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Catching up with BA Illustration graduate Tom Abbiss Smith

Graduating in 2016, Tom Abbiss Smith has worked with Haagen-Dazs, Propercorn and Pinterest amongst others. Alumni Officer, Catherine Hill caught up with Tom about his practice.

Propercorn designed by BA Illustration graduate from Norwich University of the Arts, Tom Abbiss Smith showing green bag of Popcorn

You mention that social media has been key in winning business for you, what does it take to maintain an online profile?

It sure has! I think the best tips to using social media would be having a fairly consistent presence. I tend to ‘like’ a lot of people’s work, use hashtags to explore new stuff, follow creative people/agencies etc, but also look at who they follow/who follows them, and interact with the relevant people there.

Commenting is really good and also using business tools to work out when is best to post. I tend to use my go to hashtags when I post, it’s really important to use hashtags that aren’t too general, as there will be millions of people already saturating that hashtag E.g (Art, graphic design, etc), try to go with more specific things!

What would you say are the advantages and disadvantages of using social media as your main source for winning new business?

You can showcase your art worldwide and discover a lot of great artists very quickly, but also It can be very time consuming and potentially lead to art theft!

There are many challenges working for yourself, what advice would you give to someone looking to become a freelancer?

Structure your time and try to treat it like a 9-5 job, so that you’re always being productive and doing something relevant to the job, even if it’s not the physical art making bit. There’s a lot of admin, social media/marketing as well as the creative stuff.

You’ve worked with some high-profile clients, Propercorn, Häagen-Dazs, Pinterest, if you could choose your next client or project, who or what would it be?

I’d like to do some stuff for a funky/jazz record label or a design for a skate company, like deck artwork!

If you were asked to change three things about freelancing, what would they be and why?

The social side of it, so there is more social interaction. Invoicing so we don’t have to wait 30 days from completing a project to get paid. More art, less admin haha!

If you could be an illustration superhero, what one power would you have?

Turning textures and shapes I see in my head into instant scans on the computer!

What did you draw all the time but don’t anymore?


Tom Abbiss smith