About 9-10 months ago, I had signed with an illustration agency here in Toronto. I’m not going to mention who they are out of curtesy, but I had high hopes that they would bring me all the success I was looking for! I’m not here to bash the agency at all either, nor do I feel that the experience with them was negative in any way! They taught me a lot and I’m really grateful for the time that we did have a contract in place.
The thing about being an entrepreneur of sorts, is that no one else in the WORLD is going to care about your work as much as you do. Which isn’t a bad thing! You have to develop such a passion for your craft and pretty much fall in love with it head over heels, but no one else is going to feel that way about it, as much as you might want them to.
I’ve learned this lesson several times over already, but I still hoped that the agency could give me that leverage to bring me those large-scale projects, I felt like they gave my work some kind of validation. As a young, eager illustrator, I could sometimes cling onto anything in hopes that it will bring me more success.
The problem for me with the agency was that they wanted me to bring them any commercial projects that I obtained on my own, because a lot of companies apparently try to bypass working with the agency by contacting the illustrator independently. I completely understood why the agency implemented this rule in the contract because I’m sure if they didn’t everyone would just skip through in hopes of a better deal.
What made me a bit frustrated was that after all the networking events I go to, how much time and effort I’ve spent to get my name out there, people who want to work with me likely don’t appreciate when I spring it on them that we have to go through the agency. It makes everything all the less personal, and I like to get to know my clients a little bit as well, even if it is just over brief emails. I strongly believe in having a good relationship with people and feeling connected to others in a way. This also helps me understand their personalities and what they might appreciate seeing in the illustrations. I felt that when I had to go through the agency I lost all of that and it made the whole process feel so dull.
Perhaps I’m just a bit ambitious, but I genuinely just like to get to know people and when a client works with me, I want to make sure the whole process is enjoyable and that I spend lots of time in back and forth communication with them to make sure they like the illustration. I like to think that one client can turn into 3 more (word of mouth will always be the greatest tool!) and that each client can potentially turn into 5 projects not just one.
All this today, I’m very grateful for my time with the agency, and maybe one day I’ll find another one that will work for me, but for now I feel a bit of a weight lifted off my shoulders. I’m going to focus on expanding my work into this new style I have been working on, and continuing to network and market to potential clients. I have high hopes to illustrate a children’s book this year, and I hope I get to do just that!
I also just want to mention that this was only my experience with the agency, for some they work really well but I think the key is to find an agency that already has the right client base similar to your demographic.