Getting an agent
Agents promote creatives in a number of ways, including, on their websites, by personal one-to-one presentations to commissioning art directors/buyers and direct email-shots. Promotions can take the form of postcards, desktop calendars and brochures. A reliable agency will have built up good relationships with art buyers and commissioners. Clients will come back time and time again if they get good service and quality.
Agents work very hard on behalf of their artists and apart from the promotional duties, most will run each project to make sure things go smoothly for artist and client alike. This can be as simple as making sure the artist has been briefed correctly, checking this against what usage and fees have been previously agreed and ensuring the artist delivers the roughs and final artwork to deadline and spec.
An agent is there to look after the artist's interests first and foremost and will negotiate the fees and usage terms on the artist's behalf. They will also offer advice to artists on how they may be able to improve their chances of getting work.
Using an agent's services has obvious benefits to clients and some art buyers will favour working with an agent as they will be more confident they will get a professional job knowing the fact the artist have be vetted by the agent. A client can also tap into a variety of talent in one place without having to traipse the web contacting artists individually.
Agents in general will always require exclusivity in the main country they operate in. The creative world is a relatively a small one and clients and art buyers over a period of time get to know where they can find certain artists. If an artist has two or more agents promoting their work, this ultimately causes confusion and the artist could be effectively pitching against themselves!
When a good agent takes on an artist, he gives that individual a valuable presence on its website but being promoted does not mean the artist will instantly get work. This depends on the artist's style and whether that style is commissionable and the types of clients the agent has contact with. Artwork can be beautiful and eye catching, but the content of the work maybe too abstract or specialised for most clients needs and may therefore result in less or no commissions.
This stresses the importance for artists to try and utilise their style in a wide variety of subject matter to widen appeal and tailoring their samples to potential future uses - you have to inspire art directors and designers to want to commission you. Artists that are able to carry their style across many areas stand a better chance of tapping into different markets and thereby not putting all their eggs in one basket. Artists should always be looking for ways to improve and update their styles on an ongoing basis to keep their work fresh.
Generally, with most UK agents, there are no fees associated with joining an agency other than providing digital and printed portfolio with samples. Some agencies charge varying percentage rates but it's usually around the 30 per cent mark. Agents have different policies on artist contributions to marketing costs and whether artists can keep their own clients.
An agent will look for commercial potential when looking to take on new signings. The work must be consistent in execution and style and have that extra 'wow' factor that sets it apart from the rest. Samples should be tailored to commercial use such as a book cover design or editorial articles. Don't be tempted to include the portrait of your neighbour's dog you did when you were at university unless it directly contributes to the portfolio as a whole.
The benefits of an artist having an agent are numerous. Their work may be seen by many commissioning clients in all industries and the agent's knowledge on fees, contracts, copyrights and re-usages will be invaluable. In the event of a problem arising with a job the agent's experience is vital in resolving disputes amicably. They also take care of all the invoicing and administrative tasks to do with getting the fees actually paid.
Artists just starting should not necessarily rush out and try and get an agent straight away. My message to artists is to do some marketing on your own first and at least you'll find out for yourself how difficult (or easy) it is to get work.
Some top agents on Creativepool:
EW Agency was created out of a desire to find refreshing and talented artists who are able to take on all kinds of challenges worldwide.
JSR is a Creative Management Agency, who put into each job the kind of heartfelt energy you’d expect from an agency with designs on being the best. Their talent teams will bring campaigns to life. Their people are select – photographers, illustrators, CGI animators, branded content creators – and they represent them because they prize their craft and excel at what they do. Put together they are a team capable of delivering across all platforms, formats and budgets.
Jelly London is a unique production agency representing a collection of the world’s finest creators. We work with renowned directors, animators, illustrators, lettering artists and designers to create fluid content across all media. We work with global agencies & brands to produce beautifully crafted, creative-led design, animation and illustration, both in-house & out.
By Joe Najman - NB Illustration