How to Be a Freelance Illustrator

Freelance Illustrator

The illustration is one field that has captivated audiences for ages. Ever since the first-ever cartoon in print media, illustration has only caught on, and the demand for illustrators has not ceased. It is one of the most recognizable jobs in the market and as a freelancer; you will be able to take on work from different sectors of the industry.

You can choose to become a freelance Illustrator for many reasons; there is the allure of good pay, the allure of renown, and a lavish lifestyle. Moreover, it is one job, which you can undertake from the comfort of your home and still be remunerated well, the gist is that it is a good freelance option.

Freelance Illustrator Job Duties

You will have many job duties as a freelance illustrator, sometimes more complex than simply changing the storyboard or the narrative. Most illustrators have to liaise with writers and other editors to understand the exact freelance illustration needed.

Some of the duties you would expect to perform as an illustrator include:

  • Understanding client needs and developing artwork from their concepts
  • Creating storyboards that depict the script and narrative
  • Drawing in 2D to create sketches, artwork or illustrations
  • Designing models, backgrounds, characters, objects, and environment
  • Using clay, plaster, oil paints, watercolors, and acrylics
  • Working to deadlines and meet client’s expectations
  • Using technical software packages, such as Adobe Suite and other tools used by illustrators


Illustrators must develop certain skills to make a decent living. There are many websites and forums and blog posts that can help you develop and hone these skills. However, before you do find out where it is important to know what these skills are. Without ado, let us look at these skills in question:

As an illustrator, you should:

  • Be creative and artistic
  • Possess drawing skills (sculpting skills aren’t needed)
  • Have good concentration
  • Have an eye for detail
  • Observe and understand body language and expressions
  • Be a good communicator and negotiator
  • Be organized
  • Be innovative and resourceful
  • Be able to work well as a team player and take direction from senior editors, illustrators, directors, and clients
  • Be interested in art & design, film, and television

You can develop and hone these skills needed online, or through courses. Many platforms and websites can help you ‘sketch’ a brilliant career, as an illustrator.

Freelance Illustrator Career

Maybe you will create the next Uncle Sam, or the next Syd, Milly, and Olly. Who knows? However, what is apparent is that the skills and talent in this field will give you many opportunities to create memorable characters and illustrations. So, how can you become a successful illustrator?

There are many bumps along the way to becoming successful freelancers: no colleagues to moan to, no shared lunches, along with the instability of the absence of a weekly cheque. However, you can become successful, or indeed set off down the path to success, by following certain tips, as;

  • Being adept at drawing
  • Being a keen observer
  • Referring to and studying the works of better artists
  • Learning continuously
  • Networking
  • Be able to sketch social views of an incident
  • Be able to draw on people’s expression

[Also Read: Ways To Kick start Your Career As A Freelance Graphic Designer]

Freelance Illustrator Salary

Have you ever wondered what illustrators earn? Sometimes they make it big and earn ludicrous amounts, perhaps not initially, but most definitely good money in the future. In the world of freelancing, though the average pay scale is based on the two types of work models.

Usually, freelance portals offer various kinds of payment models. In the fixed-price model, the price is usually pre-determined. The hourly model is the most popular and employers usually pay a predetermined sum per hour. Finally, in the project-budget based model, you often need to auction for such projects. Usually, a fixed price model may range from $20- $200 and upwards, while you have to pitch for hourly projects, and budget payments, which usually range from $5- $35 an hour. Your average salary as an illustrator will be around $21 an hour.

Finding Work

Finding work as a freelance illustrator can initially be a bit tough. It is a run-around to get everyone to view your portfolio and decide on the best way ahead. However, once you have created a name for yourself then it becomes much easier. One of the best ways to advertise your services is to create a Facebook page and invite your friends, family, and acquaintances to like it. You must remember that as an illustrator, your work will have visual appeal and social media platforms can help you leverage the fact.

Apart from creating a Facebook page and a blog, Elance, Peopleperhour, Odesk, and Guru offers many jobs for illustrators like you. (1)


There are many resources available if you wish to develop newer skills or sharpen your existing ones.

Illustration Class, Colossal, Lynda, Skillshare and Folio Academy offer both paid and free options, where you can learn illustration online.