The Step-by-Step Guide to Becoming a Freelance Illustrator

Getting paid to make art may sound like an unattainable dream, but look around: Art is everywhere.

Book covers, tarot cards, clip art, graphic T-shirts — someone sat down and created every illustration that decorates our world. And most of them got paid for it, too!

How to Become a Freelance Illustrator

A freelance illustrator creates images for clients. If that sounds like a broad definition, it’s because it is. There are freelancers out there who whip up quick vector illustrations in Adobe Illustrator to jazz up blog posts. There are also freelancers who take weeks to create elaborate, painterly children’s book illustrations.

As varied a career as it can be, there are lots of things freelance illustrators have in common. They all have to deal with clients, self-promotion, and taxes. They all have to make sure they have the skills and tools for the job . Last but not least, they all get to say they make art for a living.

For Kati D., the artist behind Thoughtless Illustrationsfreelance illustration was a fulfilling career path after years spent juggling art school and work.

“I was coming home from my courses that by and large left me wondering if art school was ever worth it… a terrible job, making around seven bucks an hour, getting yelled at by entitled customers… to sitting down, getting out my sketchbook, sending over concepts and just having these awesome creative conversations,” she said.

Here’s how you can get started in freelance illustration.

1. Polish Off Your Tools

To make art, you need materials. Painters need paint. Sculptors need clay. What do freelance illustrators need?

“An artist’s most important tools, first and foremost, would be a simple sketchbook [and] good pencil,” Kati said.

Plain old pencil and paper are exactly what you need to sketch a rough draft or ten, which is a big part of the job.

“You’re going to create so many thumbnails,” Kati said. “And then thumbnails building off those…

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