For Artists: How to keep your project pipeline full
As a freelance artist, a pipeline full of inquiries is vital to keeping your studio (and life) running. Many artists hope and pray that projects come through the door regularly. This might work for a while until things slow down. In a world with so much visual and mental noise it takes more than hope and good work to keep projects coming in regularly.
The good news is that while there is no silver bullet to fix the pipeline issue. There are things you can do to increase your odds of landing more projects. Here are a few things we have learned at Closer&Closer over the years that might be helpful to you as you work hard to sustain your freelance career as an artist long into the future.
Reach out to previous clients.
Your previous clients are a gold mine that so many freelance artists easily overlook. These people have worked with you. They like you and they would rather work with you than to try and find someone new. Again, people are busy and if they aren’t following up it’s probably not because they don’t want to work with you. They just forget. Make a list of previous clients you’d like to work with and send a quick note letting them know you’re available for new projects and you’d love to work with them again.
Share your work with the people you want to work with.
This sounds obvious but you’d be shocked at how few people take the initiative to share their work with the people they want to work with directly. I personally send cold-emails to strong potential clients on a regular basis. It’s landed me multiple 6 figure contracts with Fortune 500 companies (All through LinkedIn, no joke). A note about cold emails — I hate sending them. Initially they felt awkward and desperate. As a freelancer I didn’t want people to know that I needed work. The simple truth I’ve learned is that if you don’t tell people you’re available, they won’t think to hire you! Many of the people I contacted told me they thought I was slammed with projects and didn’t have the availability for a new project.
Make it easy for people to understand what you do.
Many people don’t get hired because potential clients literally don’t know what to hire them for. Review your website, social accounts, even your email footer — Is it easy for people to understand what you do? If it’s animation, say it. If you’re a branding designer, just say that. If you’re great at custom lettering, let people know. Don’t make them guess. It’ll help them categorize you in their mind so they can hire you for future projects.
Make it easy for people to get a hold of you.
If a client can’t easily find your email address or better yet, your phone number they’ll move on. Make it easy for people get in touch with you. Put your email address in your footer, on your contact page, even on your social accounts so that people can reach out when they have a project. This is vital to getting new inquiries.
I talk to many freelancers who tell me they’ve sent a few cold emails and heard nothing back. As humans, our goal is to avoid uncertainty and do what feels comfortable. For many artists this means constantly posting to social media (which isn’t bad by the way) and obsessing over their following. Unfortunately we can’t eat “Likes” and if you’re not getting regular inquiries it should be feedback that helps you to improve your strategy for finding and landing new projects.
In short — be patient and persistent. True success is the product of years of "seed planting". Building relationships and trust takes time. Over the long haul, having a strong network of contacts will serve you well no matter what you do. You'd be surprised at how these people will become your friends and mentors (and clients) as you build a relationship with them. It may not feel like you’re making progress at first but trust the process and be willing to experiment regularly.
These are a few of the things that I’ve learned in the 18+ months since I started Closer&Closer but we are also constantly learning and evolving. I’d love to hear how you have found clients and marketed your work over the years. Please share below in the comments.