Getting clients becomes 2x tricky if you don’t have an established portfolio as a professional illustrator. Your portfolio is a part of your identity — it tells the client what you do and how you do it. In this article, you’ll find 6 handy strategies for building a stellar illustration portfolio.

A well-established portfolio is sometimes the only difference between an illustrator who gets hired and one who does not, so focusing on your portfolio is one of the most important things you should do. It acts as a resume, shows your transition in terms of progress, and displays work visually so the client can assess if you’re the right fit for them. If your portfolio is organized well, it creates an excellent first impression making it easier to close the deal.

Investing time in building your portfolio can prove to be beneficial if you follow the right steps and approach it smartly. Your portfolio is your online reputation, and you want to present a professional front. So it’s essential to pay attention to detail and start on the right foot.

Here’s how you can start building your portfolio.

Find a suitable portfolio hosting platform

Sending individual links to clients when they ask you for your portfolio is quite unprofessional. Instead, you should have all your work in one place, either on your website or on a third-party website, which lets you host a portfolio and display your work.

You can make your website by buying a domain and hosting on WordPress or Squarespace. It can have a home page, about me page, services, and portfolio page along with a contact us page. You can also work on your website’s SEO by focusing on blogs and providing educational content through that.

The benefit of having a website is that it makes you seem more professional and creates a great first impression on the client because it shows that you have invested efforts in creating a website.

Here’s an example of an illustrator’s portfolio website.

However, not everyone has the time or money to create a website, so you can opt-in for a third party platform to host your portfolio.

These websites allow artists to display their design work in an organized and professional manner by creating a profile. Here are some of the popular ones:

  • Behance
  • Dribbble
  • Coroflot
  • Fabrik
  • Cargo
illustration protfolio

Behance presents a popular place for showcasing illustrators’ creative outcome

Include your best work

Clients don’t have the time to scroll through multiple files to assess your skills. They will probably judge you by the first couple of works you display, so it’s essential that you only show your best work.

While including all the work you’ve done to date, including your early phase work may sound tempting, it’s not the best thing to do because you evolve as you grow. Your style gets different, your way of working, and the outcome becomes different. So, you don’t want the client to see your transition; you only want them to know the result you can help them achieve.

It’s always better to have 2-3 good projects than 10 average projects. Displaying everything will confuse them and may reduce the chances of closing the client. Instead, focus on your best pieces, and include a description of the work along with it.

Explain your process of working, the challenges you faced, how you overcame them, and even client testimonials. That will build trust and credibility because, along with your work, now they know about your backend process too.

Keep your portfolio organized and neat

Having an unorganized and cluttered portfolio is not the kind of first impression you want to make on a prospective client. Wherever you host your portfolio, be it your website or a third party website like Behance, make sure you organize your work neatly.

You can even categorize them as per industry or any other measure you deem fit and which might help the client navigate through your portfolio. The quality of your portfolio matters as much as the work displayed in it, so spend time neatly stacking your portfolio.

Ultimately, clients always go for the option which impresses them the most. Mostly your portfolio will do that, but why leave anything behind? Make the process easier for them by organizing your work.

illustration portfolio

Daniele Gransaull’s illustration portfolio

Show variety in work

Being consistent with your work is great, but it’s better to include some diversity in your work so the client can assess your creativity and potential. That does not mean that you take up self projects to cater to that diversity, but try taking up some paid projects out of your comfort zone to learn and provide a broader portfolio.

If you already have a diverse portfolio, you can create categories under one portfolio or create a separate one for each category where you can send the portfolio according to a particular client’s requirement.

Take a look at this portfolio example that has established clear categories such as paintings, comics, murals, posters, etc., helping the reader get a better understanding of their diverse set of skills.

illustration portfolio

LA Johnson’s portfolio

It can be a smart move because it will help you make a tailor-made approach for every client your approach or pitch, ultimately increasing the chances of closing that client.

Display the kind of work you want to do

If a client wants to hire an illustrator for children’s work, they will probably look for one who has experience working in this category. So, if you have a specific category in mind, be it advertising, children’s books, or book covers, ensure that you include similar work in your portfolio.

Having worked in a particular category shows that you’re experienced, and the client can rely on you. It builds trust and helps close the client in a better way.

Don’t put the designs you don’t like to make because if a client ends up picking them, you won’t enjoy the work even though it brings you money. The clients will only see what you make them see. So, display your best designs in the category you want to work in, helping the client choose you over other illustrators in the same category.

Be authentic

The only way to stand apart from the crowd is to be authentic. Having your style makes you unique, increasing the chances of being liked by a prospective client. Identify what is one thing that you do differently from other illustrators and highlight that in your portfolio.

That could be one category you specialize in, a complimentary service you provide, an additional software technique you know—whatever it is, let it define your style.

Doing this will make you look better in front of your clients, providing opportunities for better projects. It will also show the immense potential you have as an illustrator, giving you an edge while sealing the deal.


Your portfolio should show what you can do for your client portraying you as an expert in the field. Just show them what you would like to see if you hire an illustrator. Don’t make it difficult for them to navigate through your portfolio, understand it or open files. The more comfortable and organized it is, the more it will impress the client. It’s all about giving your clients what they need- a display of your best work to be convinced you’re ”the one.”

About the Author: this is a guest article by Adela Belin, a content marketer and blogger at Writers Per Hour. She is passionate about sharing stories with the hope of making a difference in people’s lives and contribute to their personal and professional growth. Find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Title image from Surr pack in Ouch illustration library

Check more digital art in the collections of illustrations on teamworklandscape illustrationshero illustrations for web design, review the collection of mobile UI designs with illustrations, and learn how illustrations improve user experience

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