Rod Hunt is a London based illustrator and artist who has built a reputation for retro-tinged illustrations and detailed character filled landscapes.
With UK and international clients spanning publishing, design, advertising & new media, he’s illustrated everything from book covers to advertising campaigns, installations and iPhone apps. He’s also the illustrator behind the bestselling Where’s Stig? books for the BBC’s hit TV show Top Gear.
He’s also Chairman of the UK-based Association of Illustrators. The AOI was established in 1973 to advance and protect illustrator’s rights and encourage professional standards.
Rod regularly lectures on self promotion & the business of illustration in the UK & Internationally for organisations including The Association of Illustrators, ECCA, Own-It and The Illustration Conference (ICON5 New York & ICON6 LA).
I’m a big fan of his intricate work and asked him a few questions to find out more about him and the promotion methods he uses…
How did you get into illustration?
.Comics were my big passion as a kid and the reason I was inspired to draw and choose a career as an illustrator.
After graduating from the Cambridge School of Art at Anglia Ruskin University I spent 2 years working on my portfolio and starting to get my work seen by clients to gain commission.
I graduated in 1994, which was pre Internet portfolio days, so I sent potential clients sample postcards and visited London to pound the streets with my portfolio.
Once I moved to London in 1996 I used to do two mornings a week every week with my portfolio seeing clients, doing in excess of 120 meetings a year.
Pretty much all my work was for newspapers and magazines to start with, and it built from there. Then everything changed with the advent of affordable digital technology and the Internet, and I decided I had to change with it.
In 2000 I taught myself web design to create my first website, and in 2001 I completely reinvented my work, abandoning paint and mess for a Mac and Adobe Illustrator.
What are some of the ways you currently promote your work?
.The Internet is probably the first port of call for most clients these days when sourcing an illustrator – website portfolios, blogs, inspiration sites, interviews, Twitter, Flickr. I do all of these and more. Sites like Behance and AOI portfolios are also excellent portals for clients to find creative talent too.
I’m still a great believer in the value of quality print promotion targeted direct to a client.
I usually send out a set of A5 postcards twice a year but this year I decided to produce a 28 page full colour brochure – essentially a complete portfolio in a book.
To date I’ve sent out over 2000 copies to clients in the UK & US (via my US rep), and I’m targeting the European advertising agencies next in the autumn. An expensive exercise but it is proving to be fruitful.
I buy a mailing list for the contacts from Bikinilists, and the AOI also produce affordable Client Directories which I’ve used in the past too.
This way I have up to date contacts and don’t have to spend my valuable time researching thousands of names.
What have you learnt about the way people promote themselves as creatives, both working as an illustrator and as chairman of the Association of Illustrators?.
I feel that many illustrators don’t invest enough time and resources in promoting their work, or explore all possible markets and outlets for their work. In the past even I didn’t do enough.
The most important part for me is the art, but to be successful and build a sustainable career you have to put the business first.
At the end of the day it doesn’t matter if you’re selling widgets or illustration; the business principles are the same; have a great product and market it well.
I budget at least 10% of my business turnover on promotion a year, you have to “Speculate to accumulate” as the saying goes.
If you could tell someone new to freelancing, one essential thing about promoting themselves, what would it be?
.You might be the best illustrator in the world, but if clients don’t know about your work you won’t get commissioned. Get out there, be seen and get remembered.
Rod’s Studio in East London, above.
What are some of the things that you cover in your workshop?
.I’ll be looking at how I have successfully promoted myself to gain commissions and grow my business, including what I’ve found works and what doesn’t, the value of building a brand for yourself, raising the profile of you & your work, and successfully exploiting the opportunities to promote your work with the internet.