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Freelance advice for the Digital Artist


Freelance advice for the fine artist title postThe righteous journey is often long and arduous.. It’s a sorry fact that being good ‘isn’t good enough’, so you’ve got to pull up your sleeves and put in some serious promo work to get noticed in this day and age.. The following contains some pointers that I passed on to a friend on DeviantArt, which I employed to become a full time digital artist and lecturer. It’s a huge ugly block of pasted-text, so please blink often!


Mate, it’s all about breaking into a niche..

Here are a few strategies that got me noticed, now I enjoy fairly regular work and I have a fraction of your talent:


Pick out a high-profile musician / author / public figure etc.. contact them and say you would like to produce a free piece for them, under the stipulation that they credit you wherever it is used online. If they like the work, they’ll scream high and low about it and refer others to you. I did this to great effect with a Drum n Bass artist, and his record label even came back to me for paid work later down the line. A lot of ‘up and comers’ aspired to be like this DnB artist, they saw his art, saw my name and many approached me for paid work. I made a great number of connections (and commissions) from one spec job. Once in a blue moon, I still do this – mainly to break into a new arena, I might do it early next year to get a foot in the UK Hip Hop scene.


Whatever your online engagements are, treble them immediately. Promo is like scattering dandelion seeds into the ether, the higher exposure you have (DA, shadowness, twitter etc) the greater chances you have of being seen. There are always people out there seeking ‘the right artist’ – you need to be seen to be found.

You need a real website, with a solid domain and a contact page. The contact page is extremely important as the visitor does not need any type of account (DA / Twitter / FB etc etc) to send you a message or even open up their own email client. This is huge. Online, people have the attention span of goldfish; by removing obstacles you are making a clearer path for potential clients to submit their enquiry. Once the main site is done, everything else bolts on to that. I recommend WordPress, its great.

As soon as I got my act together and sorted my homesite out, the flow of commissions increased.


The vast majority of commissions are repeat clients or word of mouth referrals, which is tough when you just want to get started and gain traction. I’d highly recommend good looking / branded business cards to hand out every single person you ever meet, being that tenacious is a clincher. For the first 4 years of operating, I worked for next to nothing.. however I dont recommend you do that, your work is too good. Price up competitively, offer flat-rates which clients love and find a niche.

Digging into a niche is another one of those hugely important things for lo-rider freelancers like us. If your into any kind of scene (extreme mountain bikes, jazz flute, death metal, video games etc..), be an active part of that community and let everyone know you do art. I did it with Drum n Bass 15 years ago, and continue hard until this day. At one point I achieved a very high profile as a prominent artist in the ‘darkstep dnb’ scene due to my promoting endeavours, and I wasn’t necessarily the best in the biz.


As a fine artist, you may be limited to the kinds of jobs you get.. A lot of clients will expect you to deal with the typography and layout on a lot of things, it may be worth promoting logo design or some other less-engaging discipline to get that work trickling. Im a fine-artist too, but I put on a graphic design hat from time to time (pretty much all the time!) and it opens up a much wider client base. Event flyers are brilliant because they’re jobs set to a deadline, they dont drag on forever like CD album covers. Money aint great, but they sure get you noticed; and the event promoters are a highly networked bunch. A promoter see’s a flyer they like, ask their buddy who done it, then they get referred to you. It’s all very accumulative, if the work turns heads – people will come knocking.

A lot of flyers are very formulaic or type driven these days with 3D flourishes.. I’d argue a rennaissance, with really badass fine-art flyers is very much needed, even if it means utilising previous pieces with typography integrated. The works already there, why not make some cheese off it?


How well do you tag your deviations? You’d be very surprised at the number of clients that use DeviantArt as a search engine for seeking out artists. By ranking highly for specific search terms, you are getting seen and hopefully getting commissioned. Again, this ties in with finding a niche to a certain extent. With my submissions, I usually tag my pieces with “Drum n Bass, DnB, Electro, Raving, Club, Breakbeat etc. etc.” so when promoters or artists search for those terms, my bits rank highly. I also utilise this technique with image titles (when applicable), like ‘Dubstep – Bass Offensive’ / ‘This is Drum n Bass’.

A lot of people argue that art / DA isn’t a popularity contest, and they’re right to a certain extent. If you are looking to earn from your creative endeavours, you definitely need to switch to a different perspective – page views, comments, all that stuff really does count. Any assertive activity that increases engagement and interaction is good for deviation views and ultimately search rankings. Ive observed many of the greats on here employ these strategies, and it really is as simple as replying to comments, thanking for devwatches, commenting on others works. Simple engagement and being amiable goes a long long way.

DeviantArt is like a microcosm of the wider internet.. Take the above mindset and apply it to your primary website – tag well, promote heavily on twitter, discuss, talk and engage. If you can rank positively for certain keywords on Google – then that’s a whole other ball game. I rank well on my name and Im making good steps with my tutorial site, but this is a bigger world that Ive yet to gain a wider understanding of. Those that figure out Google, do very well in life.


Bloody hell, this is a long comment.. Sorry mate!! I want to finish by saying your work is awesome, but I don’t think your stomping in the right markets. For now, music is still a good place for the digital artist, and so are book covers.. Book covers are a bit more elusive though, you kind of need the ‘invite’; but that’s where the social promo comes into play – let them find you. You ever thought of skateboards / snowboards / ipad covers / laptop skins? These are whole other fields that your style is very well suited to – but I’d argue that you get your domain and site running before you make these connections. Professional clients will respond a lot more positively to a homesite as opposed to a social-art profile :)

Remember.. This is yr1 in your online engagement (judging by DA profile age), it takes a bit of time to get worked into the wider psyche! I hope 2012 treats you better, and Im certain that with the additional elbow grease, your freelancing endeavours will start to increase.


SurrealPSD readers, I promise I will change the site colours very soon. For those that read the post, even through bleeding eyes. I salute you.

Please feel free to share your own experiences in the comments section below.

Conzz 8-)

Follow on Twitter >> @Conzpiracy

>> Further Reading: Digital Artists guide to gaining Work Experience

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11 Responses to “Freelance advice for the Digital Artist”

  1. Tansie says:

    Very, very good tips :)

  2. EjanBFT says:

    Thanks for the tips!:D

  3. Claudia says:

    Another great resource, thanks a lot!
    And.. even if my eyes aren’t bleeding I just wait for new colors =P

    [email protected]

  4. feona says:

    lovely effect..Thanks a lot for sharing this great post.

  5. ian vicknair says:

    this is so true. even in high school im doing freelance jobs for people online. I send them work of mind and show them my profiles. They may ask me to create something simple for them and im okey with it. even if its free at first. great speech here. well said.

  6. CalebP1716 says:

    I love the amazing advice that you gave here, I really took it to heart, because I have a dream of one day having an art career and wanted to find out how to start and your tutorial answered a lot of the questions that I had. I am new to art, and have only been doing it for about two years and have just created a Deviantart page and have already started to get ‘slightly’ noticed. Your advice will really help me out in the long run when I one day start to do commissions, so thank you so much for the tutorial, it is much appreciated!! :)

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