How to showcase your work and grow your profile

You’ve done the work, but now what? We speak to illustrator Olimpia Zagnoli and Julie Cook, head of art at Mother London, to get the freelancer and commissioner perspective on how best to get your work and name out there

Creating a piece of work might seem like the hard part, but getting it in front of the right people and establishing yourself as a creative is essential for finding jobs or commissions. So how do you know what work to display? How can you ensure you showcase it to its fullest potential? And how much does social media really matter?

To glean insights from a freelancer’s perspective, we spoke to Italian illustrator Olimpia Zagnoli, whose vibrant creations have earned her clients including Prada, Apple, the New York Times and beyond. She shares her experiences of navigating social media, and explains why editing down your work can not only be instrumental in getting commissions, it can ultimately decide your direction.

On the agency side of things we hear from Julie Cook – head of art and production at Mother London, and a judge in this year’s Photography Annual – about what commissioners are looking for in a portfolio, and how to decide what to include in it.


“I’ve never had that feeling of oh, things are starting to work or this particular project was very well received, nothing like that,” Zagnoli tells us. There was no discernible turning point in her getting more recognition – instead, her progression felt organic. “I think I developed an awareness that grew kind of in parallel to growing up as an adult.”

“If you think about it, this happens not only with your career or your artistic development but also it happens in the same way with your music tastes or your fashion taste, when you’re young you try a bunch of things – you try different styles, you try different haircuts, you fall in love with authors who you end up hating a couple of years later!

“So I think that my artistic career kind of grew in the same way as I grew,” she says of finding her voice. “There was a moment in which I felt a bit more confident about my choices in what I was saying, the way I was dressing up, or talking, and it was the same for drawing. My drawings started to look more like myself at some point.”