How much artwork do I need on my website?

Contrary to belief, you do not need to have hundreds of pieces developed before launching and promoting your portfolio website. You just need a handful of strong collections to present your artwork to the world. The only exception to this may be if you intend to reach out to a traditional art licensing agent. Otherwise, if you want to market yourself to studios and freelance clients it is not necessary.

When you are developing your portfolio website there are two important factors to consider. First, you want to love the work you are presenting and, second, you want to make sure the work is a true representation of your style. If you feel it isn’t—something we’ve all felt at one point or another—it may be time to focus on artwork development and creative exploration. You can worry about marketing and sales in the future.

After identifying your style and getting comfortable with the development process, the time will come when you are ready to present your artwork. When this happens

I recommend showing at least three very strong collections, or nine individual patterns, on the public area of your portfolio website.

No more than that is necessary! The remainder of your work, as well as any artwork that is developed in the future, can be added to a password protected area. It is my personal opinion that you don’t have to display all your artwork for the entire world to see in order to get your name out there and promote your work. You simply have to share enough of your amazing work that you grab the visitor’s attention and drive them to apply for access to your private portfolio.

The benefits of a private portfolio

There is no way to guarantee that your work is not going to be copied, but protecting your work via a password is one small step that you can take to lessen the risk. It also has one other major benefit—it allows you to get to know your customers.

A customer that applies for a password is a serious client, a potential client. The password helps you start developing a relationship with them and you can get to know what your customers are looking for in the marketplace and how you can make their lives a little easier. Take advantage of this opportunity!

A private portfolio will also enable you to sell to more clients, including those who prefer not to purchase artwork that has been posted on public portfolio websites, stores, or blogs. Some buyers don’t mind purchasing artwork that has been posted publicly; however, some are hesitant to do so and others will outright refuse to purchase work that has been shown in a public way. Having a private portfolio protects your work and allows you to cater to buyers across the spectrum.

Assess where you are at

As soon as you are excited with the work that you are creating and feel ready to share it with the world, do it! One of the best ways to learn who your customers are, what style resonates with them, and what they need from you is to put your work out there. You’ll find no better way to gauge the responses that you are receiving. But most importantly…enjoy the process.

Don’t know what to include in your portfolio website? Download our free Portfolio Development Guide Checklist.

  1. That is indeed very useful advice and it answers some of my doubts about all this work by artists being posted on Behance and other platforms. I just don’t think you should lay out all your cards on the table, ideas get copied all the time. If the style is strong it shows through anyway. But what about if it’s work you’ve already published/sold? Would you say it’s safer then? Thank you for the article!

    1. Great question loanna. Yes, work that you designed for a freelance client or previously sold is a different story and I probably should have specified that in the article. I would share as much as that work as you can, as long as you like the style of the work and as long as you have permission from the client. I usually wait until products hit the sales floor before posting the prints or photos of the prints to my website. Please don’t sell the rights to a print and then post it on the public area of your website without the buyer’s permission. Does this help?

  2. I can attest to the wisdom of the info here. I’ve been a Textile Design Lab member for about 6 months. In that time I’ve gained the technical skills to transform my artwork into marketable collections. I’ve followed Michelle’s advice and put up a website with just 3 collections in the public section, a blog that I post to regularly, and an artist’s statement. I’ve just gotten 2 new freelance projects as a direct result of people visiting my website. Pattern Observer is a great community of artists and experts and time and effort spent here has had very quick results for me.

  3. Hi Michelle. Pattern Observer is such a great resource! I have been licensing images mainly paper products and manufacturers and want to get into the House-ware market. I am working on developing collections now and I am wondering how many designs should exist in each collection. Am I correct in roughly 3-6?

  4. Can you clarify *how* a private portfolio allows you to get to know your customer? I’m a little fuzzy on that… do you make them fill out an online form with a bunch of questions (eg. who are you… where are you from…what drew you to my site…etc) before you provide the password? Thanks!

    1. Yes, exactly! In order for a customer to gain access to your private portfolio it is common to have them fill out a short questionnaire with their name, job title, company name, work email & phone number, and you can also ask them to describe their print needs, their market, etc. Hope this helps!

  5. Hi there! I am having a job interview with a private company that hand paint home decor fabrics and it’s an in-person interview.I am really confused what to show because i have done a lot in this field.From digital design to embroidery, hand-dye, different techniques of printing and painting, macrame and hand and laser cut paper and fabric. I don’t know if i should take samples or only digital work or what exactly? I get confused for showing my work on my website too because i can’t decide how to market myself.Am i a designer? am i a fiber artist? it’s so hard and i’d be appreciated if you can help me.

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