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Should You Work With an Art Rep?

January 11, 2010

Your most important job as an Illustrator is to be the best artist that you can possibly be.

Your second most important job is to find work.

This means that promotion plays a big part in the success of your freelance business.  In fact, you may find yourself spending more time on this task than any other, even creating art.  After all, if you don’t find new clients, you won’t have any artwork to create, aside from your own personal projects, which means you won’t be able to pay your bills.

If you’re like most Illustrators, however, you chose this profession in order to spend your days creating beautiful artwork, so spending hours of your time seeking out, contacting, and negotiating with potential clients doesn’t exactly make you feel inspired.  Or, you just might not know where to begin, who to approach, or how to persuade them that you’re the best person for their project.

That’s why many Illustrators consider working with an artist’s representative.  You can read How To Find an Art Rep, but first I think it’s a good idea to consider the benefits and costs of working with an agent.

The Benefits

In an ideal situation, an art rep handles the more mundane yet crucial tasks involved in connecting you with your target market, allowing you the freedom and time to create your next masterpiece.

They can draw from their hard-won mailing list of contacts in the industry to send promotional mailers and announcements as well as help to match your talent and style with the projects you are most compatible with.  The best art reps can sometimes negotiate a better rate and contract than you might be able to because of their experience and knowledge in the field.  As an added bonus, an agent can often offer guidance to help you to fine tune your portfolio and branding for a particular niche market.

All of this can mean that you might end up doing the kind of work you want while earning a reasonable wage.

The Costs

It’s important to keep in mind that acquiring an art rep doesn’t mean you’ll never have to lift a finger to promote yourself or find new projects.  In many cases, art reps only bring in a fraction of the total amount of an Illustrator’s work.

In exchange, the agent receives a percentage of your fee as commission for securing the project, and the Illustrator is usually responsible for covering the costs of promotion.

And, of course, there is the time and effort involved in seeking out and acquiring the right agent for you, which can be an arduous task that I’ll be discussing in greater detail in a future post.

Consider Your Needs

It can be worthwhile to consider the possibility of working with an artist representative because of the many benefits the relationship can offer.  This scenario is not right for everyone, however, and there are some who call themselves art reps who take advantage of hungry Illustrators or simply do nothing to advance the goals of the artist.

As with every aspect of your freelance business, you need to think about your unique situation, weigh your options, and decide how you’d like to move forward.

(Update: You can now read How to Find an Art Rep and How to Be Attractive to an Art Rep.)

Stay tuned, because I’ll be exploring how you can find the right art rep, how to make yourself attractive to them, and when to know if it’s not working.  I’ll also take a look at some examples of successful art rep relationships.

What’s your experience?  Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. January 11, 2010 9:10 AM

    thanks that was very informative! looking forward to the next part

  2. January 11, 2010 1:18 PM

    Thanks for the insight. I am looking forward to the second part of the article. I tried many years ago to find a rep but was rejected with everyone I contacted. Maybe I will try again now that I am bit be seasoned. If you have any thoughts what they are looking for in an artist that would help.

    • May 21, 2010 10:16 AM

      @RUSS COX: Hello, I´ve been to yr web and I do not understand how come nobody wants to represent you!? Have you already found a sales rep? can you tell us about yr experience?

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  2. La búsqueda de un representante. Parte 1 « Como ser freelance

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