March 18, 2018

Presenting Yourself Professionally: A Pro Portfolio

Call me biased as a millennial, but I’m a firm believer in having an online presence, no matter what business you’re in. As an artist and handmade company, the benefits are perhaps even more important because you may be small, but the internet can make you mighty when used strategically. Does that mean you need to be everywhere online? No, but at the very least I’d recommend sharing a portfolio. You don’t sell your work online you say? So this advice isn’t applicable for you, right? No, it’s still valid and I’ll explain why. The overall goal is professionalism, and a proper portfolio will do wonders for your credibility, exposure and opportunities.

What is a portfolio? Does every artist need one? In the good old days, yes I do remember a time before the internet (barely), artists carried around physical books with examples of their work. Much like Jury Photos started out as slides that the judges would view together in one room, your portfolio was shared in person, often one on one. While that gave you the chance to make a strong impression if you were charismatic, it’s really inefficient. Enter the internet and online portfolios. Today these take many forms, but at the core they are designed to achieve the same thing. They should showcase your best work for interested parties to view and evaluate. And lucky for you, you can reach countless people at a time without being in the same room or spending nearly as much money as a physical portfolio. While one doesn’t render the other obsolete, most artists today are covered with an online version. So how do you make sure your time and effort building this presence are worthwhile? Here are my recommendations for how and why you need to get started with a portfolio if you haven’t already.

1. Professional Presentation Shows Dedication to Your Talent. I would argue this is most important of all. If you plan to sell your work, get into shows and galleries and / or seek commissions, your audience must know that you’re talented and serious. A strong body of work does wonders for establishing credibility, and your online portfolio can do most of the talking. Certainly the quality of the photography is also important and how well you organize the work, but consider this - the difference between having a portfolio and not is basically the difference between showing up and staying home.

2. One of the Easiest Ways to Show Your Range & Skill. I mentioned efficiency earlier, and this is a big deal. It doesn’t cost much to set up a website, and it lasts much longer than a hard copy. Yes, there is upkeep because you’ll want to add new work and rearrange your galleries as your style changes, but in the scheme of things, an online portfolio can be the most straightforward marketing. Plus, you can break it out in to collections or series for specific audiences.

3. Quick & Effortless to Share When Someone Asks for Samples. As you pursue opportunities, whatever they may be, having a portfolio ready to go is like having a resume. You aren’t going to apply to a job with only a verbal recount of your experience. As an artist, when you can’t show your work to everyone in person, having digital copies neatly organized on your website is the secret to being prepared. Plus, you can easily share, and if you’re lucky, people will find you.

4. There Are Tons of Portfolio Options. These days there more and more choices for setting up and maintaining an online portfolio. You can hire a professional and have then build you a custom site or you can join an online marketplace like Etsy. I personally prefer the many user friendly and low cost tools that make the process really easy no matter your level of savvy. You can just share images and information or you can actually sell online. Time and money shouldn't be an excuse for not being on the internet. Here is a great list of resources to choose how you want to present your work online.

5. Get in the Habit of Keeping a Record of your Artwork. While you may not feel the need to document every single piece you make, have you ever regretted selling something and not having at least one good image? I highly recommend getting photos of your best work for your own record, but also to showcase your talent. Moreover, have proof of what you’ve sold. This builds credibility and helps people get a good feel for your style and evolution if they're thinking of hiring you. Even if you don't have an audience asking for these images, it's better to prepare in advance and capture the images before the work is out of your hands.

Katie Made That
Yarn Paintings
Dave Mcclinton
Rick Van Dyke

You deserve attention and appreciation for your skill. Let your portfolio do the talking while you keep working on art. If you need help deciding the best format or capturing images of your work, let's talk.