Are these 3 issues wrecking your online presence as a freelance artist?
Written by Olly on Apr 06, 2019
The online art and crafting community for niche fandoms is HUGE and thriving, providing more work opportunities than ever before for freelance artists. If you’re a freelance artist, crafting an effective and professional online presence is essential to thriving in whatever fandom you’re a part of. My freelance crafting biz Curlworks has been active online (specifically Twitter!) since we started in 2015, and ALL of my income now comes from various online sources, which is still so wild to me!
During my time in the online sphere, I’ve noticed many up-and-coming artists who are working their butts off to market their work, but are hindered by issues that are (fortunately!) very easy to address! I really want to see my creative peers succeed, so I’d love to share some of the advice I’ve picked up over the years. My business caters mainly towards the furry & anime fandoms so the lingo may skew into that territory, however this advice should be helpful to anyone who’s interested in promoting their creative work online.
Issue 1: Examples of your work are difficult to find.
Browsing through my Twitter feed one night, I noticed a retweet in my timeline; it was a newer fursuit maker who had been open for commissions for a while but were frustrated that they weren’t getting a ton of bites. Curious, I nosily clicked through to their profile to check out their work to try and figure out what might be the issue– maybe their style wasn’t something people were big fans of at the moment, or maybe their prices were a little off?
Once their profile loaded I quickly realized that I would probably have a hard time answering those questions… because I couldn’t find examples of their work ANYWHERE, let alone price or commission information. Their icon and cover photo were both simple, flat icons, and they didn’t have a pinned tweet. They didn’t have any links in their bio indicating any sort of website or gallery either. I scrolled down fairly far in their timeline and saw lots of image-less text posts advertising commission openings, but examples of finished work were nowhere to be found.
I was very confused, but mostly felt frustrated for this artist! What a missed opportunity– fursuits are such a visual art, you need to make it easy for clients to see your work. Luckily, this is such an easy fix. If you’re on Twitter or Facebook, utilize your big ol’ banner area to share examples of your work! Add links to your commission information and gallery to your bio. On Twitter, make it easy for clients to find your information by pinning a tweet with the best examples of your work as well as links to your online store, commission information, and gallery.
And yes… you should have a gallery or off-site portfolio! Most non-art-focused social media sites are awful for displaying large amounts of your work. Either create your own portfolio website (Wix, Squarespace, and Weebly are very useful if you’re not familiar with creating websites), or share your work to image-focused sites like Deviant Art or Behance. You mainly want a space that is easy to display your work so that clients don’t have to scroll through your feed to find it.
If someone has to dig through weeks worth of tweets to see a finished example of your artwork, you’re going to lose a lot of potential clients… and a lot of money! This segues nicely into my next point, which is:
Issue 2: Your feed is filled with random retweets and personal tweets unrelated to your work.
If you’re interested in pursuing art as a business online, or even just as a hobby, it is SO beneficial to keep the online accounts that you use to advertise your work, focused on your work. This is less important if you’re only interested in creating art as a casual hobby every so often. However, if you’re asking people to follow you as an artist, while you can definitely inject your personality and some snippets of your personal life into your tweets, it’s important to focus your account mainly on your art.
The main inspiration for this section was the business-focused Twitter account of an artist I stumbled upon randomly. Visiting their profile I noticed that they had lovely work, but frustratingly enough I had to scroll through literally twenty random meme retweets to encounter their latest work-related post (from a day or so earlier). Not only was it not super conducive to making their work visible to clients, I can’t imagine the amount of random retweets their followers must be getting spammed with if they’re retweeting twenty unrelated things a day. If you want people to follow you to see your work, don’t spam them with things that AREN’T your work or they won’t want to stick around!
Most of my artistic peers (including myself) have at least two Twitter accounts– one that is Strictly Business, and another that is a more personal ‘normal’ Twitter account. This separation is great to have. I still love to inject my personality into the tweets I make on my business account, but I try to always keep it professional so that the people who followed me for my work get what they came for. Many people on Twitter also have locked private accounts which they use for the tweets that they don’t want the public at large to see, which is usually venting with close friends. As you gain a following, this can be a useful space, too, which leads us into our next point:
Issue 3: Getting involved in interpersonal conflicts on your Business Account
I’m using the term ‘interpersonal conflict’ for this section because I know that ‘drama’ is a pretty touchy and broadly used word, but hopefully you all know what I’m talking about! The "X person did Y thing, and here are the receipts, avoid at all costs" kind of tweets that float around often in the social media sphere. Especially in fandoms, it’s very tempting to dive into the latest call-out post or Artist Beware and spread the word, but I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to stay positive and professional on your business account as a freelance artist.
Try to keep your business space a conflict-free business-only zone, and if you feel like spreading the word about sensitive issues, your personal or private spaces are the perfect spaces. Online arguments can sometimes devolve really nastilly in ways that you can’t often predict, and you don’t want to make your online livelihood the target of someone’s angry tweets. These kinds of arguments can also be upsetting to your followers who are otherwise uninvolved, and while it may feel good to share your opinions on something controversial, your followers may not feel the same way (either about the specific issue, or about spreading the conflict in general) and you run a high risk of losing them.
Probably the most harmful kind of tweet I've seen some business accounts make is the 'screenshot of an interaction with a crappy client' genre. Everyone runs into difficult clients eventually, however when you screenshot and publicly share your private interactions with clients (or potential clients), you're essentially saying to your followers, "Be careful doing business with or contacting me, or I may put you on blast!" You can definitely vent to a close friend or colleague, but good vibes only in the business zone.
Honorable Mention: Giveaways
Try to avoid giveaways that don’t actively promote your work. Giveaways are great for quickly gaining a following on a platform and rewarding your devoted fans, but if you are giving away your own work, make sure to provide links in that same advertisement that show people where they can purchase work from you! For example, if you're giving away one of your enamel pins, provide a link to where someone can buy the pin if they're interested.
Schedule giveaways around times when you’re open for work or have some new merch for sale, and use that extra flood of attention to gain some sales. Also keep in mind that the users that follow you for a free item aren’t necessarily the same users that will commission you in the future, and make sure to really evaluate if a large giveaway (ex: an expensive fursuit head) is worth your time and effort for the amount of (probably empty) exposure you’ll gain from it.
If you’re an artist who is looking to expand their presence online, I really hope that this advice is helpful in crafting a great business account that your followers and clients will be excited to engage with. I’m definitely not an expert, so if you have any feedback or additions please feel free to shoot me a DM and let me know. This is my first article/blog post here, so if you liked this one and have any preferences for what you’d like me to write about next, please let me know!