Friday, April 26, 2013

How to Get Work as an Artist

I’m tired of seeing resumes on my desk. If you’re an artist and you’re trying to get work, why are you sending me a resume? More to the point, why did the fancy school on your resume not teach you to submit a portfolio?

Don't get me wrong - I’m a proponent of art school, and I’m also a person who went to an art school. But still, I’m worried for the kids going to art school and what they’re learning about selling themselves or perhaps more aptly, what they're not learning.

To the point, if you’re an artist and want work, at minimum, this is what I need from you in order of most important to least:
  • A portfolio - Preferably one that's online, which showcases 10 - 15 pieces of your best stuff. Catered to the job you're going for, of course. In other words, don't send me a bunch of stationery if I'm hiring you to be a web designer. I want to see your web design work first and foremost. Feel free to sprinkle in a little of what you can do with print too, if you feel it's great.
  • A way to contact you. I honestly can not tell you how many times people forget this, or they give an unreliable phone number or email address. Make sure we can get in touch and that, if you're serious about the job, you are either there to answer your phone or able to call me back within 24 hours. It's called being professional.
  • A cover letter which tells me why you’re a fit for the job and something that’ll intrigue me about you as a person. Assure me, briefly, that you have the skill set I'm looking for and so long as your portfolio looks great, I'll happily bring you in for an interview.
The resume is almost optional. If you’ve had work before, and certainly if you’re going for a managerial position, I will definitely want to look over your credentials. But if I’m hiring you as a staff artist? I want to see what you can do, and we can then talk about the ways you go about doing it.

“But what about all the programs you need to know, like Photoshop and InDesign and don’t you want to know if I am using a Mac or a PC and, and, and…” No! Shush! Bad!

I do not care if you know Photoshop or not, if what I’m hiring you to do does not specifically cite Photoshop as a necessity. Macs and PCs are becoming more similar by the day, so I no longer worry about dragging a Mac native into a PC office – there are ways to make a great artist comfortable in any computer environment and from my experience, it’s worth the investment if you’re phenomenal.

The fact is this: There are ten thousand ways to make beautiful art or amazing designs and all I want you to be doing is working at your best. If I am looking for a designer and I want him or her to create a business card template which can be sent to a printer, then I assume he or she will know how to follow a spec sheet and create something lovely that is also of the correct format and file type that the printer requires – nothing more, and nothing less. How it’s done is none of my business, so long as it’s done.

Too, the time before a job interview is a great time to showcase your creativity. I love people who think outside the box when they submit things. I once got a portfolio that looked like a menu. Another person sent me a DVD with portfolio and a short, well-done movie about himself in place of a resume. Brilliant!

In the end, if you’re an artist and you think you can just follow the crowd when it comes to applying for work, you are going to get left in the dust. Reach deep down into your creative pockets and bring forth something that is truly you, and I guarantee you’ll not only find a job that fits you well, but one that’ll be worthy of your skills.


Terry Wilson said...

Tis is great Dawn, may I have your permission to share wih my students?


Dawn said...

Terry, you are welcome to share anything I post, here :)