What not to do to get illustration clients

Every day, you and I have a million different options on how we can grow our illustration business:

  • Find more traffic to our site
  • Get a THOUSANDS social media followers
  • Redesign our websites over and over
  • Send postcards to art directors
  • Pay for advertising

and on and on…

So what exactly works?

What should we use and focus on so we can get more illustration clients?

When we’re faced with this infinite number of choices, what do we do?

A little bit of everything….

“I know – I’ll start a Twitter account – then post on my Facebook page a couple times a week – and try to promote myself on Tuesdays…”

Pretty soon, we wake up and notice we’re jumping from tactic to tactic, not making any real progress. Ahhh!

The truth is, you’ll always have an overwhelming number of options to grow your illustration business.

It’s your job to decide on what the most important buttons to push are — focusing on the ones that are proven to move the needle — and saying “no” to the ones that can wait until later.

Just because there are hundreds of social media platforms doesn’t mean you have to be on all of them.

Just because a successful artist has 100,000+ Instagram followers doesn’t mean you have to have 100,000+ followers on Instagram too.

In fact, in these first stages of getting your first illustration clients I want you to understand exactly what NOT to do.


Your time is especially valuable in these early stages of your illustration business. You need to work on the most direct path for getting illustration clients.

If you try and do everything you’ll crash and burn. I know, I’ve been there.

The last thing you need are more strategies and ideas.

In fact, it’s better if you get rid of all the noise around you and just start with the essentials.

You need to start developing smart frameworks to guide the way you get more illustration clients.

This way when someone suggests to you…“Hey, you should set-up a Facebook page for your art,” you can intelligently tell them, “You know I think that would be great later, but right now I’m focusing on directly reaching out to 10 potential clients every week.”

But first, you need to know exactly what you should be working on, you need to know what NOT to do.

So let’s identify the clutter and noise in your illustration business, and eliminate it.

Here’s the path we’re going to take to get more illustration clients:

First you’ll want to do direct client outreach then you’re going to use referrals and word of mouth to expand your client list.

That’s it, no magical tactic or fairy dust.

You have to develop a system for reaching out to those who would use illustrations like yours.

You’ll realize getting your first illustration clients takes little time and money to get started. But this simple framework will prevent you from becoming derailed from your current mission – to use direct outreach to get new clients.

You’ll also notice with this approach you aren’t waiting around to “get discovered’.

  • You’re going directly to your future illustration clients in an authentic way.
  • You’re not posting your work to a million job forums.
  • You’re not sending hundreds of postcards with your art on it to random art directors.
  • You’re not trying to get featured on the news.
  • You’re not struggling to get a million social media accounts.

Once you start getting a flow of clients and business, then you can start thinking about other growth strategies like social media, conventions, networking events, etc.

But ONLY when you’ve established a well-oiled system for generating new illustration clients first.

It’s easy to get distracted with things like social media and it’s easy to get 500 postcards printed, its easy to pay for an ad in some illustration directory.

But it’s hard to get into your audience’s head, it’s hard to start reaching out to potential clients directly.

Here’s what you don’t need to worry about right now:

  • attend conventions
  • sending postcards to art directors
  • paying for ads
  • being affluent on social media
  • business cards
  • fancy logo
  • LLC, DBA, incorporating – if you are concerned about any of the legal elements of your business you should definitely consult with a lawyer.

Of course there are exceptions, and these things are important, but there is a time and a place for everything.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have these things later or that these things won’t ever help your business. It just means you don’t need them right now. All we’re concerning ourselves with right now is getting more clients.

The most effective way to get more clients is with direct outreach and further growing our list of clients with referrals and word-of-mouth.