14 Tips for Beginning Freelance Illustrators

stephanie fizer winter in the little forest art print
{{Winter in the Little Forest }} by Stephanie Fizer

Recently an illustrator friend, who is just starting out, asked me for some tips on how to navigate the world of freelance illustration. Since I’m not an expert in that field, I turned to some actual experts and asked them to share some insights on how to be a successful freelance illustrator. With their help, I came up with these 14 Tips for Beginning Freelance Illustrators. I’ve also compiled a list of resources, including books, websites, forums + more.

Don’t worry if you aren’t an illustrator,  many of these tips  are relevant to other freelancing fields too. Also, if you have any tips or resources to share, please leave a comment!

14 Tips for Beginning Freelance Illustrators

1. Know your market and know your work. Before you spend time pursuing potential clients, ask yourself  if your work is a good fit.

2. Don’t let rejection stop you.

3. Sending out promo postcards to existing & potential clients can be a good way to get eyeballs on your work.

4. Use social networking—twitter, facebook, forums. It can be a great way to connect with potential clients and to share with and learn from fellow illustrators.

5. Join illustration associations for networking and potential mentoring opportunities. See some listed in the resources section below.

6. Participate in illustration opportunities and challenges like Illustration Friday. A great way to hone your craft, be a part of an community of peers and get your work seen.

7. Consider doing work for free to grow your portfolio. Friends who need websites, good causes and publications you admire are good possibilities.

8. Make sure to have comprehensive web presence, including a portfolio of freelance work and what services you offer.

9. Consider an art rep.

10. Research! Read books, magazines, blogs, websites. See some resources below.

11. Don’t be afraid! Realize that the worst that can happen is potential clients will say no, and then realize that’s not so bad. There’s a good fit for you out there!

12. Reach out to bloggers. Obviously, bloggers can be a useful tool for getting your work featured, but they also have their fingers on the pulse of the creative Interwebs. They may know of someone who is looking to get  some freelance work done, need some done themselves or will just add you to their extensive Rolodex for a rainy day project.

13. Think about collaborations. You do illustration, but you have a friend who does web design, so consider partnering up…it might expand both your markets.

14. Love what you do! It will show through in your work.



Creative, Inc.: The Ultimate Guide to Running a Successful Freelance Business by By Meg Mateo Ilasco and Joy Deangdeelert Cho

Starting your Career As A Freelance Illustrator or Graphic Designer by Micheal Fleishman

Breaking into Freelance Illustration by Holly DeWolf

15 Steps to Freelance Illustration by Thomas James

Blogs & Websites:

Illustration Friday


Escape from Illustration Island



lines and colors

Illustration for Kids

Illustration Toolbox


Illustration Group on Flickr

We love to Illustrate

101 Essential Freelancing Resources

How to Find Freelance Illustration Jobs

Illustration Associations:

USA: Society of llustrators

UK: The Association of Illustrators

Australia: Illustrators Australia

A very special thank you to  Tali Gal-on, Stephanie Fizer & Julissa Mora who were particularly helpful in the writing of this post.

my heart swims art print
{{My Heart Swims}} by Tali Gal-on


  1. Good tips, here. I like the one about reaching out to bloggers. I’m a beginning freelancer, but I also have an art blog and I’m always looking for artists to feature.

  2. I really want to learn about digital illustration for my own use/creative outlet.
    Would you happen to know any good sites or books for me?

  3. Great post, jen!!

    I started an artist collective for artists and designers.. and the art is applied to graphic tees to be sold wholesale to retailers..
    Everything is fairly new but we’re in a few stores now and I’m always in search of artists..

    Artists can..
    Check out the site:
    Email to:

    Thanks and Happy Monday 🙂

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