I received a question from Kayla, a few months ago, who writes:
I am currently working full time as a graphic designer, but I what I really love is illustration. And what’s conflicting is that I am doing graphic design work with one style, while my illustration style is another. The style that I work with on my day job is very safe – a generic, vector style that seems to be able to sell well. But on the other hand, I’m having trouble promoting my personal illustrations, which is dark, graphic and moody. I told myself that I could only transition to full-time freelance if I can find a way to market my personal illustration, which seems doubly hard. I don’t want to be a freelancer and yet create designs that do not speak to me on a personal level because I don’t see myself being happier for it in the long run. How do I create the work I love and make money at the same time?
You’re right – there are styles that are more commercially viable, and because of this fact, there are industries out there who are looking for illustrators who can produce almost the same style as another, because it’s popular. There’s no dearth of talent, that’s for sure!
Don’t listen to people who tell you that there isn’t a market for your work. I always tell my students that an illustrator’s style isn’t the problem. The market out there is HUGE. There are niches, and sub-niches and sub-sub-niches that it’s wild. The internet and globalization has created an infinite category of niches, and you need to capitalize on it! There is no such thing as wrong work – the main reason why you’re not getting any clients or paid work is because you’re aiming for the wrong market.
So, here’s what you need to do:
Take a long, hard look at your own work and answer these questions.
Describe your work as much as you can. Is it dark, scary, moody and yet uplifting in some way, etc? Where do you see it belong? Books, stationery, clothes, bags, as a children’s book, etc? What age group do you think you’ll attract? What is the message you’re trying to send out?
Find brands/companies/people who would benefit from your style, and an audience that mirrors the information you come up with at Step 1.
Who do you think would love to work with you – so that they can achieve their goal and yours? Let’s be honest here – if your work isn’t what most people are after, then don’t go after these people. Never mind if it’s Target, Anthropologie or Marks & Spencers. You don’t necessarily have to market to the masses to be successful. Carve out your own way. Find these smaller markets that would need your help and your work, and grow with them. And I will say this – this part is the hardest part of your research, because you need to be open to different possibilities and stretch yourself beyond what you know. How do you do this? Ask your friends/families, and yes, consult the search oracle – Google.
Go where you’re needed, instead of forcing your style on others and you’ll find that it won’t be so much as an uphill struggle when it comes to making money doing the work you love.
SHARE YOUR STORY:
In the comments below, tell me:
What’s the single most effective strategy you’ve used to make money from work that you love creating? I’d love to know what’s worked and what hasn’t for you — so please share as many specific details as possible!
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** And pssst, I’m going to dig pretty deep into this topic and a few others in my new online class, coming up in September 2013. So click here to sign up for the newsletter to be the first to know the details when we have them!