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Niki Pilkington

I've been asking you to comment on Instagram with topics you'd like me to cover & one that keeps popping up is how I actually get clients or get the opportunity to work with brands, so I thought I'd give you a little insight. Theres definitely no clear cut answer - all my clients, past, present & upcoming all come from very different routes, but I'll try my best to cover most of the routes I take in order to get new work.

Reputation / Referral

I often get new clients based on my relationship / work with past clients, where I've been referred through them or they've seen the work we've done together & want me on board with something they're working on. Keeping up a good relationship with past clients is always a great practice - firstly because its always good to be professional & a nice person to work with, but also because they like to work with people they can rely on to get the job done on time & to the very highest standard they expect. Reputation is so important, so I always keep things as professional as possible & treat everyone I work with, no matter their position or role, with the respect that they deserve.

Agencies / Online

I work with a number of agencies, some I've been on the books with for years which are more traditional 'art' agencies, some total newbies who cover more general 'content creation'. Since I've started this career, there's been a massive change in the way artists are represented, It used to be much more specific - if you're an illustrator you'd be signed to art / illustration agencies, who would have a digital portfolio on you which they'd showcase to clients & you wouldn't have much input until you were selected for jobs. But now, for me at least, as a creative that’s working on not only 'art' but also content creation, influencer / marketing opportunities, lifestyle & fashion, it's a bit more complex. The sheer volume of online 'influencer' agencies out there is crazy, so I try to sign up to new platforms whenever I can, so I'm as visible as possible on a wide variety of platforms. Most are either invite only or need approval before you can sign up for jobs, but for the most part, they work the same. You create a profile & link your social accounts. From there they can either pitch you to clients for specific opportunities or you can request to be a part of campaigns you think work for you. These have been a great source of income for me but I'm quite selective & only go for opportunities I know are right for me, my followers & the message I want to portray through my work. Yes I could get paid $800 to feature a new brand of protein powder, but would you really want to hear about that from me? No, I don't think so, so although it's tempting to say yes to the 'easy' money when it comes to promoting brands, I want you as my followers to trust me & know that the things I talk abut are my true feelings & opinions. 

Exhibitions / Galleries / Prints

I have an online shop where I sell prints (HERE) & I've been exhibiting my work in galleries since I graduated (see my recent post on how I started out) & this still proves to be a great source of new client opportunities. Yes it's more labor intensive but there's something so satisfying about getting an email from someone that saw my work in a gallery or was sent a print from a friend and they loved it so much that they want to hire me to create artwork for them/their brand. It's amazing how far my prints have gone around the world & they always seem to get me extra work one way or another. (shout out to each and ever person who's bought my prints and originals!!) 

Social media  

Like most industries, social media has massively changed the nature of being a freelance illustrator. It can be both a wonderful tool to get your work out there to millions of people instantly, but it can also be an extra pressure (the need to be posting frequently, updating all platforms, keeping engagement up there, not to mention making sure that the content I put out there is what I enjoy creating & in line with what I want to say..urgh the stress of it all!!) but at the same time it's a huge 'idea stealing' worm hole (don't even get me started - I'll be posting about this soon too). I can't diss it too much though - social media has been a massive help for me. I can now instantly reach clients directly and visa versa, as well as having a portable 'portfolio' when I meet potential clients & making 'connections' in my field has never been so accessible. So gaining new clients through social media is pretty straight forward. It usually starts with them reaching out (usually via DM or emailing saying that they've seen my pages) & then we take it from there. It's great because they've usually seen previous work I've produced so come to me with a pitch or project they'd like me to be a part of.

The old fashioned way

I have a never-ending list of dream clients that I'd love to work with & you should always have 100% confidence in what you do to be able to reach out to them & tell them how you feel. Yes it comes with rejection & disappointment from time to time, but when it pays off & that love is mutual, it's the best feeling. The very worst they can say is 'thank you, but no thank you' (or just no reply at all..rude I know, but..?) so knowing that, what do yo have to lose?

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Actual footage of me emailing clients out & about.


..ok jokes, I think I was googling brunch spots.

I hope that clears up some of the haze of finding work doing what you love. Please let me know what you think below & let me know if I've missed anything. As always I'd love you to keep sending your topic suggestions via instagram (just leave a comment in my most recent post telling me what you'd like to read about)..

Thanks for reading lovelies