How to become a successful Freelance Illustrator?

4 Simple things to do to make it as a Freelance Illustrator

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Freelancing- the Old Wild West of the Art world! You graduated from an art school, you have the skills, you built a portfolio. Maybe you worked a 9 to 5 job or maybe you are just a fresh college graduate, and now you want to venture into the world of freelancing. But where do you start?

Becoming a successful Illustrator isn’t just about art but also about how you present it, how you market yourself. You cannot just be an artist. You need to be a businessman too. Because lets be clear, it’s a war zone out there. Tons and tons and tons of other artists are trying to make a name for themselves. And to stand out, you need to make a lot of noise.


Create your own Niche

While you may be someone who is awesome at everything from hyper realistic portraiture to abstract-ism, sometimes this jack of all trades attitude can steer away potential clients and projects you are really keen to work on. So decide what area you want to focus on. Is it Children’s Book Illustration, Editorial Illustration, Fine Art or Digital Vector Illustration. Focus on developing your style based on the area of interest. The world of Art is vast and it is really easy to get lost in it so set a goal and work towards it. A consistent body of work is very important if you want to pursue a career in illustration.

A Professional Portfolio

“Your Portfolio is your Creative Resume”

You are a freelancer, you have the luxury to attract the kind of projects you really want to work on. And for that you need to put things in your portfolio that you are really passionate about. The work that you put in your portfolio determines the type of projects that will come towards you in the future. If your work comprises of editorial illustrations but you want to work on book cover designing, by all means go out of your way to create illustrations that would look appropriate on book covers. That is how you attract projects you really want to work on.

I am a student of Graphic design but I wanted to shift my focus to Children’s book illustration. I dropped everything and just focused on creating a portfolio that reflected my interest and voila! I have been doing that ever since.

In the end just remember it is your career. So how you set it up depends on you.

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Create an Online Presence

In this age of “if it didn’t make it to social media, it didn’t really happen” creating an online presence is extremely important. It is the easiest way to reach new people and audience. Be active on all leading social networking sites. Frequently update your LinkedIn or blog or other job portals. Tweet! Go to artist conventions. Remember the job of a freelance Illustrator is a very lonely one. You need to surround yourself with people of the same ideology and mindset. Always attend artist meets and exhibitions. Talk to other illustrators. It always helps.

In the initial years, you will realize most of your clients will be directed to you from social media. I cannot stress this enough. Building a social media network is as important as building a Portfolio. I receive a new lead once a month from Someone I met on Social Media. From literally knocking doors to sending thousands of pitches, connecting with art directors- it takes a lot of effort. It is a part of the hustle.

Be very Communicative with your Clients


Always remember that clients reach out to you not just because they like your work, but there is something specific they are looking for. Clear communication and asking a lot of questions is very important. Understanding what the client wants fully is very crucial. Try to understand their need. DO. NOT. MAKE. ASSUMPTIONS. Ask. Always ask them for references, their ideas, what do they have in mind. Otherwise it will result in multiple revisions and a lot of wastage of time. In addition to that Always maintain your deadlines. It is extremely important that you are professional. Do not quote a deadline that you will not be able to meet. Timely submission of the deliverable always makes the client come back.

There will be times you will have to take up work that you are not particularly fond of but are required to do due to financial requirements. But always remember to stay focused on your goal and continue doing what you love and makes you happy- Illustrating!

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Published by Diya Sengupta

I draw, write and read to keep my sanity

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