Picking the right audience
Art comes in many shapes and forms, and so do your clients. Each type of art is a different audience or several of them. And trust me, it’s more than likely that you will be surprised, or even be caught off guard about where your audience is coming from.
It’s easy to imagine that your Pokemon-style-based art is interesting as fan art. But did you know that there are people that deal in NFT’s (Non-fungible tokens based in the crypto world) that are looking for specifically this style? Did you know there are also NSFW (erotic/hentai) requests for the same style? And just like that, there are thousands of other approaches for your style and subject of choice.
Practical example NSFW
This makes it ever so important to know what YOU want to do with your art. It’s not just about things you like, but more about things you DON’T like. Many people try their way in NSFW art, for example, it’s quite easy to get into as the demand is really high, especially when the requests become more extreme. And more often than not: It pays well. But more often than not artists find themselves completely and unwillingly immersed into the project by the commissioner. More often than not NSFW art is very private, a niche, or a fetish. Something the person cannot talk about. This person finally found someone with whom he or she can talk about it, and before you know it you spend your evenings talking about somebody else’s fantasies and details you wish you never knew.
Practical example realistic art
But just like that, you could be an artist aiming for realism. A creature and character designer, like me and many others. We always aim for the sky, want to be better, and see every flaw in our artworks, even when they’re not. But try as you might: The person commissioning you will almost always ask more than you bargained for.
Realism in art is a very tough subject to master, and that’s the case with other things too, like working in 3D, or other niches.
It might be nice to display your very best illustrations to the world, but that’s useless if you only master these skills when you have solid reference images. And that’s usually not what you’re commissioned for.
In other words: You might want to consider displaying your second-best art in a style that’s less realistic, but very well doable for you. That way you cater to a group of people that have a bit lower expectations and you will be able to comfortably draw your art within the time bracket you planned for. This is instead of fighting to get your stuff done because well, you may understand how light reflects off of wet fur, but not when it’s immersed in a gooey substance, or specific weather conditions and lighting.
This approach in fact is more profitable as well. You will always deliver things that are above the expectations of your client, and you will never get stuck on a subject because your skill level is not on par with what’s requested. In addition, you will learn to not feel bad about your art, because your client is happy, and your bills are paid with as little stress as possible.
Selecting the audience you’d like to work with
First and foremost: What you LIKE to draw is the most important thing to establish first. This will determine if you have the right mindset to actually start making serious money from your art. Fanart for example won’t really do that for you. But if that’s what you want to do, you might want to ask yourself if a career in art is what you’re looking for, or if it’s better to keep it just as a side-gig. But either way: Your style somewhat dictates what kind of audience you will get.
For example, Pokemon-style art will attract people that love Pokemon and its style. It’s a fairly simple style that’s easy to master. If you breakthrough with this style you can expect to do a lot of illustrations which each gain you some bucks. This income should still reflect your preferred hourly income overall, but because they’re relatively simple illustrations that go for relatively little money, you need a really broad network of people who are in demand of your art. You might want to ask yourself if you’re up to maintaining these connections. If not, maybe think of picking up a style that takes more time and pays more because of that. A good example of that is Ghibli, the complex version of anime art. This way you can put in more hours on the same project and spend less time networking.
Commissions can roughly be grouped into two groups. The private commissions, in which a person contacts you for mostly private work. This can be a pet portrait, a creature design, or a poster or cover for a book they plan to write someday, or an indie game. But also an image for all kinds of apparel, the favorite creature of a daughter, a newborn card, and so on.
Company vs private commissions can be a consideration. If you’re more of a business-oriented person it might be that you prefer commissioners that are like-minded. If you’re very passionate about what you do and like to geek out a bit over your art or the genre, you might want to find like-minded people. It’s possible that they pay less than a business-oriented person as people that are passionate about a specific subject tend to be this on their off-time and commission you without the intention of making money from your art. They can be just as demanding as a business-oriented person, while more often than not paying less for your art on average. But passion can make up for that if you still earn enough.
Company oriented commissions
Company commissioned art can be of the same nature, but usually, the budget is larger, deadlines are tighter, and they just expect you to do your work right. They have little time to spend with you for edits, so it’s more important than with private commissions that you can interpret a brief correctly and know your skills and the field sufficiently. The benefits are that it’s usually very clear beforehand what you need to do, so little meddling over details is needed. But this also means that you’re mostly left to your own devices. A company won’t hire you if they suspect that you need to work on many revisions, they will just go to the next person.
A private commissioner will most likely appreciate being immersed in the project because it tends to be close to their hearts, and it’s likely a new experience for them which they tend to in their own time willingly. Especially when you’re new in the field, it’s easier to fine-tune your work with private commissioners than with companies who are purely (and naturally) time and money-driven.
This is just my take on my personal experiences after taking on commissions for 4 years now. As many of you know already: I’m a self-taught illustrator, and I did much research in both art and the animal kingdom to become the creature designer I am today. Throughout the time I did many commissions for both private commissioners and companies. There are more roads that lead to Rome and mine is not set in stone. I’m just going to give you my personal opinion, which comes from an introverted creative.
When you’re starting out, in my opinion, it’s best to do one of two things:
- Become an intern at an established company.
- Take on private commissions.
This way you either get the accompaniment you need in this early stage, or you can benefit from learning from people who enjoy spending the time with you you need to complete your artwork in a satisfactory way. Starting off as a freelancer with a company might ruin your love for art so much that you never return to it again simply because of the high expectations and time pressure that’s often involved. It’s better to ease your way in slowly, give your art and knowledge some time to develop!
Hassle-free gaming assets
So, you’d like to earn money, but don’t want to have to deal with people. Or maybe this is a side-gig to your art endeavor or some other regular job.
You could just draw whatever you like instead and offer your art on websites like Displate and Redbubble. They will print your art for whoever orders it on whatever they order and ship it for you. Or better yet: Offer your art on a platform like GameDevMarket.
Many independent game developers are looking for cheap art to use in their games. Yes: Cheap. Expect to do a lot of work without knowing if it will ever return itself. You should either take this on really seriously so you’re high up in the search results all the time if you’d want this to be your main income. If it’s a side-gig: Treat it as such, don’t expect too much from it, but give it the love and attention to flourish over time. By the time you retire, and with a bit of luck much earlier, you will have a solid side income you won’t have to put much attention to. Your profit will come from a multitude of sales and not from just one client.
What are gaming assets?
Gaming assets are a variety of things. They can be game UI’s, props, characters, creatures, and come in a wide range of styles. From realistic to anime, and from pixel art to lineart. Some game developers are looking for top-down illustrations, while others look for art in their slot games. No matter the case: It’s important that you pick a genre you are comfortable drawing for a long time. What game developers with a low budget crave most is consistency in style. So it’s really valuable to them if you create several packs with consistency.
How do they look?
Without getting too much into it, because this subject serves for a whole article on its own: It could be anything. I focus mostly on props as this really is just a side-gig for me. I want to enjoy my time spent on gaming assets as much as possible so I pick fairly simple subjects I enjoy drawing. You can check out the contains of two of my art packs right here:
Everything is described in the detail section, and soon there will be an article up that goes more in-depth!
Where to find my audience
There are many places to go to attract different kinds of audiences. You can’t spread yourself thin by trying to keep them all up to date. Also, sometimes your art may do terribly in some places while it works just fine for someone else with the same style. This works the other way around too. This means it’s all trial and error before you find your way. But let me help you with a few common places to go to promote yourself:
Deviantart, usually the first go-to for new artists. Expect mostly private commissions and low-budget indie projects from this place. But you can still find some true gems, and like I said before, it’s worth it to first get a hang of the field, just make sure you get your fair share! Don’t expect the world, but also don’t allow others to expect you to work below your minimum wage.
Artstation, the big boss of them all. This is where AA and AAA game developers and movie makers go to recruit new people. Post your art here and you can expect a company to contact you. It’s very unlikely that a private commission comes in through this channel, and the standards are very high. Make sure that you know your field well and master your skills before you start sharing your art on Artstation.
Fiverr is a place where you can safely post your gigs. You decide what you offer and people who like your art can commission you. The big advantage of this platform is that it’s HUGE, and it protects both you and the buyer from scams. The downside I would say is that Fiverr was originally a website that only offered gigs for 5 dollars, something most people can’t make art for. This image stuck with them throughout the years. You can get some great clients from there, both private and companies. But more often than not, you need to be in a lower price range to compete. The best way to go with this platform is to stand out. Offer great services and unique art and you will do well there. Even when you have a higher price.
Upwork is a far cousin from Fiverr. They’re quite similar. You can create gigs and they have a good system protecting both buyers and sellers. However, this platform requires more interaction. Clients usually won’t come to you but will post a job offer instead you can reply. You can do so with tokens that generate automatically and/or can be bought. This platform is a bit more professional, and most job offers are provided by companies. Overall, the income you could get from that platform is a bit higher than that of Fiverr, that is, if you can be a bit picky.
Other platforms to find your audience
There are many more places where you can find clients. Some might be more suitable for you than others. It serves for you to try and see what works best for you.
Good luck with your endeavors! Don’t forget that all those that put enough effort into their art and connections will make it! You just need to have a long breath and hone your skills. You will get there!
More about (target) audiences
Want to learn more? Check out those articles!