Okay let's start out with a disclaimer right off the bat. These tips MAY NOT make you into the multimillionaire freelancer you are trying to "The Secret" yourself into becoming. These are just things I do regularly and work out sometimes!
First of all, get a website!
When you are contacting people for gigs do not send them a link to your Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, Xanga, or whatever. If you want professional jobs, you have to pretend to be professional yourself, at least a little bit anyway. I use Squarespace for all my website needs and cannot recommend it enough. It took me a couple hours to get set up and jam all my portfolio stuff on there, but once that is done, updating it is quick and easy! Oh and if you listen to ANY podcast, you can get a discount promo code! So do that. Omg great website! I LOVE IT. Okay moving on.
Design yourself a letter of agreement and invoice.
This seems daunting because LOL business right? But really all you have to do is search the world wide web for examples and templates, then just tweak them to your needs and put your branded flavor on them. Since showing is easier than telling, take a look at my important business documents! Feel free to copy/paste and use them for yourself! I work for tips though, so please Venmo me a couple bucks, thank you. So do that. Omg great business documents! I LOVE THEM. Okay moving on.
Yay let's contact potential clients!
Every super extroverted and totally not-anxious-at-all artist's favorite thing to do! Let's make this as simple as possible. Whether you are contacting some local alt-weekly newspapers, or trying to be the next Google Doodle, the process is pretty much the same and I'm going to break it down into parts.
Part 1: Who do I even contact?
Okay, I will admit this is something I still struggle with and I'm not even sure I do right 80% of the time BUT I will give you advice anyway! Since it is the future and everybody is on THE WEB, you can probably find the website for the company you want to do freelance work for. If it is something like magazine, or a newspaper, or even a book publisher, the process is pretty simple. Just find the "contact me" page and scroll until you find an art director or art director adjacent (creative director, editor, etc). BUT if you are looking for a contact for big companies like Amazon, Target, Google, things like that it's a little trickier and something I'm still trying to work out. My advice here is to Google search "Amazon art director" or checked LinkedIn (yes actual business people use this social network LOL) for the right person. Chances are you will find more than one art director, so go ahead and email all of them. Sometimes they will have emails listed, but sometimes you have to dig a little deeper to find it. Dig away and send emails. Do not feel weird about cold contacting people! It's just an email, it isn't like you are casing their house or contacting their birth parents to get a hold of them.
Part 2: What do I even say?
(THIS IS HOW I DO IT BUT I COULD BE WRONG SO USE ADVICE AT YOUR OWN RISK!!!)
While this could depend on the potential client, my advice is standard: be yourself! My go to subject line is along the lines of "Freelance Illustrator Available For Hire!" The exclamation point may be overkill but hey, that's my style baby *winky face*. The body of the email should be short and sweet and start out with a quick sentence about yourself, what your specialty is, and then a link to your portfolio. That is it. Chances are they will skim right past everything and just click your website link anyway, so don't stress too much about that. I try to avoid sounding too "businessy" because I think it's boring and not me and some places will hire people based on their personality/if they like them so don't be LAME.
Part 3: When do I follow up?
KEEP A SPREAD SHEET! Ew I know right? Compile a spreadsheet with the company name, contact email, date you contacted, and the date they responded. After about a week, send a follow-up email asking if they received your first email. If you still don't get a response and this is a client you really want to work with, I would follow-up again every month to every 3 months, but that is sort of up to you. While I don't think you should be concerned with coming off as desperate, you do want to avoid being too spammy. Check out my standard email and my follow-up examples.
Now let's talk about money.
Negotiating compensation will make you sweaty and uncomfortable and maybe even let out a scream or two. That is all very natural and you shouldn't fight it, but let me try to take some of the sting out of the process. When you get to the negotiating stage ALWAYS try to get the client to pick a number first; ask them what their budget is and the deadline. This will work 50% of the time. If they give you a budget, this allows you to either go up or go with the number they chose. You are now playing mind games. Put yourself inside their brain and figure out what they can afford and what you are worth. Are they a company of one with a family to feed or do they have 100+ employees with a 401k? This will help you decide how much more money you can ask for. If the project is something you can bang out quickly and easily for $300, then take it. If the deadline is tomorrow and you know it will take 10 hours to complete, do not take that three hundo instead double it. Nothing is more valuable than your time, always remember that. A project may pay handsomely, but if the deadline is yesterday then it will cause you all kinds of stress because you will have to figure out time travel and space/time continuums and other sci-fi nonsense and it won't be cute so always keep that in mind.
MAKE THEM PAY HALF UP FRONT. I cannot stress this enough. Now I will admit I've taken quick $200 gigs with a trustworthy company without asking for pay up front, BUT if it's a new client (especially one you found from Craigslist or some BS freelancing site) you need to get paid first. Because why? THEY DON'T HAVE TO PAY YOU. You can literally turn your work over to them and they can just take it and run. What can you do? Sue them? LOL. Oh and a little bonus reminder, always send low-res files before you get paid in full. This will help keep those damn vultures from stealing your work without paying.
Freelancing can be a nightmare and it's a scary world out there so let's stick together and help each other out! If you have any questions or need anything clarified, please comment below! Or if you think this was helpful AT ALL I would love a little "like" or some positive reinforcement because I am human and that brings me joy. HAPPY FREELANCING!