If you want to be a freelance illustrator, your ticket to success is a strong portfolio. It's both your business card and your entry ticket – a visual illustration of what you've done so far as well as a sign of where you want to go in the future.
How often have you lost hope when you posted a freelance illustration job on any marketplace and see no orders? That mostly happens when you don't have a portfolio, or you do have a portfolio but it is not that appealing.
Portfolios come in a variety of flavors: there are interactive online portfolios, and then there's the standard pdf portfolio, which can be digital or printed.
Regardless of which option you opt for, there are a lot of ways to make it look professional and appealing.
Now let’s discuss the most important pointers to get you started on building your dream illustration portfolio that’ll land you 10x more orders.
How Should an Ideal Illustrator Portfolio Look Like?
An Illustration portfolio ought to have features that turn leads into clients.
The ideal illustrator portfolio demonstrates your abilities as an illustrator. It gives clients a good idea of your work style, expertise, and how you can be of help to them. It makes a lasting impression on clients, making them feel compelled to hire you.
A freelance illustrator portfolio must be easy, be concise and targeted, and must have a wow factor in it. If you can ensure that your portfolio has all of these elements, you will be on your way to success.
Last but not least, the portfolio you display sets the benchmark of what clients expect when they want to hire a freelance illustrator. So, your portfolio must instill trust in them that you are the only freelance illustrator they wanted.
Having said that, here are some valuable tips to help you nail these points and build an incredible portfolio.
Display Your Best Work
Clients don't have time to go through several files to evaluate their abilities. They will most likely judge you based on the first couple of projects you present. So, show them your best work.
While you wish to show off all the work you’ve done thus far, including your initial projects may not be a good idea because you progress as you grow.
Your working style, precision, and the end result, everything becomes better. So you don't want your potential client to see your evolution; instead, you want them to know how you can best serve them with creative illustrations.
If you still want to put in your entire work history, try arranging your best work at the top of your illustration portfolio, with your weaker ones coming at the end.
Pro tip: It is always preferable to have 2-3 excellent projects rather than ten mediocre projects. So, concentrate on the best pieces and compliment them with a proper work description.
Show Off Your Expertise
You must have heard of the expression "jack of all trades, master of none." When it comes to building your illustration portfolio, this adage holds true.
Assume you're a graphics designer who works on logos, branding, web design, photography, UX/UI design, and a variety of other design-related fields. Because of various disciplines, it's challenging to create a focused portfolio.
“Creating a portfolio that focuses on the type of client work you want to do can result in a succinct presence.
Consider the intended audience. Are they primarily looking for logo design work? Creating a portfolio that focuses on the type of client work you want to do can result in a succinct presence.
Pro tip: Include a powerful quotation or a testimonial from a former customer. It may also be a picture from a client or a personal project.
Organization and Simplicity Is the Key
You certainly don't want to make a bad first impression on a potential client by having an unorganized and cluttered portfolio.
Make sure you arrange your work neatly wherever you host your portfolio, whether it's on a freelance illustrator website or a freelance marketplace.
You may also categorize them by industry or some other criterion that you think will help the client navigate your portfolio.
Spend time to draw together your portfolio because the consistency of your portfolio matters as much as the work displayed in it.
In the end, you will only be chosen if your freelance illustration portfolio succeeds in impressing the client.
Organize, categorize, and simplify it to make the process effortless for your clients and land amazing freelance illustration jobs.
Pro tip: Avoid gimmicks, put your illustrations on a clear white background and make it simpler for your clients to navigate.
Your Portfolio Should Tell a Story
Think of your portfolio as a storytelling journey. It should follow a story arc with a beginning, middle, and end, with your best work acting as bookends at the opening and closing of your portfolio.
Using story-driven narrative is an approach that supplements depth to your portfolio presentation and feels more like a personalized conversation than a direct pitch.
However, short and to-the-point captions or descriptions are preferred. Allow your work to speak for itself too. If clients have concerns, they can contact you. Any writing you have in your portfolio should be sincere as well as optimistic.
You want to produce one-of-a-kind project headlines that represent your distinct approach to your craft or services. Instead of a list of tasks accomplished, write project reports that concentrate on the problems and how you worked through them.
Pro Tip: Don't make an excess of an effort to sell yourself. Avoid using clichés or overused phrases in your headlines.
Become More Social
Know that your portfolio is just one aspect of your overall online presence as a freelance illustrator.
Social media too can help you develop your brand and add the human element that could persuade a potential customer to hire you.
Create social media streams that link to and communicate with your portfolio—for example, retweet a web poster you created for an event or use your Instagram feed to display projects underway.
You may also use social media to demonstrate your personality. Speak about any organizations you're involved with or any pro-bono work you've done.
Create content that draws people to your portfolio because they want to learn more about you.
Bear in mind that if you want to use social media in this manner, your feeds should be professional and clean. Keep your rants and grievances private.
A prospective client does not want to see someone who is difficult to deal with or who lacks professionalism.
Pro tip: Keep some social channels open such as your Twitter and LinkedIn, while others private, such as your Facebook and Instagram page, to maintain privacy and protection.
Try to Stand out from Others
Being diverse yet authentic is the best way to stand out from the crowd. Having your own style distinguishes you from the competition and increases your chances of being liked by a potential customer.
For that, determine one feature that sets you apart from other freelance illustrators and includes it in your portfolio.
That may be a specialty area, a complimentary service you provide, or a software technique you know – whatever it is, let it describe your uniqueness.
This will make you look exceptional in front of your clients, which will lead to better project opportunities. It will also demonstrate your ability as a competent freelance illustrator, giving you an upper hand when closing the deal.
Pro tip: Be insightful. Show your client how you gather, analyze and synthesize ideas into beautiful illustrations in your own unique way.
Choose Quality Over Quantity
Despite the fact that you have already read this, we must reiterate this point. It is a lot more preferable to display two or three outstanding projects rather than ten ordinary ones.
For instance, if you’ve designed hundred logos so far, pick and choose only the top five to showcase in your design profile.
In view of the fact that when it comes to building your illustration portfolio, one of the most important factors to consider is the quality of your work.
This is because, when presenting something that will be judged, you want to present it in the best possible manner.
Clients will only prefer the freelance illustrators who inspire them, so play your best hand if you want to stand a good chance.
Pro tip: Keep in mind to always show off your best work so you don’t stay in people’s minds like an average freelance illustrator.