We’re happy to share with you this year’s results of the annual illustrator’s survey that Ben O’Brien (AKA Ben the Illustrator) started in 2017. We did our own survey of illustrators in 2014/15, but until Ben came along we didn’t have time (or the energy) to work on an updated and current round of questions. That’s no longer the case and we’re excited to revive this public service.
There were lots of really interesting results, some good, some discouraging, and some that’ll encourage conversation about specific subjects for the long term. We didn’t address the open questions and answers that we were sent as part of the survey results, but we hope to put those to good use in the near future to give additional insight into our cherished community. A word of warning before you view the results: be careful not to jump to conclusions. Although just under 1500 illustrators took part in the survey, that’s still a very small percentage of our industry as a whole. If we’re able to do a survey each year, we hope that number will grow exponentially, allowing us to build on the results each year to give them more legitimacy and context. As with all surveys there’ll be user bias in play and results can be twisted and manipulated to work in favour of opposing views and opinions, so be careful of the connections people may make between the results and state as facts. Remember, correlation is not causation.
One thing we will need to address if we do more surveys in the future is the way we handle mental health questions. What we realised after receiving feedback from various sources is that having self-confidence issues and sometimes feeling anxious about things is not the same as having a diagnosable mental health problem like an anxiety disorder or depression. We did not make a distinction between the two in the survey, which was a mistake that would need to be updated with the correct terminology and wording in the next survey. Also, while talking about mental health, a lot of people have made a connection between mental health issues and low incomes – there was no defined connection between these two factors and the data was completely anonymised for the sake of our contributors privacy. This means that even if we wanted to, we can’t make a connection between the two as we don’t know who did or didn’t say that they were affected by both mental health and had a low income. GDPR advocates would be proud.
We were able to correlate some of the data we collected and it would be great to use that to make some really interesting infographics, as some people have suggested. What would be great though is if we’re able to collect a few years’ worth of data so that we’re able to show how the industry is changing from year to year. Even better is to be able to use the survey results to encourage change for the betterment and health of our colleges and friends. We all want a decent wage and a good life, and as a community making that happen is in our own hands.
The 2nd annual Illustrator’s Survey is up now! We’ve teamed up with Ben O’Brien and we’re asking for anyone who worked in commercial illustration in 2018 to please fill in the survey and spread the word! #WeAreIllustrators
Last year I launched the first Illustrator’s Survey and with an overwhelming response was able to put together a well-received report containing some very thought-provoking statistics about the illustration industry and those working in it throughout 2017. This year I’m working alongside Hire an Illustrator to do the same, looking for responses from anyone who has worked as a professional illustrator (whether full or part time) throughout 2018. If you have been working as an illustrator over the passed 12 months then please do take ten minutes to respond to the survey and of course help to spread the word amongst your fellow illustrators!
The survey will run until the end of January when we will compile the results to be released in early February.
We’d like to introduce our newest background, created for us by the very talented Emily Hare. We love Emily’s artwork and thought that one of her paintings could work really well with the site, so after discussing what was needed for of our backgrounds, we left it in Emily’s capable hands to come up with some ideas.
Here’s the first attempt and the work in process illustrations…
At this point Emily decided to go in a different direction, something a bit more cuddly. Although we did really like the previous image and were advising on direction, we gave full creative control over to Emily and we trusted her to complete the task at hand.
And here is the final piece…
We think Emily did a brilliant job and we love our new background! Please note: Emily may have already given the dragons names, but we’ve decided to call them Myrtle and Xaddrarth. 🙂
Brief the illustrator by including the following information in your message;
Usage and Distribution
Image Licensing Requirements
If the illustrator agrees to take on the project, fees and contracts are then negotiated, and the client will pay a deposit.
The illustrator sends the client a rough sketch or selection of thumbnail drawings based on the brief. The detail and quality of these drawings will vary from illustrator to illustrator.
Revisions, if needed, are made. Normally 3 rounds of revisions are included in the contract.
Once the sketch work is approved, the illustrator will produce the final artwork.
Low resolution copies of the final artwork will then be sent to the client for approval.
There may be some minor revisions at this point depending on how detailed the original sketches were. Major revisions at this stage will normally require additional funds.
Once the artwork is approved, the illustrator will send over the high resolution files.
An invoice will then be issued. If it’s not paid instantly, it will usually need to be paid within 30 days subject to the contract.
Note: Depending on the client and illustrator, it’s not unusual for the illustrator to withhold a high resolution copy of the artwork until the invoice has been paid. Corporate or editorial clients often do not pay a deposit upon signing of the contracts unless previously agreed upon by both sides. There are always exceptions, but communication and clarity is key.
On Contracts: The contract between the two parties should be a reflection of the negotiations and conversions had before work commenced. It is generally bad practise to have terms hidden within a contract that have not been made clear or previously discussed, for example talking about a usage license while the contract states the job will be work-for-hire. Both parties need to read the contract and know what’s in it. Don’t blindly start working or pay a deposit on a job until all the terms have been agreed. On many occasions boilerplate contracts can be used, which are easy to revise so that they meet the agreed requirements of client and illustrator, and avoid any conflict or nasty surprises.
Doing the boring bit properly will help make the fun bit awesome! Happy and confident people produce their best work (and win awards!) when they’re under pressure, but not when they’re stressed out over the technicalities. Our members have access to free boilerplate contracts that can be modified to fit the needs of the project.
This is a list of the things that illustrators sometimes do that they really shouldn’t – or in some cases that they don’t do. Generally, it’s the really simple stuff that tends to be overlooked and for the life of me I have no idea how it happens half of the time. What freelancers sometimes forget is that they’re running a business and they need to present themselves as such. Uploading your artwork to the internet for your own satisfaction is a far cry from landing the client you’ve always wanted or being hired for a private commission. For a viewer to become a client, they need to get from A to Z with as few obstacles as possible. Shall we begin…
Not having a personal website with a custom domain name. Building a custom website is fun and can enable you to really show off your work and talent, but if that’s not for you, it’s OK to use a platform that uses templates where you just insert your own content. All of those systems allow you to have a custom domain name, whether you buy it through them or a 3rd party, so there’s no excuse not to have one. In the digital world, it’s the difference between having a business card or scribbling your contact details on a napkin . Show you’re a professional by having a custom domain name for your portfolio. It can take as little as 5 minutes to set one up and cost less than a couple caffè macchiatos each year.
Not having your name on your website or using too many different names. Or using a business name, but not telling the client the name of the person to address their email to. This one is a pet hate! It’s less common these days, but there was a trend for a while for illustrators’ websites not to display the artist’s name, full stop. I don’t know if this was an oversight or not in some cases, but if you ever had to get in contact with any of these illustrators and their name wasn’t in their URL or email address, you could feel the annoyance in their reply when you’ve addressed them with just ‘Hey’. Tell people what your name is! Don’t make the client feel uncomfortable before they’ve even got in contact with you.
Not showing your email address or any alternative contact method. You’ve created a beautiful website to showcase your amazing artwork and then you reveal no way for a client to contact you. Why?!
Keeping your social networks more up-to-date than your own website. Social networks may be easier to update, but this just looks lazy and like you don’t actually care about your personal brand. You’re only as strong as your weakest link.
Having broken links to your social pages on your website where the URLs have changed when you’ve faffed around with your usernames. It’s like moving home; make sure a redirection is in place and everyone knows about your new address including your website. If you don’t, users are going to get lost and become irritated. It’s the little things like that which can put clients off when they’re on the fence as to whether to approach you for a quote or not.
Showing work of varying quality: either be crap or amazing, not both! You need to make sure you’re showing your best work and the quality of your portfolio isn’t being dragged down by including work that isn’t your best. Sometimes it’s better to show too little work than bulking it out with older work or pieces that should have been archived in a private corner of your hard drive and become a distant memory. Be proud of everything you produce, but also be aware of what works and what doesn’t. Quality over quantity and don’t listen to your mum.
Not having a consistent style or not showing a degree of separation between your different styles. This one has some similarities to number six. If you’re a jack of all trades and you’re approached by a client, there will always be a concern in the back of their head as to what to expect from you when you deliver an illustration. If you have more than one style, you want the client to be able to say before they commission you that they like your children’s illustration, or your pointillism artwork, or your horror pieces. But you need to have shown these in their own sections on your website and the styles need to have not cross-pollinated between the sections. Don’t make it difficult for the client to tell you want they want based on what you do. Keep it simple! Get them from A to Z as quickly and effortlessly as possible.
There are many more things an illustrator should do to optimise their operations and workflow than the list above, but we just wanted to highlight the most common mistakes we’ve seen in the wild over the years in relation to illustrators’ websites. Please feel free to leave your pet hates and advice in the comments below. We’ll add the best ones to the article.
Most illustrators, if not all, display enough of their work online for a client to make an informed decision as to whether they’d like to work with them or not. I’m not talking about how much an illustrator will quote on a job or whether they’re affordable, but whether an illustrator’s style matches what the client is looking for. When those elements line up, it’s time for the client to get in contact and this is where things can sometimes go wrong or trip up a commission before it’s even got started.
The way the messaging system at Hire an Illustrator works is that you hit the “Message Illustrator” button on an illustrator’s portfolio page and this will email them the message you want to send. Simple, right? Most of the time, yes, but not all of the time.
When composing your message to an illustrator you should include the following information:
A short summary of what you’re actually after.
How and for what you intend to use the illustration.
Your deadline for completion, especially if it’s soon.
And, if you’ve worked with an illustrator before, your budget.
We don’t specify exactly what you should be emailing our illustrators, as everyone works in different ways and we’re all grown ups. But you wouldn’t call up a plumber if you didn’t know what you wanted them to fix or have enough money to pay them. Just telling a plumber to come to your house isn’t enough information. It’s the same for an illustrator; just telling them that you like their work or that you want to work with them isn’t enough. They need to know what you want them to work on and you need to be specific.
The initial message doesn’t really need to be more than two or three sentences. Once you’ve sent it off to the illustrator, they’ll probably get back to you with several standard questions that they send to all potential new clients. Each illustrator has their own set of questions, but they’ll all be in a similar vein and it’ll allow them to work up a preliminary quote. If the illustrator doesn’t reply to a client, it’ll either be because the client’s message made no sense (which happens more than you think) or the client didn’t even bother looking at the illustrator’s portfolio (which also happens a lot). Illustrators tend to work in the same specific style as seen in their previous pieces, so although you’ll be hiring them for a new custom piece, it will reflect their established style and that’s the reason an illustrator is normally hired. You shouldn’t be asking an illustrator to work up free samples of the image you’re after just to see if they’re the right person, because if you can’t see whether they’re right for a job from their current portfolio, you need to hire an art director to work with them on your behalf. Plus, no one should be working for free in a profit driven industry.
The length of time it takes for an illustrator to reply to an email can vary; some may reply within 10 minutes, others can take a week. A digital artist, for example, might see your message pop up as soon as you send it. One of our more traditional illustrators, who works in a studio with oils, might only check their emails once a week. You just need to be patient and take a guess at a reasonable length of time to give them before following up. Email is also a fickle thing, so if you feel you’ve given it a reasonable length of time for a reply and (as far as you’re aware) your message made sense and wasn’t confusing, send us an email and we can check in on the illustrator on your behalf. You never know, their email might be down or their spam filter might be being overzealous. Patience is a virtue, persistence gets things done!
Fees vary drastically from illustrator to illustrator depending on their style and their experience. Some might have a very labour-intensive style, or something that’s more niche. The thing is, until you’ve worked out what you want and a number of details have been pinned down, the illustrator can’t actually give you a quote. So if you’ve not even got the initial contact points mentioned above, you’re not ready to contact an illustrator. If you can’t fathom or work out those details yourself, as mentioned before, hire an art director or an illustrator who also has experience doing their own art direction, which many have. You just need to be prepared to be very hands-off when it comes to the direction and choices they make with regards to the illustrations. You’re paying them to do what they do best, so trust them and let them do it.
Now, once you’ve said your hellos and both parties know what the situation is and are on the same page, it’s time to talk about money and contracts. This ground work should be established before the creativity starts:
How much is the illustrator being paid?
What are the terms of the license?
Is there a kill fee and upfront deposit?
When is the deadline and when will the invoice be paid?
Have the contracts been signed?
Are revisions included in the fee, if so how many?
After that, you’re good to go! Follow the project, hit your targets and let the magic happen.
The accompanying illustration (2013) was created by Tom Holme for Creative England. We’re pretty sure Tom would love to hear from you if you’d like something similar.
Following a conversation about illustration agencies with one of our lovely members, we’ve decided to publish and share the advice we offered. This is a subject that gets brought up a lot with illustrators, new and old, and we thought it was about time we did a post on the subject.
I’m curious to talk to someone about getting portfolio advice and what to look for when seeking out an agency to represent my illustrations.
If you’re looking for an agent, first of all you need to look around and make a list of agents who represent illustrators with a similar style to yours, but not too similar. You also need to search online for forum posts and comments where illustrators are talking about their agents and their experiences with them; it’ll be very telling as to whether an agent is worth signing up with or not. There’s such a mixed bag of agents about these days that you really only want to sign up with one who has a good reputation, rather than having an agent for the sake of it. Signing with just “anyone” who’ll take you is a sure way to be taken advantage of. Agents who represent illustrators are as varied as the illustrators themselves in terms of business prowess and that’s not even taking into account potential personality clashes.
Note to HAI members: Every so often we’ll send a list of illustrators who’re looking for representation to a selection of agents who we trust. So, make sure you’ve marked that you’re looking for an agent in your profile if you want to be included in those lists.
Ideally, representation sounds best for me as I’m not 100% sure of how to bring in projects. A rep will have contacts and be able to find good matches for me. Also, my assumption is that being represented would make the work more steady.
I hate to scupper your plans, but you’ll probably find that until you have steady work coming in, you’re not going to find an agent willing to take you on. It’s a bit of a catch 22 situation. I’m not saying an agent won’t take you on, but they’re more likely to when you’re more established (unless they’re generally unestablished themselves). Don’t get me wrong, there are exceptions, but this is normally what I see happen in the industry if you’re looking for a top notch agent. There are some agencies that take on large numbers of illustrators for the sake of quantity rather than focusing on quality. If going with an agent is the path you really want to take, then this may be a compromise you’re willing to make. However, you may find there is a small group within the agency who get all the jobs and the rest will get the odd scrap.
As there are so many illustrators who represent themselves these days, it’s not necessarily a case of an agent opening doors anymore, it’s all down to marketing and time management. Normally an agent takes people on when they’re pretty sure the illustrator is going to bring in lots of work and when the illustrator is happy to hand over their 15-40%, as it means they’ve got someone handling the contracts and billing for them and they can focus on the creative side. Some agents are good at marketing their illustrators, others aren’t. It never does any harm to ask illustrators what they think of their agents before you agree to join the agency.
Things to note: Agents tend not to take people on who produce stock illustrations as it devalues the illustrator’s style. Agents tend to take people on who already have lots of work coming in or if they think someone is going to be the next big thing. The other reason an agent might take an illustrator on is that they already have an illustrator on their books that gets requested more than they can handle and you have a similar style to them. If an agent can recommend another illustrator on their books so they don’t miss out on a job, they will do. If you do sign up with an agent, make sure you’re happy with the contract you sign with them, as some of them can put you in a very tricky situation if things don’t work out as planned. Cover your bases and ask questions before you put pen to paper and sign away your first born. In the same way you can negotiate terms with a client, you can negotiate a contract with an agent.
My long term goal is to primarily illustrate and write my own picture books while still illustrating books for other people. I’d also like to manage and grow my own brand. Do agencies help artists develop with these goals in mind?
Agents will only tend to help you develop the aspects of your brand they can control and take a cut of. Generally, helping you to become independent isn’t in their interest as they want people to see the agency as the one fulfilling the client’s brief, not the illustrator. Some agents are really good and will support the illustrator and their growth as much as they can, but the agency still needs to make money and build their own reputation. As far as they’re concerned, illustrators will come and go and it’s the agency that’s important, not the illustrator’s growth. Agents are supposed to work for their illustrators, but in reality a good number of agents will treat their illustrators as if they are employees. A nice balance is when it becomes a partnership between the two. Just remember that in the same way there’s a huge variety of illustrators, agents are just as varied.
Make sure you’re only contacting agents who you think will take you on based on who they already represent, and only contact agents you actually want to be represented by. There’s no need to waste anyone’s time if you’re not a good fit! If you put no thought into your initial contact, they’ll put no thought into their reply (if they even send one).
The best way to get an agent’s attention is to start by making sure your website and portfolio is up to date. Don’t forget about your social pages, either – if an agent is savvy and serious about taking you on, they’ll check everything. Once your side of things is ready, visit the agent’s site, search for their submission criteria and make contact with them. Normally you’ll need to reach out to them; things won’t magically happen and don’t forget they’re probably receiving anything from ten to several hundred submissions from illustrators per day. Most of these submissions will have been done without any research and the illustrators are just getting in contact with every agent they can find. Be patient for a reply and make sure your email is crafted to the recipient and isn’t just a one-size-fits-all message… The less spammy, the better. Lastly, do try to look objectively at what you’re offering from the agent’s point of view. The opinions of family and friends don’t really count when it comes to business, so unless your mum works in the industry and is willing to tell you if your work isn’t a good fit with an agency or that you’re not established enough yet, ignore them and trust your gut.
We all love a good deal or bargain, and this is why HAI has teamed up with a number of reputable companies and organisations to bring our members some very nice discounts. On your behalf we’ve negotiated deals on screen printing, on and offline art-related educational courses, merchandise and hosting. All our members need to do is visit our discount page while logged into their account to reveal the discount codes.
We’re always on the look out for new discounts and offers that we can arrange for our members, which means we’re going to be constantly updating the discount page as new partnerships are formed. So keep an eye on it and check back from time to time.
If you’re one of the companies or organisations offering us a discount on one of your products, thank you kindly.
So, it’s been a couple of weeks now since we were in London with the Little Chimp Society for the Showcase 100 exhibition. The dust has finally settled and we’re pretty much back to normal here now (or as normal as things ever get!) 🙂 We had a fab week and a really good night on the Thursday for the private view – it was wonderful to meet everyone and we’d like to thank you all again for coming. It was very busy and we certainly had a great time – we hope you did too!
The Framer’s Gallery were wonderful yet again (the LCS held the last Mail Me Art show there) and it’s definitely our favourite venue in town for this kind of thing. It’s easy to get to, everyone there is so helpful and the space itself is perfect for arty events of all sizes.
A number of the 100 prints were sold on the night, but the rest are now for sale in the LCS shop at £40, unframed. They are very high quality archival prints and there’s a wide range of subjects and styles, so there’s sure to be something to tickle your fancy. Can’t decide which one you want? Then why not buy the SC100 book and be able to peruse them all at your leisure? There are still some books available to buy here.
We hope to make Showcase a two-yearly event, with the LCS continuing to run the project for HAI members. Being able to offer opportunities like this to our members is really important to us. It adds an extra dimension to our community and provides the chance to meet-up with people and celebrate the wonderful illustrations that they create.
Finally, a special thank you is in order to the lovely Eleanor, who travelled down from the Midlands for some gallery experience and did a sterling job taking photos on the Thursday night!
At Hire an Illustrator we have numerous clients of every description sending us their job briefs on a daily basis so we can help them find the right illustrator or artist for their projects. It’s a fun process and we love doing it, plus it’s nice to know that what we’re doing really works. Some days we may have as few as five requests, but most days it’s more like 20-30. It’s a time consuming job, but it’s one of the many things we do that make HAI special and membership worth while.
What we do when a job request comes in is to analyse it and try to get an understanding of what the client is actually looking for. Sometimes we have to go back and forth with the client a few times with additional questions about style or budget, but normally the client knows what they want and we just need to point them in the right direction. It’s not an exact science and we sometimes throw in a wildcard with our recommendations to cover our bases. Other times, a job request may not have an obvious recommendation, so an executive decision is taken on who we put forward for the job. 99% of the time it works out nicely and one of our illustrators gets a new commission.
Working with our members day in, day out gives us an advantage over a casual viewer since we know which of our illustrators are good at which jobs. Plus, we have many years’ experience dealing with a variety of art projects and illustration briefs. In addition to that, we always try to make sure any potential clients who ask for our help know what to expect when it comes to working with an illustrator and commissioning a custom illustration, as well as what they might expect to pay.