How to find your first paid mural
Photo: Part of the first mural I painted for TMRC, Shanghai, China.
This blog post is for Freshies. If you're a creative and are looking to branch out into the mural world (which I think is a brilliant idea as murals are where the money is), this blog post is for you.
It can be daunting painting your first mural. Hell, it can be daunting painting you 500th mural - I still get nervous every single job. Hopefully the tips below will help you to land your first paid mural project.
Practise practise practise
You're already creative. Build up your portfolio of work to a body of art that you love and that you would LOVE to paint onto walls. Start taking your art style and transferring it onto a larger scale. I have had some coaching clients buy 2.4 x 1.2m plywood from Bunnings and paint these panels to practise their skills on a larger scale. Use different materials such as exterior acrylic and spray paints. Play with different spray caps and larger brushes. You may have to modify your current style to work on large scale walls. For example, if you normally paint a large amount of detail in your work, you may need to modify this.
A school mural mock-up to get approval to paint. Created in Procreate.
Fake it till you make it
This could be a little controversial, but as a graphic design graduate, we were encouraged to use this trick in our portfolios. When I graduated university as a graphic designer I had designed a rad artwork to be printed on shirts. In my folio I just had the artwork with a label that said 'shirt design'. My lecturer said 'mock it up on a shirt so it looks like it's been printed'. Okay. Can do! I suggest you do the same with your artworks. Mock them up on a wall to make them look like you've painted a mural. Now, don't actually say you painted the mural - that's flat-out lying. But you can let people assume if they want to. You can do this by taking a photo of a wall and using Photoshop or Procreate to mock up your artwork on a wall. Add this to your folio.
Find a wall
If the mock up above looks amazing, think about approaching the owner of the wall and asking if you can paint this mural (paid of course).
Finding a wall might mean painting a wall in your own home, or your parents home. It might mean painting the garden shed or the side of a shipping container in the paddock of your grand-fathers farm. Paint it. Then show it off on your website and on social media.
Let the world know
When I decided I wanted to paint more murals and do less graphic design I shifted all the messaging on my portfolio website to reflect this. I made murals the hero images on most pages. My mural portfolio was the first thing visitors would see. I made it easy for clients to get all the information they needed to get a quote from me for a mural project. Make it very clear and very easy for people to request a mural quote from you.
Send an email out to everyone you know to let them know that you are now offering murals as an additional creative service and make sure to include a call to action such as 'shoot me an email with your wall size if you'd like an obligation-free quote'.
Update all your social media bios to include 'murals' or 'street art'.
Add it to your business cards if you have them. Add it to your email signature and drop it into as many random conversations as you can.
Ensure your business is prepared to paint your first mural
When your first mural client comes to you and says 'paint my wall', you need to have systems in place to hit-the-ground-running. Such as a quoting system - how much do you charge per square metre. A contract for the client to sign prior to commencing. Your Public Liability Insurance is an absolute must (I have mine through Flying Arts, but you can get this from a number of places). For more information on mural business systems, be sure to check out The Business of Murals Online Workshop.
Paint massive canvas work
Yes. I know what you are thinking. Large canvas is very expensive. True. But you can use rolled canvas pinned to a wall (worry about the frame if you sell the work later). You could use large rolls of brown paper and frame the work if it sells. Just get larger. Show your clients that your style of art looks amazing in a large scale format.
Stalk social media community pages
Often people will post on community pages asking for local mural artists. Have a look through these pages to see if anyone needs your services. Show them your wonderful style on large canvas and mocked-up walls and remember to charge them a reasonable amount for your services.
Now, anyone who has done business coaching with me knows that I detest doing work for free. If you have invested money and time into your craft, then people should invest their money into you. I very rarely do free work and I would suggest you do the same unless... you choose a not-for-profit, or community group to help. Choose a project that will benefit the community, not just you. For example, my local football club was being constantly targeted by vandals. Each weekend the green clubhouse would be covered in tags. I reached out and offered to paint a mural on the clubhouse as street art is a proven graffiti prevention tool. They paid for the paint, I supplied my time and energy and the clubhouse has remained tag free ever since. I also happened to pick up a handful of mural jobs from this one project.
Just. Keep. Going. With creativity and murals, momentum is key. Keep creating the work, keep putting it out there, create some momentum. It may not be painting murals at first, but if you keep creating, the walls will come. If you paint your 12 portfolio pieces and put them online and sit and wait for clients to come knocking at your door - nope. I tried this when I left university and it's not a great way to find work. Most street artist would know: often when you're painting a mural you will finish up for the day and check your email and there will be another mural request or two waiting for you. Momentum. Keep going.
Mural May Challenge
Lastly, if you're looking for inspiration to create mock-up murals I will be running a Mural May Challenge. I will be releasing a photo of a different wall each Monday in May. I will be encouraging people to create mural digital mockups for that wall during the week. I'm hoping it will expand your portfolio and connect you with other street artists. Who knows, one of the wall owners might love what you've mocked up and there's your first paid mural project! If you're interested in getting involved in the Mural May Challenge, be sure to add yourself to the mailing list below.
What other ideas do you have to snag your first paid mural project?