Illustrators & Designers: Use reps to find work, or no?

I’ve toyed with the idea of hiring an Art Rep to find freelance work, but so far I’ve shied away; the most I’ve done was sign on with Vitamin T, which is a division of Aquent. They got me maybe three or four jobs in the past 3 years, but they’re free to sign up with (they just charge the clients a percentage on top of my fees).

Anyone care to share experiences with using reps? Good, bad ugly? Thanks in advance.

It sucks to be in the creative industry right now. There’s less and less room for qualified pros of any type. I see a lot of individuals and small groups trying everything they can to land gigs and clients, and none of it works much better than just traditional hustling, cold-calling and working the contacts.

Specifically, I see two recurring themes. One is for “someone” to bring in clients, often for the juiciest commission rates (10-20% of the first year’s billings is not uncommon). Hardly anyone ever takes the bait; hardly any of those do bring home any bacon.

The other is for small groups to pretend to look for “someone with X skills to join our small, vibrant, growing company and make the big bux.” Go ahead, call. They aren’t looking for your illo or writing or CS skills. They want your clients, Don Draper-raiding style. They don’t find any that way, either.

So no, reps and services and so forth aren’t going to do you much good. Build a portfolio with one of the stock agencies, keep hustling and may the force be with you.

Eventually, or so I hope for many reasons, companies will wise up to the fact that basic Photoshop skills in the hands of their secretary or admin assistant doesn’t really add up to what a pro brings to commercial creative. That Kinko’s or Minuteman Press isn’t really good enough. And that newly minted web geniuses are worth every penny newb graduates have always been worth, and not a centime more.