Checklist for Emerging Illustrators

“One of the most important skills you can have as an artist is to be proactive.

If you’re not working, neither will your career.”

– Kiri Leonard

1 . Build a portfolio of 8-12 of your BEST pieces of art.
Your portfolio should only consist of your best pieces, remember one weak piece will weaken the whole portfolio. Don’t put too many images in either. 10-12 images are usually optimal. The content of the portfolio depends on what kind of illustration you want to do, make sure to do your research on the field you’re interested in first.

2. Write a short but strong Artist’s Bio.
A good, strong bio will come in handy for your website, promotion mailers, emails as well as social media promotions so get to it! It shouldn’t be more than a few sentences but it should sum up your skills and attitude well. You can do a longer, more in-depth bio for your ‘About’ section on your website.

3. Register your name as a domain (ie.
Using your own name as your domain name is just a nice, easy, and professional way to go about it and as a bonus, it makes it easier for people to look you up after you’ve networked in person.

4. Set up a website that showcases your portfolio.
Now that you have your domain from #3 it’s time to get a website and put your portfolio online so you can start showing your work!

5. Research and build a client list.
Now that your website is set up you need to start finding clients to show it to. Look up artists whose work is similar to your own and see who they work for, also just search on Google for magazines, publishers, galleries, and what not in the genre you want to work in.

You can also go to book stores and see who publishes books you think you could be a match for. Make sure to update your client list regularly and make sure the companies already on it are still in business.

6. Design Promotion Mailers and Emails.
Now that you have a client list you need to design some promotion mailers/postcards and emails to send out. Research the best ways to go about this online!

7. Send out promotions. Repeat every 4 months.
Send out your mailers to your client list.

8. Start a personal art project to sharpen your skills.
Personal projects are the best way to practice your art while gaining experience and building a body of work you can use to show to potential employees. For instance, illustrate a well-known story you really like! Your personal art projects should always be focused on the art you really want to do. If you hate drawing cars, don’t make a project that requires you to draw a lot of cars.

9. Use art from your personal projects to refresh your portfolio.
Now that you have a portfolio, you want to keep it fresh and polished so every time you submit new mailers to your client list, they will find new work on your site. A great way to do this is to utilize the art you’ve created from your personal projects.

10. Set up Google Alerts for ‘Call to Artists’ and ‘Illustrator Needed’.
Google Alerts are great for getting an email with calls to artists directly to your inbox daily. Then you can browse through and see if any are a match for you.

11. Always be proactive. If you’re not working, neither will your career.
One of the most important skills you can have as an artist is to be proactive. No one else is going to build your art career. If this is something you really want, you have to work to make it happen.

Download the Printable Checklist