Why you need a portfolio website (even if your social media game is on point)

Social media is a powerful tool for artists, particularly visual platforms like Instagram, or platforms specifically created for artists like Behance. They allow you to share your work with the world,  connect with other artists, and most importantly–reach new audiences. But even if you have killer social media accounts, it’s still important to have a website of your own.

If you’re still thinking “I have a great social media following, I don’t need a portfolio website” read on to discover the most important reasons why you absolutely need your own portfolio website.

Control the whole experience

Present your work in its ideal state

On social media, you have little to no control over how your work is presented. Maybe you want to show the entire process with lengthy descriptions of your process work. Or maybe you want people to be able to download high-res files of your work, or easily direct them to purchase prints directly from your site. Whatever the user experience is that you’re after, you have control over all of that on your own website.

No surprise algorithm changes

If you’re only relying on social media as the sole place to showcase your work, you’re at the mercy of whatever changes the platforms make. I’m sure we all remember when Instagram abruptly decided they were now a video platform first and an image platform second. Suddenly creators who only posted images weren’t getting seen, as the new algorithm favoured Reels and other video content.

Or maybe you experienced the slow death of the organic reach from Facebook pages. Creators found that only a small percentage of their audience was ever seeing their content. And the only way to get seen by their audience was to pay to boost their posts. Suddenly all the time and effort they had spent building their Facebook Page was wasted.

On social media platforms, we’re stuck working with the algorithm.

Don’t build on borrowed land

You don’t own the audience on social media–in fact, many platforms don’t even allow you to see who your audience is (after all, it’s the platform’s audience).

At any moment you could suddenly lose access to your account. It could be from bogus YouTube copyright claims, you could get hacked, or the platform could just decide to delete your account with no explanation. If you’re only relying on social media, and that’s where all your content is, then you’re out of luck if any of those scenarios happen to you.

The only way to ensure you’ll always have access to your audience is if you own the platform–and for that, you need a website.

It’s a solo show

Unlike Behance, Dribbble, Artstation, or other platforms, your website is all about you. There are no ‘check out this similar work’ call-to-actions that pull people away from your work to other artist pages.

Remember, the primary goal of these social media platforms is to keep the user on the platform. They don’t care if they show work from an artist that’s similar to you, as long as the user stays on the platform and continues looking at content.

But your website is different. The goal of your website is whatever you want it to be–whether that’s getting project inquiries, selling your creations, or building an email list.

It looks more professional

Are there professionals who don’t have websites? Sure. But they’re the exception, not the rule.

Imagine speaking at a conference, being mentioned in an article, or being a part of an exhibition. Do you want your Instagram handle to represent you? Would you really want to send your audience to Behance…and risk them getting distracted by the myriad of other work?

A website with a custom domain gives you a URL you can proudly display in your email signatures (also goodbye @gmail.com, hello custom email address!), on your business cards, and other marketing collateral. It’s a place you can link back to when you create content, courses, or digital products. It’s the central place you can send your audience. And it makes it clear that you’re not just another hobbyist. You’re a professional.

A website is enduring

Anyone else remember Side7? What about the mass exodus from Facebook to Vevo around 2018? What’s Vevo? you say. Exactly. While Instagram and Pinterest will likely be around for a very long time, who’s to say how the platforms will change and whether those changes will be in your best interest.

Social media networks come and go, but a website is forever (…or at least as long as you want). Your website can grow and change with you. It’s a little piece of the internet that you can call your own.

At least until the metaverse replaces the internet.

Are you convinced yet?

A social media following is awesome, but it’s not enough. A portfolio website should be the foundation of your online presence, with social media platforms used as additional tools to help you reach new audiences and reach your audiences where they spend their time.