5 tips on How to earn a Healthy living as an Illustrator

I gave a talk at the Brit school at the end of 2017 and I’ve been meaning to turn it into a blog post ever since but…time! Anyway the AOI’s Empowerment campaign has got me all cranked up in the best possible way! Illustration is most definitely #notahobby but if people continue to work for clients for very little money it will devalue the whole industry. Making it difficult for all, including established illustrators to make a living. Social media has had a massive impact on this; as companies expect you to deliver both content and marketing (your following / audience) to a client for less for than the average editorial web piece?!? Anyway I don’t want to get side tracked with a rant on this topic when it’s already been covered brilliantly by Handsome frank here I want to talk about making a sustainable income as an illustrator, paying your rent or mortgage, covering your bills and having some left over to live a happy healthy life, because that’s the goal right?!

Slide from my talk at the Brit School’s Graphic Design department

Slide from my talk at the Brit School’s Graphic Design department

  1. So the most important rule and I’m saying this as someone who spent ages not doing this…. ALWAYS NEGOTIATE. When someone comes at you with a fee even if they say it’s locked down and immovable. ALWAYS NEGOTIATE. What’s the worst thing that’s going to happen? You can and should feel comfortable to negotiate the fee, the deadline and the parameters of the job eg; deliver 3 scenes etc. You are your own boss, yes this person is your client but you are working together to deliver. So learn to negotiate, it’s empowering plus it will also save you a headache down the road when you realise you haven’t clearly discussed what you are expected to deliver.

  2. Learn about CONTRACTS. Joining the AOI was the best decision and an eye opener for me as I learned to negotiate contracts; yep we aren’t finished with negotiating yet! The AOI have checked and advised me on so many contracts that I’m now quite literate with understanding what is and isn’t working for me. This has given me more confidence in negotiating and most importantly protecting my rights to my own works. This is why my work is always licensed to clients within these rules; Length of usage eg: 3 years, Type of usage eg: web and finally Region of usage eg: Worldwide. Get literate on these matters as they are central to your career!

Professional traits to make it as an illustrator; Organised, Motivated and Entrepreneurial

Professional traits to make it as an illustrator; Organised, Motivated and Entrepreneurial

3. Go out of your comfort zone on the regular, this might be through paid gigs or personal projects it’s great to give things a go. Mind’s are shifting from seeing people as ‘Jack’s of all trades’ to a Multi- Hyphenates thanks to Emma Gannon’s multi hypen method this is all about diversifying your income streams and future proofing your career, because when one line goes quiet another one will buzz! I know this isn’t for everyone but it really works for me; one month I’ll focus on developing new products for my online shop for example I’m at the screen printing studio and the following month I’m focussed on commissions. What’s great is that these projects all feed and influence each other, they also get you noticed by a different audience’s potentially leading to more jobs!

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4. Self Promotion, I know this doesn’t come naturally which is why it’s good to mentally separate your self (personal) from your work (commercial) Selling in person at illustration fairs and craft markets has definitely helped me get my head around this and it’s also a great way to self promote IRL. It’s not ALL about instagram! It’s also a good idea to have a mailing list as a direct line to people who have commissioned you or bought from you before I send out a fun filled email once a month if you’re interested you can sign up here. In the name of self promotion I also tried my hand at painting a mural last year, which I don’t think led to any work… yet! But it was fab for getting me out of my comfort zone! Proper post is another good way to promote yourself...I hear! I finally did this recently and so far I’ve already had one job come through, woop woop! Other ways include; collaborations with brands, big and small, applying to get featured on relevant design blogs and magazines etc Go for it all!!

Mail out for Art Director’s and Brands I’d love to work with

Mail out for Art Director’s and Brands I’d love to work with

5. Lastly where would we be without SUPPORT! I am lucky to have an amazing partner who I met at art school and who’s opinion I value above all others, I’m also lucky to have friends who are fellow creatives and happy to share a moan about creative woes. Its super important having someone to check Ideas and brain storm with, especially as illustration can be lonely work. If you’re struggling to find someone then sitting on a market stall next to the right person can be like therapy! Or check this blogpost for ideas about meet-ups there is loads of great ones out there!

Ok I’d be remiss if I didn’t include a link to the AOI’s Code of Conduct for Illustrators this is rules to live by in terms of professionalism and protecting the industry and everyone should swear an oath by them!

Let me know if you have any questions below, or if you’d like me to expand on any of these topics?!

Thanks for reading! Jacqueline x