As simple as times used to be before the internet, it’s become the most effective advertising board in the modern world. Like any form of advertising it does have its pitfalls, but the biggest advantage is you don’t have to spend a whole lot of money in return for a decent amount of exposure. Artists have benefited hugely from the growth of social media, but not all platforms were built with the creative industry in mind. So, as an artist on the internet, where do you even begin putting your work out there? Where do you sign up?
Mobile friendly art on the go.
Aside from its current algorithm frustrations, I’m a big fan of Instagram for creatives. I like how it curates images labelled with interest-specific hashtags into separate gallery pages, and once you learn which hashtags are the most effective you can use multiple combinations to your advantage to have your work appear in multiple places at once. It’s also pretty easy to find other artists on there as the app tailors the content it shows to you based on what you’ve already shown an interest in. It gets a bad rep due to today’s ‘selfie culture’, but with a bit of research you can reach audiences all over the world. If you upgrade to a business account (which is free, all that’s required is a Facebook page) you can also access pretty useful analytics on your audience’s hours of activity to determine when is best to post.
Twitter, although not built to prioritise photo sharing in the same manner, has its uses in other ways that Instagram lacks. I’ve yet to find its art-related hashtags to be as effective as Instagram’s are (both in promoting my own work and easily finding others), yet the retweet feature can give your work or portfolio links a lot of momentum in a short amount of time, particularly if an account with a large following retweets it. The closest feature Instagram has is its Stories and ability to share others work on your own, which are 24 hour temporary posts, whereas a retweet appears in the poster’s feed until they choose to remove it. I do find Twitter to be harder work to get noticed, but many have had and still do have success with it.
Student and graduate networking.
For a professional network, Behance is a good call. While undertaking my graphic design degree in university we were encouraged to start using this site for our portfolios, and for good reason. Your work can be viewed as individual projects in a profile and gallery format, and you also have the option to display these as a fully fledged standalone website thanks to Behance’s custom formatting. You can browse and bookmark projects, leave feedback and follow people to keep up to date with their work. Employers also actively use Behance to hire creatives either in their area or remotely, so this one is worth signing up to if you’re unsure where to start looking for work.
If you’re looking to sell your artwork en masse but can’t afford the cost of manufacturing, made to order sites such as Red Bubble or Society 6 can be great both for exposure and making money – with no cost to yourself. You simply upload your artwork, choose the products you’d like it to appear on, adjust the proof previews accordingly, set a price & profit margin and you’re done. These websites handle the manufacture and postage of all items, and pay you once you’ve reached a certain profit threshold. There are some content and copyright T&Cs to adhere to, so if you specialise in fan art it’s important to read over these before uploading. I’ve had a regular albeit very small income from Red Bubble so I can say these websites do work, but most likely won’t make you rich overnight.
For paid work, Fiverr is a growing platform for freelancers to secure live projects from clients seeking creatives. You advertise what you have to offer and set your price, and potential clients liaise with you through Fiverr. You can also pitch offers to people who have advertised for hire. The more orders you finish and the longer you’re an active seller with a high star rating, the higher you work through the platform’s rankings thus earning you more exposure to a wider number of clients. A fellow graphic designer friend of mine has had great success and has managed to build a regular clientele. Fiverr operates in USD and for every $5 you earn a cut of $1 is taken, so bear this in mind when setting your prices.
Build your brand.
While all of these websites come with an almost ready made audience, they all have the same drawback: while your intellectual property remains yours, you’re still bound by each website’s own terms and conditions, and should they close down suddenly for no reason you’d be left without a platform. This is why it’s important to also build your own self-hosted website that you alone manage and can optimise for search engines like Google. Many web hosts offer free packages if you’re not ready to spend any money yet, though your own personal web address is advisable for professionalism. Sites such as WordPress have great pre-made themes both free and paid that you can customise to suit your needs if you don’t know how to code, and Go Daddy for example has a website builder that does all the coding for you.
Whichever you choose, branding is key. Keep your usernames the same across each website to avoid confusion, and display your business logo if you have one. Make sure your contact info and other links to your work can be found quickly and easily. Ensure that your personal website is easy to navigate and images of your work are clear and of a good size. Maintain all of your pages regularly and update any projects or images as needed. A blog or newsletter can also be a great tool for keeping clients or fans of your work in the loop about upcoming pieces or products for sale.
If you have any recommendations for websites or online portfolios for artists and creatives I’d love to hear about them!