Thoughts on Self-Promotion (part 1)

As a freelancer I’m always looking for my next paying gig. Unlike most people, I don’t have a steady paycheck to rely on (although the bills keep parading through my mailbox with military efficiency). To get new work I advertise on several illustration websites, I send out a quarterly e-mail to potential clients, and I occassionally do promotions through the mail. These are all good strategies, and for several years the combination of all three has helped provide a steady flow of new projects. But there are limitations to this kind of self-promotion.

First of all, such methods lack focus. With each strategy I am casting a broad net over hundreds or even thousands of potential clients in the hopes that a small handful will respond. And a few almost always do. But the results can be an unpredictable mish-mash of exciting projects, mediocre projects, and projects that are downright painful to work on (fortunately most are in the first category). I’d like to start fine-tuning my promotional efforts to target the specific clients and projects that I would really enjoy working on.

Which leads to the second problem with my current strategy: It is too generic and impersonal. I start by designing a postcard or webpage with a “one size fits all” mentality and then let the internet or the mailman find the matches for me. To land the projects I really want requires a more customized strategy that targets specific individuals and companies I want to work with.

Finally, I need to make sure I am getting out there to network and make connections. There are several agencies and corporations here in the Minneapolis area that would be a good fit for me but who may not even know I exist. To land the type of jobs that I really want, I need to start making some calls and promoting specifically to them. I also need to make sure I continue to attend conferences and events, because you never know where a connection might lead. I am currently working as a character designer for a cartoon series on NBC, and I can trace it all the way back to a trip to Comic-Con in 2003. During that trip an artist friend encouraged me to introduce myself and show my portfolio to a Disney animator (who is now one of the show’s directors).

But therein lies my biggest challenge: Meeting new people in person is out of my comfort zone. I like freelancing partly because it fits with my hermit-like tendencies. But if I want to advance professionally (and grow personally) I need to get out there and make some personal connections with the outside world and its inhabitants. And that means brushing up on my networking skills. More on that in part 2