The Big Day: zero2illo LIVE 2012

Thu 15th November, 2012 @ 9:54pm by zero2illo

After 6 months in the making, Saturday 10th November finally rolled around and the first zero2illo LIVE one-day Illustration Conference took place in Nottingham, UK.

First of all I want to say a big thank you to everyone who attended and helped out with the inaugural zero2illo LIVE conference – and a MASSIVE thank you to all the speakers who gave up their Saturday to generously share their experience and wisdom with us all: Rod Hunt, Leigh Hodgkinson, Kate Slater, Kate Hindley, Katriona Chapman, Stanley Chow, Victoria Pearce, Stephanie Amster, Nicky Lander and Claire Cheung.

Here’s a round-up of the day’s events along with some of the wisdom shared by our fantastic speakers, live tweeted throughout the day by Lea.

Keynote Talk: Rod Hunt

The day started with an inspiring key note talk from Rod Hunt, in which he showed us a selection of his work before sharing some of the secrets of his success including:

  • How did Rod get all of the amazing projects he’s worked on: Marketing.
  • Have a great product & market it well…you *must* invest in your marketing, no matter how brilliant your work.
  • You are the brand…you’re not selling your picture, you’re selling yourself.
  • A signature style is very important…work that is recognisable to you.
  • Your work on your portfolio website should be reachable within one click.
  • Flickr is a very powerful tool, but be descriptive when putting your images up – images get picked up by search engines really well from there.
  • Target your printed promotion to the clients you want to work for.
  • Competitions are another great marketing channel.
  • Always put your business first….confirm rights & usage, get a contract before starting a job and NEVER give the copyright away
  • Understand the real commercial value of your work and hold your ground i.e. if a business will make £10m & you’re only being paid £1k, something isn’t right!
  • Get yourself a copy of The Illustrator’s Guide to Law & Business.
  • “Think globally” ~ 50% of Rod’s work this past year has been from international clients.

Panel 1: Getting Clients & Commissions (Speakers: Rod Hunt, Kate Slater, Leigh Hodgkinson & Stanley Chow)

Our first panel of the day was a discussion on how our speakers got the jobs/commissions that allow them to have ongoing careers as professional Illustrators.

Here’s what they had to say:

  • Always be marketing, not just when things are quiet (KS).
  • Do things that are personal to you too – your passion will show through (KS).
  • Important to use social media as a tool for marketing…do what you like and get it out there (SC).
  • Indulge your personal interests in your illustration – it sets you apart & makes you different (RH).
  • Things to avoid when marketing: mass mailing, untargeted contacts (KS).
  • How much time do you work *on* your biz? On avg 1/3 time on illo, 1/3 time on biz stuff, 1/3 on self promotion (RH).
  • Use tweeting & social media every day to keep profile up (SC).
  • Take advantage off opportunities not originally on your radar or plan and it may lead to great things – Great term for unplanned opportunities! ~ “Creative off-roading” (LH).
  • Be true to yourself, there’s no set template for an illustration career…carve out your own path (LH).
  • Turn off the internet & turn off email if you really want to get stuff done (RH).
  • Stop drinking to get more done! (SC).
  • Know what to send publishers to get 1st book: *Not* finished books, show potential…short synopses, summaries (LH).
  • Show you’ve got lots of ideas to a publisher – not just a 1 book wonder – with ideas, summaries etc. (LH).
  • Focus more on the business side of your business from the very beginning (KS / RH).

Panel 2: Making It On Your Own (Speakers: Katriona Chapman, Kate Slater & Kate Hindley)

Our second panel delved into how we can cut out the middle-man (Art Directors, Publishers etc) and sell our Illustrated goods directly to our audience through sites like Etsy.

Here are some of the key points they made:

  • There’s room for everybody…any illustrator can create and sell their own stuff (KH).
  • Get a good camera or hire a pro to take good photos of your products ~ well worth it/vital if you sell online (KS).
  • Attend craft fairs to help promote & sell products – can be hit & miss though (KC).
  • Keeping track of your inventory if you’re selling through shops is tricky but *very* important (KC / KS).
  • Price your things affordably & at a price suitable for the audience/market (KH).
  • Reviewing the market for competitor pricing on Etsy etc. is useful in setting your prices (KH).
  • Make sure you’re paying yourself for your time etc. to produce & sell your things (KS).
  • Really satisfying selling directly to customers & knowing exactly who they are and getting personal feedback (KC).
  • Great customer service is vital e.g. refunding if things get damaged in the post (KC).
  • Teaming up with other illustrators on your own self-creation projects can help share the risks & costs (KH).
  • Around £400 for your own printer to make own prints etc. seems to be around cost of printers our panelists have all invested.
  • Offering free postage (build it into your prices) is a great incentive for customers.

Panel 3: Deal Makers & Deal Breakers (Speakers: Stephanie Amster from Nosy Crow, Nicky Lander from Igloo Books and Victoria Pearce from Illustration Ltd)

In this panel we looked at the Illustrator/client relationship and what both impresses and annoys the clients we work with/for.

Here are some of the gems they shared with the audience:

  • Illustration Ltd get 200 emails per month looking for representation – they take on only 8 Illustrators per year (VP).
  • When selecting illustrators to represent, agencies are likely looking to fill stylistic gaps (VP).
  • One criteria they sometimes look for at Igloo Books is speed i.e. how quickly someone can work (NL).
  • Novelty, availability, willing to do a character sample are all things Igloo Books look for (NL).
  • Need to show the ability to illustrate a children’s story i.e. not just 1 bear (SA).
  • Do they have a blog? Are they on social media? What drives them creatively? ~ this can sway selection of an illustrator for an agent (VP).
  • Follow publisher’s social media channels on Twitter & FB where they may share who/what they’re looking for for a project (SA).
  • Submit targeted & appropriate images to send to publishers – check what kind of stuff they typically do & make it fit (SA).
  • Originality is priceless (SA).
  • Publishers & agents want to see a continuity in styling in your portfolio – not random images & styles all over the place.
  • Can you pull off a 30 page picture book?” ~ a publisher won’t want to be worried that your style may change throughout.
  • Portfolio websites: Quality vs quantity of images.
  • Decorated envelopes are in…instantly stand out (SA).
  • Publishers & agents know their markets – if they don’t think your work is appropriate but suggest alternatives…listen! (SA).
  • You’re only as good as your last image…keep your portfolio moving and fresh (VP).
  • Sometimes you need to be even more creative when you do digital illustration (SA).
  • Working digitally it can be much more difficult to have a signature style but try to find & show one (NL).
  • Always ask a client/publisher how they heard of you (NL).
  • Always clarify & understand the commercial terms e.g. when you’ll be paid etc (NL).
  • Make sure you also know the basics e.g. What final file formats are needed? etc. (NL).
  • If you’re less experienced, never be afraid to ask the questions you want to know (SA).
  • Know your brief & ask if you’re unsure (SA).
  • Being pleasant & easy to work with e.g. thanking clients, little courtesies is a great way to be hired again (VP).
  • Remember your clients, agents, publishers are people too & like niceties on emails etc.! (NL).
  • Never take the work you get for granted…modesty and humility go a long way (SA).
  • Give it 6-12 months before trying again if you’ve already submitted something to an agent (VP).

Panel 4: Illustration 3.0 (Speakers: Victoria Pearce, Senior Agent from Illustration Ltd and Claire Cheung, tablet designer from WIRED Magazine)

In our final panel of the day we discussed the future of Illustration, trends and skills we need to brush up on to remain relevant in the industry.

Here’s a selection of some of the valuable advice they shared:

  • The future of Illustration is rosy – Illustration Ltd just had biggest & best year yet…very exciting times (VP).
  • WIRED UK publish work from 15-20 illustrators in every digital Wired edition, many moving (animated) (CC).
  • Tips for illustrators to make your illustrations easy to work on a tablet include keep backgrounds simple (so they can be extended) and provide Illustrations as layered files (CC).
  • Having skills to animate your own work makes it *much* easier for publishers like Wired (CC).
  • Because it’s such a new area, Wired very happy for illustrators to give animating a go (even if they’re brand new to it) (CC).
  • Negotiate additional usage rights for digital uses & platforms (VP).
  • Tablet design & illustrations will likely overtake print in the future (CC).
  • Invest in yourself and always develop your skill set (VP).
  • Adapt with the times…e.g. Photographers who refused to move to digital photography are almost out of the game now (VP).

We followed the panel discussions with an hour of networking and chatting – how often do you get to be in a room with 90 fellow Illustrators, eh?

Thank You…

We’ve received so many lovely tweets and emails since the event from attendees and want to thank everyone for their feedback, it really means a lot and makes all the hard work pulling the conference together totally worth it.

Here’s a selection of what some of the attendees had to say:

The Future: zero2illo LIVE 2013

Thanks to the great response we had to our first event, we’re planning to make this an annual event. Lea and I got straight down to business on Monday morning (making the most of Mali being at playschool!) and sat down for a de-brief and preliminary planning session for the 2013 conference.

Thanks to all of the attendees who have filled in our survey so far – your comments/suggestions will be invaluable in helping us shape an even better zero2illo LIVE 2013 conference.

Hope to see you all again next year :)

Note: Special thanks also to our Sponsors & Supporters:, James Brown, Andy Fox, Julien Decaudin, Lesley Vamos, Coen Hamelink and Alessandro Bonaccorsi.



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