Finding work as a Freelance Artist - The Best Places to get Art Commissions

Freelancing

There are a lot of places you can advertise commissions out there on the internet.

Some places are more effective than others, and choosing the right places may be the difference between a fun and lucrative career, and a career of stress and empty bank accounts.

From the experiences of myself and my peers, the best places to get character art commissions are Reddit and Facebook Groups - on both of these platforms it's easy to find large and active communities that are willing to spend money on personal character commissions.  

Let's take a closer look at each platform and how to get character commissions on them, plus discuss some other options that might be worth trying:

Selling art commissions on Reddit

Reddit is a gigantic forum broken into smaller communities, known as subreddits, for every topic under the sun right down to tiny little niche topics.  There are LOADS of subreddits that love character art, some even with millions of subscribers.  At the time of writing, Reddits reports 330 million active monthly users.

On Reddit, a single post going viral in the right subreddit can get you many thousands of dollars in commissions.

I know from personal experience.

Any hobby in which players spend a lot of time with a single imaginary character - working on them, improving them, growing them - such as playing Dungeons & Dragons or World of Warcraft, are a prime group for character commissions.

There are plenty of subreddits that fit this description, and even more subreddits that fall slightly outside of this description but might still provide a lot of opportunity.

The player’s grow so attached to their characters that an opportunity to immortalize them in a painting is very appealing.

There are subreddits designed specifically for advertising art commissions, but it’s my opinion that most of the traffic to those subreddits are actually artists, and not clients.  I feel it’s more effective to go to fandoms and show relevant work instead.

How to get work here?

Spend time looking through Reddit and finding subreddits other artists post their work to.  Note down all the subreddits you think your work would fit into.

To get you started, my favorite subreddits to advertise in are:

r/DnD

r/ImaginaryCharacters

r/CharacterDrawing

Make sure to familiarize yourself with each individual subreddit’s rules, as each is independently moderated by its community, and rule breaking is taken very seriously on Reddit.  Breaking one rule can get you banned from that specific subreddit or even suspended across the whole of Reddit.

Post a high quality piece of art to each subreddit once a week.  Don’t post them all at the same time, as Reddit’s moderators may see that as aggressive marketing and delete your posts or suspend your account.  Space your posts out throughout the day or week.

In each post, where the rules allow, leave a comment telling people that you’re open for commissions, where they can find more of your work and how to contact you.

Add more subreddits to your weekly rotation as you find them, and stop posting to the ones that don’t seem to be gaining you any traction.

At first, your posts probably wont get much attention, but now and then you’ll have posts that explode in attention compared to your average post.

Over time, you should find your posts do better and better on the platform as people start to recognise and follow your work.  You should find the amount you get contacted for commissions increases over time too.

Lastly, some Reddit users can be picky about what content appears in which subreddit.  If you get negative comments or down-votes, don’t take it personally - as long as you are staying within the rules just continue to do your thing.

Facebook

At one point in time I used Facebook to keep people updated on what I was up to, and keep an eye on what my friends were up to.  Nowadays, I only use it when I want to advertise my work!

Like Reddit, Facebook has loads of groups dedicated to particular interests.  Once I got used to advertising on Reddit, doing the same thing in Facebook groups was very similar, with similar results.

Facebook groups are similar to subreddits, but tend to consist of more casual members.  This may be because of Facebook’s wider appeal and household use compared to Reddit. This also means that rules are enforced a bit more casually too.

In practice, this just means that the experience will be very similar but usually slightly less effective compared to posting in Reddit.

How to get work here?

Spend some time finding suitable groups to post your art and seek commissions.

To get you started, my favourites are:

Pathfinder

D&D Fantasy Art

Like Reddit, each group has its own rules and moderators, so familiarise yourself with them.  

Post a high quality piece of work to each group once a week, and in the description mention that you are open for commissions, where to find more of your work and how to contact you.  Add more groups to your posting schedule as you find them.

Over time, as long as you are friendly and add value to the group, your posts should do better as the members become familiar with you and want to support you.

Just like Reddit, some users may leave negative comments, but as long as you are not upsetting the moderators of the group you have no reason to worry.

Honorable mentions

Artstation

Artstation is not built like Reddit or Facebook at all.

Artstation is a site for artists to share their work, whether aspiring, amateur or professional. The majority of the work is of characters, in the fantasy and science fiction genres.  Because of this, art directors and potential clients actively browse this site looking for the right artists to work with.

For this reason, if you’re a character artist, if you work in the fantasy or science fiction genres, or if you want to get work in the entertainment industry, it’s worth having a presence here

You get work on Artstation by keeping a portfolio of your work here.  Do your best to keep it up to date and curated, get rid of old and ugly work if necessary, or place it in a folder out of the way.

I personally have been contacted multiple times by art directors and prospective clients on artstation, leading to good work in a few instances.  

Besides this, having a portfolio is advised if you are going to advertise on Reddit and Facebook groups, and Artstation is a great place to host it.

Twitch

Twitch is a streaming platform, originally for gaming streams but it has developed a small but thriving art section that usually fluctuates between 2k and 10k viewers every day, depending on the time.

People stream all kinds of art including digital painting, drawing, sculpting, animation etc

Twitch is unique because of the audience interaction.  

While you work on your art, people will come by and watch you work, ask questions, and sometimes even commission you for work.  Second to actually meeting clients in the flesh, your clients get the chance to meet you and get to know you properly in a way no other platform really can. Some clients will see it as a bonus that they get to hang out with you and watch while you create their painting.

If you’re charismatic or confident, Twitch might be a great place to work on your commissions and get passive advertising at the same time. If you don’t feel charismatic or confident enough, Twitch streaming is actually a great way to build charisma and confidence.

Between streams, get to know other streamers and make friends in their communities, especially those that also do commissions live.  You’ll be able to help each other get work, and their viewers are also likely to stop by your stream now and then.

Twitter

Twitter is a social network that relies on tiny, bite-sized posts from it’s users.

Twitters main advantage as a social media platform is that users can retweet something and show it to their followers, giving each post you make the potential to go viral and get a lot of eyeballs on you.

If a piece of work you share is retweeted by the right user, it could end up in front of a load of potential clients.

However, because Twitter runs on bite-sized content, the platform moves so fast that it needs a LOT of posts to build a following there.  Its a platform built on conversation, and conversation is what it wants from you.

Twitter wants quantity from you, so share a lot.  Share your thoughts, your sketches, your works-in-progress, your finished pieces, share something old, share the same thing multiple times.  

Talk to other artists, talk to your followers, and retweet things you like.  I’d advise you to concentrate on sharing things relevant to your audience, and minimize the amount you tweet about other things.

There are also occasional art sharing events, usually with a specific hashtag, that can help to get your work out in front of the right audience.

Instagram

Instagram is an image sharing network, and it thrives on art and photography.  

From that description, you’d think it would be the best place for artists to post their art and find clients, but unfortunately that’s not quite the reality.

I see this platform as a giant gamble, as the algorithm can bless you one day and curse you the next.  If you can hit on something that the platform resonates with, you have the potential to quickly grow a following - but the value of that following is up for debate.

Most Instagram users are there to look at photos and at art, and not much else.  They may leave a like or a comment, but the chances of someone doing any more than that is extremely slim, and the chances of them putting down money on a commission is even slimmer.

Use commission and character art hashtags to get your work out in front of the right people.  Users rarely read the full description on a post, so start each post mentioning that you are available for commissions.

If you are able to post something that the algorithm likes, pushes out to the platform, and gets you a lot of attention, and then you are able to repeat that phenomenon, your views and follower counts will increase very quickly.

Keep letting your followers know that you do commissions, and occasionally you’ll be contacted by some of them.

Discord

Discord is an app designed for hosting communities, and has many that are centered around fantasy gaming and character art, just like Reddit and Facebook.  Discord communities are normally much smaller, so posting to one gets your work seen by a lot less eyeballs.

To be effective you will have to be part of many discords and frequently post to them all.  It is better use of your time to exhaust efforts with Reddit and then Facebook first, and only then add Discord communities to your posting rotation.

Deviantart

Deviantart has a job forum and groups, so again it’s a similar situation to Reddit and Facebook.  The popularity of Deviantart has decreased over time, meaning the chances of finding work there are lower than they used to be.  The audience is generally younger, and has much less money to spend, which is reflected in the average price of character commissions here.  There is also a large amount of competition in the forum from artists willing to accept very little money for work.

All that said, I would only post to Deviantart groups and the forum if you’re regularly posting to all of the platforms above and still want even more places to put your work.

How I recommend you advertise your work

Step 1 is to make an Artstation account and upload your current portfolio there. Keep this portfolio as up to date as you can, and make your highest quality work the most visible.  Lower quality work should be moved toward the bottom of the gallery, combined into a multi-image post or even removed completely.

Search for subreddits and Facebook groups that other artists are posting to and you think your work would fit with.  Pay attention to the rules these communities have, as if you break them you risk being banned.

I recommend posting a good piece of character art once a week in select subreddits and Facebook groups, directing people to your Artstation to see more work and asking them to email you to discuss commissions. If you aren’t able to make enough high quality work to post a new piece a week, you should be able to re-post art after about 6 months without getting in trouble.

Over time, if you need more views every week, add more subreddits and groups to your weekly post.

Once you are already doing these things and if you still want more eyeballs on your work, try advertising on the other platforms that appeal to you most - Twitter, Instagram, Discord, Deviantart, or streaming on Twitch.

Keep working on your skills, keep advertising in the right places and eventually you’ll be swamped with work.

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