Last Saturday I got up super early, took the first train out of Norwich to Nottingham to attend Zero2Illo ‘LIVE’ a brilliant illustration conference set up by Jonathan and Lea Woodward. It was a series of talks and discussions centred around ways to progress your illustration career.
I arrived in Nottingham at about 8.30, so had plenty of time for a mooch around and to grab a coffee. What I saw of Nottingham seemed nice. There were some good looking abandoned factories as the train pulled in and there were also caves in the shopping precinct… I’d definitely like to go back and explore more of the city.
The event was held in Nottingham Contemporary, a striking art gallery in the centre of the city. Architecturally it’s very bold, and apparently inspired by the industrial factories that were in the area, and the silk market.
The conference started at 10.30. After some tea, and a chat, Jacqueline Bissett – a prominent UK fashion Illustrator provided a keynote speech, and a great insight into her career and working practices. She stressed the importance of being open minded and keen; she also talked about how her style has evolved over the course of her career.
Lea Woodward was up next, talking Strategic Business planning. She introduced us to her recommended business planning tool – the OGSM, – a kind of one page business plan – and with the help of brilliant illustrator Joy Gosney, talked us through how to fill it in, ensuring we get the most out of it. This was a really useful insight into how getting all your ideas and goals onto paper can help you achieve more. I’m definitely going to be taking this on board.
‘Adding an additional income stream’ was the title of the next panel discussion. Featuring Gemma Robinson (illustrator / creative coach) and Alex Mathers (Red Lemon Club / Ape on the Moon). It was really interesting to hear how other illustrators are adding to their career. Alex focusses on helping people via his website and earning a bit extra from selling banner space, and stock illustrations. He stressed the importance of having a passion, and purpose for your ‘extra’ work. Gemma is a creative coach. After becoming disillusioned with the lonely freelance life (I think a lot of illustrators can relate to this), she decided to get out and coach others. She talked about the hurdles she has had to overcome – not least her crippling fear of speaking in front of people, but now she does it for a living alongside her illustration work. Both are very inspiring cases.
One of the most useful parts of the day for me, was having my portfolio reviewed by Victoria Pearce – a senior agent at Illustration Ltd. She talked about what agents look for in a successful online portfolio site. She reviewed three peoples websites – Including mine – and talked about what was, and wasn’t working in each of them. Her advise was invaluable, and she stressed the importance of keeping lots of work on the front page, and avoiding too many click throughs. She was a great advocate for the one page website – apparently there’s a trend for them at the moment. Her thoughts and review of the day can be read here.
Ross MacRae from Bikinilists – the events sponsor, joined in a panel discussion alongside Alex Mathers and Jacqueline Bisset. Together they gave us some very useful insights into smarter ways to market ourselves in the digital age and how to connect with more potential clients via email. He stressed the importance of following up on connections, sticking to a regular routine and staying in contact with people.
Amy Taylor, a freelance accountant was up next. Her talk on accounting was fun, interesting and engaging, she gave us valuable advise on tax brackets, what you can and can’t claim expenses for (using a fab array of props) and the pro’s and con’s of becoming a ltd company.
‘How to animate your Work’ was the final talk by Claire Cheung, of Wired and Esquire digital magazines. She gave us lots of tips about the best way to optimize illustration work to be animated, should the need arise, and how important it was for illustrators to know this in the digital age. She went on to give us some pointers on how to go about animating it yourself. It was really inspiring, and I’m definitely going to give it a go when I upgrade to Creative Cloud.
All in all it was a brilliant day. I met lots of lovely, inspiring people, learned a lot and came out feeling inspired and motivated. Jonathan and Lea did a fantastic job of organising the day and although they’ve decided not to host another Zero2Illo LIVE event again, I really hope they come up with something similar – It was a great opportunity to meet other freelancers and pick up lots of tips and advise. The speakers were all fab and everyone had wealth of knowledge and experience to draw upon.