How Freelance Artists Can Find New Clients On Instagram

For artists of all types, Instagram is a great place to call home. Social media freelancing overall has gotten incredibly popular – with Instagram taking the main stage. After all, its visual nature is picture-perfect for sharing the works of animators, designers, and illustrators. It’s also a great tool for freelance artists to find new clients as over 1 billion people use Instagram

But, social media freelancing and the freelance artist market on Instagram is very competitive. It’s important for visual artists of all types to have a solid strategy for identifying and catering to their ideal client base to stand out from the crowd. 

In this article, you’ll find our top tips on securing your next best client.

Identify your ideal client on Instagram

The most important step for marketing on Instagram, or anywhere when social media freelancing, is to have a clear image of your ideal client. 

Instagram is a fantastic place to research and start creating your ideal client avatar. Your client avatar, ideally, would be someone who sends awesome referrals your way consistently, or, spends lots of money on your high-ticket items. They may even just be enthusiastic about the type of social media freelancing work you do, encouraging you often by liking and commenting on your posts. 

Imagine what this person is interested in and start researching on Instagram to locate them based on their interests. You can search using hashtags, keywords, or even specific companies you think this person or group of people might like. 

From researching, you’ll then be able to collect a series of relevant hashtags to include in your own posts, understanding what you can share on your account to grab the attention of your ideal clients. 

You should also connect with the people or companies you find in your search, by following them. This will help you commence an online relationship with your ideal client, where you’ll also learn more about what they’re seeking in artists and the social media freelancers they hire. 

Create a business account that appeals to your audience

Setting up a business account through Instagram is easy and allows you to access important tools that a personal account doesn’t provide. These include audience insights, Instagram ads, a contact button, and shoppable posts. 

Here’s how to convert your account.

Log in to Instagram, select the Menu option in the top right-hand corner by clicking on your profile picture. Select Settings > Account > Switch to Professional Account > Business to get your Business account started. 

screen grab of instagram side bar menu illustrating 'edit profile', 'change password' 'privacy and security' and 'switch to professional account'

Below, you’ll see the business account of the Montreal artist and illustrator @bentardif_illustrator – he mostly shares his own artwork and has created a beautiful portfolio for potential clients to browse. His bio includes his professional title and website – both important pieces of information to share.  

screen grab of social media freelancer page shows 3 graphic illustrations of work

Keep your brand identity and audience avatar in mind while creating this profile. It should appeal to your ideal client, but it shouldn’t stray far from the brand you want to project. Once you’ve set up your business account, you can begin fleshing it out to attract your ideal clients, using the Instagram algorithm.

Use the Instagram algorithm to your advantage by sharing useful content 

Instagram’s algorithm has changed many times over the years. But there are a few important steps that will always determine how well you perform in the feed as a social media freelancer. These steps are – to post consistently, engage back and, finally, use relevant hashtags for your niche. 

Audience members that previously interacted with your content are much more likely to see your posts in their feed again. So, post content that you know will interest and engage your audience. Don’t just post in-feed posts, but also stories – your most engaged audience members will always see your stories at the top of their feed so make use of this engagement.

If you don’t post consistently, the algorithm will stop making your posts a priority for your audience – as a freelance artist/social media freelancer, this can sometimes be hard to get back.

To avoid this, keep active and engaged online! If someone leaves a comment, engage back. Instagram’s algorithm takes into consideration the accounts you spend the most time interacting with, so engaging often will give you more opportunities to grab the attention of your ideal client. 

For some ideas check out the @livingstov account, publishing regularly – and sometimes even multiple times a day!

screen grab image of social media freelancer showing three graphic illustrations of work

They even respond to comments. You too should come up with a good content plan, scheduling Instagram posts to go out multiple times a day. The more posts you publish, the more likes, engagement, and sales you will start to generate. 

screen grab of two comments, interaction between social media freelancer and a viewer

Create a mini ‘portfolio’ on your Instagram page to show off your work

So, as a social media freelancer, you’ve now got a solid plan in place to market yourself on Instagram and gain the attention of your ideal client. Now, it’s time to start showing them what you’ve got! Instagram provides the perfect platform to display some of your latest and best animations, sketches, and ideas. 

Your page could be a smaller version of your artistic portfolio, easily accessible by anyone that wants to check out your style. This should also be constantly updated, with all of your latest work. Show the world what kind of social media freelancer you are and what you’ve been dreaming up! 

Check out @kristan.billing for some inspiration – She’s a pet illustrator, so she mostly shares portraits of pets she draws for clients.

screen grab of social media freelancer showing three illustrations of dog images

Write better captions

Just as important as the images you share, are the captions you write to accompany them. 

They’re easy to write. You can simply describe the image, write the story behind it, and even include a call to action. Below, are a couple of formulas we’ve come up with…

For instance, if you frequently share interesting content to do with your industry, explain how you feel about the topic – then ask your audience to share their opinion. Asking questions to encourage comments from your audience is a great way to keep the conversation going and make Instagram’s algorithm happy. Express opinion + ask audience opinion = easily engaging caption! 

If you mainly share your latest work on your account, you can express what your inspiration was, or what the process of creating it was like. Then ask your audience what their creative process is like, or what they’ve been dreaming about creating lately. Talk about your inspiration or process + ask the audience what their process is = great caption to use every time! 

In the image below, @kristan.billing tells her followers that she’s been busy creating holiday orders, and provides a personal update.

Use relevant hashtags for your niche 

Hashtags are what bring the lost sheep back to the shepherd. You could post an incredibly inspired, skilful artwork to your account, but if you don’t use the relevant hashtags, your awesome post will not be seen beyond your direct following – as a social media freelancer, this isn’t ideal. 

Hashtags can be separated into three distinct tiers: low, medium, and high competition. 

Low competition hashtags are those that have been used less than 50,000 times. When you type in a hashtag, you’ll be able to see right away how many times it has been used.

screen grab of hashtags displayed in the search bar of instagram with #instadesign

You should try to use mostly low competition hashtags to stand out, especially if you have less than 10,000 followers. But it’s important to use a mix of medium (50k-100k use) and high competition (+100k use) hashtags to drum up extra attention to your post. 

You will have to be creative to discover the low competition hashtags. Think about the keywords used in your niche, and then try adding a few extra words to them. But try not to be too creative and stumble into the Lost Land of Super-Low Competition Hashtags (less than 5k use.) Yikes! Your genius is too much for this world… 

Check out this post from @neil_a_stevens – this is a great display of how you use hashtags!

As a social media freelancer and artist, they’ve provided a good mix of low, medium, and high competition hashtags. For some quick inspiration, here’s a great list of graphic design hashtags that will instantly boost your engagement!

Network in your DMs 

The direct message feature in Instagram is your portal to a world of opportunities. Whenever possible, connect with other social media freelancers, freelance artists and potential clients using direct message. Start by introducing yourself and sharing what your niche is – go on to explain why you’re drawn to them and what you can offer! 

Building a solid network of fellow creatives, by simply having personal conversations, is a great way to move up in your career trajectory and an awesome way to be memorable for your ideal client! 

Engaging on potential clients’ Instagram posts is one step towards achieving a new network connection – but, writing a personal message is like taking five steps in the right direction. So, what are you waiting for? Be brave and send that message! 

Share reviews and testimonials

Having glowing reviews from clients is, essentially, the golden ticket for a social media freelancer. This is how you gain more respect and work – so, whenever you get a review, share them on your Instagram page! This includes any and all positive feedback from your network or clients – make sure to post a screenshot and share it with your network. Doing this will enforce a positive feedback loop, keeping your freelance network growing and your portfolio expanding. 

Here’s a good example from @finbo_designs.

It’s an image with a simple testimonial – it includes the name of the person who wrote the testimonial, along with the company’s name. 
You could even ask clients to record videos, as these look highly credible and are super engaging. Creating and editing video testimonials can seem like a challenge to both the client and you, but thankfully, there are tools like Vmaker that simplify the process.

Run ads on Instagram

Social media ads are a high-ticket value with a surprisingly low price point (if you get them right). When you’re ready to amp up your marketing efforts, and get your social media freelancing into gear, use Instagram ads to promote your business. You can easily adjust the demographics to cater to your ideal target market, with your ad showing up in the feed of hundreds or even thousands of your new favourite fans and clients! 

Make sure to create a compelling ad that speaks to your unique value proposition, your personality, and share a piece of your favourite artwork. But watch out: you might have to stop running your ad when your calendar fills up with work quickly! 

Now, get some clients on Instagram!

If your goal is to put your art out there to catch the attention of your ideal clients – as a social media freelancer, Instagram has everything you need. 

You may be nervous about marketing your business, but don’t be! Start small: post new pictures with niche-specific hashtags to increase your audience reach. Then, start following ideal clients and interact with their content. When you feel more comfortable, send them a message to say “hi” and express how much you enjoy their work or their business. You can then scale it up – ensuring to consistently post engaging content/artwork for your followers. Eventually, your network will flourish.

Above all, don’t give up. Sometimes it can feel like you’re shouting into the void, but all of us have felt that at one point. As a social media freelancer, take the specific steps laid out here and watch as magic begins to happen for you too! 

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Rachel Bowland

Rachel Bowland is the content manager at Social Marketing Writing and Creatiwitt - she likes to write about marketing and design.