Last week I sent a link to my portfolio to a potential customer who wanted interface work done for a small video game. What was the answer? He wanted to see my stuff, not because it was amazingly good, but because while a lot of artists had sent great images, I was only one of the few who had sent exemples of interface work for games.
This brings me to the topic of creating art for fun vs creating art for study vs creating art for work. I see a great many artists advertise themselves for some type of art and when I look at their portfolio, they don’t have any exemples of this type of art.
If you say you want to do portraits, you need portraits in your portfolio. Even if you have some figure drawings that show that you can do a likeness and some environment paintings that show that you can render stuff, potential customers aren’t going to think you can do portraits. If you fill you portfolio with bigbreasted machinegun-totting amazons, customers aren’t going to think of you when they want a picture of their grandfather painted.
Same goes for other assets, being a good draftperson doesn’t mean you can do tiling backgrounds, ortho’s or logos. Which is why you should try to have exemples of actual assets, not just sketch or fun stuff. You want to work on games? Do mock up of game screens, do tiles, walk-run cycles, ortho’s. You want to do storyboards? Put storyboards in your portfolio. If you wait to get paid before doing something, it’s never going to happen!