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Get 25% OFF 15 Steps to Freelance Illustration!


“I get asked all the time how I’ve gotten to work with clients like The New York Times, WIRED, Pentagram, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, and many others. The most complete and useful answer I could give is all included in 15 Steps to Freelance Illustration

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Posted by Thomas James on 02/04/15 under art supplies,artists,business
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Reaching More and Better Clients with a Great Portfolio Website


[Sponsored Content]

Nowadays on the Internet, we are overwhelmed with a tidal wave of information through multiple channels: blogs, social networks, events. This isn’t likely to stop, and as proposers of value (be that illustrations, books, or our own projects) we are no longer competing for people’s wallets, but for a few seconds of their daily attention to quickly explain why what we do can be valuable to them.

Good news is, we people are tired too of filtering and evaluating all this information! If you give something valuable and make yourself truly different and memorable, chances are that you can grow a public that will come back for more of what they like from you.

For a freelance illustrator, a proffesional portfolio website of your own is instrumental to achieve this. A place where you have the control of the image you communicate to your potential customer, become memorable and build a personal brand. But building a website requires coding knowledge and a fair amount of time, or investing in a third party (agency or freelance) to build it for you, in which case you are dependant on someone else if you want to evolve your site through time.

That’s why we created Drawfolio. We built a platform where you can build your own portfolio website with your own .com domain in a few minutes, with no coding skills at all. You can choose and customize from our selection of templates, which are crafted to look great in every device (desktop, mobile, tablets, etc.) thanks to responsive design techniques. We put a lot of effort to be sure the resulting portfolio websites have a clean, understandable design and navigation, and that always put your work and your brand in focus.

But we didn’t stop there: our mission is to help you save time when managing your presence on the Internet and getting more and better clients! That’s why we are working on powerful but easy to understand analytics to help you measure your site, contact managing features, and integration with the rest of your profiles on the web (facebook, twitter, instagram, pinterest, flickr).

You can register for free ( and get a grasp of the main advantages of Drawfolio, and you can find information about our paid plans here (

Next time you look at your portfolio website, ask yourself: am I communicating to the visitor in the right way? Am I building a differentiated, memorable brand? With Drawfolio we can help you to do that, and to spend your time on what matters: your work and your personal brand, not coding or technical issues.


Posted by Thomas James on 01/09/15 under business
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To the creative overthinker …



Dear Creative overthinker,

No doubt there have been times where you were sat at your desk deep in thought or maybe you were previously to reading this. With your pen , paintbrush, camera or graphics tablet in hand your mind gets caught up in a whirlwind of creative over thought causing you to over think your entire creative practice. As you do this the creative work that you do that was “fun work” begins to feel more like ” hard work” thus bringing the creativity inside you to a halt. Thoughts such as:

” What if I post my design and no one likes it ?”

” What if I post this set of cards, notebooks and prints and no one buys them?”

“What if I go to that design interview and I get turned down?”

“What if I email this client the price quote for a commission and they think I’m really overpriced?”

In a nut shell thoughts like this cause “you” to stop and your creativity will stop with it, all the “what if’s” in our head’s are sometimes enough to stop us doing what we love to do. So my dear creative over thinker try to stop thinking so much , live in the creative moment, make smart prompt decisions that may scare the pants off you and be brave.

Image by artist Tim Bontan you can find more of his work here .

Posted by Kate Leonard on 10/26/14 under business,creativity,freelance
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Creatively managing your time


We can all be guilty at some time or another of not managing our time as effectively as we could have done. Whether you were running late for a university submission, a deadline for a client that was looming or you just find it hard to keep on top of your to do’s then  creatively managing your time better maybe something you could improve on. Now you don’t need to make major changes to your routine to manage your time better, simply by bringing just some of these tips into your creative day will help you  manage your time making meeting those deadlines more stress free.

1 . Separate your tasks into time chunks of  30 to 45 minute  followed by a break to refresh your mind ready for the next task.

2. Set an alarm to ring when your time is up this will prompt you to move onto the next task and if unfinished come back to the current one later.

3.Use app’s or timers to track how much time you’ve already spent on your project.

4. Pop on a tv series or film is another way of managing your time if you don’t mind a bit of background noise, once the show is over you’re prompted to finish what your doing ( just don’t get to distracted watching it if you’re a adventure time fan it may be best to stick to the gardening channel instead).

5. Use a calendar that’s either paper based or digital to track how much time you have from the start date to finish for your project. This way you can allocate set days and time to progress with your project.

Image by illustrator Kritsten Vasgaard you can find out more about their work here .

Posted by Kate Leonard on 10/19/14 under business,creativity,freelance
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Work/Art/Play – An Online Class for Artists

Work/Art/Play: How to create work you (and others) will love, market yourself with confidence, and build your creative empire.
With the advent of the internet, it seems like almost everyone out there is talented. But skills alone won’t make you successful – it’s a mix of luck, hard work, smart strategies and the cultivation of relationships; and according to Amy Ng, artists are the ones who most often forget about this.
“A lot of artists merely concentrate on their artistic skills as a way to get by,” explained Amy, who writes on the topic of entrepreneurship, illustration and creativity on the blog Pikaland. “But when you have so many artists competing for work, what makes you stand out? What makes you different?” Enter Work/Art/Play, an online class that’s dedicated to help artists and illustrators find their footing in the modern digital world.
The online class, which starts on 15th September, is divided into four modules and the goal at the end of the class is to help artists create their very own roadmap to success.  It was developed especially for aspiring artists and illustrators who are keen on learning how to create great work that will allow them to stay true to themselves, and how to find and create opportunities wherever they go.
The idea for Work/Art/Play came about when Amy, who has been writing on the topic of creativity, illustration and entrepreneurship for the past 6 years was frustrated at how illustration graduates were daunted by the prospect of entering the workforce. As an adjunct teacher in a local design college, she first lectured about the ideation behind illustration, but found that students were more in need of career guidance instead.
“They didn’t know the first thing about finding work – and so they panic and go out there unprepared.” But what she found that it wasn’t just the graduates who were in a panic – other working artists were in trouble too, and so Work / Art / Play was created to address this concern. “The fact that this class is fully conducted online allows people from anywhere in the world to join in and absorb the materials in their own time – we have videos, worksheets, weekly Q+A sessions and extra bonus materials to help you find your feet,” she added.
The class is open for enrollment until 10th September 2014, and the class will commence on 16th September.
To view the whole syllabus, go to
About Amy
Amy is a magazine editor turned illustrator and educator. As a self-taught artist, she regularly writes on the topic of entrepreneurship, illustration and creativity; deciphering clues and shedding light on the intersection between them. She keeps a blog at where she experiments with her ideas, and teaches aspiring artists & illustrators online at
About Work / Art / Play
An online class created by Amy of Pikaland that teaches artists and illustrators how to differentiate themselves from the competition, how to build their presence effectively, how to promote fearlessly and how to make money from their work. The e-course is available to anyone in the world with a computer/ laptop/tablet/smartphone and an internet connection. Enrollment ends 10th September 2014 and the class starts officially on 15th September 2014Class info and full syllabus can be found at

Posted by Thomas James on 09/03/14 under business
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Sketching out your creative dream


We all have dreams and aspirations they grow within us from any age, from the time we’re two years old and scribbling on any blank piece of paper in sight to the years in university when your dreaming up a life of bigger things you want to do and places you may want to go. Although as time goes by sometimes unless you’re extremely determined you can feel swayed or lose sight of the things you dreamed of and that’s why you need to grab a pen and sketch them out.

Sketching out your dreams keeps them in sight, gives you a reference to go back to when you’re feeling a tad lost in your aspirations or feel your not sure where you’re going. So here are 5 steps to sketching out your own creative dream for 2014.

1.  Grab a huge piece of paper or wallpaper roll across the floor , a couple of pens and your inspiration and start doodling and jotting out your aspirations and future plans.

2 .  Break them down with someone who motivates you the little steps you need to do to work towards those dreams ( They don’t seem so far away when the two of you narrow them down into tiny steps).

3.  Start paving roots and pathways to begin implementing your plans .

4.  Meet new people and make connections with those who might help you on your way to where you want to be :).

5. Block out those niggling negative thoughts and “I can’t do this”, stay positive if something doesn’t work out brush yourself down and keep going as being self motivated is key and the effort you put in is sure to pay off.

Image by Designer  Alyssa Nassner you can find more about her and her designs “here”.


Posted by Kate Leonard on 07/24/14 under artists,business
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Balancing Your Creative Life

Though running your own creative business is an exciting venture finding a balance between life and what you love to do is sometimes hard to find. Sometimes its too easy to become engrossed in putting loads of time into your creative venture to start building things up from your portfolio to your website , however in your pursuit for quicker results this can often lead to becoming frustrated with what you draw and feeling things just aren’t panning out right (believe me I’ve been there). This is why balancing out your creative life is important, working too hard or intensely on your creative practice can wear down your idea’s and prevent you from creating things you are happy to shout about and share with others. So here are 3 tips to balancing out your own creative life;

1. Find time to do the other things you love

Finding time to do things you love that’s outside of the business is important, this can be anything from sport to other creative activities and though  I know how much you may love to design , stitch , doodle and paint taking the time for yourself  will just give you not only space to chill out but also gain new ideas and inspiration from other places.

2. Find time to do things to wind down the creative trail of thought

Repeat after me “I’m going to relax , slow down and put my feet up for a minute” , if like me you’re the biggest culprit for not relaxing then hopefully this tip will help quite a few of you .  If your mind and body are active all the time you can easily wear yourself out both mentally, emotionally and physically. So for example  yoga  is a great activity to do on a daily basis to just really wind down your mind and body not to mention its good for your health , although if yoga’s not your thing there are other things you could try to chillax and wind down.

3.  Socialising with people you know

 Being creatives we love feeling cosy in our own personalised creative spaces, although there is one catch working from your home studio can be a little isolating unless of course you rent a studio space situated with other creatives . So it’s important to get a break away from your work even for a little while to share thoughts with other like minded people or  close friends  giving you food for thought or breathing space to recharge your batteries before getting back to work.

At the end of the day it’s important to remember that your creative business will only work at its best when you yourself are at your best aswell. The key thing is to just have fun with every project you do but also have fun outside of the business at the same time because finding your own personalised creative balance is sure to help it grow. Image by designer Vicky riley you can find more of her work here .

Posted by Kate Leonard on 07/06/14 under business
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AOI Event: The Illustrator’s Guide to Business


If you’re in London, check out this two-day course taught by specialists that will give you the business skills to succeed as a professional illustrator.

The intensive course has been put together to help any illustrator acquire the knowledge and critical skills crucial to building a successful career. Each session is tailored to provide an essential step-by-step guide to a successful freelance career. It is also an exciting opportunity to meet with peers and get indispensable practical advice and support from industry experts. Each day there will be an opportunity to visit Pick Me Up, Graphic Arts Fair with a 20% discount on the entry price.

Students, AOI & SCBWI members £50 per day, £90 for both days.
Non members £60 per day, £110 for both days
Advance booking required, call 020 7759 1012 to pay by credit or debit card.
Click here to find out more.

Guest speakers include:
Fig Taylor, AOI portfolio consultant
James Louis, Business Education & Support Team, HM Revenue and Customs
Derek Brazell, AOI Project Manager and Illustrator
Matthew Shearer, AOI Membership Manager
Victoria Pearce, Senior Agent at Illustration Limited
Alex Jenkins, a Director of interactive content for digital spaces
Alex Mathers, Illustrator and Writer
Anna Steinberg, Lecturer and Illustrator

Posted by Thomas James on 03/28/14 under business
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How to Find an Art Rep


Are you looking for an Art Rep?

You may discover that the search for an art rep shares a lot of similarities with the search for clients.  This makes perfect sense, because what you’re looking for is someone to do the hunting for you.

Here are some tips to get you started:

Narrow Your Focus

Before you start contacting every art rep in sight, it’s important to determine which ones are operating in your target market, otherwise you’ll end up wasting a lot of time and energy (both yours and the agents’) by embarking on a wild goose chase.  Some art reps specialize in Children’s Books, some focus solely on Editorial Illustration, and some may concentrate on specific styles or media.

Despite what some may think, the buckshot approach simply won’t work.  If your style and desired field of Illustration don’t mesh with the expertise and focus of the art rep you’ve contacted, they most likely won’t even bother responding.  If they do respond, it’s actually a good sign that the agent doesn’t specialize in any particular field, which can dilute their efforts to find you relevant work.

Some key things to look for are the market that the agent focuses on, as well as the style and level of talent of some of the other artists they represent.  You can get a good idea about these factors just by visiting the agents’ website and looking through their About page and the Illustrators’ portfolios.

Do a Quality Check

In addition to narrowing your focus to suit your desired market, you should also try to determine the quality of service that the art rep provides.  While this can be difficult to do at first glance, it should be relatively easy to weed out the ones you want nothing to do with if you follow your instincts.

For example, if an agent represents artists of low quality, your association with them will serve to devalue your own work.  In addition, an agency that works with too large a list of Illustrators, you are less likely to get the one-on-one attention that you deserve, which will defeat the purpose of working with an art rep to begin with.  What you want is a representative that you can be proud to work with, and who has enough room in their business to help you succeed.

Keep in mind that an art rep should impress you just as much as you want to impress them, because what you’re seeking is a mutually beneficial relationship, and you’re going to need them to impress potential clients as well.

Check References

Once you’ve narrowed your list down to a more select group of potential art reps, one of the best steps that you can take is to contact the other artists who are being represented by them.  By reaching out in this way, you can find out how much work the agent secures for them, what their commission is, how they work, how promptly they pay, what responsibilities fall on the artist, and any other pertinent information to help you make your decision.

You may also consider contacting some of the clients that the art reps works with in order to get an idea of the impression that they make in the industry.

Making Contact

Now that you’ve found a workable group of artist representatives you’d like to contact, make sure your portfolio is up to par, select a few of your best and most relevant images to send, and take the time to put together a professional, straightforward letter of inquiry.  The idea at this point is to make the best first impression that you can, just like when contacting potential clients.

Also, it’s a good idea to present an open-ended inquiry.  In other words, try to approach them with an interest in starting a dialogue, rather than asking them the yes/no question of “Would you like to represent me?”

In Episode 6 of the EFII Podcast, Illustrator Penny Dullaghan talks about how she initiated contact with art reps by requesting a critique of her work.  In fact, she didn’t even mention the possibility of working with them in her first email.

Following Through

If you’ve found one or more art reps that you’d like to work with, try to follow up on your initial contact by sending updates on your new work at regular intervals.  You don’t want to overdue it by harassing them every week, but you do want to try and build relationships with them and stay on their radar, because even if they don’t see your potential at first, your work may soon reach a level that they think they can successfully promote.  (To hear how some other Illustrators have used this approach, listen to Episode 6 of the EFII Podcast with Penny Dullaghan, as well as Episode 14 with Holli Conger.)

What’s your experience? We invite you to share your thoughts in the comments.

Posted by Thomas James on 03/26/14 under business
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3 Common Mistakes Artists Make in Their Portfolios


(Illustration by Thomas James)

It’s no secret that an Illustrator’s portfolio, whether online or physical, is their best chance at making a good (or bad) impression on an Art Director or other potential client.

The thing, is many Illustrators still get things wrong in some very critical ways.

So, here’s a brief look at some simple things to avoid with your own portfolio:

Mistake #1 – Trying to Please Everybody

One of the most enlightening concepts to be found in Episode 47 of the EFII Podcast with Marshall Arisman is the idea of creating the type of work that you feel passionate about.

Rather than spending too much time trying to figure out what every Art Director wants, be sure to balance that with a healthy dose of your own vision and aesthetic.

Naturally, it makes good business sense to pay attention to the needs of your clients, but never at the expense of your own artistic spirit. If you go too far towards trying to please others, you’ll betray many of the reasons you wanted to make a living creating art in the first place.

Instead, focus on the type of work that you actually want to do. Marshall Arisman offers some great advice on trying to determine the subjects that you have actual knowledge of, and presents his own career as an example of what can happen when you create from within yourself, rather than from without.

“I spent three years trying to please somebody, I didn’t know who they were. Now that I’ve gone back to me, this thing seems to be working.” – Marshall Arisman

Mistake #2 – Including Published Work That Sucks

For better or worse, published Illustrators are generally perceived as having more clout, experience, and even talent, than unpublished ones. You and I both know that this isn’t always the case.

This also goes for the work itself.

One mistake that many Illustrators make is to fall prey to the temptation of including certain pieces in their portfolio simply because it has been published, even if the quality is inferior to the rest of their work, or it simply doesn’t fit.

Rather than elevate the impression your portfolio makes, this actually has the opposite effect. When Art Directors are viewing your work, they are most influenced by the worst piece, not the best, and they are rarely as impressed as you are that something has been published, especially if it sucks.

Instead, your list of recent clients or projects is a much better place to mention that your work has been published, without feeling the need to show the work itself. This concept simply brings us back to one of the most basic and important elements of your portfolio: quality over quantity.

Mistake #3 – Holding on to Work for Sentimental Reasons

When refining your portfolio, it can sometimes be difficult to remove a piece that lowers the overall quality of your work if you are too emotionally attached to it.

It may have been the first project you ever worked on.

It may be an Illustration of your favorite character.

It may even be an Illustration of your favorite pet.

Come on, we’ve all done it.

It’s important to keep in mind, however, that Art Directors and other potential clients don’t have a sentimental attachment to your work. They have a job to do and are looking for an Illustrator to hire.

As I mentioned earlier, clients are most influenced by your worst piece, so including work for the wrong reasons can mean the difference between landing and losing a gig.

Removing an Illustration from your portfolio doesn’t mean it no longer exists. It simply means that your portfolio is reserved for the work that will help you get your next project, and should be treated as such.

We make the mistakes above because we’re human.

It can be hard to draw the line between business and pleasure when building or fine-tuning our portfolios. Our egos and emotions can get in the way and cloud our vision of what works and what doesn’t.

It can always help to get a second opinion from someone you trust, but in the meantime, consider whether you’re making any of these mistakes with your own portfolio.

Do you know of some other mistakes that Illustrators commonly make? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section of this post.

Posted by Thomas James on 01/29/14 under business,portfolio
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