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Professional Practice: Part 2.


This section of the module is aimed at looking at our websites and finding ways to improve them. Investigating what makes a website good and what doesn't.

The first part of the exercise we did together and posted examples of what we thought are good and bad examples of websites.

What makes a good website/portfolio?:

  • A good website is clear and easy to navigate- not tons of tabs to have to sift through to find the info or images you need. Keep it simple.

  • It show cases your talent above all else.

  • It should be used as a chance to elevate your work

  • Only put in work your proud of - your best work. Do not pad it out with work that is sub-par.

  • Present your website/portfolio as if you are a practicing professional- not a student. You want be seen as a professional.

  • Should reflect you.

  • Should create an impact.

  • Make sure your work is the main event by not adding unnecessary elements or making anything too fussy- don't over design your portfolio.

  • Having your 'home page' as your gallery to give an immediate impression of your work on the viewer.

  • Imagine you are an art director-looking through many portfolios/webpages each day- you only have a small amount of time to look at that artists work-think about what they would see if they only spent 3 minutes looking at your website or portfolio. Make it impactful.

  • Lots of people like to see a printed portfolio too- particularly people who work with printed publications.

  • Show reels and slide shows are also good.

  • Don't put stuff in that you didn't do!

  • Make it relevant to the recipient.

  • Show that you love and enjoy your subject. The best way to show this is through personal work.

  • Try not to be too broad in the work you present- you want to stick in people's minds for a type of work/style.

  • Consider tailoring your portfolio to the job you are going for.

“Creating a portfolio that reflects your personality and interests is vital if you want to attract likeminded organisations.”

(Harriet Lee-Merrion Illustrator)​

Links to useful articles from Lecture in Progress:

I'm not going to include a list of what makes a bad website/portfolio because it's basically the opposite of what I've written above.


What can I do to improve my website or online portfolio?:

  • I feel I could do with a bit more outside feedback to properly answer this question.

I have questioned whether to continue with the dark blue background. I personally really like it and feel it fits in with my folky aesthetic although maybe it would be more the 'done thing' to go white. Maybe it detracts from my work- I'm not really sure. But I have also been told that people like it and it makes my work 'pop'. 

  • I have tried to not add any more 'frills' than necessary and feel like my gallery 'home page' looks good and interesting. I need to keep adding to this. Also the work displayed there is not all in the same format so that could do with looking at.

  • I would also hide all my university work pages.

  • All my work in my gallery is my personal work so I think this conveys my personality and enjoyment of illustration and would hopefully attract clients or jobs who share my interest, where the job would suit what I want to create.

  • It would be good to upgrade my site so it doesn't have the wix name in the url and also so people could make purchases through the website. I plan to do this if it became financially viable. 

  • I think it could be a possibility to add a blog to my website as I feel like I could have some interesting content.

  • I personally loved creating a physical portfolio in my first year so I'd really like to be able to continue this with the rest of my work and add to it before or at the end of the course. 


2:2 Social Media:

Listen to Ed's talk 

I did listen to Ed's talk but didn't realise we had to take notes! I'll just work from memory and other research.

  • Instagram is great for illustrators because it is all visual. We don't have to do extra work to create content because what we create routinely is content.

  • loads of people working in the illustration industry use inst to find new work.

  • it is a free and easy way to create a public portfolio.

  • It is good to post regularly- at set times of the day- once a day is good but more than that would be too much.

  • write engaging posts- write something interesting that keeps your followers on that post for longer.

  • make use of hashtags.

  • reels and stories are good- they engage people and keep them on your post for longer which is good for the algorithm.

  • no-one understands how the algorithm works.

  • have fun and enjoy your instagram account.

  • don't get stressed by the numbers (likes and follows)- it isn't a reflection of how good your work is.

  • It is better to have less followers if the ones you have are engaged- better than having tons who don;t interact.

  • keep your personal life and your work separate (at this point ed accused me of posting cat pictures which was a lie)- people don't want to see your meals or cups of coffee and it looks unprofessional.

  • you can use your account as an online sketchbook, process videos or final work.

  • Get involved in the instagram community- 'network'. Comment, like and message people/artists that you admire, create instagram friendships- it can be a really supportive community.

  • Seek out and find agencies, magazines, journals etc that you aspire to work with and engage with their posts. If they notice you and like your work it could lead to jobs.

  • NEVER COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHERS (this leads to despair)

  • but you can learn from people you admire- look at their presentation etc and think how you could use the example to improve your own.

  • make sure you post good quality images- editing or filtering is not cheating.

  • engage with your followers- reply to peoples comments.

Advice on Social Media from lecture in progress,

"Post the best, you don't have to share everything)

'Be honest, be interesting, tell stories, be human, be you. Put stuff out there that you think people will find engaging, provoking and that they’ll want to interact with. Ask questions. Try and think of interesting ways to promote your stuff rather than just saying, “Look I did a thing, click here.”

                                             My Instagram account:

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Working for free: Exploitation vs Exposure

Articles discussing the subject:

"Exposure is one of those things that you have to stop and think, what kind of exposure am I getting out of this? Does this offer take me to my target audience that I haven't been able to reach on my own? Or do they hit my audience that I already have and can reach just as well on my own?

"I guess control is the biggest factor for me; I know I have the time and the means to volunteer before I do so and I usually have a lot of creative freedom as well. I only do these during slow work months and most turn into personal pieces I can also utilize in my portfolio so I do benefit in that sense."

A lot of creatives that are just starting out think it’s better to show work you’ve done for an actual client (even if it’s crap work) than work that is good but self-initiated. It’s just not true: your work has to be good and has to suit the job. Whether someone else paid you for it, is less relevant.
Most of my jobs come from my self-initiated work. I barely show assignments I did for clients in my portfolio or on my social media, and still, I get the jobs that suit me. Why? Because my free work shows exactly what I can do and people hire me for that.

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A Creative profession is a job not a hobby.

Exposure is one of the biggest jokes out there. It rarely does anything for you. The way you get work is to, simply, work. And keep working. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and a little bit of exposure is not going to create your career. Only blood, sweat, and tears can do that. Oh, and money. Because, you know, cash is required to buy the things that keep you alive and not homeless. So, unless you want to be the first homeless zombie illustrator, you need to get paid.

Should I work for free?


OK, maybe that’s not a terribly nuanced response, so let’s try again in a bit more detail: No. Never. No way. Not at all. Under no circumstances.

Personal Summary

Having read through the articles above my summary is that Illustration is a creative profession like any other profession with skills that are developed over long periods of time and lots of effort and therefore needs to be given the respect of being properly paid for jobs. You wouldn't ask a builder to come and fix your kitchen for free so why is it ok to ask an illustrator or artist to work for free? It's not. We still need money like everyone else to live.

If you choose to undertake work for free- ie for a charity that you want to support or a friend that is your choice, but make sure that you feel comfortable doing that ie have enough time and energy on your hands so you don't end up feeling resentful and drained, or letting your own work suffer.

I recently completed some work for free for an illustration agency who were working to create a colouring book to support a charity. I really liked the charity and was happy to support them and also liked the brief set (sea creatures, black and white line drawing) I also felt like the brief was asking for something that I had not tried before and was keen to give it ago. So in this case I was happy to do the work. I didn't get any exposure and my design wasn't picked for the final book but it was still a fun thing to do.


The writers above make a good point:  If a company is offering 'exposure' as recompense for work, it's probably not going to be a good deal for you. It's a much better idea to create your own speculative work thereby working more directly towards the kind of work you want to be doing in the future and creating the portfolio that suits you.

Also, big companies that ask you to work for free should be viewed as morally suspect!!

A point I found very interesting/helpful was about professional attitude- if you value your work highly and have pride in your work which includes not working for free, then others will also value your work. Don't demean yourself or your work by giving it away for free.

Basically the brilliant infographic by Jessica Hische says it all!! 

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