Social media is vital to self promotion – but don’t overlook other important online platforms. Fig Taylor considers the importance of having a fulsome web presence.
In a highly competitive market that’s growing increasingly web-reliant it’s becoming harder for new illustrators to meet with commissioners face to face, so it’s vital to know how to use the internet to your advantage. The more often a commissioner encounters your work, and the more variety of work they are exposed to as a result, the less likely they are to pigeonhole you - and the more likely you are to remain uppermost in their consciousness too.
[hidden title="Don't be pigeonholed"]
The way in which potential clients view your work will very much be coloured by the projects they are engaged in – as will the things they remember you for. The plethora of talent on our shores means that some UK commissioners have also grown unaccustomed to taking risks. They will almost always opt for the illustrator who already comes closest to meeting their current needs rather than making a leap of faith. In other words, if you’re a natural history artist with a portfolio full of pandas and they have need of a grizzly bear they’ll write you off and move on, pigeonholing you forever as “that panda bloke”. Ergo it’s vital to remind them of your existence and challenge their limited perceptions of your capabilities wherever and however practicable – which is where the internet comes in.
[hidden title="Folios and Websites"]
Whatever other internet-based opportunities you choose to explore, a website and/or online portfolio is a must, and there are many free and reasonably priced options to choose from, ranging from online website builders to dedicated portfolio hosting websites such as AOI Folios, which offers excellent value for money. Most are simple and self-explanatory to use and require no knowledge of code or prior web building experience. Having a fancy bespoke website, while always an option, is by no means compulsory. If, however, your heart is set on one, be sure to shop around as it can be expensive if you don’t.
A blog that’s linked to your website will allow potential commissioners to learn more about your interests, client list and creative practice and also gives you a means to showcase works in progress and more experimental pieces, should you so wish. While there will always be some crossover, it’s good to be able show as wide a variety of work as you can. There are several tried and trusted blogging platforms available most of which are free, including blogging/social networking hybrid, Tumblr, which allows your followers to instantly share your work with their own via ‘likes’ or re-blogs. There are also invitation-only illustration blogs, though they tend to focus more on established artists. However, following them and becoming involved in the communities that spring up around them will certainly do your career no harm. The same applies to illustration-centric portals and forums as commissioners read these too. There is of course nothing to prevent you from starting your own venture.
Competitions, whether prestigious yearly events, such as those run by ourselves, The V&A, London Transport Museum and The Folio Society, or well established ongoing online challenges like Illustration Friday or Threadless can help to boost an illustrator’s profile substantially. Marketing your own products online can also create a wider awareness of your work while simultaneously increasing your income. There are many internet based galleries and marketplaces such as Etsy, Folksy, and DeviantArt that allow creative practitioners of all kinds to sell goods, be they handmade one-offs or print-to-order merchandise. And, given that illustrators often have other creative skills in their repertoire, these can provide you with a means to capitalise on them.
[hidden title="About pages"]
Lastly, whatever means you use to create your online presence make sure you tie everything together on your Bio or About page by providing a list of links to where else your work can be found. Never miss an opportunity to expand a commissioner’s horizons when it comes to your capabilities.