Is Instagram necessary if you have a website with portfolio accessible digitally?

  • Hello, I am late to the social media game outside of Facebook, and am a little overwhelmed by Instagram. I feel like because I’d just be starting out on there, all my posts will just be lost in the masses.

    I have a website with my portfolio accessible digitally. My goal is to illustrate children’s books, to eventually have an agent representing me, connecting me to those illustration jobs.

    So is instagram necessary? Will an agent want to see that more than, or is it important to have it in addition to, my website?

    Thanks in advance for any wisdom you can share!

  • Pro

    @BreannaB We always hear that social media is really important to find work. Everyone tell you "You want to get work? Build really kick-ass social media profiles and clients will start reaching out to you!" I really dislike this strategy because it's so passive! No one would ever suggest that in any other industry. Just create a profile on LinkedIn with your resume and offices looking for administrative assistants will just start hitting you up? NO!

    I've now been freelancing full-time for 2 years and have built up my instagram to 1400 followers. The amount of contracts that came directly from Instagram? Zero. I had a few people reach out to me, but they all turned out to be self-published authors who wanted me to illustrate their book for ridiculously low budgets, so it never amounted to anything. If I'd been waiting for clients to come to ME, I wouldn't have been working full-time the last 2 years. Every contract I ever got was either one I found and applied for myself, or sent to me by my agent (who I reached out to and sent a submission myself).

    That being said, how many of those clients, before making the final decision to give me the contract, have looked me up online, checked out my website and social media? I can't know for sure, but I'd say probably several of them (maybe all, who knows). So I do think having a presence on Instragram is important. To take that same administrative assistant on LinkedIn example, it's ludicrous to think that just making a profile and sitting back will result in work, BUT if the person send in an application and the employer looks them up on LinkedIn only to find out they aren't there at all, it might work against them. They may wonder if the applicant is even serious about taking a job, and if they're taking a smart approach. An agent will definitely want to see that you're there. It won't hurt you if you only have a small following, but if you boast a large following it might have a point in your favor in the agent's mind.

    Having an Instragram account is important I think, but I wouldn't worry too much about your level of success there. Focus on having a nice curated feed of your best work (no rejected sketches!) and keep posting consistently, maybe once every week or every other week. Being there is important for when people look you up, and in time it may even lead to a job. However you're absolutely right that it shouldn't be the only strategy you have to find work.

    Also keep in mind that even an agent won't send you enough work to keep you occupied at first, and in some cases maybe not ever. Even with an agent it,s very important to be able to find your own work to fill in the gaps of your schedule, or have other streams of income. I used to do about 2/3 of contracts that I find myself and 1/3 from my agent. Now it's about 1/3 of agent work and the rest of my time I spend on my Etsy shop. Either way, I can't rely on my agent (no matter how wonderful they are!) for 100% of my income.

  • Thank you so much @NessIllustration! I really appreciate you taking the time to share your experience with me. May I ask another question... in starting my Instagram then, would you recommend posting several pieces at once just to get it going and not looking empty, or wait and just post one each day?

  • Pro

    @BreannaB My pleasure! I think post at least 3 to start to have a full row, then pick a schedule and stick to it. My schedule is once a week on Tuesday, and even if I have 10 new pieces to show I curb my enthusiasm and schedule them once a week. I know I'll need the backlog for slower months! Scheduling is HUGE. I use the free app Buffer personally. You select your schedule and it creates slots. Then you can queue up your work and then will post one by one according to your schedule. If you have a good backlog of pieces, you could take a couple hours to set it up and literally not have to look at it again for a few months. It's a great time saver!

  • @NessIllustration you are so helpful, thank you for all your great advice!

  • Call me naive, but if youre work is good, and you have a readily available online extensive portfolio, and you're pro active in hunting down work, you should get it. Right? Doesnt really matter where the work is displayed. But...the world is the world, and if the next generation is on instagram, then probably you should be too. I wouldnt put too much stock in what im saying though, i am quite drunk.

  • I think @NessIllustration hit the nail on the head here.
    I have an Instagram following of over 7K and I have had no jobs come from Instagram (besides self published authors which I don't take). Most of my followers are young, or other illustrators. On the contrary one of my friends has about 1K and a publisher reached her through Instagram. It's not the be all and end all. I try and just treat it as something I do in my spare time and don't get too wrapped up in the engagement and numbers.

    I actually think Twitter is more helpful for illustrators now days. It's much easier to connect with ADs by following them there. Some post on twitter looking for new illustrators, where you can post your work under their tweet and hope they see it. I have only a few hundred followers on twitter but I've have a few different agents reach out to me after seeing my work there.
    Unless you want to be a 'social media artist/artist influencer/art youtuber' etc I don't think you need social media, but there is a great community of other illustrators out there on twitter and Instagram and it's nice to feel part of that community.

  • @eriberart Thank you for sharing your experience and thoughts, it’s super helpful to hear from others who’ve been doing this awhile, I appreciate it!

  • Instagram has been great for me and I would really recommend it. I had an editor contact me after seeing my work on Instagram, and several self-publishing authors have found me through Instagram. Two of them have turned into well paying book jobs. I’ve also made friends with other illustrators through Instagram, some that I FaceTime with occasionally and some I’ve now met in person. I’ve also gotten work through Facebook and my next book is someone who found me on Pinterest. Any way you can get your work out there is good!

  • @NessIllustration your experience is so helpful! Thank you for sharing! Is there a link to your Etsy store on your site? I couldn’t find it. Would love to check it out - thank you!

  • @Natalie-Lundeen Wow! How exciting you’ve found so much success through social media! Thank you for sharing!

  • Pro

    @Mairin-Kareli Not it's not listed because it's digital planning products (stickers and planners) so it's quite unrelated to children's books haha.. But you can see it here:

  • @Natalie-Lundeen how do you promote on Pinterest? I haven't figured that out yet

Log in to reply