Brewing up some Illustration Marketing | Skillshare Projects

Hayden Aube

Illustrator & Designer



Brewing up some Illustration Marketing


My Brand


I am a freelance illustrator, animator and graphic designer and for the past two years have mostly been doing web design. This is not what I want to be doing, just the work that has been the most abundant and paid the best. Recently, I've decided to really hone in on the work that I love to do and that means marketing myself in a whole new way. Under my personal brand falls not only my services in illustration, design and animation, but also my teaching here on Skillshare and the selling of some of my work online. It's a new and exciting time for me but I have a lot to figure out!


11 Questions


What is Marketing for?

Marketing is for connecting people with what out there in the world would bring them value and with what they are looking for. Somewhere out there is the perfect solution to many of our wants and needs. Marketing helps us find it.

What are we allowed to touch?

I am allowed to touch anything and everything and I think I don't always consider that. If an avenue of marketing isn't working I can change it. If my pricing isn't working I can change it. If the tone of voice I advertise through isn't working I can change it. Anything that is possible to change can and should be changed if it allows the right message to be delivered.

What can we as marketers measure?

Well on many of the platforms where I post my work it's easy to measure views, likes, follows, responses, etc. But what I'm now considering is how important is this measurement. Yes, it is important to see what has a better impact with my following but how can I measure the value of that following? Do likes from people on Dribbble equal more contacts to hire me? How can I measure the impact that attention on Dribbble vs. Behance actually has? One thing I can measure that I think is important is how new work finds me. Every time I am contacted I can ask how they heard of me and measure how important some of these places are.

What can we change?

Just as with "What are we allowed to touch?" I can change anything about what I do. In fact what I love about what I do is that it's not always fixed. Do I feel that I should be aiming to really change others through my marketing? Yes and no. I believe illustration is a wonderful tool that many companies don't fully appreciate. If I can succesfully change the interpretation of what people believe is possible with illustration in the design & marketing world, that would be amazing. However, I am also looking to market my services to those who do see the potential and are looking for what I offer. Perhaps through partnering on projects with those who see the benefit and power of illustration, we can change those who don't and give them one more tool in their arsenal.

What promise are you going to make?

That I am not going to compromise on my work quality. I've worked with too many companies that will take on work at an undesirable budget and then put an inadequate amount of effort into it to justify it. If I don't believe I can do my best on a project because of one circumstance or another (mostly time and money) I won't take it. My promise is that I will ONLY do my best work.

What’s the hard part?

The hard part is finding a niche. Right now, I am producing lots of great looking illustrations. But when I really think about it, most don't serve a purpose other than being something nice to look at. I believe I will be succesful with my illustration when I can prove that what I do can practically be used for things such as animations, video games, infographics, designs, etc. Producing illustration for a purpose.

Should your organization be making trends or following trends?

A bit of both. There are some great companies/artists out there doing wonderful things with illustration that I would be wise to follow. And new trends are popping up all the time! That being said, the way illustrators work is also changing quite constantly and there is a lot of room for improvement. As an artist, I think it's important to learn from others while striving to set my own path.

Where is the risk?

I worry sometimes that there is a risk in overstimulation. That my audience will see my work too much and feel it is clogging their feed. I think this is probably more of a personal imposter feeling than anything actually accurate. These are people that have opted to see my work through following me, visiting my site, etc. I don't think I can show TOO much work. The real risk I believe is getting stuck in just a single style or type of job. I love variety both in the kinds of jobs I take as well as in illustration style. Without even trying I quickly became known for web design in the freelance world here in London. Now, most of my contacts are for that (which I don't even want). If I'm not careful, I can get stuck as a one dimensioned creator in much of my audience's eyes.

Who is in charge?

Simple enough—I am.

Marketers spend money. Where are you spending the money? What is it for?

Currently I spent next to nothing on marketing. I pay for the domain name and hosting of my website as well as an annual membership for my Dribbble account. All in all this accounts for not much at all. Where would be good places to spend money? I think I could spend money on printing illustrations, stickers, etc. to give to companies I would love to work with and that I know would benefit from my services.

How should you be spending your time?

Interacting more with people that would be looking to hire me instead of just with other people who do what I do.


The P's


To best choose which three I will prioritize I'm going to go through them individually and write whether it is important or not and if so why. Once I've gone through the list I believe I'll have a good sense of the major three.

Positioning (Important)

I think my place in the 'filing cabinet' of others is very important to consider and be intentional about. Currently, I don't really have a 'niche' or any one specific aspect of illustration that I do. Although, I do believe that my developing style is something that could position me. Yes, now that I think of it it is more important to me that people think "I know a guy who has a fun playful illustration style that will fit my project perfectly" than "I know a guy who makes illustrations for pamphlets". So it will be important to position myself so that I am filed away as someone who fits a particular style of illustration.

Pricing (Not Important)

This is important but not in a marketing sense. I know that competing on price is not something I am willing to do. There will always be those who will offer illustrations for cheaper than I. AND, equally important, there will always be those who charge more. To me I have a lot of freedom with pricing—I can change it on the fly to make sure I get projects I really want, perhaps scare off clients I don't and other things. I don't see my price as a selling point or marketing advantage so in this regard, it isn't important.

Placement (Important)

For the past few months I've been making a strong effort to gain a social following. What I've been starting to realize is that although I have steadily been increasing my followers, recieving more and more attention and interacting with more people online, it hasn't resulted in a single new client or project. Now, over time I do see this as paying off and eventually my social reach will expand to grab the attention of those who would use my services but the problem is that where I am putting all my effort in placing myself is not with those people. I'm choosing to target the attention of other illustrators and designers—many of which could be considered competitors. I'm making great friends and enjoying my interactions but it's not actually getting me to the attention of those I really should be seeking. Therefore it is important that I strategically consider my placement.

Promotion (Important)

I think this goes hand in hand with placement for me. How am I going to get in front of future clients? Well one thing I've never considered as actually sending them my work. There are lots of studios, agencies, individual artists, companies, etc. that I would LOVE to work with and often hire illustrators. Imagine the impact it would have for them to recieve some stickers, prints or puzzles that I've made along with a note saying how much I would love to partner with them? They would a) know that I exist (which currently is not the case) and b) know that they would have someone willing to put in an effort just to work with them! That would make them feel special. On the other side of promotion I could see how sending people t-shirts, etc. could help spread my work to new eyes.

Permission (Important)

I produce content regularly. Whether it is for actual clients or personal work, I am constantly (oftentimes daily) putting out work that I've done to share. Every single person who decides to opt in to viewing my work through following me is giving me permission to 'whisper' to them at any point. Even here on Skillshare, next time I make a class every single person who took my first one will be notified. That is extremely important.

Purple (Important)

People talking about me is how one client leads to the next. It is very important that I give my clients something to talk about! That's why each project that I do I factor in a 'little extra'. It could be process work they can share on their social accounts, a set of stickers or even just alternate colour schemes. If I can catch a client off guard and surprise them, they will share me and my work with everyone they know.

Publicity (Not Important)

Up until this class I thought this was really important—and to a degree it still of course is. I figure I just need some bit of publicity like getting one of my pieces trending on Dribbble or Behance to rake in a big following and being the publicity snowball. But honestly, if I just continue to make good work and post it, that will come. Being contacted to be written about or featured or having my work trending on a site isn't something I can entirely be intentional about—oftentimes it just happens. In fact, I've been pretty bad so far at predicting which of my pieces will gain the most online attention. What's really going to make a difference is not going public but by doing great work for great clients and in turn creating great long-lasting relationships. Publicity is more of a bonus.

PR (Not Important)

In selling my services—not really a story. There are things that I have done that I would like to encourage others to do and in some ways would like to see me be a role model for (leaving the comfort of a job to strike it out as a freelancer, spending 2 years living away from home, balancing computer time with active time) but they are in no way marketing points. I wouldn't expect any one to hire me because I stopped doing web design to pursue what I love or because I do parkour in my free time (although I have gotten work through parkour). I have a personal story just as anyone else does but it is not the focus of my marketing.

Placebo (Not Important)

I'm going to cover placebo and pavlov in one go. They are important ideas for me to keep in mind for my actual work—that certain colours, fonts, imagery, etc. gives across familiar emotional responses and sets people up to expect particular things. But for marketing, they are not very important outside of making sure that I visually brand myself as how I want to be seen.

Pavlov (Not Important)

See placebo.

Persistence (Important)

One thing to me that separates the great illustrators from the amateurs is the persistence to create quality work. There are PLENTY of illustrators who will slack on a project here or there or give in to constrainst of projects and produce something mediocre. It is incredibly important to me to persistently produce great work that I am proud of and can stand behind. All it takes is one project that doesn't look like it matches up to what I typically produce for people to question what they will get from me. "Will I get good work or is there a chance he'll have a bad day and it won't turn out as nice?". Outside of this persistence covers integrity which may be THE most important thing for people to believe I have. If I do work that people wouldn't expect of me or abuse the permission others have given me by bomboarding them with ads I am being out of integrity and inpersistant. And there's no repairing the damage that does.

Place (Not Important)

Aside from the obvious visual branding that to me covers the idea of place, I don't think that place is too important to me. My website is about the only place that I occupy and I do believe it is important that people have pleasant experiences there but it's my work I think that's really going to drive that. This is not something I have to put too much focus into.

Personalization (Not Important)

Obviously, every project I do is personally catered to the client and circumstances but that is not what this is about. From a marketing perspective, it is not important that I cater my message down to the individual. Yes, a level of personalization is necessary to make sure I am correctly addressing my target audience but that more falls into placement to me than personalization.

People like us (Not Important)

There isn't any sort of clique I am of trying to form of people who hire my services. And if I was, I think I'd have a poor time of it. I do have a particular style that I think will appeal to some prospective clients more than others and I do think it important that those people get the sense that I am the illustrator for them. But I don't think this is a category that is too important to tackle in my marketing.

Now that I have gone all of the P's I have decided that my top three are:

  • Positioning
  • Placement
  • Purple

Setting these three as my 'backbone' will ensure that those who are looking for someone like me will be able to find me with ease, know exactly where I fit as an illustrator and be so blown away by what I do that they can't keep it to themselves.


Intermission #1

As I'm moving into the concepts for Emotion it's become very clear very fast that I need to figure some things out:

  • What is my story?
  • What experience do I want to create?
  • Who is my weird? What is their worldview?

I have totally been targetting everyone everywhere I think I can get an audience. And I'm seeing now that were I more specific about these questions above, I'd have a clear sense of where to put my time rather than all over the place. I'm going to read 1,000 True Fans and then tackle this.

"A True Fan is defined as someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce."

For anyone that's actually reading this wall of text I do hope you're getting value and my apologies for jumping all over the place. I'm just typing as I think here!

The idea behind 1,000 True Fans is really nice. The idea that I can just create what I love to create and those who enjoy it can keep me going while getting enjoyment out of it. It's simple, attractive and sounds enjoyable. Off the top of my head I can think of people who I would consider to be true or near-true fans. Were I to be releasing stuff for people to buy, they'd probably buy it up lol. I really have to decide if it's these people I want to go after or those I've been thinking of targetting this whole class—people who will hire me. Do I want to be hired to do work with companies and clients? Or do I want to create work for fans? It's actually a big question. Actually—when I really think of it. It's kind of a no-brainer. I think I just have a harder time believing that 'making a living' working for fans is possible rather than for clients and businesses. If I were to take money out of the equation I would just spend my days making illustrations that make me and those who follow my work happy. I think that is what I should shoot for—I need to find me some fans.


Intermission #2

Following up on the writing from yesterday, I'm going to tackle these questions before moving on. I feel much clearer now but want to make sure I am 100% so I can fully get the benefits of this class.

  1. What is my story?
  2. Who are my fans?
  3. Where will I find them?
  4. How will I nurture them?
  5. How will they support me?
  1. Following a great suggestion from fellow student James Scott, I really going to think visually about what my story would be. Who am I as an artist? I am someone who both in art and the rest of my life have a WIDE variety of experience. I have spent years jumping between web design, digital painting, animation, branding, environmental design, vector illustration, teaching and programming for work. And really, that's because these things are all exciting to me! And what this means is that I like mix. I like to animate my own illustrations, develop webpages to hold my paintings, create scripts and teach right here on Skillshare all I know about working with vectors. It's ok to be a generalist—in fact, it's awesome and more fun than any one thing alone! That's how I work and I think it's a great message to those people who maybe aren't all that interested in settling into a 'specialization' job. And, just as a little added pzazz, I have a visual style that is fun, playful and nice to look at :)
  2. People who I thought at the beginning of this class that I should stop focusing on! Fellow illustrators, designers and artists. Just as I drool over their work and refresh my feeds looking for more eye candy, there are those who do that for me. It's humbling, exciting and totally who I would love to interact with! I can like be fans of my fans... Amaze!
  3. Dribbble, Behance, Twitter, Illustration/Design meetups, SubReddits, etc. There are TONS of social platforms where people go to see great illustration work—I know because I visit them constantly. Likewise, I have always come back from meetups and conferences about illustration/design with new contacts and people I love to follow. So surely, people could find me there!
  4. Better phrased, what will I provide for them. For one, interaction! It would be a dream come true to just be able to talk shop/techniques with fellow artists. It's something that I search out relentlessly anyways! But aside from that there are a few things I could offer. Tutorials, tips, prints, work that they decide they want to see, work that I know they would like, blog posts about my journey, twitch streams, google hangouts, feedback on their own work, mutual praise.
  5. This is the big question and really it'll depend on what I'm giving them. It could be buying prints, signing up for my Skillshare classes, supporting me on Patreon, following me on Twitch or any other way. What's important though is that I set up a way of working that allows my fans not only to get value from me, but give it back.

With all this new-found insight I'm just going to tweak my P list here:

  • Purple
  • Persistence
  • Permission

Mmm, that's better... On with the class!



These are the following concepts I will be honing in on for Emotion:


What you get with me is individual to me and me alone, and that's important to get across. I am not like other illustrators and I do not offer the same thing and therefore it doesn't make sense to even compare things like price with another. What the means is it is important that people understand my brand, my story and who I am. In having that happen, when they want what I specifically have to offer, there won't be any alternatives.

Experience & Wow

I want to BLOW people away during their experience of working with me. So much so that can't help but tell their friends, business partners, etc. how great it was and how happy they are with the end results. This means a lot more effort from me, but it's effort I give willingly. I work a 'Something Extra' piece into all my major projects just as icing on the cake and to give my clients an experience of "This guy cares."


The more and more I go through this class the more I see how important it is for me to tap into 'my crowd.' There is a group out there that wants exactly what I have to give and I just need to find them. They're my weird and I love them! Because aiming at everyone means I'm going to hit no one.


Once I have my weird, this is all that matters. I must continue to be loyal to them and they will continue to be loyal to me. And when this is the case we will both benefit, have a great relationships and be genuiely happy to be in one another's lives.



Here are the terms I'll be focusing on for Change:


Yes, I am 'findable' but I am slowly starting to generate an awareness about me amongst other illustrators/designers. And that's exactly what I need to continue to do! If these people can get my story and bring that to others they are working with, it'll be a huge success.


People need to see me as someone with expertise, skill and in the case of my Skillshare classes, someone who really SHOULD be teaching. I think in the intros to my classes I should tout some credentials then—something more than "I'm an Illustrator."


I really love the idea of making goodies for free. Maybe I could make a shorter Skillshare course for free, or provide some assets? Even streaming me working here and there I think would be a great way to bring in new people to my teaching!


This goes hand-in-hand for me with Persistence—one of the backbone P words I chose. If people see that I continue to produce great work, interact with fans/customers and eminate my story, it'll be a big win.


Honestly, this I feel is along the same lines as Authority and Loyalty to me. Which makes sense as Seth said when you have trust, everything else falls into place. If I have the trust of others they will listen to what I say, be interested in what I have to offer and want to work/interact with me. That's all I could ever want.





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