A creative's guide on how to get more clients, faster using Reddit and other free tools (1/2)
From a handful of followers to more than 60k karma points, I break down how I got from zero to hundreds of patient, respectful and most importantly paying clients over the last few years.
Hello there! I’m Gabriele - in art Flygohr - a multidisciplinary visual artist that likes creativity, personal growth and productivity. This is my journal!
In this post I will talk about how I used Reddit to get hundreds of patient, paying clients that respected my work and allowed me to make a decent living out of my art without needing UpWork, Fiverr or any other middlemen.
I tried to make it just one big post, but it was definitely too long for it to be comfortable, so I had to break it down in two parts and still leave out some stuff. Here’s a link to the second part! If you don’t want to miss my future articles anyways, please subscribe, it’s free!
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In this article we’ll look at:
The requirements for this guide
The problems of finding clients
The outline of my system / solution
And some homework for you at the end
I will now describe in detail what I did to get the system running, but first of all I want to make a few disclaimers here:
This post is geared towards digital artists, but it can work well for a variety of creative offers so I'll try to keep my tones as generic as possible
This took me years to perfect. You are about to read the fruits of literally thousands of posts, months of trials and errors and weeks spent perfecting my strategies. The first month I went freelance back in 2016 I made 350€, just enough to pay my share of the rent (I had two roommates at the time) and live off pre packaged noodles for weeks. I went through it so you don't have to
I am not saying that you need to be able to draw or write or whatever it is you are doing, because especially in the creative field the end result judgment is mostly subjective, most of the time. But I recommend you have already your own personal style, or at least one in development. We all change styles over the years, but if yours changes from deliverable to the next, you definitely need more consistency. Clients will notice that when you'll show them your portfolio
You don't need your own website or your own custom, business email (as that can be an added cost), although I'd recommend them because it makes your activity look more professional. You definitely need a portfolio of work tho, and referring to the point above, it needs to communicate a consistent style or at least have the different styles categorized appropriately. Don't let it be a mess of unorganized content of different style
You need to be a bit of a nerd and fiddle around with some tools here. If you are not, you definitely need to be in order to survive online. I'm sorry to say this but 2/3 of my daily activities are not creating stuff, but administrative work like what we are about to do here (fiddling with databases, automating some copy..). Basic spreadsheet knowledge is required for the Airtable bit
The problem ☝🏻
I was just starting out, I only had a handful of followers on Instagram and I didn't even know Reddit yet. Yeah, I was so innocent back then. If you, like I used to do, start Googling around for ways to make money as a creative freelance you find the same tips copy pasted over and over, but let's talk about the most popular ones:
UpWork and Fiverr. While good when you are actually an expert because they offer you payment protections and a centralized experience for your professional needs, they take fees that will impact either your final prices or your final earnings. On top of that, since they are so popular, they are also extremely competitive and are almost always a race to the bottom. Offer more, for less, mostly at your own expenses. As proof that I know what I'm talking about, I actually started out on Fiverr doing portraits for 5$ (yeah, 5!!) and I managed to rack in hundreds of 5 star reviews and get my prices up to 50$. Still a small fraction of what I ask today
Advertise your services on your website and social media, constantly. That's alright, but it doesn't really get you anywhere if you have 100, 500 or even 1000 followers. As a matter of fact, I have 10k followers on Instagram and I managed to convert into clients maybe 1, or 2, of them. Yeah, single digits. The percentage of people that will actually spend money on you from your social media alone is very, very small. So, you need to advertise your services to the right audience
If your stuff is good, clients will notice. Again, true to an extent but unfortunately I know plenty of skilled artists, way more talented than what I could ever be, still struggling to make ends meet and fiddling everyday with a few dozens followers. As I said, it’s a matter of targeting the right audience as so to not waste any effort and years of your life, too
Enter Reddit 🤓
Let me just start by saying that Reddit is awesome, regardless of what you are into. There are communities for everything, some are healthier than others but nevertheless, spend a few days customizing your home feed and you'll be hooked there for life. And if you do it well, your home feed will become something inspiring, constructive, that gets you inspiration and willpower - not just mindless doomscrolling.
The main difference from other social media is that for every topic there are a just handful of communities, often only one. It's not hundreds of thousands of adorable pet pages like on Instagram or Facebook. It's just one, and it's r/aww. And all the people on Reddit that like cute pics are there. It’s like 36 millions people.
My point here is that there is probably just a few communities related to what you are offering, and ALL the people that are on Reddit with an interest in that particular thing are there. It's not the whole internet, but it's still a lot of people you can target specifically.
Even more specifically, there are subreddits (that's the name of the communities on Reddit) where you can post looking for jobs. There are generic ones (which I discourage you to use since they are as crowded as UpWork and Fiverr or as unhealthy as r/slavelabour), but the most profitable for you are the ones that are dedicated to your niche. I am, unfortunately, an expert only in the ones regarding digital art commissions but there are subs for writing, game design, 3D work, everything!
That's great you'd say, and you'd rightfully stop reading here and go to Reddit and start posting. But let me save you some time: after a while, your posts won't work anymore. You might be flagged for spam, you might get negative karma.. you need a strategy. And mine works: here's my Reddit profile with over 60k karma points (meaning that people 'liked' my posts so many times). Here’s an example from one of my most popular posts too
My system 🗒️
Here's my formula:
I have a database containing all the subreddits I can post to for what I offer
The database is in Airtable, which is basically a spreadsheet on steroids, where I can set rules and filters and even automate some data entry and display
Every day, the database tells me where I can post based on the specific rules of the subreddits (most have rules for how often you can post)
I do the posting, using titles, images and wording I have prepared in advance
Every month I sit down and I tweak my templates, especially the images, to vary things up. I also do some maintenance and remove / add new subs to the database depending on a variety of factors including performance and conversion (aka how many clients I get from a specific sub)
Less work. Really, it takes 5 minutes a day once the system is in place (ok, there's more time spent replying to comments, emails and all that, but that's the rewarding part!)
Having systems, not goals, is the best productivity advice you'll ever hear. It works wonder over time
It frees time for drawing and gets you out of the social media grind
Not being on UpWork or Fiverr frees you up of some fees. You are in control of the totality of your income here (and with that comes responsibility, how we’ll see later)
Finding the right subreddits 🔍
I don't have much to say about this, as they will likely depend on your niche. Here's a few I use for digital art commissions:
Additionally, here are some more generic ones which I don't recommend posting into but that you can use to first find people that are posting about services similar to the ones you are offering and second to stalk their profiles and see where else are they posting to. Do not reinvent the wheel!
Subreddits come and go. You should always be on the lookout for any sub you might be missing.
Some homework ✍🏻
That was it for today, I will get to the actual Airtable setup and the posting strategies in the next part of this series. If you liked this one, please consider subscribing! It’s free, it would mean a lot to me and it would allow you to never miss an article from me 😄
I would like to encourage you to spend the next couple days:
Signing up to Reddit if you didn’t already
Set up your profile there
Customize your feed by subscribing to a few subreddits and looking around to get a feel of how things work there
Most importantly, start looking for the subreddits that will let you post looking for work in your specific creative field and make a list of them, we’ll use it in the next part
If you have any questions please leave a comment below, I’ll make sure to get back to you as soon as I can!
About me 👤
I am a self-taught digital artist from Italy. I am a multidisciplinary artist and a huge nerd. It means I can draw, paint, code, write, compose, sculpt and more. I also like books, RPGs, documentaries and I might be a productivity junkie.
You could say I started out as a homeless, alcoholic punk degenerate in the early 2010s. Now I have a few assistants, a studio and lots of work I love on my plate. Most importantly, I’m sober and I can afford takeaway food multiple times a week. This is my journal.
Every few days I dissect some of my most recent projects, activities and discoveries. I try to make it a 5 minutes read. You can find lots of links and a bio on my main website, or you can follow me on Twitter where I post daily.
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