a girl who creates

Category: promotion


Blogging about the blog
September 25th, 2007

Since we are no longer in the movie business (never mind if you didn’t know we were in it in the first place) we’ve signed up for NetFlix. I’ve been adding documentaries and motion pictures about artists like crazy to my queue. The other day I finally watched Pollock. Excellent movie! It reminded me of this story from several years ago.

And now something totally unrelated…I swiped this meme from Stacy (I love her #7) who swiped it from Mayfly.

1. Do you promote your blog?

I do in my online marketing for my illustration site. I then use my blog to promote my work.

2. How often do you check hits?

Usually about once a day for this blog. There was a period that I would average 500+ hits a day. I’d like to try and build back up to that. I now average about 200+.

3. Do you stick to one topic?

Pretty much. Mainly illustration and marketing stuff. Very little family and personal stuff unless it deals with art.

4. Who knows that you have a blog?

I think the only people, that I personally know, that know I have a blog are only about 5 people and I think of those 5 my mom’s the only one who looks at it now and then. My husband does check out the Woogie Wednesdays. Everyone else has no idea what I do. Not for lack of explaining, they just don’t get it and then I don’t get them.

5. How many blogs do you read?

I have 115 feeds in my bloglines now. They are all art related.

6. Are you a fast reader?

Pretty much. I tend to just glance at posts that don’t have pictures though. I’m visual!!

7. Do you customize your blog or do anything technical?

I do. I hard code it and then maintain my template.

8. Do you blog anonymously?

No, but I’ve thought about it!

9. To what extent do you censor yourself?

I try to keep it fun and business related. I don’t share much, if any, about my beliefs or personal life because I rather not have the negative email and comments that some people get when they share things like that. But, I will share this: The number one reason I’m successful at what I do: Proverbs 16:3. Booyah!

10. The best thing about blogging?

For me it’s a way of emptying my mind. I have so much going on in there I’ve got to let it out and blogging is a good way to do that. I also like the accountability and support it gives me via the comments people leave and the emails I receive. It just brightens your day!

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Painterly Process
August 28th, 2007

I thought I’d show my process for my painterly style using my latest postcard promo.

Since this was a personal assignment I do a very loose sketch:

I then bring that into Illustrator and draw out all my flat color:

Then I have all my flat color and layers divided and start playing with the type:

I then bring it into Painter and start painting by shading, highlighting and texturing. I use the sponge for my texturing and I love the effect.

I finished up to painted and move it over to Photoshop where I do a few last details. Here’s the final:

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Laying it all out
August 26th, 2007

I thought I’d lay my promotion process out to help answer the numerous emails I receive a week asking about it. This post took me several days to write since I only had time to work on it in between saves on projects I’m working on. It’s gonna be a long one, but a good one!

Postcards:
I do postcard promotions every 3 months, and yes, they do work. My latest one hit at the end of July and has yielded 3 jobs so far and lots of looks on my website:

And here’s my postcard for my Junk A Doodle work. This is the first separate postcard I’ve sent out for that style:

My best response postcard to date was this one. I got tons of work from it.

Client List:
Research, research, research!! Know who you are sending to and make sure you want to spend your money promoting to them. Spend days if not weeks doing it. I recently went through my mailing list (over 300 names) and researched every company making sure I had the correct address, seeing if they had new submission guidelines on their site and double checking their style to see if mine would fit with their’s. I cleaned out about 20-30 names, so I saved myself a good about of money right there.

I also have 2 list going. One for my overall styles and a separate one for my Junk A Doodles style (since it’s not specifically related to the children’s market).

Who I use and why I use them:
I get my postcards printed and mailed through USPS/Premium postcards. I will never go back to getting postcards printed 500 at a time. I do this for a few reasons.
The biggest ones being, I don’t have to see 500 postcards laying around and then start nit-picking the images used and then hate the postcard thus never sending
it out (this happened to my very first batch). I also don’t like to go through and print labels, buy stamps, and sit there and stick them on one at a time. My time could be much better spent.

There has been a lot of talk about USPS postcards and the saturation levels they print out. I sometimes have issues with them and sometimes don’t. You need to send a sample to yourself first to see what your potential clients will get. I usually send 4-5 postcards to myself at one time. All with different color adjustments so I can then see which level is the best. That way I can send them right out instead of trying several times to get the color right. This could delay your mailing for weeks depending on how many times you go back and forth. I say test it in one swoop.

Email list:

I try and send out an email monthly. It’s usually short and sweet and I send it to people who have signed up on my website or to people I have worked with directly or have shown interest in my work (I have 150 people on my list that grows monthly). I don’t spam any one and have a explanation at the bottom of my email that says why I’m sending them the email and how they can be removed from the list. Since I’ve been sending one out, no one’s removed themselves from the list.

I used to send out plain text emails with an image attached but this year have switch over to Your Mailing List Provider That way I can send out an HTML email with no images attached.

Website:
I try to redesign or do a major portfolio update when I send out a new mailer. I try to do it more often but I sometimes get too busy or don’t have any new pieces to show yet since they haven’t been published. I have 2 websites for my illustration work:

holliconger.com
junkadoodles.com

A lot of people ask me if I design it or if I have someone do it. I design and code it myself. I mostly code by hand since it’s easier and quicker for me, but I do use Adobe GoLive for my image maps and anything tricky I might run into.

Website Stats:
I am a stats junkie. I look at my stats probably 20 times a day. I track 8 websites. I see who’s visiting, who’s linking to me, etc. I make notes and analyze them. Some people choose to track all the pages on their site. I only track the homepage. The stat program I use is Stat Counter.

Domains:
Now I showed my geekiness a while back when I mentioned the number of domains I have. Nearly all of them have to do with my business in one way or another or I’m saving them for a idea I want to execute in the future. Here are a few that are forwarded to my main sites:

hollyconger.com
hollieconger.com
holieconger.com
picturebookartist.com
foundobjectillustration.com
dimensionalillustrator.com
nashvilleillustrator.com

Portfolio Sites:
Yes, spend the money. Even if you can only afford to advertise on one site. Do it to test it.

I have a paid listing on the following sites:

childrenillustrators.com
theispot.com
folioplanet.com

These sites have done really well and have paid for themselves every year I’ve been listed. I did have a paid portfolio with portfolios.com and although it did pay for itself that year, I didn’t get any new job from it about 5 months after being listed (7 months with no activity).

Back Up Plans:
Now a lot of people starting out can’t do this, and I understand, but it is something you should think about and budget for. Have more than one workstations. At the moment I have 2 main ones. I have a desktop and a laptop. I have a large wacom tablet and scanner for my desktop and a smaller tablet and scanner for my laptop that are dsmall enough for my laptop bag. I keep all my work on a portable harddrive and switch between the two. I used to use my ipod but I switched over to a smartdisk firelite.

Now, why should you have more than one workstation? Deadlines!! I have had deadlines due and my computer have problems. Software, hardware, harddrive, you name it. If I have a problem on one, I switch to the other workstation, make my deadline and then figure out the problem with the other one when I have time.

Time:
The all important question I get asked is how do you find the time to do all this?

I plan my week out on Sunday night. I write a list of all the deadlines I have, what promotion stuff I need to do and other business things I want to accomplish that week. I plan my day out mentally the night before. I keep a calendar by my desk and with every new assignment I write down when sketches are due and when finals are due. I also have a wonderful daughter who allows me to work. Some days she doesn’t and I just know I have to work late that night or get up early in the morning, but most of the time she does. She loves to spend hours digging though all my junk I collect for my junk a doodle pieces while I get some computer work done.

Know your time limits and restrictions and know when to say no to work. I’ve recently turned down some projects from pretty big clients (one was the Department of Defense if you can believe that?!). I know what I do and don’t have the time for and what I can and can’t draw well and what jobs in general will stress me out. I’m the only one that controls my business so I want it stress-free as much as possible. I want it to continue to be fun for me:)

Well, that’s it but I’m sure not everything to answer the questions out there. Hopefully you’ve gotten some ideas though.

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It’s been 1 year!
June 12th, 2006

On June 1, 2005, I ventured out on my own for a freelance illustration career. I documented my year leading up to my corporate departure entitled: One Girl’s Journey to Doing What She Loves (Becoming an Illustrator). I would of never thought the impact my journal would have on others. Hundreds of people have emailed me during and since my journey of amazes me how I helped and inspired people to make a plan and stick to it so they could have the career they wanted. I’m still getting emails! I was contacted last year by the publisher of the annual book Artist and Graphic Designer’s Market, wanting to reprint my journal in their 2006 issue, so my experience was shared with even more people than I had imagined.

Since June of last year, I have had a steady and welcoming stream of work (attributed to both my rep and my promotional efforts). At times I felt overloaded with work – like 5 different deadlines in one week – I don’t know if I could go through another week like that, but I was never dissatisfied or afraid if I would have more work coming in. I have added 22 new clients to my client list and too-many-to-count pieces to my portfolio. It has been a challenge. There have been late nights (which I thankfully haven’t have for several months – more about that later), uncreative and unmotivated days and distractions. Some days I couldn’t work because there was too much demand for me to sit and draw shapes, animals and people on a doodle pad for hours on end. But, I have never regretted my decision of leaving my secure, great benefit, full-time design job. I’m home with my daughter. Where I need and want to be. Sometimes you just have to take that leap of faith and see what happens.

One big issue I hear about from others wanting to go out on their own is money. It is stressful to not know when and if you’ll have money coming in. I think since I started heading towards a freelance career while I had a full time job, helped me with that stress. I knew I couldn’t leave my job until I had some money saved, clients who would call on me again, and the hope that I would have more work coming in. I’ve heard that it can take up to 3 years get your freelance career to where it needs to be financially. I may be the exception to the rule, but this was not my case at all. I had a very nice paycheck with my design job, but after leaving my job, the other 6 months of the year doing straight freelance, yielded work that ended up being about 1.5 times my annual salary. I don’t say that to boast (or to depress you if you aren’t there yet), but to let you know that there are illustration jobs out there. I think the trick is having a style that is applicable to many type of things (editorial, publishing, packaging, greeting cards/giftware, etc.)

I’ve continued promotion on several levels and have been able to take some risks with spending the money to try some different portfolio sites to test out and see how they work. I joined the ispot this year and just a couple of years ago thought I’d never have the “extra money” to spend for that. I designate every Monday as “Marketing Monday” and use my time to update my personal website, my portfolio listings on other sites or gather names for my next postcard or packet mailing. By setting aside time each week, it doesn’t seem so overwhelming and I feel like I have current and fresh stuff out there all the time.

I have also come to a point where I am finally able to manage my time. I have pretty much quite working nights (by that I mean when everyone’s in bed) and the last time I stayed up working was about 2 months ago and that was until 11:00 one night. I get up early if I need to or work faster or more efficiently during the day. Things are always on my mind, but I feel like I have more free time and enjoy my time much more with this type of schedule than last summer which was new, unorganized and hectic.

Being a full-time freelance illustrator may not be as successful for me in years to come, and I realize that, but for now, I’m enjoying every bit of it. I end with a quick story. I’m sure a lot of illustrators never see how their audience experiences their work (for me, my audience is children). I was sitting in church a few weeks ago and a child in the pew in front of me had a magazine that I illustrate a monthly calendar for. It was so fun to see him stop at the page, look through it and giggle, then show his dad something on the page. He then began to scribble and draw on that page adding things to what I had already drawn. It was really neat to see the satisfaction in the the things I do from that perspective.

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Marketing Monday
February 27th, 2006

Here’s my final illustration that I posted half way done the other day. I really like it when books have a full page illustration and the other page has just text and pulled out a little image from within the page or book.

Today is Monday and I’ve named Monday’s “Marketing Monday.” I’ve been doing this for several months and it has really helped me keep up with promotion. Usually Mondays are a little rough on me creatively because it’s the start of a new week, and usually I’ve worked all weekend on some kind of deadline, so I could use a little break.

Last week I mailed out a postcard and packet to some clients and prospects (packet went to places I’d really like to work with). It’s been fun tracking them through my stats and see who liked what they saw through the mail.

Today I updated my listing on some online portfolio places:

Portfolios.com (it has paid for itself but I haven’t gotten any work from it in several months, so I’m not renewing this year)
Childrensillustrators.com(gotten a lot of work from it so I’m renewing)
Theispot.com (signed up the first of the month and already got a job that almost paid for the year subscription)
Folioplanet (just updated my bio listing, I got one job from this and some traffic here and there, I’m thinking about upgrading and adding a little icon for more exposure)
Coroflot (got one pretty big design job from it a few days after I signed-up but that’s it so far, but it’s free)
The Digital Artist (I get clicks every now and then, but no jobs, but again, it’s free)

I’m thinking about advertising on Altpick.com. My accountant wants me to spend, spend, spend this year for a bunch of write offs so I feel I have another good reason to try it out. They don’t have much as far as children’s illustrators up there…yet, but I emailed a girl who’s on it and she said she’s gotten some work so “go for it.”

I also made some lists (thanks Mom for passing down that trait) and bought a couple of domain names that redirect to my site.

Promotion pays off for me. Just last week I got 2 jobs as a result from childrensillustrators.com Don’t know how much I can say about either one of these, but I’m illustrating 4 postage stamps (how cool would it be if I receive a letter with my stamp on it) and the other is a job with a breakfast product company (I’m not saying names, but you can make great “treats” out of them).

Promotion can be a challenge, but sometimes you just have to buckle down and focus. My wheels are always spinning. If you haven’t read it already, take a look here for some promotion tips.

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New Postcard Promo
February 11th, 2006

Working on a new postcard promo to get out the door this month. Still not 100% sure I’m happy with the illustration samples on the back though. I’ve ordered a few sample postcards from the USPS so I can test the color and hopefully they will look good and I can send them out! I’ve also updated my site (again). I wasn’t happy with the navigation look I did a few weeks back and I wanted to add an illustration on every page.

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Trying to keep on track
July 28th, 2005

My husband has been in Vegas this week at a convention and it’s the first time he’s been away from the Woog overnight. Needless to say, he didn’t know how he was going to manage but I think he’s doing ok. I was required to emails photos of her everyday though. I for one wimped out a decided to stay home with her since there was no way possible I could leave her. Maybe next year I’ll tag along with him. I made this illustration to iron-on the nightshirt for the Woog to wear when he gets her ready for bed tomorrow night. I thought that would be a nice welcome home.

This week has been a hectic one and it’s just Wednesday. I had 2 illustrations to finish up for Monday, a new niece was born Monday night, sketches for a project due Tuesday, another final illustration that was due today, not to mention the swap for Courtney I had to finish up, plus the constant stream of ideas for promotion, things to sale and illustrations to do that has worked myself up into a frenzy and I don’t know where to start therefore I get nothing done and mope the day away. It’s crazy how I’m busy but I would love to take on more and more work. That’s the way I’ve always been. I’d rather have a full and overflowing plate than a trickle of things here and there.

I want to get into the promotional frame of mind again. I received my Artist and Graphic Designers Market and Children’s Writer and Illustrator Market books in the mail the other day and have been highlighting names and doing a little research on the web about different companies. There is so much I want to do. I want to keep illustrating for educational publishers, start doing greeting cards, do magazine work, and the grand pooba of them all, picture-books. Each area requires different samples I think so I’m trying to come up with different concepts for each. There is so much I want to do but I have a hard time taking baby steps to reach each goal. I always want to dive in full force and then I end up overwhelmed and get nothing done. I just need to buckle down and get my schedule working for me again. I need to set aside times each week to work on something specific. Maybe Mondays are a “business/marketing day”, Tuesdays client work and new portfolio concept days, etc. I need some kind of system that keeps me sane and flexible. What you you all do?

Well, I’m off to straighten up the house, catch up on emails, do 8 spot sketches for a client and organize my thoughts for a 32 page catalog I have to design. So why do I take on so much? I do all this to be home with my daughter and I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

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I’m where I want to be
June 4th, 2005

With this week’s theme for Illustration Friday being digital I thought it was appropriate to share my last article of Becoming An Illustrator that shows the evolution of my digital work. Enjoy!

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Well, it’s been a year since I started to “actively” pursue my dream. I am proud to say I have done it. I have reached my goal of becoming a professional illustrator and being a stay-at-home mom. May 31st was my last day as an employee and now I’m out on my own.

I have learned so much over the past year. The main thing has been the evolution of my style. I was happy with what I had going when I first started out, but as I got more feedback I decided I needed to work on some things (like using smaller eyes, adding eyebrows and necks). You cam se my progression below with my digital work.

Illustrator with flat color and outlines. Notice my big eyes:

Illustrator with gradients for more dimension. Notice I’m toning down the eyes in the phase:

My medium of choice now has become Painter. Notice my little eyes:

I am very comfortable with my style and technique now but I know there is room to grow. I’m starting to experiment with paper and surface textures and things I need to work on are my noses and gestures. It will all come together in time and I’m enjoying the process.

I’ve mentioned my self promotion process throughout the year and have narrow down the things that have helped me the most.

Things that worked for me marketing wise:
My website
Link exchanges
Detailed Meta tags
Portfolios.com
Cloroflot.com
Folioplanet.com

Things that helped me grow as an illustrator:

Researching other illustrators
Looking at picture books
Starting a blog
Illustration Friday
networking with other illustrators
Joining a critique group
Sketching daily
And believe it or not, just spending time with my daughter to see facial features and body language.

All the things above cost no money (except portfolios.com since I sprung for the titanium portfolio and it has more than paid for itself with referring jobs). Although I had a full time design job in all this and did freelance design work on the side, I still didn’t want to spend any money. I wanted to show myself and others that promotion could be done without spending gobs of money on flashy mailers or sample packets. Without doing those fancy things, I got myself out to potiential clients, landed an agent and have gotten enough work so I could quit my full time job.

Getting here has not been easy. I am tired. Incredibly exhausted. The kind of tired where you are so tired you can’t sleep. I have worked on my goal one way or another every day for a year. There have been (and still are) many late nights working on projects, slowly building my client base. At least now I have more freedom and am not bogged down with a full-time job, but I do have my hands full chasing a giggly one year old around, so having a huge project with a short deadline sometimes has to wait until naptime or bedtime. I wouldn’t have it any other way though. Being home with my daughter is the most important thing for my family and me, but I still want a career. I need to accomplish goals and have something to show for it. I want to be successful. Although I am starting out again, so to speak, by being self employed, I still have to market myself heavy and do what I’ve been doing.

I truly hope that this series of articles has been beneficial to you in following YOUR dream. I appreciate all the feedback I’ve gotten and I will continue to write about my promotional efforts and experiences on my blog.

Click here to start reading my articles from the begining (June 2004).

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promotion
February 22nd, 2005

I’ve got 6 promo packets ready to be mailed tomorrow. I need to get some more together this week but 6 was all I had time for. To the left is my envelope design which I printed on orange paper (to match my logo). A label was adhered above “illustration samples enclosed.” I packed it with a personalized letter to the Art Director, an SASE for a reply or return of samples and 2 single illustrations and 3 pages with multiple illustrations as samples.

Ahem…I have a HUGE tip to share that I discovered about a year ago. And I pat myself on the back for thinking of it – excuse me if it wasn’t an original idea after all:) I always struggle with getting high quality samples of my work without the expense of wasting my printer ink. I say waste because to print something on my color printer has to be worthy of being printed in color. Although my samples are worthy, it can just get too expensive so I thought, hey, I have this digital camera and I can touch up something a Photoshop and get it printed so why couldn’t import and illustration into Photoshop and print it at Snapfish or my local Kroger (our grocery store to those who don’t have them in your area). TA-DA, brilliant! It works great and they are high quality. I just printed about 160 illos at Snapfish for like $30 bucks! Just a fun and cheap tip I thought I’d share. I’m all about being cheap.

I love to see how illustrators work, so here’s some links:

Theresa shows her work in progress.
Linda’s work seems to be everyone.
Anette’s cute style. See Feb. 17th’s entry.
Jenny’s sketches to finals
Elizabeth’s painterly style. Scroll to the bottom, although the top is a good read.
And me!

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grinin’ ear to ear
February 17th, 2005

Thanks to all the Picture Book Junkies for allowing me into their group! I was so excited when I got the news. It was a day of compliments for my work and learning about agents and how others promote themselves. It feels so good to belong to such a great group of girls!!!

In other “smiley news” I received an email from a girl at Brown Publishing. I had sent some samples and she loved my work and wants me to contact her next month because they had a big project starting up. Yah me :)

Good day. Very good day.

Roz has a great post about what type of promotion works for her. I think I may try postcards through USPS. I like the idea of customizing the cards to differnt publishers. Very clever.

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