An online portfolio is your digital calling card as an artist. It’s the first place people go to take an interest in you and your work. And since promoting your work in person and online today is part of being a creative entrepreneur and running your own art business, it’s worth taking the time to properly present yourself on the web.
Collectors, gallerists and potential buyers browse your website (or your portfolio page on an accumulation site) to learn your story, appreciate the skill of the artist and possibly buy some work. So how do you lay the groundwork once so that you can save time in the future and make sure your portfolio works for you? Here are some tips to get your own digital representation up and running.
What any portfolio needs
One of the biggest mistakes artists make when it comes to online portfolios is not taking care of the basics. If you want to make money with your art, but don’t pay attention to the basics for a digital business card, you may end up looking like an amateur – even if you have a whole bunch of masterpieces in stock.
Why complicate your life by convincing customers that you’re a true professional when you can meet the basic requirements and demonstrate your strengths right from the start?
To make sure your portfolio doesn’t slow your business down, check the items on the list below.
High-quality images of work
Why spend hours, days and weeks creating something incredible if the shot doesn’t convey it? Avoid blurry, poorly lit or poorly cropped photos. And be sure to watch out for any distracting shadows, camera flashes, or backgrounds. Make sure your camera settings convey the actual colors of your work and, if necessary, make color corrections to the image.
Respect your work and your career – make an effort to create quality images yourself or contact professional photographers.
You have a presence in various online locales that tell you who you are and help promote your creativity. We bet you’ve put a lot of work into these pages! So when a potential buyer looking at your portfolio clicks on one of the links hoping to see your social networking account or sign up for a newsletter and that link doesn’t work, they’re deprived of the opportunity to learn more about you.
Not only does this leave an unpleasant aftertaste. The person may simply not want to take the time to figure out what to do next. All the work goes to waste, and your credibility gets a tangible blow. So it is better to spend an extra minute and make sure that all the links work and lead where they should.
What if a potential buyer or gallerist asks you about your latest work and you have nothing to show? No purchase is guaranteed. So your motto should be like a pioneer – “always ready!”
It often seems that opportunities just don’t show up. But is this really the case, or do we just find ourselves unprepared? Sooner or later, opportunities will present themselves, so carefully updating your portfolio with the latest and greatest works of art will allow you to take advantage of any opportunity that presents itself.
When it comes to designing your portfolio and showing your work, clarity and professionalism should come first. No distracting backgrounds. No crazy fonts for large chunks of text. Everything should be easy: easy to read, easy to navigate, easy to understand what kind of artist you are.
And while you may go crazy with the design elements, remember that the star of the show should be your work.
Did you know that the “About Me” page is the most frequently visited section in an artist’s portfolio? But one of the most common obstacles artists face is writing it. When you’re working with big or conceptual ideas, it can be difficult to find concise, compelling and accurate words to describe yourself and your work. You want to keep your vision original, but not fall into self-promotion and complacency.
Try to imagine that in the “About Yourself” section, you are welcoming a friend into your home.
There’s a saying “people like to buy from people” – and even more so from people they like. Collectors want to know that a work of art and an artist is worth the investment. You can help that process by making your visitors feel comfortable and giving them the information you think they’ll want before they buy.
Your best work
You are only as good as the works you exhibit. At least, that’s what those who look at your portfolio will think. Remember, its purpose is to represent your skill as an artist, your strengths, your range and experience in the art world. That’s why it’s important to exhibit the work that you think is best and that will help showcase your strengths.
The devil is in the details. By including details such as the title of the piece, dimensions, materials, technique, price, date and creation history, you show that you’re professional about the work – and that also gives you an edge when presenting your portfolio to clients. Let’s face it: no gallery director, curator or collector will chase an artist for information. The art collectors need those details, so why make it difficult for them to find them?
Which brings us to our next point: don’t forget to tell your story. After all, art is so much more than just painting on canvas. Every piece has a story: the source of inspiration, the path to creation, the energy put into each stroke, the message you want to convey, and so much more.
The same goes for you as an artist! You have a passion, motivation, personality, upbringing, education, experience and issues that you care about and have influenced your work. Telling that story will help sell it, too. Share it in your online portfolio, and you’ll create an emotional connection with people who will care about the story going forward.
Distribute what and where you can
So, you’ve made all the recommended updates, and now your online portfolio is ready to go. The next step is promotion. The Internet is huge and the competition is fierce. It’s unlikely that someone will get to your art site by accident, sometimes people need a little nudge and get out into the public eye.
Let’s take a look at a few working ways to promote your portfolio.
- Link in email
A link in an email is a great way to make every message you send work. By providing a link to your portfolio, you give buyers, gallerists and other recipients a chance to see more of your amazing work that they might otherwise miss. Don’t neglect the opportunity to make yourself known as an artist to a wide circle of people you come in contact with: linking to your portfolio at the bottom of your email in regular correspondence (including it in your email template) is a normal move.
- Art blogging
Watching ads, just ads, also after ads, isn’t a fun activity for art buyers. But the engaging content you post on your blog can actually help sell your work and endear you to customers.
Stick to the 80/20 rule, which is 80 percent entertaining posts and only 20 percent promotional posts. But make sure those 20 percent are in an entertaining (e.g., playful) way, such online portfolio promotion will be more effective.
- Social media
One thing is for sure: Social media is redefining the way the art world does business. Another great form of content marketing, social media allows creatives to express themselves with more freedom, frequency and intimacy. Encouraging your followers to explore your portfolio can increase sales. But you should be careful not to advertise too much.
Newsletters can be incredibly powerful tools for artists. For example, American artist Debra Joy Grosser does an electronic newsletter once a month and a paper one two or three times a year. “I include new work, upcoming shows and a personal letter about what I’ve been doing. It also includes an educational article, step-by-step demonstrations of the process of painting and custom portraits,” Debra said in an interview. She says she sells work from every one of these newsletters.
Well, that’s a simple summary. The more people who see your work, the more likely they are to love it. And a professional online portfolio is key to attracting potential buyers.