When I started hand-lettering, I began by posting my work on Instagram. I’d add hashtags to get likes. I thought those likes were worth something. I’d see more established lettering artists getting hundreds of likes. They had thousands of followers. At the time, that was the “success” I was working towards.

I wanted to become an established lettering artist. I wanted to attract clients and get hired for commission work and I thought I could do this by gaining popularity on social media.

I wasn’t necessarily wrong, but I wasn’t entirely right either. I was approached by people interested in work, but it wasn’t the big kind of work I was looking for. Interest from serious clients didn’t come about until I positioned myself as a professional.

Establishing Professionalism

The problem was that I was approaching this with an artist mentality and not a business mentality. What kind of established professional is going to hire someone via Instagram — or any other social media?

Social media channels can be a great way to reinforce your work as an artist, but you also need to show that you’re a professional.

A prospective client could look at my finished work and think it’s great. But what that finished work doesn’t demonstrate is the objective decision-making expertise that I can bring to a project. It doesn’t show my creative process and it doesn’t prove to that prospective client that I can bring them value in their unique situation.

Show the client what it’s like to work with you and how you can provide value to their brand.

The Power of Case Studies

A case study is a complete presentation of the work done for a specific project. Using words and imagery, it should detail the problem you had to solve, the process of how you solved it, and the final outcome.

If you can obtain quantifiable metrics of how your work impacted the client’s business, that is also great information to include.

Self-initiated case studies

If you’re in the “chicken or the egg” situation where you want to make case studies for your work but you don’t actually have client work under your belt to make a case study, that’s okay.

You don’t need to have a real client project to make a case study.

Here are 2 approaches you can take:

  1. Make up a business. Create a fake a problem that a real client could relate to and solve it.
  2. Pick a local business. Study that business’s brand and identify what is working well for them and what is not. Identify their problems and solve them. A great aspect of self-initiated work for a real business is that you now have the opportunity to approach them and sell your solution to their problems.

When a real client comes along, they won’t care whether or not the projects you’ve created case studies for are for real clients. What matters is that they see how capable of solving problems you are. They’ll identify with the work you’ve done and envision how you can help them.

The Secret to Curating Case Studies

Curating a case study can be a lot of work. It requires a lot of writing, photographing, and formatting the final presentation. The secret is not to save it for the end of the project.

Photograph your process throughout the entire project lifecycle

Take pictures of your sketches and notes. You don’t need to edit them and make them presentable yet, but this will relieve you of the burden of gathering your work and setting up a photoshoot at the end of the project. If you vectorize a logo, record your vectorization process via video or screencast. Even if you don’t include it in a case study, it might be valuable later.

Keep a project journal

Use Evernote or just create a text document. Write notes about your discovery, the bumps you encounter, the changes of direction, etc. Write down everything. There are many little aspects that you’ll quickly forget. These will be handy when writing the final case study.

Once you finish the project, half the work is already done and the rest requires little thought. Piece what you’ve documented together into the final presentation.

As you create more case studies, you’ll find efficiencies in your process that will make them easier to create.

Become a Professional

Case studies create a strong distinction between an artist beginning their career and a professional creative with a firm understanding of business.

If you prove your expertise with case studies, you are establishing yourself as an authority in your craft and this will undoubtedly increase your client demand.