How and where did you find your first freelance work opportunities?
The first paid jobs I did were for friends or people who knew me- just inexpensive commissions to paint a pet portrait or character as a gift.
The first jobs I got when trying to find work were album covers and posters for bands. I’d write dozens of emails to bands I liked to see if they’d be interested in having some album art or promo work done.
After that, many of my jobs came from people who found my website and online portfolio.
What do you think are the best ways to find freelance work as a manga artist?
Although the platforms and formats have changed, I still think having both an aggressive and passive approach can work.
By aggressive I mean, doing the leg work- speculative letters or cold calls to businesses you feel might be interested in what you can offer and applying for jobs and projects you find .e.g. via crowd sourcing sites, with passive being to create a portfolio or social media channel that potentially brings people to you.
Do you feel that it is difficult to find work with a manga art style in the west compared to artists who work in a western cartoon/comic style?
Most artists aren’t particularly forthcoming about exactly how much work they’re getting or how much they’re earning so it’s hard to say. As someone who’s produced work in both styles (and a combination of the two), I’d say there is definitely a market for both. In fact I think I might have more success if I just stuck with manga, but I’d I like to try other styles.
Would you ever create a Manga novel and what audience would you aim at if so?
Sure. I would like to. I’ve had 3 or 4 ideas for stories I’d like to turn into a manga for shonen (teen boys) or seinen (men) audience. The reason I haven’t thus far is due to time. I’m relatively slow at creating work and I don’t think I, nor the rest of the world would have the patience for me to create it. And if I took a year off to make it, I doubt I’d earn a year’s wage from sales to make it financially viable. I’m going to have to stick to illustration projects for now.
Where do you feel are the best places to sell and promote freelance manga artwork?
I think it depends on exactly what you’re producing. One specific site might work for one artist and not the other; depending on the competition, style, subject matter and so on. All you can do is try loads of avenues and see which works for you.
I promote my art through social media- Instagram generating the most engagement, but I also repost my Insta posts on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Pinterest so gain more coverage and have actively built a following for these platforms. This drives a tiny percent of followers to my main portfolio site to buy the occasional print or book and enquire about commissioning me to create some custom artwork.
I also sell prints on Etsy, Ebay and Amazon. I sell via comic cons (which took a while to figure out how to profit from, but now finally seeing a profit).
I sell on POD (Print on Demand) sites. E.g. Café Press, Zazzle, Red Bubble, DesignbyHumans, Society6.
I’ve got some work through crowd sourcing bids- Freelancer.com, Upwork etc. And entered and won a few competitions in the past with cash pay-outs.
Some of these sites aren’t necessarily the best. Certainly, making a career solely from crowd sourcing sites when you have the overheads of living in a first world country would be tough. The point is to try things out and see what works for your art.
What advice would you give to a freelance artist with a manga art style?
I was going to say, don’t waste your time pencilling for Marvel, but perhaps there is an entire untapped market for manga style versions of popular Marvel comics? As long as you’re really good at what you do and have a good portfolio, I really don’t think it matters what style you work in.
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