Business Overview

Illustrators provide their artistic talents to a range of clients, including advertising agencies, publishers, stock image services, web content providers, and other businesses.

As a freelance illustrator, you can take your skills in a number of directions. You might work for advertising agencies, stock image houses, magazine or book publishers, record labels, greeting card companies, digital properties, merchandisers, or other businesses. Some illustrators serve such narrow specialty niches as courtroom sketch artists, or niches in fashion, medicine, or technology. Or you might primarily work in fine art to be sold to customers directly or through galleries or agents.

Who is this business right for?

You must have artistic talents and an entrepreneurial drive. This means that your skill set must encompass both the ability to continually find work, to complete it to your clients’ satisfaction, and to continually find new clients.

What happens during a typical day at a illustration business?

Your typical workday will include a range of activities that include practicing your art and maintaining good client relationships. Here’s how a typical day might look.

  • Sending out marketing materials and placing calls to obtain new business
  • Phone, email or in-person meetings with clients to get assignments and go over project details, budgets and deadlines, or revision needs
  • Working on your billable assignments
  • Networking with others in your field and maintaining your professional social media presence
  • Investigating new software and technologies and buying supplies to stay current and ready for your next assignments
  • Invoicing clients and keeping your business afloat

What is the target market?

Anyone who has a need for and an interest in your art. This might be commercial clients from your chosen areas of expertise or consumers who admire your artistic talents.

How does a illustration business make money?

You’ll charge a fee for your business that’s often based on your estimation of hours to complete the job. Some clients will let you quote an hourly rate, but most will want to hear a flat fee.

What is the growth potential for a illustration business?

That depends on the direction you take your business. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics gives Graphic Designers -- a related field -- an outlook of one percent growth rate between 2014-2024. But opportunities are expanding in various digital multimedia fields, including storyboards for animation and other Silicon Valley assignments. Another example of a rising field is book jacket covers for independently published ebooks (though rates aren’t high).