A career in Freelance Illustration is much more than drawing pretty pictures. As much as you’d like to spend the entire day sitting in front of Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator, you’ll also need to learn about selling yourself, keeping your portfolio fresh and, all the admin work we love to hate. It’s this work we love to hate that will define your success as an illustrator.
There are many different things you may wish to consider when thinking about entering into professional illustration, such as:
The purpose of your illustration: Illustration itself covers many different areas. While drawing pretty pictures maybe one aspect, you need to be specific in your objectives.
Are you wanting to illustrate for advertising campaigns? What about book covers? Maybe graphics to accompany news and magazine articles? Maybe graphics for a cocktail menu? How about diagrams for medical journals? And there are also illustrations for packaging? These are just the tip of the iceberg of the many avenues you could go down in finding a niche illustration market.
The medium of your artwork: Sometimes the purpose of your illustration can depend on what medium your artwork will be rendered in. For instance, is the work going to be displayed on a CD cover? If so, maybe an illustration within Photoshop/raster based work will be fine. However if the work is going to be displayed on a billboard and you’re going to need a high resolution graphic, perhaps looking at vector work in Illustrator is what you need. If you’re unsure of the key differences of these mediums, check out this article on What is Vexel Art?, which goes into what raster and vector art is.
Client vs Stock: There are several ways you could earn money as a freelance illustrator. The most obvious is via clients who commission you to create a tailored piece of artwork to their specifications. However there is another way you can earn money with illustration and that’s selling your illustrations via stock websites. There is a huge benefit of creating illustration stock and that is that you don’t have to deal direct with clients. So if selling yourself and hunting out clients isn’t your thing, then maybe this route is something you may want to consider.
To find out more about this check out these articles on How I Make $2,000 Every Year Without Doing Very Much and the follow up article 9 Tips for Creating and Maximizing a Steady Income Stream by Selling Stock.
Agency Representation: Illustration agencies act as a third party. They market your work through the relevant channels and are great for getting those household name clients. Bigger companies tend to target agencies due to the variety of talent on their books, experience and convenience.
The benefits of being represented is that they will can handle contracts with clients and can help negotiate larger fees. However, they don’t do this for nothing and they will take a commission percentage from your fees. They may also ask you to cover costs for promoting your works to directories and marketing opportunities. For more, check out the article on Computer Arts: Finding an agent.
Advice from Talented Freelance Illustrators
I’m going to introduce you to five talented Freelance Illustrators. They’ll tell you how they got into freelancing and what advice they can give you on getting started in a career in Freelance Illustration.