How To Create Fanatics as a T-Shirt Designer
Quick…think of the top 3 most popular t-shirt designers that you know of. You probably came up with names like Geoff May, Jimiyo, Wotto, Collision Theory, Corefolio, Godmachine, and many more. Just how did these graphic designers become household names in the t-shirt industry? It wasn’t easy, because “just being gifted” won’t take you to the top. You have to be smart, you have to market, and you have to focus on a few key ingredients in the recipe for success.
I had to start with the most obvious. This is one part of building your tee design credibility that you just can’t fake. Stay true to your style and try to be consistent, because the consistency in your style will become the fingerprint of your work.
Personal Site With Portfolio
It’s 2009 folks. Don’t expect to gain a following if you don’t have a web presence you can call home. This allows your fans to dig a little deeper and get to know you better. It also provides a plethora of content for t-shirt bloggers like myself.
This creates a conversation. It also provides you with a platform to launch new designs and products. You don’t have to blog that often, just provide quality with each post.
It isn’t good enough to just join a competition anymore. You need to interact with the members and occasionally scratch some other backs. Being a part of the community is crucial. Having a lot of friends in multiple competitions can build an army.
Submit, Win, Repeat
You’re never gonna win if you don’t submit. And you need to submit often. Then hustle the heck out of your design, because the more eyeballs viewing your submission…the more votes you will receive. T-shirt design competitions are all over the web these days including:
Create a Mailing List
I’m not talking about a monster 1000+ list of e-mail addresses. Just a small, high-quality list of t-shirt bloggers, friends, influentials, and fans. You can use this list to update people on what you’re working on and ask for favors.
Teach Them Your Ways
You have to give back to the community that gives to you by creating tutorials. Take your most popular designs and show them how you arrived at the masterpiece. You can gain a lot of exposure and appreciation by showing others how you do what you do.
Create a Freebie Pack
Who doesn’t like something for free? If you have an abundance of unused artwork, then give some of it away instead of letting it waste and rot. You don’t have to give away the farm, but artwork was made to be seen, so get it out there.
Show Your Personality
Your artwork should speak for itself. But what it doesn’t say about you, should be shown in your interaction and interviews. There are many different ways on the Internet to make yourself available and to really let loose. Don’t be afraid to share your quirks and make some jokes with your online friends.
All of these components are critical for gaining momentum and building a following. After all, that is the hardest part. Once you have a loyal group of fans, you will have more opportunities than you can probably keep up with.
Self-promotion is a must for any self-employed or freelance graphic designer or illustrator. This installment of Blank Canvas asks our readers: how do you promote your services?
Cold calls? Mailing lists? How do you use the internet for your marketing? Social networking? What works best? What have you tried and abandoned? What services or methods do you recommend as the most effective?
I’ll start things off with my own approach. The bulk of the promotion I do for my illustration services is online. The main thrust of this is by proper, Google-recommended search engine optimization. Nothing shady, just good practices for the content of your website. And by content I am referring to the text content. People search using words, so you need those words to be on your website.
A big part of this is not just on my own website and blog, but also being an active participant in online design & illustration communities and artist/designer blogs, collectives and related websites. I also create accounts on as many relevant online portfolio sites as I can and I regularly submit my work to photo-sharing sites such as Flickr.
One drawback to this approach is that I am limited to clients who are searching for an illustrator. Certain portions of the industry such as children’s publishing, editorial/spot illustration for magazines and websites and apparel design/illustration are most likely not out there doing a Google search for illustrators. This is where a direct-mail marketing approach or cold-calls might fare much better.
The upside to this approach is that you have built-in interest from the potential client. Typically these clients are starting up a new business, which also has the potential for additional design work for branding and other marketing materials for the client’s new company or service.
For the past year I have been considering a direct-mail approach, but currently my online marketing keeps me busy enough that it hasn’t been a priority.
One aspect of reaching out to larger companies that is a big lure to me is the added exposure of your work which can come from working with a larger company, as well as the name-dropping you can do when promoting your services to future clients. I do have some “dream clients” I would like to work for, which is the biggest impetus for me to strike out with this approach. I love the clients I work with, but getting some “street cred” is appealing.
And getting an “in” with a larger company also has the added benefit of ongoing work. If they like your work, you’re likely to get more of it. Probably keeps the stress levels somewhat lower.
Your turn — Go Media wants to hear from the readers, please let us know in the comments section below how you handle your self-promotion and marketing. Go!
Another great interview with Go Media’s Jeff Finley over at Colorburned. Jeff shares his process and insight regarding his goal to design for movies and the film industry. Lots of inspirational and motivational advice for any designer looking to do the same, regardless of industry.
Plenty of great Finley movie poster design as well.
We’re doing a crazy promotion this month that not many people know about. For all Twitter followers on the @Go_Media profile, we will be posting a new tweet every day with a unique discount code for a particular product on Go Media’s Arsenal. It’s valid only for that day.
There are still plenty of days left in the month of May, so chances are you’ll find a discount on something you’ve already planned on getting. Whether it’s vectors, t-shirt templates, brushes, or a new font.
To get the discounts, simply follow @Go_Media on twitter!