Ask the Art Prof: Can I Make a Respectable Income on Freelance Illustration?

_MG_1022

Illustrator Barry Moser


“Do you feel like one can make a respectable income doing only freelance illustration? Could I expect to be able to feed a family of four in my forties?  I have terrible anxiety about the future and the path I’m choosing.”

It’s possible, and there are certainly people out there who are able to sustain themselves exclusively on freelance illustration.   However, the reality is that in general it’s extremely difficult to get to that point for the majority of people. You have to have developed a consistent track record and relationship with a number of well established clients, which usually takes a number of years to build.

Very few people can rely solely on freelance work as their income to support themselves, and even fewer are able to feed large families. Most illustration professionals I know have some other kind of regular part-time job that provides a steady income for them while they pursue freelance work on the side. For many people that is a good, practical balance that allows them to satisfy their hunger to work freelance and stay fairly sound financially speaking.

Brad Holland

Illustrator Brad Holland

One of the main issues with freelance work is that the work tends to come in sporadically and can’t be relied upon. Unless you’re one of those rare people who is already very well established with a huge roster of past clients, be ready to live in constant anxiety about whether you will have work day to day.

Then there are all of the financial logistics of being freelance.  You have to pay taxes and health insurance on your own. You have to keep detailed records about every job you do, and you’ll have to hound people to get paid.  It’s not uncommon for one to receive payment two months after the job has been completed. There is a lot of housekeeping that has to be done when you work freelance, so be prepared to be your own agent, accountant, manager, promoter, etc.

It’s a tremendous amount of work to be a freelance illustrator, and the pay is extremely unpredictable and unreliable.  My recommendation if you want to pursue being a freelancer is to keep you day job, and slowly ease your way into the field.  That way, you have a back up plan in case the freelance work you’re getting is insufficient to pay the bills.

Anita Kuntz

Illustrator Anita Kuntz


ART PROF is a free, online educational platform for visual arts for people of all ages and means. artprof.org features video courses, art critiques, an encyclopedia of art supplies, and more.

FB    Youtube    Pinterest     Instagram    Twitter    email    etsy


PORTFOLIO VIDEO CRITIQUES
Prof Lieu offers video critiques on portfolios for students applying to art school and working artists. More info.


ART DARES
Every month, we assign a topic for you to respond to with an artwork. We give out prizes in several categories!  More info.


ASK THE ART PROF was a written column in the Huffington Post from about art related topics. Visit our Pro Development page.


Related articles
“How do I become a children’s book illustrator?”
“Where is a good place to start with graphic novels?”
“What does t take to get a job at an animation studio?”

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s