This post is meant to help out creators who want to put themselves out there for work, preferably of the paid variety.
Editors and creators in general are always on the lookout for new talent. As a freelance editor myself, I keep an ongoing list of the creators I come across that I want to find a project for someday. The list of creators is longer than the amount of work I could possibly do in one lifetime, but I still keep it all (and add to it) in the hopes of having the perfect person in mind for whatever project comes down the line.
Now, the rest of this piece will highly depend on what kind of work you’re looking for–but before I get into anything else, I want to talk about a few basic things that should be included in a portfolio no matter what kind of work you’re looking for. But I’m going to make the primary focus on building a portfolio as an artist. However, I will also include a little section at the end for a writing portfolio and specific things to include there.
A Home Base for Your Work
You don’t need to pay for a fancy website (Squarespace, Wix, Artstation etc, are fine) with a domain, etc. I want to see the art as easily as possible (straightforward navigation, etc.) and be able to contact someone. But you should have a home base for yourself that includes a short bio, a CV (if you have previous credits to list), your social media links, and above all else–CONTACT INFORMATION! I cannot stress how important this is. No matter how great your art is, there is no editor who will hunt you down to hire you if you don’t have easy ways to be contacted.
I know I’m not the only editor who sees this all the time. I know it can be scary to put your information out there to the world, but invest in a site and a contact form if you don’t want to include your email address.
Including a section in your ABOUT page on what you want to work on, what you like to draw, etc. is also helpful! Not necessary, but definitely helpful. And updating your ABOUT or CONTACT page with whether or not you’re available currently for work is also extremely helpful.
What Kind of Work Do You Want?
Unless you’re already a big name where a creator knows your work by flipping through a comic book that they’re already familiar with, you’re going to want to make sure that your portfolio includes images that showcase the type of work you’d like to be doing. If you want to do…
- COVERS – have a strong portfolio of illustrations showing your range. Mockup covers for your fave books too, if you want and/or can.
- INTERIORS: include samples of your sequential work.
Make sure to include illustrations and art that conveys the range you’re comfortable/happy working in. It’s okay to have a variety! But try to only include stuff that you want to do more of. Even if it’s just in sketch form, showcase everything you can draw, especially if it’s stuff that some artists don’t enjoy working on (ie. cars, bikes, horses, backgrounds, foliage, animals, etc.)
I’d say that most artists wanting to work in comics, animation, etc. can draw people, but you don’t always see a strong range of what else they can confidently do. How do your layouts look? Do you have strong line work? How’s the anatomy of the people on the page? How do you convey facial expressions and emotions? There are a ton of factors that go into whether or not someone is a good fit for a project and most of those come from seeing samples.
Maybe if I have time to put a project together (and spare cash), an editor can look into test pages for you to do if they’re REALLY interested, but more often than not, editors are looking for someone that they can already see knows their way around a page.
Think about portfolio pieces that will show an editor or potential co-creator everything that you can do for their book. You want to showcase anything that will make you stand out from the crowd, and having dynamic backgrounds, and being good at all the other things will absolutely make you an exceptional candidate.
If you’re looking for work as an interior artist primarily, it’s still okay to include a gallery of illustrations and other such things. I’d try to make them separate items though within your portfolio. For instance, you can have a menu set up with an Art tab – within that, you can break it down into Comics, Illustration, Mixed Media, etc.
You don’t have to limit yourself on your website and portfolio, but making it as easy as possible for editors and creators to find the things they need to find will ultimately help YOU out in the long run.
If you’ve played around with different styles and can really change up how your art looks, show us! I love seeing the range that a creator is capable of and it makes me want to take a risk if you’re maybe not exactly what I was initially looking for.
Having your art coloured isn’t essential in your portfolio since colourists are available to work on projects. If you feel that your colours aren’t particular strong but your line work is, don’t be afraid to just include your line art. It’s nice to see completed art but I’d rather see strong lines that showcase your strengths rather than your art watered down with colouring skills that aren’t quite there yet.
These things can be applied to other jobs in comics as well. Substitute sequential art for illustrations if you’re looking for cover work. Show us your ability to letter and colour comics, respectively.
If you don’t have art to work on and practice with, there are templates and such you can use to practice your colouring and lettering skills.
But again, no matter what: the most important thing is always to have a way that you can be contacted.
Where to NOT Host a Portfolio
Instagram is not a great place to have your portfolio – not everyone has an Instagram and if I’m an editor without one, I’m not making an account solely so I can message you. It’s also hard to zoom in on your linework and take a really decent look at what you’re creating. You can use Instagram if you really need to and don’t have alternatives, but I STRONGLY suggest using something else, and again, having a website that really showcases you and your work.
Ditto that with deviantART, Behance, and other art websites. Those sites are fine to host a portfolio on but you absolutely NEED to include contact information. I am not signing up for deviantART (or trying to hunt down my password from 2005) to message you.
For Writers and Other Roles
As promised, I don’t have a lot more to add specifically for writers (because a lot of the above can still be applied to y’all), but here you go:
You need an updated CV of the work you’ve done. That can include any written projects, including if you’ve written for websites before as a news editor, or whatever. People just want to know that you can properly string together sentences. As time goes on and your portfolio grows, it’s definitely good to update your CV to include the work that most represents what you want to be doing and moving towards.
If you’re listing all the sites you covered news and movie reviews for, it’s possible that you’ll keep getting asked to do that kind of work rather than, say, writing comic books. So just keep that in mind.
I’ll leave you with the most important thing that I’ve discovered when looking at portfolios. I’ve already said it once but I’ll say it again for you all:
ALWAYS HAVE CONTACT INFORMATION ON YOUR WEBSITE!!!!
If you have questions, corrections, or any tips you’d like to add to this piece, please reach out to email@example.com and let me know.
This article was originally published in September 2019 and has since been updated.
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