Tips for Artists

If you’re anything like me, you find yourself wearing many hats: writer, editor, proofreader, graphic designer, artist, researcher, website creator… Being self-employed, you will often find that you provide your clients with more than just one specific service. Here are tips that can apply to almost any kind of freelancer. If you want to ask a question about freelancing, write to me anytime!

1. Meet your client and develop a relationship.
Take your clients out for lunch or a coffee! Clients like to meet the artist who is working for them, who they are trusting, who they are paying. And we as artists will gain a better understanding of who our clients are, their objectives, their style. This is also a good way to develop long-term business relationships where you help your clients and they help you.

2. Always Be Closing.
To borrow a line from one of my favorite plays/movies – David Mamet’s, Glengarry Glen Ross: Always Be Closing. In other words, don’t stop laying the groundwork for new business relationships. It’s a cycle and there will be times when you have a lot of work and times when it slows down. Don’t wait for the slow times to find new clients. Set aside time each week to be researching and reflecting on new networks, contacts, lists of potential clients, new markets to break into, etc.

3. Take a break.
You’ve been working for hours… Take a break. As my mom would say, “Go outside and get the stink blown off ya.” She’s right. Running your own business and creating can be very isolating and intense: all of a sudden you’ve turned into a hermit and haven’t seen another human in weeks. Not good. Get some fresh air, go to the museum, see a friend, stand in a crowd somewhere to remember what the vibrations of other people feel like. You can’t have new ideas and perspectives unless you trigger them with new experiences. GO! NOW!

4. Take a class.
Take a class to update your skills. Your clients and potential clients will notice, and of course, it’s always good to be learning. Take something that’s current and that will continue to influence the market for some time, e.g. for writing: social media, SEO, etc. For visual arts perhaps a class or conference on new media in visual arts, building your online presence, etc.

5. Don’t work in your pyjamas.
You’ll be more productive if you sit at your desk as though an employer were watching. Shower, get dressed in office clothes, treat your business and time with respect. The more professional you are, the more your business will flourish.

6. Never create for free.
Have you ever applied for a design or writing job – especially online writing – and the potential employer or client asks you to reply with your resume and a sample? All good… except when they give you specific parameters on what the sample piece should be: topic, word length, format OR image, color, size, etc. This is a red flag: you are about to give away free, original material. Do not fall into this trap.
If you’re saying to yourself: That’s true, but I’m just starting out and I don’t have samples, so I can understand how a potential client might need me to design or write for them first to see how I treat the material. My answer to that is: If you don’t have samples, create them before you start pitching. Make one or two for each type of material you want to create for clients. Maybe they will focus on communications like press releases and speeches, or perhaps marketing like brochures and ads. Put them in your print and online portfolios. When asked for samples, you have them. When asked to work for free, you say: “No. But you can find samples on my website. If they interest you, let me take you out for a coffee and we can talk about future projects.”

Melanie Lefebvre