Ways to Become a Freelance Illustrator- Start here!

become a freelance illustrator

My name is Anna Broeders, and I am an illustrator from the Netherlands. I graduated as a graphic designer in 2018 and worked for a graphic design studio for a while, but I quickly realized that I wanted to make illustrations, and I couldn’t do that there. Finding work as an in-house illustrator is quite difficult because most businesses work with freelancers. I decided I wanted to become a freelance illustrator. But where to begin?

Steps to Become a Freelance Illustrator

Illustration Style

When you start, it’s normal that you haven’t found your signature style yet. I find that by every illustration, my style develops and changes. A personal style isn’t necessary to find work, but it can help art directors recognize your style and hire you for it. You can also decide to be a master of different styles. It’s a matter of choice. 

Creating a Portfolio

Before applying for freelance work, you should have a portfolio of your best work to show. Think about what market you would like to work in editorial, publishing, children’s books, graphic novels, or comics, and specify your portfolio to that market. For example, if you make food illustrations, you target restaurants and businesses that have a connection to food. I think it’s important to make personal work too, explore different themes and let your creativity free without any limitations. Make the work you would like to be hired for!

Going Freelance

Before I went freelance, I had a lot of questions about the technical side of it. How to do my finances? How much I should charge. The book that helped me with any questions I had was “Becoming a Successful Illustrator” It is filled with advice from illustrators and covers all you need to know before making a start as a freelance illustrator. It has a contract, invoice and terms and conditions samples, a guide to finance and some technical tips. I found it a great resource, and I would highly recommend it. Going freelance is a big step and can be financially uncertain. I chose to have a day job besides my freelance work. That way, I have more certainty about my finances, and I can still do what I love. 

Getting Freelance Work

After you have sorted out your work and know what kind of clients you would like to work for, you can start acquiring. This means letting businesses and potential clients know that you are ready to take work on. What works for one person does not necessarily work for all people. If you are a student or someone starting in the field, here’s a bit of advice I can give you on how to get work and promote yourself.

Befriend Other Artists

The illustration industry is like a small town where everyone knows each other. A lot of the illustration industry is about building relationships with people. And If you are nice to work with, chances are an art director will want to hire you again. Befriending other artists can also help you in your creativity, and they might recommend you for a job if they have their hands full. 

Be Seen

When art directors are looking for illustrators, they look into their portfolio databases and online. If you send your portfolio to an art director, you might not get a direct response, but they will have you in their databases. You might hear back from them months later when they need an illustrator. A great way to get your work out there is by using social media. You can easily show your work and gather an audience. 

Be Realistic

Don’t expect that you’ll get out of school and immediately be able to support yourself with freelance work. It can take years to build up enough client work to support yourself entirely freelance. That said, some of us get lucky and can get enough clients right out of school. But it is good to have a day job of some sort to support you while you build up your client list. And until then, one of the best things you can do for your career is to be productive and keep making art. 

Lesson Learnt

There is no guide to freelancing, it is good to be prepared, but you’ll never know what will be thrown at you. Here is a mistake I made when starting. When I just started, I was commissioned to make a portrait illustration. I had sent the client the terms and conditions, and we had an agreement. I started the artwork, and when I was almost finished, the client canceled the commission. I had written in the contract how much should be paid at what stage the client should decide to cancel the commission. Because it was a private commission, I never received any of the agreed fees. I learned when doing a private commission, meaning not for a business, It’s good to ask 50% of the fee upfront. Freelancing is full of learning moments, big and small. 


About pricing (Book) : Becoming a Successful Illustrator 

Places You Can Find Me

Instagram (@annaillustration_)
Behance (Anna Broeders)

Also read Working as an illustrator and a storyboard artist

Ways to Become a Freelance Illustrator- Start here!

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