As an illustrator, your happy place is head-down over your drawing table, tablet, or sketchbook, obsessing over every line, curve, and composition. If you’re like us, you’d rather draw a social butterfly than figure out how to be one online. Flapping your wings out of your comfort zone can pay off. Because being on social media can help you grow your community, craft, contacts, “self,” and even your bank account. Here’s what we mean.
#1. You Can Find Your People.
You’ve probably heard a lot about getting followers. Gaining followers is not the same as building community–an obvious and fabulous benefit of being on social.
People spend a lot of time on social trying to make things look beautiful. As an illustrator, you do this naturally. Your first step is when you showcase your gorgeous portfolio and promote your services. The magic happens when you engage with other illustrators and industry professionals on your platform (or platforms).
The big social media platforms such as Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, TikTok, and Facebook have millions of active users. That’s a wide net to cast as you grow your community. Newbies like Mastodon allow you to be a bigger fish in a little pond.
Followers are great. Community shows up for you. They share opportunities. They commiserate when things feel bleak. They buy your art and your books.
#2. It Helps You Keep It 💯.
You know what they say, “feedback is a gift.” Once you’ve established your community, you’ll have a whole new set of eyeballs with whom to share your work and works in progress (the ones not protected by N.D.A.s). You could ask for help and advice on craft stuff like colorways, techniques & sketches. Or you could proudly show off a finished masterpiece! Your community will want to see it all.
Your work might find its way in front of your peers, art directors, editors, agents, potential audiences, and patrons of your art. And since social platforms can be equalizers, you could cross social paths with your artistic heroes.
Social media platforms also have built-in analytics tools to track engagement, impressions, and other metrics of your social shininess. When pitching a project, data like this can be nice tidbits to add to an agent or editor’s cover letter.
3. It Gives You a Chance to Give Back.
There are lots of ways to give back within the different social platforms. Twitter, for example, has hashtags and events to give creative folks the tools to raise each other up. You can support your friends by sharing their work and successes. And don’t be surprised if people contact you for mentorship or advice. Get ready to feel warm and fuzzy.
4. You Can Make Passive Income.
Most of us are not going to get rich on social media, but social can help pad our incomes. Here are some low-impact ways of generating a little extra cash:
- Sell prints & merch. There are tools to sell prints, stickers, cards, and other products featuring your illustrations that require little or no capital investment.
- Distribute video content. YouTube, Tik Tok (or its wannabe cousin, Instagram Reels) all have programs to let you monetize your video content. You’re already doing many things you can record and upload. Ideating, sketching, and painting (digital or actual painting) are all stages of art making people want to see. All you need is a camera phone and a little courage.
- Offer your work via subscriptions. Patreon and Ko-Fi are social platforms where people subscribe and pay for the content and artistic community you’re providing. Substack lets you charge for newsletters. Now Instagram even has a subscription option. Medium is more skewed to narratives, although we generate a little income with our comic.
5. It Can Help You Maintain Your Mental Health.
Being an illustrator can be very isolating. You spend long hours alone focused on your art. Sometimes the echo chamber of your thoughts gets dark: Is my work good enough? Am I making the right choices? Why am I even bothering to try this? I’ll never be good enough!
When you build a community, you’ll have a cadre of fellow illustrators who get what you’re going through and who you can reach out to for reassurance and support. From commiserating over client problems to sharing strategies for managing your anxiety and keeping your creative spirit strong, your social media posse can be life savers. And since your social friends may live anywhere in the world, there’ll be an interested audience to turn to day or night and turn “off” when you need to get back to work.
Ready to Log On?
A solid social community can help you grow your career and enhance your life as an artist. The real trick is to keep it from cannibalizing your studio time. Let’s keep this conversation going!