Whether you're a beginner or a seasoned professional, compiling your portfolio is arguably the most crucial step when it comes to any artistic or freelance work. Having a well curated portfolio gives your audience an overview of your work and what your skills are. With a portfolio, you can confidently pull from a pool of examples whenever asked.
There are many ways of creating your portfolio. Traditional artists rely on physical paper or canvas portfolios that usually clasp or zipper shut. Today, most digital artists use websites (whether personal or third party) to display their work. Third-party websites such as ArtStation or Deviantart offer a streamlined and straightforward way of sharing content by uploading your work to various galleries or folders on your profile, whereas creating a personalized website through a service such as SquareSpace or Wix can offer more of a polished feel to your portfolio.
So, which should you choose? That depends on a couple factors such how quickly do you want to share your work, how professional do you want your presentation to be, and if you're willing to pay for a domain. If you're more of a hobbyist that just wants to upload and share content, then a third party website will work just fine for you. If you're considering showing your work to potential employers or clients, then you'll want to put in the extra time to create a personal website. I personally recommend using Wix since I found it user-friendly, highly customizable, and the base product offers a free domain!
As daunting as our digital era and social media may be, social media is still a great tool when it comes to marketing and showing off your work. But which platforms should you choose?
Instagram is, of course, the largest and statistically most bustling platform when it comes to sharing art. TikTok has also risen in popularity when it comes to showing short, catchy clips of artists creating or showing off their artwork. Facebook allows for artists to share their work via a creator page or community page, but it relies heavily on community engagement and algorithms. Twitter is another platform where I personally see many artists sharing their work or engaging directly with their audience, but the shorthanded fast-paced nature of Twitter is more for people who are looking to actively converse with their audience over building or sharing their portfolio. Most artists I've seen use Twitter in tandem with one or two other platforms as a way of updating their audience. Lastly, there are platforms like Pinterest and Snapchat, which lean heavily on the visual allure like Instagram does, as well as professional sites like LinkedIn, but I haven't personally seen a large number of artists actively engaging with their audiences on those sites due to the nature of said platforms.
My advice? Pick one or two platforms to start with and focus on curating your content. I know that there's many experts out there that say you should be on every platform imaginable to hit the largest targeted audience, but unless you have a full-time business and possibly a social media assistant, it can be very taxing managing too many social media platforms at once. If you're consistent and more focused on uploading quality content on one or two platforms, you'll slowly begin to spread your work out into the world. Generally speaking, if people like your work and what you do, they will seek you out and follow you on your designated platforms.
Live streaming your art and process is another fantastic way to not only market your work but also engage with your audience. The two most commonly used streaming platforms are Twitch and Youtube, but I've also seen artists go live on Instagram as well!
There is, of course, somewhat of a time investment when it comes to streaming. You will need to figure out the best physical set up for streaming your work (usually by connecting your drawing tablet to your computer), and then choosing the best streaming software for your needs, such as OBS or Streamlabs. You will also need a microphone and potentially a webcam as well. Learning how to stream, working out a streaming schedule, and figuring out how to utilize streaming software and potentially add on programs can take some time, but able to share your process live while chatting with your audience building a community can be incredibly rewarding!
Aside from doing personal commissions, selling prints, stickers, and keychains of your work is the next best way to make money off your artwork! Once you have a decent stock, try looking in your local area for vendor fairs and apply as a vendor. You'd be surprised with how many seasonal fairs happen within your state! You can also try applying as a vendor for a convention. You may not immediately get into something as popular as Otakon or ComicCon, but there are plenty of smaller pop-culture fairs and conventions that are worth looking into. You may need to pay a small tabling fee for your assigned lot, but tabling can be such a great way to take part in an event and sell physical copies of your work face-to-face. Walking around the artists' alley is a favorite pastime for many convention-goers!
You can also try your hand at creating an online store for your work whether that be through a personal website or through a third party site such as Esty! Many artists who table also have an online store. This is especially handy to have and share if you have extra prints of a certain piece or if you wind up selling out of something while tabling. Being able to offer a business card or a QR code with your online store can bring in more potential clients!
As you continue creating and marketing, you may eventually wind up networking with other artists. Sometimes, you might even be asked to collaborate with them! Collaborating on a large piece or doing a livestream together can help increase audience engagement and potential sales. Do not expect or assume other established artists will respond to your queries, though! You should always respect other artists' boundaries. If the opportunity for a collab happens to come up organically, or if you have a genuinely serious and thought through proposal, then reach out to them via the appropriate channels and make a business inquiry. Professionalism, politeness, and thoughtful planning will go a long way as you continue on the road of being an artist!