So, you’re thinking about getting your start as a freelance illustrator. Good on ya! You won’t regret it, it’s a wonderful career option with pretty good pay. But wait, it’s vertigo time! Suddenly, so many unknown variables can lead to analysis paralysis. Where does one go about finding freelance illustration projects, for one? Don’t worry, this is where I come in, I’ve got you covered. Here’s all you need to know.
Let’s Take it From The Top
Sure thang! Ain’t no such thing as too much information. First, let me tell you all you need to know about illustration. Maybe you think you know what it is, but the actual definition can be surprising.
An illustration is not just any old drawing. It’s an interpretation, decoration, or visual aid that is meant to serve as an explanation of a text, process, or concept. They are geared towards media publications, such as video games, live-action films, animated features, posters, social media, magazines, etc.
The point is that illustration is not just about sketching, but about being a keen visual interpreter of other information. In a way, an illustrator works as a sort of translator, helping people understand through the power of visual processing. Reading is all well and good, but humans interpret visual information more easily. Illustration leverages this inherent feature to enhance understanding and clarity.
Now, before we get into illustration freelance projects, we may want to brush up on what being a freelancer is about. Our article “Want to Become a Freelance Illustrator? Start Here!” has a pretty solid definition.
A freelance illustrator, then, draws, or illustrates, for multiple clients. They’re self-directed, their own bosses and promoters, and tend to work on a per-job basis.
Of course, that’s barely scratching the surface. Freelancers are always looking for new projects, and they usually do so on multiple platforms. It’s not like working a stable 9-5 position with job security, sure, but it’s got plenty of freedom. With the recent rapid migration towards remote work, this type of profession is not the future; it’s the present. You may lose out on a few of the perks of company work, but you’ll gain independence. Just think about the beaches in Bali, dude!
Illustration Freelance Projects
Now you know the basics of being a freelancer, you may want to think about what you can actually do. There are plenty of illustration freelance projects. You can either specialize in one kind, work several, or be a Swiss-Army-knife type of freelancer. It all depends on your basic skill set, your capacity for learning, your drive, and your motivation. Remember: you may have talent, young padawan, but you have much to learn.
This is basically a type of multimedia illustration. There are several industries that could use your talent, like comic books, video games, movies, graphic novels, etc. This is work that could be ancillary to the main thing, like marketing material, or end up directly on the page or screen. You’d be surprised at how many corporations and companies outsource. You could end up working for some pretty big industry names.
Concept and Character Art
Industries like movies, video games, and animation always need talented artists. They need to bring the original idea into a tangible reality. The creative powers of freelance illustrators are in very high demand these days. This is definitely a profession where having drawing flair and talented in 2D and 3D character design can help you stand out from the pack.
Product Design for the Textile and Apparel Industries
Sure, you may be thinking “These are not illustration freelance projects.” Don’t these companies have their own design team, after all? You’d be surprised at how much big companies can, and can’t cover on their own. As big as their teams are, they frequently have to outsource their stuff to freelancers. That’s your cue! When they’re short on time or cutting it pretty close to a deadline, they tend to hire freelancers in a hurry. They also usually form their very own impromptu freelancer teams, so you might find yourself part of a pretty big crew.
Most of these illustration freelance projects revolve around t-shirt and clothing design. You might find yourself making the next Lightning McQueen best-seller!
These freelance illustration projects tend to be about “simple” drawing and sketching as well. Blogs, newspapers, magazines, websites, even trade journals need talented illustrators. This is when being a talented visual interpreter really comes in handy. Some publications require you to work from scratch, and others need illustrations as supplemental materials. Trust me when I say that there’s plenty of constant, varied work to go around.
Don’t confuse this with packaging design — that’s left to graphic designers. Everything ancillary to that, though, is fair game for freelance illustrators. Sometimes, you’ll be making small illustrations that will be incorporated into an overall, bigger design. You may be working on anything from food packaging to toys, giving this branch of freelance illustration plenty of variety and ‘Oomph!’
How Much do Illustration Freelance Projects Pay?
That’s like asking “What does a star taste like?” It’s a fun question, but pretty much impossible to answer. That’s because the pay varies by project, scope, timeline, and employer. I’d love to be able to give you a straight answer, but in the world of freelancers, these things are rarely so forthcoming. Some projects may pay an incredible amount for a day’s work, some others may try to severely underpay you. Of course, as you go along and gain experience, you’ll probably experience more of the former. What’s hard to say is whether you’ll earn X, Y, or Z.
Ok, Fair Enough, But What About Average Pay?
That’s much easier to answer, thankfully. Thanks for ditching the real hard-hitting questions, I appreciate it. Let us quote our previous article on the topic:
According to ZipRecruiter, the average annual pay for a freelance illustrator in the US is $59,000. They go on to say:
While ZipRecruiter is seeing annual salaries as high as $128,000 and as low as $18,000, the majority of Freelance Illustrator salaries currently range between $37,000 (25th percentile) to $70,000 (75th percentile) across the United States. The average pay range for a Freelance Illustrator varies modestly (up to $33,000), which suggests there may be fewer opportunities for advancement based on skill level, but increased pay based on location and years of experience is still possible.
All in all, it’s a pretty lucrative job considering you can mix work and pleasure, manage your time, and work remotely. If your score some consistent heavy-duty gigs, topping 100k a year is not outside the realm of possibility. But, as you can glean from this data, it’s a serious enough career path to merit serious consideration.
Yes, that’s a blockquote within a blockquote. Blockception. The main takeaway is that you can make a pretty elite-level salary from illustration freelance projects. You’ll have to work hard at it, though, but it’s definitely within the realm of the achievable.
Where do I Find Freelance Illustration Projects?
Now, here’s the kicker: they’re all around you. The internet is chock-full of places where the talented freelancer can find gainful employment. Sure, not all of it will be well-paid, and if you’re starting from scratch you’ll have to work your way up. Them’s the breaks, and very few people ever started from the top of the food chain. But, if you work hard and steadily build your portfolio, you can have a good thing going in no time at all. It’s certainly not the constant, tiring upward grind of regular old careers.
Here are your options, short, quick, and to the point.
Some graphic design agencies will outsource plenty of work to freelance illustrators. The main pros? A solid amount of work, a certain amount of job security, more-or-less the same pay. But why go this way when you can work 9-5, right? In truth, if they like your work a lot, they might hire you for a long-term position. But if you’re looking to be an out-and-out freelancer, you’ll probably have different plans, right?
Platforms like Upwork, PeoplePerHour, and Freelancer are all the rage these days. They’re a great way to find illustration freelance projects. They’re a fantastic tool for both the newcomer to the business, as well as the grizzled old pro looking to take it to the next level. The pros? You can find great projects, you’ll earn an assured pay (the client pays up front and the money’s kept in escrow), and there’s a constant stream of work.
The cons? These platforms always take a pretty big chunk of your pay — over 20% — and it can be hard to break into the highly-paid echelons even if you’re experienced. When you start working on a new platform, you always have to prove your mettle. There’s also the inherent unfairness of the review system, but them’s the breaks. It’s still the best we’ve been able to come up with.
The Real Deal
Bunny Studio offers both of the advantages of agencies and freelancing platforms, and none of the disadvantages. It’s a great way to gain access to illustration freelance projects of high quality, while not going through the hassle.
We do the PR so you don’t have to go around chasing clients, we only accept jobs that we deem of high-enough quality. and you take a considerable cut of the pay. If you’re looking to up your game without having to jump through the usual hooks, it’s the most freelancer-friendly option around. We make sure to put in the legwork so you only have to focus on what you do best: awesome illustrations.