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How Do You Promote Yourself Online?

March 6, 2010

(Illustration by Matti Kemppainen)

Welcome to EFII’s Weekend Forum discussion!

This week, I’d like to invite you to talk about how you promote your freelance Illustration business online.

With so many options, it can be difficult to know where to begin.

What’s your approach?

Do you find yourself spending more time than you should on social networking?

How have you built relationships online?

All these questions, and more, confront creative professionals on a regular basis.  Please share your thoughts in the comments section of this post and find out what your fellow artists have to say.

See you there!

Special thanks to Matti Kemppainen for sharing his Illustration in this post.

About Matti Kemppainen:

I’m a illustrator living and working in lovely Helsinki. I studied new media in Hyper Island in Sweden and have since worked in house at web design and advertising agencies, all the while doing freelance illustration at night.

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22 Comments leave one →
  1. March 6, 2010 11:53 AM

    I promote my services primarily through two aspects: 1) my website and 2) word-of-mouth via satisfied clients. Repeat customers of mine have referred new clients to me.

  2. March 6, 2010 12:16 PM

    My work gets seen through facebook, youtube, blogspot, forums and online competitions mainly.

    I use my facebook to put up folders of drawings, paintings, recent work, portraits, etc. The thing that pulls interest is when I do portraits of entertainers (usually local festival circuit sort of thing). Tag them in the sketch (might be just a rough sketch from a show, or a media exercise, whatever). Then heaps of people have it show up on their feed. Most of them are disinterested, some leave a comment, and some of them are enthused enough to commission something.

    Forums are great. Especially ones that aren’t primarily illustration-oriented. Post up something they’d be interested in seeing, then answer any questions, then a link to the blogspot (basically a portfolio now).

    So, basically, I use these social networking sites to keep myself in practice, and get my work seen by people who might appreciate it. Then it’s word of mouth from there on in.

  3. March 6, 2010 1:16 PM

    I use all the options that I find that can work for my illustration style. Being a children’s illustrator for books and products for children is challenging.

    Online portfolio sites are very helpful. I use Children’s Illustrators, Picture Book, Coroflot, and Creative Shake as places where a host manages the exposure. Children’s Illustrators and Picture Book charge a fee the others are free.

    I post my work on my own blog and several group artist blogs to maximize exposure. My blog is linked into my Facebook account and posts will show up there as well as on my own blog.

    Beyond that I keep an active and up-to-date portfolio within my website. The website also serves as home to my bio, contact and articles I write that are helpful for the trade. By offering articles that apply to my industry I find that others seek the information there and that helps to drive visitors to my site.

    I apply to search engines, keep my keywords relevant, make good use of meta tags on my website and watch the publishers sites to see what they are offering in their children’s book catalogs.

    I answer emails promptly and will lend a helping hand if I can when I am asked about my work or the industry in which I work.

    I co-administer a blog for 12 artists who post their promos, successes, ideas and images for the illustration community and the public. The exposure for the group as a whole helps each individual as well.

    I belong to a group of illustrators called the CBIG (Children’s Book Illustrators Group) which also has an online presence and portfolio section linking back to my website.

    My social networks include, Facebook, Twitter and Linked In. I find that Linked in is the more reserved and professional site, Facebook allows me the most exposure of the three and Twitter is helpful for promoting web posts, blog posts and links.

    In addition to promoting my work online I use an outside printing company to print postcards with my best illustrations on them. They come in various sizes and I send these out to prospects 3 or 4 times a year.

    Whenever it is allowed I will add a link to a comment that brings a viewer to my blog or website.

    Thanks for asking the question.

    • March 9, 2010 9:15 AM

      Hi Ginger,
      I really appreciate that you took the time to answer with so much detail. I didn’t know about some of the sites.

  4. March 6, 2010 2:50 PM

    I contact magazines publishers artdirectors artgalleries through very short emails with attached few samples of my recent works. I try not to re-contact the same person for at least 4/6months. Flickr Twitters and other social portals I use are ok only for showing (rather than promoting) my works amongst my collegues. Dripbook is a great tool for promoting my work to clients. Using Dripbook I can customize image-galleries very quickly, and the clients will get an email from Dripbook with a link to the gallery. Dripbook is a bit expensive but if you have a bit of budget I believe it is worthy a go. Finally I take part to 3/4 major illustrators contests every year, in the hope to have my work seen by clients, publishers and art directors. Again to take part to those contests is quite expensive. Every year I fix a budget for my promotion and then I try to stick to it.

  5. March 7, 2010 9:39 AM

    Postcards, Website, Facebook and e-mails…. and then pray that someone looks at it!

  6. March 7, 2010 10:59 AM

    I use flickr and facebook along with my own blog and portfolio site to showcase new work. I use Twitter to send out that there are new updates. I have entered a couple competitions, but I have to limit them as they can get expensive quick, as mario said above.
    I really don’t think I do enough so I am definitely going to be watching the comments on this post to see what everyone else is doing.

  7. March 7, 2010 12:55 PM

    This seems like an appropriate topic to slip in a question I’ve had for a while – when contacting art directors/designers you’ve contacted before, by email, how do you frame that? It’s easy enough to call the initial email “Illustration Submission”, and to introduce myself, and say that I’m interested in working for them… but the followups have me stumped. Is it a resubmission? A reminder? Do I assume they remember me submitting before, knowing they probably don’t? Am I seriously overthinking this? (…Yeah, probably. =))

    …As to the original question, I tend to promote myself with the aforementioned email promos linking to my site, by tweeting my blog posts, by linking my site in places like IllustrationMundo… really, I’m not too into the whole social networking scene. I’m one of those stone age holdouts that doesn’t even have a facebook profile. I do try to get involved in blog topics (like this one!), in contests and the like, but I’m aware that my online promotion could definitely use a boost. I’ve got a new blog of daily drawings that I’ve been running since January, and tweeting them with the #daily365 tag (which is mostly used by designers) has got a little attention, but nothing significant as of yet.

  8. Diana Ponce permalink
    March 7, 2010 1:12 PM

    Besides seasonal email ‘mailings’, I have my own website, two paid web galleries (Altpick and CreativeShake), several smaller free web galleries, listings on a few Illustration and design sites, a Facebook Fan page and a LinkedIn profile page. I will be creating a WordPress blog as well as a Twitter page shortly.

    I add news items to Altpick news which go out on a Twitter feed, I update my FB fan page often, I participate on a number of illustration listserves and forums and I contribute often on LinkedIn groups and am growing my network of connections there. I have also been interviewed for a number of illustration resources where the interviews and my information appear online on their respective websites.

  9. March 7, 2010 2:33 PM

    At first, I was totally clueless. I had a DeviantArt account for years, but never managed to get more than 5,000 pageviews (this is meaningful to those who have an account there and notice than some members regularly get 5k pageviews for everything that they submit!). I had Twitter, I had Facebook, I had LinkedIn… I had a lot of things, but I wasn’t using them in conjunction with one another.

    I took a marketing class from the Livestreams and got my act together and more organized. I linked all of my accounts to one another via It allows you to email update all of your social networks and blogs all at once, so it makes marketing yourself less of a chore. It does spread out your comments to a lot of various networks instead of one central place, but at least you are getting exposure.

    I try to take the time to respond to all of the comments people send my way. So far, I haven’t been so swamped that I can’t answer them all. If a day like that comes, I may resort to just answering the questions or setting up a F.A.Q. to link people to.

    I know only one way to obtain freelance work and it’s very difficult. I have specialised in the fantasy/sci-fi scene and I am interested in magazine, book, RPG and any other kind of work I can get from that genre. So I painstakingly go through Google searches, book stores, magazine shops and individually make note of each publisher I can find that I feel my work is suitable for and then email them a quick note linking them to my portfolio (as many do not wish for email attachments or emails with attachments can go straight to the trash).

    I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback, but I’ve only gotten a handful of jobs in the 9 months I’ve been a freelancer through this method. Unfortunately, it may be a sign of the times as many of the responses consist of “we like your artwork, but we don’t have any work for you at the moment”.

    I keep pushing my work out there, always trying to create bigger and better pieces. I constantly update my Twitter, Blog, Facebook, and DeviantArt accounts with new work. I post tweets every so often announcing that I am looking for illustration work. Honestly, I’m not sure what more I can do. I am considering an agent, but I’m not exactly sure how to start on that path- most agents I see are for fine artists, not commercial illustrators.

    Thank you for posing the question! I am excited to read the other responses and see how others promote themselves so I may learn something new!

    • February 6, 2011 1:42 PM

      Hi Charreed
      I just read your post. I have an agent and I would recommend them to any illustrator. Do your research though in the US they are called illustration reps but you can get a list of them easily on Google and checkout their sites and send a very short and appropriate email to them. It might be they have a special submission page on their site. Send between 3-5 examples of your work and a link to your site.
      Agents can be slow at getting back to you so don’t give up hope, there are a lot out there all over the world and it doesn’t matter where your work comes from so long as its work you enjoy and you get paid for it.

  10. March 8, 2010 9:00 AM

    My main means of online promotion (and self-promotion in general) is my own website. I’ve also set up profiles on sites such as Flickr and LinkedIn, and in the past have tried some other art sites, but the majority of people finding my work on the web do so through my own online portfolio. Over the past few years I’ve built up a steady client base and following, so a lot of the jobs I get now are either repeat clients, referrals or people who have seen the commissioned work I’ve already done, but my website allows me to display the range of work I do, giving anyone interested in hiring me a good idea of what to expect. Even when contacting potential new clients, I tend to just send an introductory email with a link to my website, rather than mailing out actual printed samples, unless they specifically ask for them in their submission guidelines.

    Occasionally when I have some particular news or special announcements, I might post it on forums or sites like Illustrationmundo.

    Recently I also started my own blog which I intend to use in conjunction with my website. It’ll allow me to give updates more regularly and show new work quicker, as I don’t always have time to update my website when I’m busy with commissions. And it’ll be a way for me to share insights and info about the way I work and what inspires me with my audience.

  11. March 9, 2010 8:10 AM

    I’m a book cover illustrator. My website is my biggest magnet for landing new jobs, so I spend a lot of time maintaining it. I also email potential clients every few months. LinkedIn is a good way to discover potential clients as well.

    I guess my bottom line is that you can be the very best illustrator in the world, but if you unless you present your work to potential clients and create ways for them to discover your work, all that talent is worthless. The trick is to make the connection.

    A side note: I believe the publishing industry is currently in the doldrums, being extra cautious with spending. This makes landing a job tough and for those illustrators starting out, don’t get discouraged because things should pick up as the economy recovers and the publishers become more open to producing more titles.

    –Duncan Long
    Freelance book cover illustrator for HarperCollins, PS Publishing, Pocket Books, Solomon Press, Fort Ross, etc. See my book cover illustrations at:

  12. March 9, 2010 3:23 PM

    My blog is the main path into my website, which is where I usually get contracts. Most of the contracts I’ve gotten have been through email or online. Since my blog offers a lot of information on the greeting card business, it attracts a variety of types of readers (reps, artists, agents, writers, manufacturers) which eventually leads them to my website.

  13. October 20, 2010 8:28 AM

    I have just started in the world of illustration coming from an animation background. I am actually in the process of finding all the ways of I can get noticed, I have a few jobs under my belt but really want to get more exposure, more followers etc. And I found selfless self promotion, which where I found Illustration island, thanks for the advice!!

    Please check out my work and tell me what you think!!
    How do I become a friend or follower of you??


    • Stuart Bridgeman permalink
      October 20, 2010 8:42 AM

      I’ve just realised that by some magic reason I am actually signed up now!!good times!!^-^

  14. December 9, 2010 10:34 AM


    Mainly social networking sites like facebook, twitter, youtube etc and search engines …

    Shafeer. (

  15. lesleyjohnson permalink
    April 6, 2011 12:20 PM

    i just came across this old post and thanks to everyone for some great ideas. as for me, i have a website, with a separate portfolio section that i send a direct link of to publishers, art directors, etc. it gets a bit tricky when i’m wanting to present purposeful portfolios to different types (book industry, gift industry, etc). is an social networking/portfolio site that has been great and definitely worth checking out (free :)) and there you can post as many separate portfolios as you like… (you can also do this if you are a pro user.) and you can send the direct link to publishers. behance also have an app where you can embed your portfolio in your linkedin account.

    i also have the linkedin account, and am starting to explore twitter. thanks charreed for the great tip on!

    i also just started a facebook page just for my illustrations with a link to my new etsy shop. i’m researching now the best online shops for my illustrations. there are tons and tons that are free, and they do the shipping/printing for you~you just need to send the illustration:,,,, bigcartel — to name a few. these places offer your illustrations/art on a range of products like t-shirts, posters, prints, greeting cards, even i-phone cases.

    i also carry my business card EVERYWHERE which has a link to website. the postcards i send to art directors/publishers also has my website prominantly displayed (of course :))

    and thanks KATE HARPER… i’ve bookmarked your blog and look forward to reading it more.

    omy, this is long. i also have a blog that i use to host images i submit to … if you haven’t heard of them, def check them out.

  16. March 29, 2012 1:58 PM

    Wow! A Whole year since the last post and this stuff is still really relevant and helpful. Such a wealth of awesome knowledge. I have just created my website and in the first tentative steps towards self promotion and there are some great tips here. Looks like I need to be spending a lot more time on social networking!! Will definitely be giving the behance / linkedin portfolio app a go. Cheers guys!

  17. March 29, 2012 2:01 PM

    Hey?! How’d that happen with the apple link – wups! Of course what I actually meant was a link to my portfolio.. that was a rookie error I won’t be making again!!


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