you a living), then how do you expect others to be able to connect with this and also spread the word about it for you and refer more clients to you?

You need to be able to state why your illustration business exists in a couple of succinct sentences, think of this as your “story” – why did you become an illustrator? What sets you apart? What’s your driving reason for doing what you do?

Who are you writing for?

The real secret of your “About” page is that it doesn’t have to be all about you, it can be all about “them” – the clients, the Art Directors and the projects your illustrations are for.

Your About page is for them, to help them get to know you better, to help them make the decision to take a chance and hire or commission you.

It helps therefore to know who “they” are – who are you trying to connect with?

Whoever it is, you need to consider what they’d like to know about you and what they need to know about you before they’ll even consider working with you – and then make sure you’ve included this on the page.

What value do you bring to the table?

You’ve probably heard this before but you need to be able to define what makes you and your illustrations unique.

Why should someone commission you over another illustrator? What value do you bring to the table? What can’t I get anywhere else?

Get clear on what true value you bring to your projects and to clients – and why an art director should work with you and not another illustrator who perhaps works in a similar style, and then communicate this on your About page.

Need a specific example?

I’m a Business Strategist and I teach about online technology to people running their own businesses. But the actual value I bring?

I make their lives easier, I save them time and money and I give them confidence in their ability to make a success of what they’re doing.

It’s not about the services I provide, it’s about the results I help them achieve and the difference I make to their lives.

What’s the goal of your “about page”?

The golden opportunity that most “About” pages miss is the opportunity to point the readers somewhere else once they’ve finished reading (plus you can also do this at salient points throughout the page) – maybe your favourite pieces, your portfolio, your testimonials.

The important thing is to decide what the ultimate goal of your “About” page is.

Is it to get prospective clients to check out more of your portfolio and the work you offer? Is it to get them to sign up to your newsletter? Is it to go straight for the bulls eye and get them to inquire about commissioning you?

Whatever your goal, ending with a specific and strong “Call to Action” should be one of the last things you include on the page.

Here’s what to do now…

1. Take a good look at your current About page.

2. Does it incorporate the elements above? These include:

  • The reason you became an illustrator – your “story”
  • Language that’s tailored to your ideal clients
  • Communicating how & why you make life easier, better and simpler for your clients
  • Why should an art director hire you over another illustrator?
  • A specific and direct “Call to Action” at the end of your page

…if it’s missing some or all of these components, add them now.

Your “About” page is very likely to be the 2nd most important page on your website – yet many people give it nothing more than a few minutes of their time by copying and pasting their standard bio.

Use this golden opportunity to connect with your potential clients and art directors – and give your “About” page the attention it deserves.

You’ll find you can make a stronger connection much more quickly than you’ll ever do with the common generic bio frequently seen on most illustrator’s About pages everywhere.

Good Money Management Practices for a Profitable Illustration Business

If you are like many creative entrepreneurs, you may have a strained relationship with money. Obviously you’d like more of it but then again, you don’t want to sell out as an artist or compromise your creativity to get it.

And when you do have it, it never seems to go as far as you thought it would and before you know it, there you are again wanting more. You may even describe yourself as “bad with money”.

I have a theory that many creative people self sabotage when it comes to money – I know Jonathan does…

  • There’s the question of value: Is my art worth it? Is it valuable enough for anyone to pay any money for it?
  • Then there’s the question of how to get more: How do I sell my art without selling my soul? How do I sell more without selling out?
  • And finally there’s the question of what you do with it when you get it: There’s no point in managing it because I never really have any. So I just won’t bother…I’ll just spend it.

Aaaah, money. Don’t you love it? 🙂 As someone who has always enjoyed a relatively good relationship with money, I’ve been working with Jonathan recently on his relationship with it.

We’ve been working through his plans for his illustration business and putting things in place to help the flow of money f-l-o-w more easily and frequently for this is what money is meant to do…flow. This is what we’ve been working on…

Heal Your Relationship

If some of the above sounds familiar – and you perhaps describe yourself as being “bad with money” – then the first place to start is to begin to heal your relationship with money.*

This is easier said than done since you’ll be dealing with the habits, beliefs and practices of a lifetime but consider it as a journey and the first thing you need to do is to take the first step.

Whether that means reaching out to ask for help from someone else, reading up and arming yourself with knowledge about a topic that scares you or buying a book (Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki is a great one to start with) – do what you need to do, if you recognise you have a problem in this area.

* Watch this space – we may have something coming up to help with this. You heard it here first 😉

Multiple Streams of Income

A message we’ve often emphasised here is to build multiple streams of income from your illustration skills. It’s taken Jonathan long enough to get started on creating any income from his illustration but now he has, he’s got one eye firmly on creating additional streams by being smarter about which avenues he pursues.

The purpose is to reduce the reliance on just a single channel and target market so that should one ever slow down or disappear, the others can help pick up the slack.

As a creative entrepreneur, how many ways could you create additional income streams from your illustrations? And what are you going to do to build these?

Separate Your Finances

If you run your illustration business as LLC or limited company, then you’ll almost certainly have a dedicated bank account for your business.

If you don’t, do you have a separate bank account which you designate for your business? It doesn’t strictly need to be a “business” account with the additional charges often levied for these but it does need to be an account you use *solely* for business transactions which means:

  • All business-related income should be paid into this account
  • All business-related expenses should be paid from this account

No exceptions. Ever. As an entrepreneur and business owner, you play 2 roles when it comes to money:

  1. The CFO of our business finances
  2. The CFO of your personal finances

By all means be sloppy and disorganised as the CFO of your personal finances but don’t let this spill over into your business finances. Keep the 2 roles separate and keep your finances separate. Not only will this reduce all the headaches and stress come tax time, it’ll also help you manage the money you earn as an employee of your business.

While it may seem overkill, setting up your finances in this way means that you’ll replicate the “salary as an employee” structure which prevents you from dipping your hands into the business’ pockets when you run short and treating your business as simply a vehicle to pay your bills (it is this, I know, but if you really want it to take off and for your work to be appreciated, you need to view it as so much more).

Pay Yourself First

As an employee of your business, how much salary do you pay yourself? Or do you just dip into the money your business earns whenever you need it? This goes hand in hand with the advice above and helps you separate your money personae.

As CFO, you should be paying yourself a salary – you can pay this every week, every fortnight or every month if you like, but do it regularly and do it consistently. Even if at times you’re paying yourself just $5 from your business account as that week’s salary, do it anyway – it’s the practice and habit that counts.

Claim Everything

One of the things we’ve been spectacularly bad at is claiming things against tax which could very easily be deductible. This is going to change! We now keep receipts for absolutely everything (in a folder, organised by month) and plan to engage a better accountant to help us figure out what we can claim before we submit our next tax returns.

If you don’t do this already, start doing it now – it can make a huge difference to your overall tax bills and your tax liability. The more organised you can keep your filing system throughout the year, the less painful your reconciliation will be at the end of the year…if you’ve been surrounded by piles and piles of papers tearing your hair out in previous tax years, you’ll know the pain this can cause! It’s not too late to get yourself organised 🙂

The topic of money can be a thorny one that conjures up all sorts of feelings, fears and anxieties amongst creative entrepreneurs – it needn’t do. By establishing and following good practices, you can become a great manager of your money and build a strong, profitable illustration business with strong, financial foundations.