YOU ARE YOUR WORK
First things first: make work that represents you. It’s crucial, Vittoria says, to draw inspiration from your world and things that mean something to you rather than emulating others. “The minute I stopped making work I thought was going to sell and started making work that was important to me – it skyrocketed,” she remembers. While everyone’s process differs, the artist found it helpful to revisit creative decisions she made subconsciously. “Pay attention to the work you do when you know it’s not going to be a finished piece. Pay attention to the patterns in those sketches and bring those into more final drawings.” To hone your style, whether you’ve had formal training or not, the NYC native advises pooling all your experiences and drawing every single day. “Find what inspires you and put it down on paper. Build up that portfolio!”
INSTAGRAM IS YOUR PORTFOLIO…
Once you’ve found your personal style you need a space to present your work. Instagram is your free digital gallery. But how to make it stand out? Simple – make it look good. Vittoria has grown her following to 30K by approaching content methodically and with purpose. In the early days, she strategically laid out her grid, creating a beautiful platform that would entice followers. “The work was visually interesting with a story behind it, so people were more inclined to follow me,” she recalls. As well as people discovering your work organically, Vittoria says not to be afraid to reach out to publications and offer them interviews about your work – they’ll help drive traffic to your page.
… AND YOUR CALLING CARD
Now that you have your Instagram aesthetic down – use it. Networking and getting your name out are essential and, in 2018, Instagram has replaced the role of the traditional artist’s agent. Brands help pay the bills and the majority of Vittoria’s client work comes via the platform. The IG discover tab will become your best friend if you spend time training the algorithm to deliver content from brands that resonate with your work. Save those brands. Then get in contact. At least twice a week, the NYC native hits up between 50-100 brands and publications. “It’s like putting bottles out into the ocean and hoping that some find their way back,” she laughs. While it might seem disheartening at first, Vittoria urges you to keep trying.
KNOW YOUR WORTH
The skills you’ve learnt have value. So why are you working for free? Being offered ‘exposure’ and ‘experience’ in return for work is something that artists face – but try not to be guilt-tripped into taking it. “Exposure will come with every paid project. I took a few of those ‘opportunities’ when I started out. It’s never worth it,” Vittoria warns. To neutralise awkwardness, she suggests crafting a go-to response explaining that you’re not in a financial position to take on uncompensated work. Mostly, the artist says, people are understanding. And those who aren’t? “Ask them to tell your landlord that exposure pays the rent!”
Use this time to grow your self-confidence and your network. Reach out to artists and ask them questions. And keep learning. Vittoria trained herself for client projects by making art that worked for specific publications like The New York Times and putting it on her website until, eventually, they commissioned her. “You have complete creative control. You can learn about yourself as an artist while also doing work for a ‘client’ without working for free.”
TRUST YOUR GUT
At the same time – don’t accept branded opportunities just because they pay well. Deciding which projects to drop can be tricky, so Vittoria advises weighing the pros and cons and taking opportunities that’ll teach you something – even if they’re outside your comfort zone. “It’s hard to do but don’t take work just because it pays. It’s nuanced and different for everyone but go with your instinct.”
USE THE ONLINE TOOLS AT YOUR DISPOSAL
As well as client work, you’ll want to keep creating and selling your own art. But, don’t just dump work on your online shop and hope for the best. Utilise different mediums so you’re easily accessible and there’s something for everyone. Vittoria sells original drawings and paintings on platforms like Etsy and also via her IG stories. Making your own custom T-shirts is also a great way to sell your art. It’s a flip on traditional physical formats, allowing supporters to buy, wear and share your work easily. “In a weird way, it’s like an ad for my work,” Vittoria laughs. “People will ask the person wearing it, ‘Who made that shirt?’ and they’ll give my name and Instagram.” And why not use platforms like EVERPRESS that make your life easier by handling customer service, postage, manufacturing and more?
Finally, be kind to yourself and others. Remember – you work for you, so take a break when things aren’t going well. Not everything is the best work you’ve ever made, and not every day is great – but the next day will be better. “It’s tough, but you have to be OK with projects that don’t turn out the way you want them to. That’s life,” Vittoria muses. The artist also reminds you to celebrate and support others’ achievements – it’ll help in the long run as you grow your networks and experience success. “Don’t ask yourself, ‘Why didn’t I get that job? I could’ve done that too,” she says. “Don’t put that in your mind. Everyone’s on their own path.”