I guess it depends on your end game, but I can talk about how I did what I did. And throw in a few other examples from friends of mine.
Okay so, those YouTubers, I got to know most of them slowly through their videos. Then, when the Partner Program first kicked off (invite only), suddenly lots of people needed lots of branding materials. There were channel banners and avatars, and sidebar banners on your video pages, and for a few years you could even completely html image map your whole profile.
So I designed a couple of banners for free, without being asked, and just sent them to some of the bigger partners. I included a little message that said “hey, I like your videos, I made this if you want to use it, no restrictions”, or something like that.
And what do you know, some people actually used them! MysteryGuitarMan, nalts, and I’m pretty sure Hank and John for like two days before Hank designed the one they ended up keeping. And yeah, some didn’t use them, like daxflame (though the daxflame banner was my personal fav).
But when others saw my banners on some of the bigger channels, I got a ton of referrals. I ended up making banners for a lot of new partners as they were added, some for pay, others for fun.
I had no idea those silly little banners would lead to some of the jobs and collaborations they did, so keep that in mind and always do your best, even on a small or seemingly unimportant gig.
(Quick real world example: I first met Michael Buckley when he hired me to do some design work for him. Then we became friends. Then he hired me to design and update his website. Then he hired me to edit some of his videos. That first little banner turned into a very steady gig for a couple years.)
Back to your question…
You can’t really find “long-term clients”, you just have clients who become long-term. Do good consistent work, and then when those clients need a new Thing done, you’ll be the first person they think of.
Like, risarodil, for example. She did some great typography designs, not commissioned, just “for fun”. But now everyone is hiring her to design their quotes for posters and shirts because she does good consistent work. There’s little risk. You know what you’re going to get when you hire Risa. And that’s how long-term clients are made, not found.
The same could be said for karenkavett. She does good work, so John and Hank and others keep going back to her for new stuff. Why take the risk on someone else/someone new? Karen delivers, so you keep going back to Karen.
And that is true for any freelancer, not just design. I hired hello-the-future to edit a short piece I wrote a few months ago. She did a terrific job, not only did she deliver when she said she would, but she explained why she made some of the bigger changes, and overall the piece was stronger because of her involvement. I then hired her to edit all of the static pages on my personal site, and I’ll continue to hire her when I have writing in the future that needs editing.
Okay, I’m starting to get off track again…
Don’t be afraid to do a lot of your own early work for yourself. Design a poster that you’re interested in, not one for a client. Post that. Then make five more. If I were hiring you, I’d want to see a number of completed pieces so I would feel confident in what to expect when you’re finished.
A design tumblr is a great idea to showcase this work. Tag it properly so people who might be interested in your work can find it. And for the love of all that is holy, make your contact information very clear and very easy to find. I can’t tell you how many times over the years I’d want to contact someone so we could sell their designs via DFTBA and there was just no way to get in touch with them. Don’t lose the job before you even get it.
I hope that helps. That’s a huge wall of text. I’m sure there’s a ton more to be said too, but I guess start here?
Reblogging for reference and for fellow artists