Illustrators’ Survey 2018

Illustrators’ Survey

Welcome to the Annual Illustrators’ Survey! This year we had 1443 illustrators responding to the survey and as with last year (Survey 2017) it’s given us an interesting set of results, some positive and, we’re sorry to say, some negative.

As you go through you’ll see we have chipped in with some comparisons to last year’s results. Of course, this survey is a broad look at our industry and community. We do hope you can use it to build a better career, but that said there is no one route to success in illustration, and what works for some, may not benefit others. Use it as a guide, a foundation to look at your own illustration practise and consider where you can grow and develop.

Following on from the 2011, 2012 and 2015 surveys we conducted with The Little Chimp Society and the wider illustration industry, this year’s survey is brought to you by Hire an Illustrator and Darren Di Lieto in conjunction with Ben O’Brien.

Share the survey: Illustrators’ Survey 2018 #WeAreIllustrators

To take part in next year’s survey, sign up at:

Number of illustrators who took part in the survey



Section 1: Getting to Know You

Where do you work?
Male47%31-4038%Shared Studio7%
51-604%Rented Studio3%
How do you create your work?Did you study at university?
Mostly digital51%Studied another creative subject43%
Traditional/digital40%Studied illustration38%
Mostly traditional9%Studied non-creative subject10%
Didn’t go to uni8%

These general statistics are very similar to last year’s survey results with more female than male responders, most being under 40 and university educated in some way. But with 43% of us studying a different creative subject, can we use those varied learnings to broaden the scope of our illustration work? Again, a vast proportion of us work from home, which can lead to issues we look at later in the Work/Life Balance section.

Section 2: Work

What was your illustration work situation in 2018?
Full time illustration work48%
Full time creative job with part time illustration work29%
Full time non-creative job with part time illustration work14%
Student with part time illustration work8%
How was your workload in 2018?

As with last year, the majority of people have a growing workload, which is great, but what of those 27%? I hope the survey results and community discussions can aid people to find more opportunities for a better 2019!

More than 201752%
Less than 201727%
Same as 201721%
As we see here the more traditional avenues are still strong, but I’m also pleased to see ‘private commissions’ up from 4% last year! I feel this shows the entrepreneurial and independent nature of illustrators, seeking new customers and working directly with the public. They’re out there, go get ‘em.Which sector was most of your 2018 work in?


Private commissions18%



Art prints/exhibitions8%



App creation3%


Live art/murals2%


Console games1%
Which one avenue brought in the most work in 2018?
Regular/repeat clients37%
Social media36%
Self-promo11%➡ Which self-promo tools do you use?
Paid advertising1%Printed mailers27%
Email or newsletters73%

There’s been quite a turnaround here, with ‘Self-promo’ going down from last year and ‘Social media’ going up, I was surprised about this at a time when (I thought) people were trying to take more time away from social media, so are you on top of gaining the benefits of your socials? Again, ‘Regular/repeat clients’ is a strong avenue, so always be sure to be nice and professional and hopefully they’ll be back for more.

Where are most of your clients based?
USA & Canada44%
UK35%Are your clients in the same country as you?
Another European country14%Yes71%
Aus & NZ3%No29%
Asia & Pacific2%
The Middle East>1%
How much work comes from an illustration agent?Let’s talk about agents. I believe there’s a myth that you need to have an agent, but if you don’t, please be assured that you can build a career without one!

Well here’s the facts folks, 53% of people proving why we should never be duped into working for free!
I don’t work with an agent82%
Half or less of my work comes from an agent12%
More than half of my work comes from an agent7%
What are your experiences of working for free?
I have worked for free and never will again53%
I have never worked for free23%
I have and it paid off in the long run15%
I do often and am indifferent to the outcome9%

Section 3: Money

Are you confident when estimating fees for clients?

Which of the following do you use to estimate fees?
Based on previous commissions39%
Based on time required37%
Asking fellow illustrators16%
Advice from a professional service4%
Pricing reference books4%

Pricing, now, we can’t all be an artist AND a hotshot negotiator! I understand (and use) the top two routes to price myself… but be careful, what if the previous commission was mis-priced? And what if you think a budget is worth your time, but the project runs on longer than expected? There’s a change coming, a trend towards talking more openly about fee pricing between ourselves and this is leading to more people developing services to help us reach the correct fee for us and our clients. Keep talking.

Do you ask for a deposit up-front on commissions?Half of us don’t even ask! I know some clients aren’t able to, but I’m sure it’s worth politely and professionally asking.
No, I don’t ask for deposits50%
Yes, I get it on most commissions32%
Yes, I only work on jobs with deposits11%
Yes, but I don’t get it on most commissions7%
Do you use hour/day rates?How many invoices were paid late in 2018?
Yes on all projects10%More than half20%
Never25%Less than half37%
Do you earn enough to live sustainably?

OK team, huddle up. 73% of us don’t earn enough to live sustainably. Sadly, that’s up even more from last year. I understand that around half of us are working part-time in illustration, and hopefully some are content in their situation. But there’s obviously a large group who need to earn more. There are two sides to this. Look at your creative work. Is it special and commercially viable and is it being seen by the right people? Now look at your business side. Are you running a sustainable business, pricing correctly, managing your cash flow and making use of every possible avenue for your particular illustration output? 2019 is the year to get everything straight.

Price range on most individual commissions
Under £24939%
£250 – £49928%Gross annual income for 2018
£500 – £9999%Less than £9,99941%
£1000 – £24999%£10,000 – £19,99919%
£2500 – £49993%£20,000 – £34,99918%
£5000+1%£35,000 – £49,99910%
£50,000 – £74,9996%
GBP (£) 1.00 = USD ($) 1.26£75,000 – £99,9993%
GBP (£) 1.00 = EUR (€) 1.105£100,000 – £149,9991%

If you need help with pricing, join Hire an Illustrator for one-to-one advice. We’ve offered pricing advice to our members for almost 15 years and on average help our members achieve better and more sustainable rates.

What other incomes do you have?There’s a lot of low-level work being done here: jobs under £250 and 41% of people earning below minimum wage salaries. If you’re going to deal with small budget jobs, you have to aim to pull in a lot of them.

Looking at the top three figures here, that’s a testament to our indie businesses with a good proportion of us selling prints/products online!
Etsy store21%
Other 3rd party online store18%
Self-hosted online store16%
Licensing existing artwork15%
Amazon affiliate1%

Section 4: Work/Life Balance

Do you balance client and personal work?Balance: This is exactly the same as last year. To the 52%, do you want to be doing more personal work? How can you make that extra time in the day? For me at least, personal work has always been the fuel behind my career and has brought in many new opportunities.

Benefit: Similar to last year. One thing to do is step away from your desk and look after yourself!

Meet ups: This is great! Proof that those who do, benefit, and those who don’t, want to. Even if you’re shy (hello me) try your very best to add ‘socialise with illustrators’ to your regular routine!
Which of these would benefit you/your work?
More exercise64%
More relaxation46%
More sleep41%
More art classes41%
More social time40%
Part-time help25%
Full-time help4%
Do you regularly meet up with other illustrators?
Yes and it’s important for me to do so28%
Yes but it’s not of great importance6%
No, but I wish I did60%
No, I don’t feel the need6%
Do you feel you have anxiety or confidence issues that effect your career?
If you have any mental health issues, have you spoken about it on social media?
Which of these should we write/talk about more?
Mental health support regarding self-confidence issues59%
Mental health support regarding financial issues54%
Improving physical activity33%
Improving general wellness, meditation etc29%
Improving social life26%

We had similar results last year, and although it’s shocking, it did spark a lot of discussion across the industry. People did want to help, and people were widely reassured that none of us are alone. But we need to build on it: more resources to help those who need it, more private messages to check on our friends. You don’t need to speak publicly, that’s perfectly cool, but you can always seek out or share support. We’re a network, you’re not alone.

How balanced are the positives/negatives of social media on you?
100% positive7%
75% positive / 25% negative36%This is erring on the positive, especially considering most survey respondents will be regular social media users. But anyone having difficulties with it, consider using less social media channels, only use what makes you feel good.
50% positive / 50% negative45%
25% positive / 75% negative12%
100% negative>1%
Do you feel motivated to be a better artist?
Do you feel motivated to be a better business?

Overall this is fantastic. The vast majority are keen to improve both sides of their illustration practise, and with that motivation can ensure that they build a better, more creative and profitable business. Now, go do it.

If you’re an educator and you’d like a printable version, please download the Illustrators’ Survey 2018 PDF. In addition if you have any questions, please get in contact.