It's almost time for all the industry awards annuals again. For myself, I have somewhat of a love/hate relationship with them. Skipping to the obvious point; yes, it feels good to get a nod from the industry, but often I still wonder if they're worth it. The answer is: I don't fucking know...but I do have some thoughts on the matter.
Once upon a time, I had more awards than I did clients. The joy of knowing that information lasted all of 3 minutes. I quickly realized that having awards didn't provide much comfort while struggling to pay the rent, or when feeding my then emaciated body...although, my 2011 self would really enjoy having my 2003 self's stomach again. I have received some work via the annuals. The con to that being, for the amount I've supported the annuals it hasn't been worth the return financially. Business-wise, does it make sense to spend that money on the associated fees that come with each award, or does it make more sense to focus that money on other methods of promo that are more proven and aren't such a crap-shoot?
That said, it'd be wrong to approach this only considering financial return because in the long run, what will the better business move be? Is it the bottom line, or do the value of the annuals appreciate over time? Having your work appear in the annuals helps create a familiarity and provides exposure, which eventually leads to work, although it may take years before that happens. Exposure is great, but it doesn't always necessarily pay the bills, but it might help. Does the recognition help when clients are looking to hire? I can talk about this crap all day long, but alas, I'll get to the point...
The point is, be smart and strategic when submitting work to the annuals. Does it make total sense to be appearing in just the illustration annuals? It might be great to get your name in front of your competition and peers, but they aren't the majority of people who do the hiring. Maybe it makes more sense to get work in front of art directors and designers because they do most of the commissioning, ie: instead of submitting 5 or 10 pieces to every illustration annual, submit only your strongest pieces, but spread the submissions across to a few design annuals in hopes of widening the possible exposure, etc. Try to balance the unknown returns of submitting to the annuals, with better business moves in order to get the best of both worlds. For the most part this is how I've come to approach awards, and hopefully this helps a few people think about them in a practical way because I know I'm not the only one who has a love/hate relationship with them.