I’m doing a marketing makeover on Carlos’ website. Carlos provides professional illustration services, including magazine work, illustrations for the web, and murals.
He’s passionate about every aspect of illustration and recently scored a high profile project, but he’s been unable to maintain a steady flow of clients. Working part-time to pay the bills, he’s just covering his overheads. Should he call it a day or can he turn things around?
Let’s take a look and see what we can learn…
1. Be careful not to confuse childlike with childish.
As part of your header, seen on every page, is the phrase “currently workin on sumfink”. As an illustrator who is creating “childlike” images, childlike language might seem like part of the charm. But in the wrong context, it can prove to be really off-putting to your corporate clients. The ones who make your career viable.
Their previous experience has taught them that a lot of the creatives they have dealt with have proven unreliable, precious and tardy. Childish qualities. And not endearing at all. Many corporate buyers will view an adult who spends his time drawing and illustrating with equal measures of envy and ridicule. The result of this experience and prejudice is an expectation that someone they do not know will not be professional.
You have to do everything in your power to recognise and offset those fears and prejudices at every opportunity. There are a countless number of clients who will hire you because you can prove your reliability, regardless of your illustration skill or point of view. To them, not being let down, not looking bad to their boss for hiring you, is far more important than the content you create.
Action: Remove all “childlike” language outside of your actual content. Understand that professionalism and reliability is as much a part of your brand as your unique point of view and look for ways to say it, prove it and live it wherever possible.
2. Understand what your customers are really buying and put that upfront.
Your homepage focuses more on your illustrations themselves, through a series of thumbnails, than the overall “solution” a corporate buyer is looking for. If you don’t understand your value from their perspective, they just won’t connect with you and make the effort to dig deeper.
Of course we all think our customers see the world just like us, but they rarely do. So we have to step into their shoes and understand the problems they are trying to solve. When we show them our value in a way that makes sense to them, the path to trusting us and working with us, becomes so much smoother and they are drawn towards us. After all, they have a problem to solve and they NEED someone to solve it for them.
We’ve already established that as well as your illustrations themselves, clients value professionalism and reliability. On top of that they are rarely looking for just “an illustrator”. They are more likely looking for “a 20ft banner” or “to liven up a brochure” or “to make our van stand out at an event”. So, put those “solutions” up front, so you’re speaking in your customer’s language from the beginning. When they give you their trust, then you can go deeper and seduce them with your artistry.
Action: You already do a great job of achieving this on your “About” page. Move all the content that shows the problems you can solve for your client to the home page. Don’t make them dig for it, most won’t.
3. Choose just one type of customer.
You can’t be a commercial illustrator and talk to corporate customers in a way that they understand AND be an artist and talk to the broader public in the same way. When you try and do both, you end up appealing to neither. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can find fulfilment and success in either market, or both. You just can’t mash them up on the same website.
What you need to do is make a choice. Choose who this site is for. Is it to make a living from corporate clients who want to hire your reliability and artistry to solve their marketing problems for bigger fees? Or is it to be for an artist who will help the public express themselves more fully through your work in a far more affordable way, through your posters and other lower cost items?
The reason you need to choose, is because these two customers hang out in very different places and speak very different languages. And to sell your value to either of them, you need to know where they are and how to speak to them.
Action: Make a choice and split the site or remove any material that isn’t specifically relevant to the one market you are targeting right now. Focus all your work day efforts on that market until you achieve a stable level of income. Being able to pay your rent does not make you less of an artist. It frees you up to be more creative.