Building Strong Connections: 9 Tips for Illustrators
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 9 min read


  1. Build Your Portfolio
  2. Join Professional Networks
  3. Attend Industry Events
  4. Connect with Peers Online
  5. Collaborate on Projects
  6. Seek Mentors and Be a Mentor
  7. Share Your Work Publicly
  8. Engage with the Illustration Community
  9. Nurture Relationships and Keep in Touch

Are you an illustrator interested in growing your professional network? Perhaps you're asking yourself, "how to build connections with illustrators?" Well, you're in the right place! Establishing solid connections can open up a world of opportunities, from collaborative projects to invaluable mentorships. But where do you start? The answer is simple: start by showcasing your talent. Let's dive into the first step to building strong connections as an illustrator: building your portfolio.

Build Your Portfolio

A well-curated portfolio is the heart of an illustrator's professional identity—it's your golden ticket to making a strong first impression. Here's how you can build a robust portfolio:

  • Create a Variety of Work: Variety is the spice of life, and it's no different for your portfolio. Show potential collaborators and clients that you're versatile. Experiment with different styles, techniques, and mediums. The more diverse your portfolio, the more likely you'll catch the eye of fellow illustrators.
  • Quality Over Quantity: While it's important to showcase a range of work, remember that quality always trumps quantity. Take your time with each piece. Strive for excellence, not just a filled portfolio. Your best work is what will earn you those coveted connections.
  • Include Personal Projects: Personal projects are a window into your creative soul. They help others understand what makes you tick as an illustrator. Including these in your portfolio shows others that you're passionate about your craft, which can be a significant draw for potential connections.
  • Update Regularly: An outdated portfolio is like a closed shop: it won't attract any customers. Keep your portfolio fresh by regularly adding new works. Regular updates not only show that you're active and evolving but also give others a reason to revisit your portfolio.

Remember, your portfolio is not just a gallery of your work—it's your introduction to the world of fellow illustrators. A strong, diverse and regularly updated portfolio is your first step towards building meaningful connections. So, what are you waiting for? Start building that portfolio and pave the way to a network of illustrators!

Join Professional Networks

Now that you have a strong portfolio, it's time to put it out there! Joining professional networks is a great way to do so. Think of these networks as your virtual meeting place, where you can connect with other illustrators, share your work, and gain exposure. Let's see how to make the most of these networks:

  • Choose the Right Networks: Not all networks are created equal. Some cater specifically to illustrators, while others are more general. It's important to choose networks that align with your goals and style. Take some time to explore and find the ones that resonate with you.
  • Engage Actively: Simply joining a network isn't enough. You need to engage actively. Comment on other illustrators' work, participate in discussions, share your own creations, and respond to feedback. Active participation shows that you're not just there to take, but to give as well.
  • Make Genuine Connections: Networking is not a numbers game. It's about making genuine connections. Focus on building relationships with illustrators who inspire you or whose work complements yours. Remember, quality connections are far more valuable than a large quantity of shallow ones.
  • Be Consistent: Consistency is key when it comes to networking. Regular engagement can help you build a strong presence and maintain visibility within your chosen networks. Consistency also shows that you're serious about your craft, which can attract other dedicated illustrators.

Joining professional networks can be a game-changer in your quest to build connections with illustrators. They provide a platform for you to share your work, learn from others, and build relationships based on mutual respect and admiration. So, why not give it a shot? Join a professional network today and start connecting!

Attend Industry Events

Industry events, like conferences and workshops, are like gold mines for illustrators looking to build connections. Not only can you learn new things and gain inspiration, but you can also meet other illustrators and industry professionals in person. Here are some tips to make the most of these events:

  • Plan Ahead: As exciting as these events can be, they can also be overwhelming. Plan ahead! Look at the event's schedule, choose the sessions you want to attend, and research the speakers. This way, you'll get the most out of your time there.
  • Participate Actively: Don't just be a spectator! Participate in discussions, ask questions, and share your thoughts. This active involvement can help you stand out and make a memorable impression.
  • Network: Industry events are perfect opportunities to network. Don't shy away from introducing yourself to other attendees. Remember, everyone's there for the same reason: to learn and connect. You never know, the person sitting next to you in a workshop could be your next collaborator!
  • Follow Up: Don't let the connections you make at these events fade away. Follow up after the event. Send a quick note to the people you met, expressing how much you enjoyed meeting them. This could be the start of a great professional relationship.

Attending industry events can elevate your connection-building game to a whole new level. It's a chance to step out of your comfort zone, meet new people, and broaden your horizons. So, mark your calendar for the next industry event and get ready to build some meaningful connections!

Connect with Peers Online

The power of the internet cannot be overemphasized when it comes to building connections, especially for illustrators. Here's how you can make the most of it:

  • Join Online Forums: Forums like the Illustrators' Lounge or Pencil Kings are filled with illustrators sharing their work, discussing ideas, and asking for advice. By actively participating in these forums, you can build rapport with your peers and gain valuable insights.
  • Use Social Media: Social media platforms, particularly Instagram and LinkedIn, are excellent for showcasing your work and connecting with other illustrators. Regularly share your work, engage with others by commenting on their posts, and don’t hesitate to strike up a conversation.
  • Participate in Challenges: Online challenges like Inktober and Draw This Again challenge are not only fun but they also provide a platform to showcase your talents and interact with other participants. Plus, they can be quite rewarding in terms of improving your skills!
  • Webinars and Online Workshops: These are great platforms to learn new things and interact with the instructors and other participants. Plus, they offer the convenience of learning and networking from your own home!

Building connections online is just as important as doing so offline. It exposes you to a global community of illustrators and offers countless opportunities for collaboration, learning, and growth. So, make sure you're making the most of the online space to enhance your connections!

Collaborate on Projects

Working with others on a shared project is one of the best ways to build lasting connections. Here's how you can go about it:

  • Join Collaborative Projects: Participate in shared projects like zines, anthologies, or mural painting ventures. These projects require teamwork and bring together illustrators with diverse styles, which can be a fantastic learning experience as well as a way to forge strong connections.
  • Start Your Own Projects: Have an idea for a comic book or a children's book? Why not invite other illustrators to join you? This not only brings your idea to life but also helps you connect with illustrators who share your interests.
  • Exchange Skills: If you're good at character design but struggle with backgrounds, find someone who excels at what you find challenging and propose a skills exchange. This allows you to learn, grow, and build connections simultaneously.
  • Get Involved in Community Projects: Your local community may have projects that need illustrators. These initiatives not only help you connect with other local artists but also allow you to give back to your community.

Collaborating on projects isn't just about getting the job done—it's about the journey, the experiences you share, and the relationships you build along the way. So, don't hesitate to jump into a collaborative project—it could lead to some of your most meaningful connections!

Seek Mentors and Be a Mentor

When it comes to building connections, mentorship can be a two-way street that benefits everyone involved. Here's how to incorporate mentorship into your connection-building strategy:

  • Find a Mentor: Seek out more experienced illustrators and ask them to guide you. A mentor can provide valuable insights, feedback, and advice that can help you grow as an artist. Plus, the bond you form with your mentor can become a lifelong connection.
  • Offer Mentorship: Once you gain some experience and expertise, consider mentoring less experienced illustrators. This can not only help you give back to the community, but also provide fresh perspectives that can inspire your own work.
  • Join Mentorship Programs: There are many professional networks and art associations that offer mentorship programs. These programs can help you connect with potential mentors or mentees and can provide a structured framework for the mentorship.
  • Learn from Each Other: Mentorship doesn't always have to be a formal arrangement. You can learn a lot just by exchanging ideas, critiques, and experiences with your fellow illustrators.

Remember, mentorship is about more than just learning or teaching—it's about building connections that can last a lifetime. So, don't be afraid to reach out to potential mentors, or to step up and become a mentor yourself. You never know where these connections could lead!

Share Your Work Publicly

When it comes to illustrating, your work is your voice. But how will people hear you if you don't share it? Let's explore some ways on how to show off your artistic talents:

  • Online Portfolios: An online portfolio is a must-have for any illustrator. Platforms like Behance or Dribbble allow you to display your work in a professional, organized way. Not only does this help potential clients find you, but it also allows you to connect with other artists in the community.
  • Social Media: Platforms like Instagram and Pinterest are perfect for illustrators. Post regular updates, engage with your followers, and use the right hashtags to increase your visibility. This can help you build connections with a diverse group of people from potential clients to fellow illustrators.
  • Art Shows and Exhibitions: Nothing beats seeing artwork in person. Participating in art shows or exhibitions can help you build connections with other artists, art collectors, and even gallery owners.
  • Publications: Submitting your work to art magazines or online publications can give you exposure to a wider audience. It also adds credibility to your work.

Sharing your work publicly can seem a bit daunting at first, but it's a great way to showcase your talent. As you share, remember, each post, each exhibition, and each publication is a potential connection waiting to happen. So, don't keep your art to yourself—put it out there for the world to see and appreciate!

Engage with the Illustration Community

Art isn't created in a vacuum—it thrives in a community. Engaging with fellow illustrators and members of the broader art world is a surefire way to build connections and create opportunities. Let's go through some effective methods:

  • Participate in Online Forums and Groups: Platforms like Reddit, Facebook, and LinkedIn host numerous groups dedicated to illustration and art. These spaces are perfect for sharing ideas, giving and receiving feedback, and keeping up with industry trends.
  • Join Illustration Associations: Organizations like the Society of Illustrators or the Association of Illustrators offer resources, networking opportunities, and a sense of community. Membership in such associations can help establish your professional status while connecting you with like-minded individuals.
  • Art Workshops and Classes: Taking part in workshops or classes can introduce you to new techniques and trends. Plus, it's a great way to meet other artists and expand your network.
  • Comment on Other Artists’ Work: Genuine engagement goes a long way. By commenting on other artists' work—whether on social media or a portfolio site—you show appreciation and interest, which can lead to meaningful connections.

Engaging with the illustration community can help you feel connected and inspired. Remember, building connections is not just about promoting your work; it's also about being an active participant in the community. As the saying goes, "you get what you give". So, give generously—your time, your interest, and your support—and see how your network grows.

Nurture Relationships and Keep in Touch

Once you've made connections, it's incredibly important to nurture those relationships. It's easy to fall out of touch, especially in the fast-paced world of illustration. But there's a simple solution—consistent communication. Here's how to do it:

  • Stay Active on Social Media: An easy way to keep in touch is by staying active on social media. Regular updates on your work, thoughts, and inspirations keep you on the radar of your connections. Liking, commenting, and sharing posts of your peers also shows that you're engaged and interested in their work.
  • Send Personal Messages: A personal message can make a world of difference. Whether it's a simple "hello" or a more thoughtful message about their recent work, reaching out directly can strengthen your relationship.
  • Meet in Person When Possible: Nothing beats face-to-face interaction. If geography allows, make an effort to meet up for a coffee or at an event. It can solidify your connection and create lasting memories.
  • Collaborate and Support: Collaboration is a powerful way to keep in touch. Whether it's a joint project or simply promoting each other's work, collaborative efforts can help maintain and strengthen your relationship.

Nurturing relationships takes time and effort, but the rewards are worth it. Remember, your network is more than just a list of contacts—it's a community of people who can inspire, support, and help each other in the journey of illustration. So, keep in touch, stay engaged, and see how these relationships can help you grow.

If you enjoyed our tips on building strong connections as an illustrator and want to learn more about working with clients, we highly recommend checking out the workshop 'How to Work with Clients: Illustrator Edition' by Grace Helmer. This workshop will provide you with valuable insights and strategies on how to effectively communicate and collaborate with clients in the illustration industry.