Your reputation as an artist will be the making or breaking of your career. If you don’t keep your promises, stick to your deadlines or you are difficult to work with, that won’t stay a secret for very long. The most successful illustrators are easy to work with, follow through on projects and make client’s lives better, not more stressful.
How to build a good reputation with clients
Hit Your Deadlines – No explanation necessary, we hope.
Be Responsive – You don’t need to be at the beck and call of your client every minute of every day, it would be unreasonable for them to think so, but don’t disappear for days on end or your client will lose confidence in you. If you won’t be contactable for a few days, pre-warn your client.
Be Prepared – If a client says the illustration needs to be 130 x 70mm, be prepared for the possibility that they may end up wanting to print it twice that size. If you consider things like this from the beginning, you won’t be unprepared for any surprises a client may want to throw at you.
Ask Questions – If you need to know something, ask. Nobody is going to have a problem with that. If you don’t ask, everybody loses. If you don’t know what a pica is, ask for the size in mm and avoid any potential embarrassment at the end of the project when it’s too late.
Don’t be a Stereotype – Artists aren’t known for being particularly organised, but if you treat your illustration work like a business (which it is), organise your files, your layers, your calendar and your life. You will be far more productive as a result.
Keep Your Word – If you say you will do something, do it.
No Surprises – If your final illustration doesn’t look like your sketch or references, somebody is going to be annoyed.
Communicate – If you have an idea, discuss it with your client. If you have a schedule, let the client know when they can expect your update. If you have any problems, let the client know as soon as you can.
Know Your Worth – But don’t be so set in stone that clients find it impossible to work with you. Be flexible.
Don’t be a doormat – This is a sure-fire way to keep a client happy but to lose their respect at the same time. Endless revisions can be soul-destroying for an artist, so make sure the client is paying or is willing to compromise.
Don’t Be Afraid to Give Your Opinion – It’s a good thing! Art directors want to leave their stamp on work they produce, just like you do. The best art directors will listen to an illustrator’s opinion, but you also have to accept that ultimately they are hiring you, so it’s their call.
Be Honest – If you don’t have time, or can’t commit to a deadline, don’t say yes anyway.
Be Nice – If a client, or anyone, is unreasonable to you, don’t sink to their level. Stay Cool, stay Professional.
If you are lazy, uncommunicative and difficult to work with as a freelancer, you can’t keep that a secret for very long. However, if you have a reputation as someone who can be relied on, who gets things done on time to the best quality, your clients will come back again and again. If they need something in an emergency, they’ll call you. That kind of reputation spreads.
How to build a good reputation with peers
While it may not directly affect how busy you are, your reputation among other artists is also hugely important. What do you think your reputation is like with your peers? Do they admire your work and your work ethic? Or do they think you’re big-headed and full of it? Why do they think these things?
Be supportive to other artists, whether you’re a beginner or well established, you never know where those other artists might end up. Don’t step on people to get ahead. Healthy competition is great, but you’re all in the same boat. Be humble and friendly and as a result be respected.