Earn With Your Art Part 2 — Finding a Niche

For part 2 of the ‘Earn With Your Art’ series we’ll be exploring the notion of operating within a niche, and how to find success as a visual-specialist within a particular field.

Read on for the skinny…

The Sub-Niche

Generalists do not fare well, in this day and age. With your creative services, the worst thing you can do is offer something ‘generic’. Successful creatives offer something unique, a creative vision that cannot be easily replicated, or found elsewhere. The generalist who does everything and anything is a commodity. These people compete on price, which is the absolute worst thing that you can do. There’s always a guy or girl in a developing nation who will do an equally good job, at a fraction of the price.

A great way to develop a specialism, is to attach yourself to a ‘Sub-Niche’. A sub-niche is a small topic, group, or community. For instance, after producing flyers / posters for regional dance events in my youth, I finally had access to internet… so I transitioned to a sub-niche of the music genre I was already working in (Drum n Bass, to Darkstep Drum n Bass). I was ecstatic to be working in a more aggressive scene, which suited the macabre / horror aesthetic I preferred to work in with my personal art. These were the Myspace glory days, and I fully immersed myself into the scene – which wasn’t too difficult, as I enjoyed the music and attending the events!!

As a fan of the genre, I had a deep understanding of the aesthetic mood / style to complement the music. This allowed me to provide an incredibly laser-focused service to the event promoters and record labels in this micro-niche. The Darkstep Drum n Bass scene has a small, but very passionate following internationally, so I was able to dominate with relative ease. At one point in time, I believe I was one of the most prolific artists for the genre.

In short, I became known as the ‘Darkstep Drum n Bass Artwork Guy’. I looked the part, I talked the talk, and even though my skills weren’t so sharp back then, I did give it my all. Now imagine, if I tried to play this game in a wider niche, such as Dance Music, in general. I don’t think I would have stood a chance in hell (I would have been decimated), competing with fiercely competent Digital Artists and Designers worldwide, specialists in their respective fields.

I’ve seen this tactic played out, time and again – to great success. I have colleagues from university and industry that have carved out considerable names for themselves, by specialising in a particular scene / sub-niche. Some of my peers have done very well in skateboarding, church / christian groups, urban hip-hop / grime music, fantasy / romance publishing sub-genres, and many other specialised fields.

The e-publishing boom created a huge new market for digital artists, and I got in fairly early – transitioning from music (which really didn’t pay that well), to producing book cover art. Whilst producing flyers, posters, and cover art in music, I also produced personal horror / macabre artwork on a regular basis, and shared to the (then) popular art platform DeviantArt (Brass Tacks: SHARE WORK OFTEN!!) . It was this work that provided my ‘in’, to the publishing world.

My horror art was discovered by an up and coming author on DeviantArt, who asked if he could use one of my artworks to illustrate one of his free fan-fiction stories, online. As a fan of the subject matter (Lovecraftian tales), and pleased with the fact that he asked permission – I told him to go right ahead and use the artwork, with a small credit linking back to me.

Some time passed, and the author reconnected with me, this time with a paid commission to illustrate a character for a new story. We worked through the job, and all parties were happy. Again, the client returned once more – he was now signed to one of the leading horror publishers on the planet!! He had a full book cover commission for me to undertake. The gig went well, and acted as my introduction to the horror publisher, who was keen for me to tackle more covers for the authors on their roster. That was it, I was in.

Now imagine if I had been prissy, when the author had first contacted me, and asked for a nominal fee for useage of the artwork? It could have jeopardised the opportunity of a lifetime. As we said before, this is a people-game. Humility and small acts of kindness will increase opportunities exponentially. Now this doesn’t mean give everything away for free – it means leverage your personal work when you’re starting out. If you you can use your work to build genuine connections, then go ahead and do it!! More often than not, it leads to paid opportunities that can get you started.

With a firm footing in the horror genre, I drew a line in the sand. I was ‘The Horror Guy’, and everyone was gonna know about it. This is my sub-niche, and I know it implicitly. I read the books, I watch the films, and even wear the dorky horror t-shirts. Hell… I even look a bit scary!!

To push the notion even further, with all online art submissions I sign off with the following: ‘(YEAR), Dean Samed – the Horror Specialist.’

I still take commissions outside of the genre, but anyone that follows my work KNOWS that’s my particular area of expertise, there’s never any doubt about it.

Think about your own specialisms and areas of interest. Consider the communities you already belong to, and how you can help solve problems with your creative services. We are inherently attracted to those similar to us, so that rapport can help build relationships — enabling you to grow your practice at a much faster rate.

Closing Comments:

A large portion of this article has been anecdotal and everyone’s journey / story is different, that’s a given… It’s still worth noting however, the power of specialisation and the growth it can afford your professional practice.

As a proven specialist, you have greater authority within a given niche / alongside the trust of your peers, and higher brand recognition — attributes not so easily gained within wider markets.

It’s a matter of positioning, a powerful factor that can make or break a fledgling career.

In the third installment of Earn With Your Art, we’ll be examining how you can improve the quality of your product, and increase your rates. Absolutely essential, if you plan to take your practice ‘full-time’. The new article lands next week, watch this space!!

Enjoyed the article? Show us some love in the comments 🙂

Dean Samed is a horror cover-artist who has worked for the biggest names in the genre. He now produces cinematic stock photography for NeoStock.com

Earn With Your Art – An Insiders Guide Part 1

The act of creation is a beautiful thing.

I’ve been a commercial artist for nearly 20 years now, and have reached a stage where I don’t rely on a (slave) job to get by. It’s a professional pay bracket that allows me to live in relative comfort, right here on the shores of sunny England. I spend my productive hours doing the things I love, building stories with awesome / creative people. I get up when I want, take days off at my leisure, and have the freedom to choose who I deal with, and when.

Whilst this sounds like paradise, it didn’t come without sacrifice or strife. To reach this stage took a considerable amount of practice, determination, and pig-headedness!! There’s great truth to the old adage that it takes 10,000 hours to reach ‘mastery’. Well it took that long and then some, but I got there in the end.

Alas, I sincerely believe I could have achieved my goals a LOT sooner if I had treated my pursuit with greater professionalism from the outset. There’s a great saying championed by the Network Marketing guys that captures this sentiment perfectly:

Treat your pursuit like a business and it will pay you like one… treat your pursuit like a hobby and it will pay you like one.”

It’s with this ethos, that I managed to quadruple my creative income within 3 short years – and I believe you can too.

I’m by no means a ‘Superstar’, and I don’t profess to being a guru of any description. However, I’m confident that you’ll find at least one or two nuggets of gold within this article series. Some information may be revelatory, some could even strike you as pure nonsense. The fact of the matter is, my approach has been dog-eared, and borderline ‘cowboy’ throughout most of my life. My trajectory was far from perfect. I believe, with enough grit – anyone can achieve their creative goals.

”So, what’s on the agenda Skip?”

This article series outlines the strategies I employed to reach self-sufficiency with Digital Art. Whilst the majority of the information is anecdotal, there’s also extensive insight from the (obscene amount) Personal Development / Business / Marketing books I’ve read over the years. Everything mentioned here has been field-tested, proven useful, and applied to my own practice.

Topics covered include Business, Customer Retention / Loyalty, Marketing, Branding, ‘Fast Money’, Posting Content, and a selection of Productivity Tips – to help you get the most out of your working day. There’s 10,000 ways to skin the proverbial cat, so the topics here have been narrowed down to those that pack the most punch.

The Social Media / Marketing content of this report is heavily weighted toward Facebook, particularly the amazing leverage of Personal Profiles and Groups, as opposed to long-form content (Blogging), or Microblogging platforms (Twitter). Commercial Art is a seriously interpersonal pursuit, TOTALLY a people-game. Rapport and communication are the two most important assets in your marketing arsenal. The platforms that allow your audience to see who you really are, usually come out tops.

To jazz things up a bit, I’m even going to throw in a few anecdotes from my youth. I’m hoping these stories will illustrate that no path is perfect, and the struggle is half the fun. Creative independence is the goal, but the real glory lies in the journey.

On a final note, everybody’s situation is different – I totally get that. As a single man with no dependents, I’m afforded certain freedoms that someone with a handful of kids, AND a gruelling day-job may not have. The content here is crafted with these factors in mind. Whatever your domestic situation, take what you can, and keep on trucking.

And now to quote the great King Théoden: So it begins!!


1999 – Newington Council Estate, England (THE GHETTO)

The stained computer lurched and whirred to keep up with the unreasonable demands. The CPU fan, coated in dust and nicotine, made a noise like a dentist’s drill as it struggled to maintain the system temperature. The desktop had been beaten like a rented mule, and on this sweaty summer night, both hardware and software ran at maximum capacity.

The awkward position I was sitting in wasn’t great for posture. I fidgeted in the crappy chair, in an attempt to try and ease the painful ache in my back and neck. I didn’t even care about payment anymore, whatever paltry amount that could be. I was tired, and my patience was wearing thin.

The two jokers sitting either side of me, were Mike and Wade, South-East promoters who had an event franchise that was going from strength to strength. We were gathered in my small bedroom to produce an event flyer in realtime, without internet resources or any serious sense of direction. They were making big names for themselves in the underground dance scene, and as an impressionable 15 year old kid I was eager to be part of it. However… working with these dudes was ALWAYS a royal pain in the ass.

The weed really wasn’t helping, either.

The duo barked out random demands, and I scurried onward with the task like a stoned Bob Cratchit.

“Stretch out the title so it’s bigger.”

“As far as it will go, but don’t forget the bleed!!”

“NO zombies today, we know you’re itching to sneak them in there.”

“We’ll have none of that nonsense on our flyers, Zombie-Boy,” Wade said, gesturing to the row of Hellraiser figurines on the shelf above the computer.

“Did you say we could put a lens flare in there?”

“Yes get that in there….”

“…Turd polishing Dean, turd polishing.”

That last quip never failed to get a smile out of me. Mike and Wade were obnoxious, demanding, and paid me peanuts for gruelling work – but they were ALWAYS funny. Their wit and likeability had a way of diffusing my frustration.

Things often went wrong, largely due to my very limited skill-set, and the subpar equipment in use. Back then, I had no internet connection for photographic resources, dodgy fonts with (MANY) essential symbols missing, and a computer that was prone to critical system crashes at the most inopportune moments. Hell, I didn’t even have a CD Burner, so the guys could take the files with them. We had to use crappy Zip Disks, an archaic post-floppy storage format that never really caught on.

With the end in sight, I pushed the tempo to get this beast finished. Even the comedic heckling from either side of me was starting to wear thin. There was a ‘£’ symbol missing from the font we were using, so I haphazardly tried to wedge a symbol from another font-set in there, without it looking too goofy. It DID look stupid, but I was willing to overlook it – I wanted them out, and I wanted to get away from this infernal machine.

As the final stretch drew near, the software crashed.

“Oh dear… When did you last save?” Wade said…


To many of you, the information in this section may be obvious, but these are powerful points, well worth reiterating.

Brass Tacks

Anyone that would like to be in the business of selling artwork, or creative services NEEDS to post work online frequently. Content is still king, there’s really no way of getting around it – the more prolific / consistent you are, the more opportunities arise. All of my successful colleagues are consistent with their output, I can’t stress the importance of this enough. This doesn’t mean churning out any old rubbish to keep the numbers up, it means putting out the best you are capable of, as often as possible. There is power in repetition.

You should have an easy to navigate online gallery, that can be shown to interested parties, instantly.

At a minimum, a Facebook Page is better than nothing. Beyond that, a gallery on an art platform (Behance, DeviantArt, ArtStation etc.) will suffice – but ideally you should have a website on a hosted domain.

A visible subdomain such as .wix.com or .wordpress.com proves to me (and your clients) that you don’t have the volition to organise a sufficient website – which doesn’t start things on the right foot. Are you a professional, or a hobbyist? You want to play the game, you need to speculate to accumulate. Just buy the damn domain for your official site!!

For art websites, I believe simplicity wins. Let the art do the talking. Convoluted magazine layouts, or sites with complex navigation increases friction. Why is the client there? They want to see if they like your work, and to send an enquiry. For that reason, ensure there’s a contact form on the site that’s easy to find. Build with those points in mind, and you’re onto a winner.

Adobe CC has a very decent site-builder / hosting package that is included free for all software subscribers (you do need to obtain your own domain though, cheap as chips). The site-builder is extremely user friendly, and you can have a professional site put together in no time at all.

If you decide against that, WordPress is probably the next best option, affording greater levels of customisation for your site. If that works for you, then go right ahead. The templates available these days, are positively sublime.

Another point to have in mind right from the outset, is the value of TIME.

Time is the most valuable commodity there is. Clients may be paying you for a product / net result, but what they’re really paying you for is your TIME. This seems like such a devastatingly simple notion, but it’s at absolute core of what we do. Your time has value. When you’re working on a commission, you’re not spending time with your kids, socialising with buddies, or playing your MMORPG.

As soon as you understand that time is the equity that we’re dealing with, you truly begin to understand your value. You can start to charge a rate that is fair to you, as well as your client. You may be starting out, lacking essential skills, and feel you don’t ‘deserve’ to be charging a professional rate. That’s ok, we’ve all been there. What you can do during your turbulent early days, is track how long an average gig is taking you to complete, and figure out how much (roughly) you have made per hour. If the figure is below your national minimum wage, adjustments need to be made. Right from the beginning, you should be aiming infinitely higher than ‘average’.

I often speak to hobbyist artists, who want to know how to break into commercial art / make an income from their passion. Usually, I ask some probing questions to gauge where they’re at, so I can advise accordingly. Some are already on the righteous path, and I can really help out – but many others don’t have the ‘Brass Tacks’ covered, the ABSOLUTE essentials you need to get started (work to view online, a fairly consistent posting frequency). The most heinous excuse I hear for why things aren’t already moving, is that they’re unable to dedicate any time to this pursuit, because they have a day job

Here’s the rub. None of us ever had it easy. 99.99% of the successful creative professionals I know had to fight, battle, and scrape to achieve creative self-sufficiency. We all had the shitty day-job. Many people pursuing these goals are also tackling a gruelling university schedule… or juggling three kids (managing a household) AND a part-time job. Psychos / heroes, whatever you want to call them, they make time to get things moving.

It’s a universal truth applicable to all pursuits: you get back what you put in.

Post your best work often, and make it easy for your prospective clients to locate, and send an enquiry. Understand the value of your time, and develop your sense of creative worth.

In the second installment of Earn With Your Art, we’ll be looking into the ‘Sub Niche’ and the benefits of narrowing your creative focus / client base:

Earn With Your Art Part 2 — Finding a Niche

Enjoyed the article? Show us some love in the comments 🙂

Dean Samed is a horror cover-artist who has worked for the biggest names in the genre. He now produces cinematic stock photography for NeoStock.com


Shoot 14 — Galactic Cadet Stock Photography

For the second portion of our Sci-Fi shoot, we went with a ‘Galactic Cadet’ concept, inspired by the Sci-Fi serials we all know and love.

A more regimented / formal look, our character here wouldn’t look out of place in any military sci-fi / space exploration crew.

Here’s a look at some of the images from the set:

NeoStock - Galactic Cadet I, Stock Photography

Approaching Danger

NeoStock - Galactic Cadet II, Stock Photography

Guard Duty

NeoStock - Galactic Cadet III, Stock Photography

Breaching the Air Lock

NeoStock - Galactic Cadet IV, Stock Photography

Lost in Space

NeoStock - Galactic Cadet V, Stock Photography

Blasting the Bug Menace

View the full gallery for this set at:

Danny Galactic Cadet NeoStock Gallery

We’ll be producing a Female Medieval Warrior for our next concept, a big budget extravaganza that we’re seriously excited about 🙂

To stay up to date / have a say in what we create, come jump onboard at our NeoStock Focus Group.

Shoot 014 Credits:

Photography: Tom Parsons, Hair & Makeup by Suzanna Forrister-Beer (Makeupps by Suzanna), Model: Danny Andrew Coakley. Shot at Fire Eye Land studios, Margate.

— Team NeoStock

Shoot 14 — Cyberpunk Detective Stock Photography

Shoot 014 was a Sci-Fi extravaganza!! Our first concept was ‘Cyberpunk Detective’, a gritty aesthetic inspired by the works of William Gibson, and the Blade Runner franchise.

There is a desperate lack of DECENT sci-fi resources in the stockosphere, so it’s our aim to remedy that.

Here’s a look at some of the shots from the set:

Cyberpunk Detective:

NeoStock - Cyberpunk Detective V, Stock Photography

Dramatic Stance

NeoStock - Cyberpunk Detective IV, Stock Photography

Space Cannon

NeoStock - Cyberpunk Detective III, Stock Photography

Daggers at Dawn

NeoStock - Cyberpunk Detective II, Stock Photography

Tools of the Trade

NeoStock - Cyberpunk Detective I, Stock Photography

Poised for Action

View the full gallery for this set at:

Danny Cyberpunk Detective NeoStock Gallery

Our second set from this shoot, is Galactic Cadet. Head on over to the next post to check out the images we got!!

To stay up to date / have a say in what we create, come jump onboard at our NeoStock Focus Group.

Shoot 014 Credits:

Photography: Tom Parsons, Hair & Makeup by Suzanna Forrister-Beer (Makeupps by Suzanna), Model: Danny Andrew Coakley. Shot at Fire Eye Land studios, Margate.

— Team NeoStock

Shoot 13 — Demon / Vampire Hunter & Urban Fantasy

For shoot 013, we decided to go for a tough ‘Van-Helsing’ style character, armed with all the tools of the Demon-Hunting trade; crossbow, vampire stakes, and even machetes / axes!!

For the second segment of the shoot, we went for a classic Urban Fantasy set with a ‘biker’ vibe, which resulted in some incredibly versatile shots. We’re carving out a bit of a niche now, as Urban Fantasy specialists 😮

Here’s a look at some of the teasers from both sets:


NeoStock - Mandy V, Vampire / Demon Hunter / Van Helsing, Stock Photography

Kicking Ass, Taking Names

NeoStock - Mandy IV, Vampire / Demon Hunter / Van Helsing, Stock Photography

On Today’s Menu: PAIN

NeoStock - Mandy III, Vampire / Demon Hunter / Van Helsing, Stock Photography

Ready for Battle

NeoStock - Mandy II, Vampire / Demon Hunter / Van Helsing, Stock Photography

Tools of the Trade

NeoStock - Mandy I, Vampire / Demon Hunter / Van Helsing, Stock Photography

Stake for Dinner

Urban Fantasy:

NeoStock - Mandy V, Urban Fantasy, Stock Photography

Confident Stride

NeoStock - Mandy IV, Urban Fantasy, Stock Photography

Woman Scorned

NeoStock - Mandy III, Urban Fantasy, Stock Photography

Dual Wield Swords

NeoStock - Mandy II, Urban Fantasy, Stock Photography

Good ol’ Magic Hands

NeoStock - Mandy I, Urban Fantasy, Stock Photography

Elegant Daggers

View the full galleries for both of these sets at:

Mandy Demon Hunter NeoStock Gallery

Mandy Urban Fantasy NeoStock Gallery

Our next shoot will be focused on Sci-Fi… we have some great models, costumes and props in the pipeline for this much needed concept!!

To stay up to date / have a say in what we create, come jump onboard at our NeoStock Focus Group.

Shoot 013 Credits:

Photography: Tom Parsons, Hair & Makeup by Suzanna Forrister-Beer (Makeupps by Suzanna), Model: Mandy Horsefield. Shot at Fire Eye Land studios, Margate.

— Team NeoStock

Shoot 9 — Urban Fantasy and Vampire Romance

For Shoot 009, we mixed things up a bit, and got a great couple onboard for our sets. Our main concept was Vampire Romance, but we also managed to get some great Urban Fantasy shots with both models too.

The great thing about the Urban Fantasy concepts, is that they’re very versatile, suitable for a wide variety of genres and stories.

Here’s a look at some of the shots we got:

Daniel Urban Fantasy:

NeoStock -Daniel V, Urban Fantasy, Stock Photography

Heart-throb Pose

NeoStock -Daniel IV, Urban Fantasy, Stock Photography

Super Swish

NeoStock -Daniel III, Urban Fantasy, Stock Photography

Off to Work

NeoStock -Daniel II, Urban Fantasy, Stock Photography

Daemon Hunter

NeoStock -Daniel I, Urban Fantasy, Stock Photography


Donna Urban Fantasy:

NeoStock -Donna I, Urban Fantasy, Stock Photography

Call to Adventure

NeoStock -Donna II, Urban Fantasy, Stock Photography

Magic Hands

NeoStock -Donna III, Urban Fantasy, Stock Photography

Dual Swords

NeoStock -Donna IV, Urban Fantasy, Stock Photography

The Strike

NeoStock -Donna V, Urban Fantasy, Stock Photography


Donna & Daniel Vampire Romance:

NeoStock -Donna Daniel I, Vampire Romance, Stock Photography

The Caress

NeoStock -Donna Daniel II, Vampire Romance, Stock Photography

Vampire Queen

NeoStock -Donna Daniel III, Vampire Romance, Stock Photography

Deadly Intent

NeoStock -Donna Daniel IV, Vampire Romance, Stock Photography


NeoStock -Donna Daniel V, Vampire Romance, Stock Photography

Lord of the Night

View the full galleries for all of these sets at:

Daniel Urban Fantasy NeoStock Gallery

Donna Urban Fantasy NeoStock Gallery

Donna & Daniel Vampire Romance NeoStock Gallery

Be sure to stay tuned for more cinematic stocks, new content coming monthly!! In the meantime, you can join the project, and have a say in what we create by coming onboard at our NeoStock Focus Group.

Shoot 009 Credits:

Photography: Tom Parsons, Hair & Makeup by Suzanna Forrister-Beer (Makeupps by Suzanna), Models: Donna-Marie Boyer & Daniel Gemsa. Shot at Fire Eye Land studios, Margate.

— Team NeoStock