Establishing a Productive Online Presence Pt. 2
It's important that you maintain an actual website with a domain name you own. It's something that provides a more professional appearance and the option to present your work in a manner that is unique to who you are as an artist. It's fine to have a "www .com" domain redirect to a portfolio hosted by an outside source - though you have to recognize that you're always taking a gamble by relying on companies that provide free web hosting. It would be a mistake to use an art forum as your website. They’re unreliable, and you’d be promoting your work while it’s surrounded by the art of thousands of other artists.
Make sure that you keep your portfolio simple, straightforward and as easy to navigate as possible. Sometimes people tend to go overboard with the aesthetics of their online portfolios. It's actually counterproductive to create a web design that's extremely complex since the majority of art directors will spend between 30 seconds to 2 minutes looking at a website. So if it takes more than 3 or 4 clicks just to access your albums or the load time for each image is such a hassle that the viewer becomes frustrated – those are things that could cost you a job.
Additional Online Venues:
Make good use of all the tools that are at your disposal. It doesn’t hurt to have 4 or 5 extra secondary portfolios across the web. You never know where you’re next job may come from or who's lurking on different outlets. Some people stick to one or two places, so it’s in your best interest to spread your work across more than a single site.
I know from experience, hearing back from clients that they’ve seen my work on Facebook, my Website, Tumblr or various Art Forums. If they’re there and they're free or cost effective, they may be worth looking into. It takes very little time to update them and even if only one decent job comes from somewhere other than your main website it’s always worth the extra effort in promoting on additional venues.
A lot of Art Directors, Editors, Artists, Film Directors, Writers, Licensing Managers and all sorts of creative individuals spend more time on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Linkedin and places that aren’t “art specific” than most people would think. Still – as mentioned, it’s always important to link back to a professional website where they can review your artwork and resume. One more thing about posting all across the web – make sure your contact information is easily visible on each image or within each profile.
Mass Media and Social Networking:
One of the downsides to social media sites used for networking is that I see a lot of artists who let it control them as they let fame and less important aspects take precedence over more beneficial uses for such sites. Places like Twitter and Facebook make it easy to focus on achieving some sort of “celebrity status” through the amount of followers you obtain.
This is where some artists miss what’s most important in utilizing social networking sites. Fame doesn’t denote success, so don’t equate the amount of comments, ‘likes’, ‘shares’ or compliments someone gets with them being financially successful or even a talented artist for that matter. Do not chase after such trivial achievements, it’s only a waste of time.
Sure it’s great to build a large online following and I do encourage people to interact with as many individuals as possible. Creating a Facebook page definitely makes it easy to do that. However, whether you have 5,000 followers or 50,000, a number is simply that, a number. The only thing that really matters is having a fan base that’s loyal and people who enjoy your work enough to actually engage in some sort of interaction.
If you’re posting art sketches, advice and other random status updates just for the sake of trying to lure in more “Likes” it’s just a waste of time that could be spent elsewhere. It’s better to focus on posting quality work that you yourself enjoy and work you’re proud to share.
These online tools are only as helpful as you make them out to be, based on how you decide to utilize them. There is a fine line between self-promotion, being narcissistic and letting your ego take over. This will only hurt your reputation and create rumors or earn you a bad name in such social circles, professional industries and among fans that follow you online. It’s surprising how many young and novice artists are chasing after the wrong things these days.
The Double Edged Sword:
Being very active online can also mean being very vocal and wanting to have an opinion on a lot of touchy subjects. A few things you'll want to try to avoid involve public debates over anything religious and political based or discussions regarding your thoughts on sexual preference and controversial topics that might offend people. When you start to make a name for yourself, you have to recognize that the things you say and your actions will possibly affect your professional career.
Whether you think you're just expressing a personal opinion that has nothing to do with your art or your work, it very well may mean the difference between someone referring you for a job or not. It's easy to burn bridges if you're not mindful of how you conduct yourself and whether you care or not about how certain individuals react. Remember that this industry is like a tree, if you burn one branch it could be linked to many other branches that extend from its base.
Dos and Don'ts:
There are many things people tend to engage in without realizing how hurtful it is to their reputation. Some of this can include seemingly simple statements, inquiries and requests. Try not to annoy, irritate or piss off those who you idolize with an abundance of unreasonable requests or using them to gain promotion for yourself. I can guarantee it doesn’t go unnoticed.
Other more serious matters may involve inflated egos, narcissistic personalities and or rude and insulting remarks. Regardless of how talented an artist may be, they can quickly lose the respect of their fans and other artists or companies by how they present themselves online.
Self-promotion is a tricky thing but also a necessity for freelance artists who don't use agents to represent them. When you go around posting your work, advice, and non-stop self promotion it can easily be misunderstood as being narcissistic and self-involved. So tread carefully and think before you post something publicly.
One last piece of advice – although not everyone will get along and not that we should expect that we’ll all see eye to eye, treat everyone with a certain level of respect and courtesy. When you’re very active online, it’s expected that you’re going to inadvertently and indirectly insult or hurt other people’s feelings and beliefs. You’re going to receive unreasonable requests, hateful comments and spiteful reactions from those who may misunderstand you or feel some form of jealousy toward you. Don’t engage in such debates or stoop to their level of immaturity. Take the higher ground and handle these situations as a mature level headed professional.
Colonia, NJ (USA)
Mike has nearly 10 years of experience as a freelance Concept artist and Illustrator for the Entertainment Industries. He has worked for companies such as Liquid Development, Radical Entertainment, Applibot Inc., Paizo Publishing and Hasbro Inc., among others.
He excels in creature design, which he also taught as an online instructor for the Academy of Art University along with several workshops published in ImagineFX Magazine, 2DArtist, 3DTotal and Advanced Photoshop Magazine.