Saturday, January 26, 2013

Guest Post: Sarah Benkin and Finding Work after School


Sarah Benkin, of Star Power fame, graduated from SCAD: College of Creative Careers not so long ago with an MFA in Sequential Art.  Now she's comic-ing it up in Chicago, and plans on attending both DAN and CAKE.  Sarah Break-it-down Benkin has been kind enough to share her post-SCAD experiences and her job search advice with us today.  Her comic, Star Power, is available through her shop (warning NSFW)

There are two major categories of finding work in your field after (or during) school: Online and offline. I’ll start with offline, but keeping up with any contacts you make through offline methods might need diligent online contact to maintain the relationships.

1)      Get involved with your local comics scene. Find out, first of all, how big your local comics scene is, how indie, how mainstream, how much your work fits in it. Are there local big names? How about medium-sized? Do they have any events you could attend?

Obviously, this kind of thing is always bigger around cities, though you find them everywhere. You may find yourself needing to drive a few hours out to get to any sort of convention or show, but try not to let that discourage you. Find out, realistically, how much travel can fit into your budget---time *and* money wise---and treat it like a hobby. Something you do in your free time in the hopes that it will pay off later.

2)      Get involved in related circles. Comics and illustration tend to have a huge crossover audience with outsider art, pop surrealism, zines, indie publishing, tattoo art, costuming, poster art, genre fiction, gaming and plenty more. You might be surprised how easily your side interests, hobbies, etc can get you commissions if you attend events related to them and pass out your contact information

3)      Make a GOOD business card and pass it around. Have an up to date portfolio with you whenever possible.

4)      Go to cons that you can afford, and chat with people. Getting your name, face and work spread around is just as important as sales.

5)      Ask people to pass your name around for you, if they know anyone who might like your work. Don’t be pushy. They aren’t your sales staff. But if they know someone who needs and artist, maybe they could mention your name?

6)      See if any local stores will carry your work. You’ll make less selling through stores than you will direct to the customer, but it’ll get your work out there. Here’s a tip—if you’ve got a bunch of copies of your book, put a sticker on the inside back cover of all the books you sell in local stores, identifying you as a local artist—be sure your website is on it!

7)      Go to any galleries that have comic or outsider art and support them. It’ll allow you to meet other local artists if nothing else. Plus, neat art and free food during openings.
Online
1)      Draw, draw, draw. Try new techniques and subjects. Post on tumblr, Deviantart, your website or blog. (Not Facebook. If you post art on Facebook they retain the right to use it as they please. Link on Facebook to other sites.) Make tutorials or try experiments. Something that other people might find useful.
2)      Keep an updated website, check your email and any social media sites regularly. Commissions will more often come to you if you post regularly and get your art out there
3)      Put up a clear chart showing commission prices and examples. Few will ask you for work if they don’t know you’re selling.
4)      If you’ve got finished books, consider opening an online store. I like using etsy, because you can get customers who’ve never seen your art before, but etsy has its flaws
5)      There’s always the job section on ConceptArt.org. Or DeviantArt.com, though I’d be wary of the latter. I’ve only gotten one or two jobs off Deviantart and they were both when I was still in school, and they were both terrible. My personal experience has led me to think it’s a waste of time to look there, but some people tell me they’ve gotten good work there.
6)      The internet is an easy place to meet other artists in your field, even if it’s a bit depersonalizing. Take advantage!