How to Raise Your Profile as an Artist
G'day all! It's been a long time without a post, but I've got a very good reason! I've been at the 2010 Blender Conference. Meeting people, getting ideas and giving talks! Today I've uploaded the first of my presentations, about 'How to Raise your Profile as an Artist'. I hope you enjoy it! Are you looking to find work as an artist but don't know where to start? You're not alone. Every year thousands of students graduate from college hoping to find a job in the 3d industry but land flat on their face. Why? The simple fact is, most artists suck at marketing. I don't say that to be mean, I say that because I used to be there before slowly digging my way out. In this presentation I'll share with you the techniques I learned through extensive marketing classes, but geared specifically for artists.
Not a fan of long videos? I've summarized this presentation into text format for those who prefer to scan-read. All slides are exactly as they appear in the actual presentation.
Let me start with a story. A little over 5 years ago I graduated from high school with the goal of one day becoming my own boss and working from home as a freelancer. I envisioned myself waking up in the morning, jumping on the computer and jamming away at what I loved. To me it would be easy! All I needed to do was a make decent portfolio and the job offers would come flooding in. Or so I thought... I started up my first company in 2006 called Silver Screen Fx. I somehow got the idea that the short film industry was booming and that I could make easy cash doing VFX. Sadly not only is the industry extremely broke, but I also sucked at VFX. That business closed within a year. I realized I needed to expand my services to include all things 3d and also improve my portfolio. Once I did this I started up my second company called Ironbark Studios, which was a fancy name for 'lone freelancing artist'. And whilst my work had improved I was still geting no work. And by no work I mean, absolutely NONE. That business also closed down. It was around that time that I came across this quote:
When I read this quote, alarm bells went off. I finally realised that I had spent many years improving my portfolio, but none on marketing! I simply assumed that being a 'good artist' would be enough to get employed.
I realised that if I wanted to make it in this industry then I needed to get educated in the art of marketing. So I did an internet marketing course by Yaro Starack, David Risley and Dale Beaumont. Although these courses cost me about $6,000 in total, they paid for themselves quickly. I started BlenderGuru.com and am now finally living my dream of waking up each morning and working from home on my computer. This presentation will be a consolidated, cutdown version of everything that I learned in those course but geared specifically for you, the artist. So without further ado, let me begin by debunking a myth:
Many artists believe that simply being 'good enough' is all it takes. "Once you have a decent portfolio the work will come to you." It's sounds good in theory but unfortunately it just isn't true. Let me give you an example... instead of 3d artist, let's say you were a theme park designer and you built the worlds best rollercoaster!
You spent years designing it to make sure it had all the right loops, corkscrews and g-forces. It was hands down the best rollercoaster ever made! But foolishly you built it in the middle of a forest where nobody could see it:
If you sat by the entrance on open day and waited for people to show up, do you think they would? No! Because nobody knows it exists! It's only when you get off your arse, head down to the nearest town and hand out fliers that people will actually see it, acknowledge it and eventually ride it. The same is true for your 3d artwork. Let's say you created this stunning piece (Jeff Miller):
But foolishly you left it in your hard drive and didn't upload it anywhere.
Do you think that if you sat by the phone and waited, that anyone is going to call you up with a job offer? No! Because you haven't shown it to anyone!
It's only when you distribute your artwork across the internet that you will people will actually see it and you can start reaping the benefits of all your hard work.
The next myth is somewhat confronting as it's something we're all taught throughout school:
"If you didn't get the job it means someone else was better than you." In the traditional job market this is true: When an employer receives 50 applicantions for a job, they choose the best person for the job and give it to them. Unfortunately though, this doesn't always happen in the online and freelancing market. To give you an example... 4 months ago I finally decided to upgrade the Blender Guru logo to something more professional. I searched deviantart, logopond, flickr and various design blogs for professional logo designers. Out of everyone, there was one person that showed up time and time again:
Michael Spitz. It didn't seem to matter where I looked, his artwork was everywhere:
As a result, he got the job! I paid him $400 and he created the new Blender Guru logo:
Now was he the best person for the job? Probably not. Now I don't say that because I don't like the result (I actually do), but it would be foolish of me to think that I had hired the best person in the world that could do the job. I know that without a doubt there is at least 20-50 other logo designers that could have done the same job if not better and for the same money. But where are they? When I was looking to hire a logo designer I found Michael, and as a result he got the job.
Now let me briefly pause for a moment to give you a big fat disclaimer:
Obviously the biggest factor that will impact your success as an artist is your talent. In no way am I suggesting that you should promote your work if the quality is not already up to scratch. I wrote this presentation for people who already have the skill, but aren't receiving the results they deserve. So with that in my let's get started. I've taken everything that I learnt at internet marketing courses and re-written it into a cutdown 6-Step master plan to fast track your career as an artist:
If you're serious about becoming a freelancer I recommed that you get yourself a blog or website. Why? The biggest reason is professionality. Nowadays employers expect you to have one, so if you don't then you will come across as unprofessional.
Having a website allows you much more customization than a regular portfolio site like CarbonMade and Coroflot does. Because although these sites are easy to create they usually will not let you add videos, tutorials or do anything too fancy. But if you have a blog, the sky is the limit.
If you're looking to start a blog today, the first thing you need to do is purchase some hosting. I personally use dreamhost.com but there are many other hosters out there on the net that can do the job, just pick one. There are some free services out there like Blogger but I strongly recommend you don't use them. They won't allow a custom domain name and they can even delete your site if you do something they don't like. Once you have hosting you'll need to install Wordpress which is an awesome Content Management System. It makes updating and maintaining a website very easy. Best of all, it's open source :) There are a wealth of tutorials out there for setting up your blog from there so you shouldn't have any problem.
A great example of someone that is doing this well is Marek Denko. Known for his amazing works of art on CGSociety, Marek Denko runs a popular blog where he adds videos, works in progress, clay renders and other behind the scenes work. As well as connecting with fans, the blog allows employers to find him easily and contact him for work. His site is: marekdenko.net
Creating a short film can work wonders for your online popularity, for one simple reason: Not many people do it.
Short films give you credibility as not many people create them. There's a lot of work that goes into them, so finishing one right to completion is a big achievement. The second big reason to make a short film is that the internet loves them. Demo reels aren't likely to be seen by anyone outside of the 3d industry, but create a 3 minute short film about a kiwi trying to fly, and be seen by 23 million people. Short films are the viral marketing of the 3d world.
A brilliant example is Alex Roman who famously made The Third and The Seventh. Not only did it make waves in the 3d industry but also to the general public who forwarded it to their friends. As of today it has 2.4 million views. This film is so popular that Alex will forever be remembered as the guy that made The Third and The Seventh.
You may be wondering what making a tutorial has to do with getting employed. And at first it can seem like two different ends of the spectrum, but let me break it down for you... A website by itself is pointless. Nobody revists a website unless it provides something of value to the visitor. By making a tutorial you are giving people a reason to return to your site. More repeat visitors equals a following. The bigger your following the more chance you have of being seen by a studio.
You may think that most visitors on a tutorial site are beginners, making it a pointless exercise. But you would be surprised at the number of businesses that approach you for work after watching one of your tutorials. The reason for this is that when studios get a job from a client they will sometimes search the net for answers. If they find your tutorial and can see that you already able to create what they need then it's sometimes just easier for them to pay you instead.
Tutorials will also make you appear like an expert, show that you're passionate about 3d and lets the employer see how you work. It's an all round win-win.
The now famous Andrew Kramer of Video Copilot, started making aftereffects tutorials about 5 years ago. Through producing consistently high quality tutorials he now has an enormous following. In an interview he explained that his tutorials attracted the attention of JJ Abrams, landing him a job doing the title effects for closing of Star Trek.
When the internet first started a lot of people were understandably nervous about giving out their real identity online. Security has improved a lot since then and we know that we can use our real name without being stabbed in the middle of the night, but surprisingly most people are still using nicknames and alias'. For an artist this is possibly the worst thing you could do.
When you are trying to build up a reputation for your name, using an alias only backpeddles the process. People who know you by your nickname then have to learn your real name and associate the two when seeing it in the future. And vica versa. It's confusing, pointless and completely unnecessary. Another way to let employers warm to you is to use your real photo in your avatar. When you somebodies photo, you feel like you know them and in turn makes them more approachable.
In summary, the sooner you drop the alias and childish avatars the sooner people will warm to you and be willing to approach you for work.
Nick Campbell runs greyscalegorilla.com creating tutorials for the Cinema 4D crowd. Nick's crazy hair, nerdy glasses and laughable antics have become an icon for his site, proving why being yourself can be a big postive.
In Step 1 I talked about why having a blog is important, but it's also equally important to be part of other online communities.
Here are just some of the communities that I recommed artists join.
The biggest reason for doing this is to expose yourself to multiple audiences. If someone out there is looking to hire a lighting artist they may decide to only look on DeviantArt. If you're not apart of DeviantArt then you will miss out on the job for the simple fact that the employer couldn't find you! I know it can be a pain to upload your works to all those sites, but if you're serious about getting hired you need to be active in as many online communities as possible.
A great example of an artist that is killing it on social networks is Freddie Wong. He runs one of the highest subscribed to Youtube channels of all time, but it didn't happen by accident. His videos are full of pop ups, asking viewers to subscribe, follow him on twitter, find him on facebook etc. He is reachable on a variety of platforms and he makes sure people know it! As a result he has a massive following.
Let me assure you: It's easier than you think. I'm not talking about book writing, I'm talking about getting in a magazine or newspaper.
The biggest reason for getting your work in a printed form is that it gives you heaps of credibility. The next time you're in a job interview, and the interviewer asks you about your achievements you can say "I was recently in 3d World mag", then watch as their eyebrows perk up. When you say that the interviewer realizes that you aren't just another online artist trying to promote their work, but you have been trusted by a magazine editor to be in printed form. The best advice I can give is to try it! The worst case scenario is your work doesn't get picked and you're exactly where you started. You've got nothing to lose and everything to gain.
A great example is Blender's own Andy Goralczyk! His work and tutorials have been published in countless 3d World editions. This gives him layers of credibility and is now known by those in the 3d industry as one of the go-to blender guys.
I hope you found this presentation to be somewhat useful. For those interested I will upload my second presentation: "The Big Issues" tomorrow. Stay tuned! If you have a personal experiences or would like to add something to this list please leave a comment below! I'm very interested in hearing your feedback :)