Making a Big Marketing Impact on a Small Budget
Question: How can I move forward on a lower budget? Where should I invest my money to see the best return?
Every freelance illustrator knows some months are slower than others. As a result, freelancers don't always have as much money to spend on promotion as they might like – but there are still plenty of promotional ideas that are perfect for putting yourself out there on a small budget.
Zines by Cristy Road, Nick Iluzada, John Malta, Paul Windle, and Jannie Ho
A shorter way of saying ‘magazines,’ zines are self-published alternative promotional pieces. They can be photocopied catalogues of your most beautiful recent images, or a narrative story, or a series of illustrations on a common theme. You can hand-color sections or perhaps silkscreen the cover (or the whole thing), but for the cost of some photocopies (still just 5 or 10 cents a copy in most places) and some staples, you can publish your own attention-grabbing promotional pieces.
Ink Jet Prints/Postcards
With postcard-printing companies offering low prices and generous discounts, it may seem odd to even consider printing your marketing materials yourself. But the advantage of printing things from your own printer is that you keep control over the quality of the stock and the color correction. That nice, textured watercolor paper you love so much will probably look just as great after you feed it through a printer. Depending on the printer, you’ll probably enjoy total control of the size you want to send, too. And many decent photo printers are pretty affordable these days.
Kelsey Dake's, Maxim magazine illustration about the Godfather turned into a huge screen print she gave away to art directors and illustrators when she came to New York for the 20 under 30 show case by Print magazine.
For those with the means and materials, screen-printed posters and prints are a fairly cheap way to make something super tactile that potential clients may want to hold onto. It's also a really nice way to show how your work translates in limited color. The luxury of screen printing your own work is that after you burn a screen, you can literally pull hundreds of prints to send out. Screen printing is cheap and beneficial if you already have the materials – but the startup costs can be a little pricey.
This is probably the cheapest and quickest approach to promoting your business directly to the potential clients you want to work with. On the other hand, it’s also the most time-consuming. Email blasts with HTML-embedded images are great for showing potential clients something new right away, but HTML-embedded emails have no staying presence (beyond possibly bookmarking your website). An email will come and go if it seems like an impersonal solicitation. It's beneficial to send friendly, personalized emails that mention not only the new work on your website, but your familiarity with what the client does and how working with you is beneficial. Keep in mind: A short and sweet email is better than a long and labored one.
The Internet is a wonderful tool at your disposal. Outside of your traditional website, there are a ton of free places to post your work for potential clients to see:
Behance: What makes this portfolio website wonderful is how interconnected it is. With a free account, you can download the Behance portfolio app on your smartphone to display images you create. You can link your portfolio to your college’s alumni page and connect to your LinkedIn profile. A lot of boutique advertising agencies use Behance to broadcast their small-run projects.
Society 6: Society 6 not only displays your artwork in a clean way, but gives you the option of selling your work as prints or iPhone/iPad/laptop skins, as well as other products that could potentially lead to new revenue streams.
Pinterist: This is a really new website that makes it easy for people to “pin” images and tag keywords onto images you post, making it easier for buyers to find your work. Pinterist is considered to be the third-most-used social media platform for image-sharing.
Facebook fan pages: Once in a while, I like to post a link to a recent blog post onto my personal Facebook wall to share an awesome thing I made for a client. A very low percentage of people who click on that link will be potential clients, but by having a fan page that creates separation between what you usually share on your Facebook wall (cat videos) and what you do professionally as an illustrator is not only good etiquette, it keeps your professional stuff professional and personal stuff personal.
Tumblr: This is not a portfolio website, but it is a popular blog engine that is useful for illustrators. A lot of illustrators keep a more traditional blog, where they talk in length about process, and use Tumblr to share finished images, plus a few words about the image and contact information. Illustrator Chi Birmingham (chibirmingham.tumblr.com) uses Tumblr as a catalogue of daily witty drawings. Tumblr followers may re-blog the work you create, exposing it to their followers, and so on. Tumblr may not lead to work right away, but it will add your work to our visual culture.
FoundFolios: This is a great portfolio site to showcase your work to a broad range of art buyers looking for a specific artist for a project. The basic sign-up is free and allows you to upload a few images to showcase your portfolio; upgrading your account allows you to increase the number of images – and improve your chances for a potential client finding your work using the site’s search tools. They’ll even give you a free consultation to help you figure out what type of membership is best for you.
Who Gets Physical Samples?
With smart list-building, you can carefully manage who’s included in your short run of promotions. Services like accessEmail from Agency Access provide data on who opened your email blast and who clicked through to your website – very valuable information. Potential clients who open your emails over and over are good targets for your physical mailers.
Dream clients pulled from the Agency Access database should definitely receive a physical mailer – you never know if that assignment that’s perfect for you might be waiting when your promotion hits their desk. And clients you've worked with before should definitely receive something in the mail, because they could potentially hire you again.
A big marketing impact doesn’t always require a big budget. Get out there and good luck!
Daniel Fishel is an illustrator and hand letterer who originally hails from the Keystone state but resides in Queens, NY. Daniel's has worked with a range of clients such as The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, Nylon Guys Magazine, Arizona Iced Tea, Lands End, No Sleep Records and many others. His work has been recognized by American Illustration, the Society of illustrators and 3x3 Magazine. Daniel Fishel Illustration + Design
1. On Marketing Budgets: Why Size Doesn’t Matter
2. 4 Ways to Invest and Grow Your Photography or Illustration Business
3. Dialogues Podcast: Do Direct Mail – Without Draining Your Budget