Are You Ready to Become a Freelance Illustrator?

become a freelance illustrator

Freelance illustration is a growing industry, and it’s one of the few fields that offers opportunities for both full-time work and part-time work. This article will cover everything you need to know about working as an illustrator; from what equipment you’ll need to how much money you can make.

How To Become A Freelance Illustrator

Are you ready to take the leap and become a freelance illustrator? There are many benefits of being a freelance illustrator, but it can be hard to know if you’re ready. Here is what you need to consider before making this decision:

  • Do I want to work with clients on my own terms?
  • Can I meet deadlines without feeling stressed or pressured?
  • Am I comfortable doing my best work in front of an audience (or for people who may not like what they see)?
  • Am I okay with making less money than my full-time job?

If you answered yes to all of these questions, then it’s time to get started! We’ll cover how in this article.

Tips To Get Started As A Freelance Illustrator

Research the nature of the job

While freelancing has it’s benefits, you should understand what you’re getting yourself into.

Illustration might sound simple in theory, but in reality it can be time-consuming and labor intensive.

You should have a good idea of the nature of your work before you take on any clients or projects. You’ll need to know what kind of equipment is necessary for this type of work as well.

Types of illustrator jobs available in the market

Here’s a list of some of the most commonly sought after illustrator jobs in the market today:

  • Commissioned Illustration: You’ll be working with a client to create illustrations for their products or services.
  • Book Illustration: Working within the publishing industry, you’ll illustrate children’s books and stories in order to bring the words on paper to life.
  • Editorial Illustrator: This type of illustration can include anything from magazine covers to full-page ads, or even comics. You’ll partner with an editor and/or art director in order to produce the perfect image for whatever piece you’re working on.
  • Packaging Illustration: If you have a knack for designing logos or labels this might be up your alley! Packaging illustration is similar to commissioned work in that you’ll work with clients to produce designs for their products.
  • Exhibit Illustration: Working in the marketing department of a museum or art gallery, your job might be to create an illustration based on works currently being shown at the exhibit. This type of work is similar to editorial illustrations because they both require creative interpretation and storytelling skills.

Build your portfolio

This step is one of the most essential parts of becoming a freelance illustrator. You’ll need to build up a strong portfolio before you can attract the right clients or projects, and that means putting in some work!

A typical freelancer’s course will include: art school, real-world experience (a job within the industry), and practice, practice, practice!

The good news is that you don’t have to go through all of this alone. There are many places where freelancers can meet up and share ideas with each other. Some examples include: local art clubs or organizations, business networking events for entrepreneurs, online forums/message boards (reddit), etc. Put yourself out there and meet the right people!

And of course, don’t stop practicing. The more you practice creating illustrations, the better your chances will be at landing a job in this competitive market.

Remember to fill your portfolio with projects similar to what you would like to be hired for. A website no matter how simple it is, is the best place to store your samples.

Check marketplaces for jobs

Now that you have your portfolio and have identified a niche, its time to look for jobs. If you want to make money with your illustrations, one place to start is freelance marketplaces such as Upwork.

The site allows you to create a free profile and look for jobs. Its a great way to find jobs all over the world and work with clients from your own location. Using a site like Upwork allows you to connect with clients who already know what they want.

Once you’ve completed projects, make sure they leave good reviews as this will help you in securing future gigs

Working as an illustrator is not easy but it can be very rewarding if done right.

Develop good client relationships

Winning a project is one thing. Making sure you deliver what was agreed on makes the difference on the project outcome.

It is important to communicate with your client so you can be on the same page. The more information they provide, the better idea you will have about what they are expecting from your illustrations.

In order to ensure a smooth process and great results, make sure that clients know exactly what kind of revisions/changes they expect once their project is submitted. For example, a client might ask for a single illustration to be redone but if they do not mention anything about the rest of the project, you might end up spending too much time revising one piece and neglecting other parts of their request.

After submitting your work always check with clients on how things are going so far and what you can do to address any issues they might have.

If a project fails, try not to take it personally and always be honest with your clients about what went wrong so that the next time around things will work out better for both parties involved.

Be active on social media

Social media is a great way to market yourself. As a freelancer, you’re in charge of your marketing. If done right, you can be sure to gain a steady stream of potential clients who are looking for the services you’re offering!

There’s no need to spam your social media with links, but it is great if you post relevant content that showcases your skills. This will help build up credibility and bring in more business as time goes on.

Hire an accountant

As a freelancer, you’ll be responsible for paying your own taxes. This means doing the proper research and keeping track of all expenses that are considered tax deductible.

Taxes can get complicated quickly so it’s best to hire an accountant who specializes in working with freelancers. They will file your business registration with the government and provide valuable advice on what you should be able to deduct.

Becoming a freelance illustrator FAQs

What is a freelance illustrator?

A freelance illustrator is someone who creates drawings, sketches or any other kind of visual art in order to convey a message. Freelance Illustrators are hired for their unique style and ability to communicate an idea through illustrations which would be difficult if not impossible otherwise.

What do I need to become a freelancer?

To start working as a freelancer, you need a solid portfolio and the right marketing skills. In order to get your work out there, its necessary that you have a website or any other form of online presence such as social media channels.

What do I need in my portfolio?

In your portfolio you should include samples from previous projects so clients can see what kind of work you do. Remember that your portfolio should only include the best of your work so it showcases what you are capable of doing as an illustrator.

What is a ‘sample’ project?

A sample project refers to any kind of illustration, piece or graphic design created for one specific client and used by them exclusively. This differs from stock images because this kind of illustration is created exclusively for a single client and cannot be used by any other.

What should I charge?

Prices can vary depending on your location, experience and the industry you’re working in but generally speaking it’s best to set prices around what others are charging (rates that seem too low or high might attract clients to try to negotiate with you).

However, keep in mind that if your rates are too low it might be considered unprofessional and people will question the quality of your work. On the other hand, charging extremely high rates can deter potential clients because they could assume you’re not worth the price or do not need any more clients.

What kind of work can I get?

Freelance Illustrators are hired for their unique style and ability to communicate an idea through illustrations which would be difficult if not impossible otherwise. This means there is no limit in what type of projects you might end up working on, especially when it comes to digital artwork.

What sort of skills do I need?

The more skills you have the better, but generally speaking it’s enough to be a skilled artist and illustrator. It is also important that you know how to market yourself because ultimately your work will not be seen if no one knows about it!

What equipment will I need?

First, you’ll need to invest in some quality drawing materials. This includes pens and pencils for sketching, digital tools like Photoshop or Illustrator (or both), as well as a high-quality tablet monitor. You may also want an eraser if you’re working traditionally, but it isn’t necessary.

Can you be an illustrator without qualifications?

Absolutely! You don’t need any qualifications or training to be an illustrator. As long as you have the talent, passion and drive it is possible for anyone with enough determination to become a freelance Illustrator.

How much money can I expect to make?

It’s difficult for illustrators to be paid on an hourly basis, because it takes time and energy to create great work. There are some things you can do though, like charging by the project instead of per illustration or working with clients who will pay up front (instead of working on spec).

What are some other things to consider?

It’s important that you know what your goals are before becoming a freelance illustrator. If you want to work full-time, it may take time for your business to thrive and bring in steady income. It can be tough balancing part-time illustration with another job, but you may find it rewarding.

How can I get started?

If you’re ready to begin working as a freelance Illustrator, the next step is to create a portfolio that shows what you’re capable of. Once you’ve done this, market yourself through social media and other online channels in order to attract potential clients who are looking for the services you’re offering!

What can I do if I’m not ready yet?

There’s no need to worry about being prepared right now, just bookmark this page and come back later when you’re ready.


If this sounds like something that interests you, then maybe now is the time to start your freelance illustration business! With some investment and work ethic, you can make a steady income doing what you love. It’s important though that before taking this leap into freelancing, know if it’s right for you.

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