Illustration and design is becoming a more popular career pursuit all the time – which means that those who want to do it on a freelance basis are going to have their work cut out for them. If you’re interested in this career path,
What do you want to do?
“Illustration” seems like a very handy term, but there are so many different types of jobs an illustrator might do. And one of the best things you can do for yourself is try to narrow down what it is you’re going to focus on. Editorial and book illustrations are probably the most obvious ones; in addition to books, you’d illustrate blogs and magazines. Doing character design and concept art for movies and video games is also an option, as is the sort of entertainment art you see in comic books.
Clients or stock?
A lot of people think that freelance illustrators only work with clients. That is, they approach someone or are approached by someone and are commissioned to complete a particular piece for which they receive payment. This is often the most reliable way of earning money as an illustrator, in terms of the size of any one paycheck. But some freelancers actually prefer to work in stock. Stock websites that supply images for the use of others often buy work from freelance illustrators. A one-off payment might be made, or royalties might be sent to you whenever a piece is used. Those who don’t want to keep chasing after potential clients may prefer this way of doing things!
Getting to grips with software
It’s not enough to draw with pencil, ink, and paper then upload the piece to the Internet via a scanner. (Though, of course, this depends on what your particular goals are!) Most clients and stock websites are going to want to be able to resize the image as they see fit. This means that you’re going to have to get used to working with vector illustrations. So it’s highly recommended that those who are interested in freelance illustration get fluent in programs like Adobe Illustrator. If you need any help, you can turn to resources such as Training Connection.
So, first things first: you need a portfolio. If you were expecting me to say “Everyone says you need a portfolio, but that’s just a myth!”… well, sorry to disappoint. I have to join the herd and reiterate: you should have an online portfolio. And that means you should have a website that can handle a lot of images. Of course, a physical portfolio is handy, so make sure you know how to properly create both kinds of portfolio.
Freelance illustration work can be found in many of the usual job-hunting websites. However, there are two other avenues you should consider. Websites like Upwork bring more of a focus on freelance work. Becoming active on social media and sharing work through there will also help you grab the attention of potential clients. Above all, ensure that your website has clear contact details for those who stumble upon it and want to work with you!