Welcome to the 2nd 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 and some thoughts from Ben the Illustrator. 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.
Number of illustrators who took part in the survey
Section 1: Getting to Know You
Where do you work?
How do you create your work?
Did you study at university?
Studied another creative subject
Studied non-creative subject
Didn’t go to uni
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 work
Full time creative job with part time illustration work
Full time non-creative job with part time illustration work
Student with part time illustration work
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 2017
Less than 2017
Same as 2017
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?
Which one avenue brought in the most work in 2018?
➡ Which self-promo tools do you use?
Email or newsletters
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 & Canada
Are your clients in the same country as you?
Another European country
Aus & NZ
Asia & Pacific
The Middle East
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 agent
Half or less of my work comes from an agent
More than half of my work comes from an agent
What are your experiences of working for free?
I have worked for free and never will again
I have never worked for free
I have and it paid off in the long run
I do often and am indifferent to the outcome
Section 3: Money
Are you confident when estimating fees for clients?
Which of the following do you use to estimate fees?
Based on previous commissions
Based on time required
Asking fellow illustrators
Advice from a professional service
Pricing reference books
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 deposits
Yes, I get it on most commissions
Yes, I only work on jobs with deposits
Yes, but I don’t get it on most commissions
Do you use hour/day rates?
How many invoices were paid late in 2018?
Yes on all projects
More than half
Less than half
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
£250 – £499
Gross annual income for 2018
£500 – £999
Less than £9,999
£1000 – £2499
£10,000 – £19,999
£2500 – £4999
£20,000 – £34,999
£35,000 – £49,999
£50,000 – £74,999
GBP (£) 1.00 = USD ($) 1.26
£75,000 – £99,999
GBP (£) 1.00 = EUR (€) 1.105
£100,000 – £149,999
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!
Other 3rd party online store
Self-hosted online store
Licensing existing artwork
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 art classes
More social time
Do you regularly meet up with other illustrators?
Yes and it’s important for me to do so
Yes but it’s not of great importance
No, but I wish I did
No, I don’t feel the need
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 issues
Mental health support regarding financial issues
Improving physical activity
Improving general wellness, meditation etc
Improving social life
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?
75% positive / 25% negative
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% negative
25% positive / 75% negative
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.