Friday, 9 January 2009

Getting Down to Business

Besides your creative skills, you will need business and ‘people’ skills, this applies no matter what field of design you work in, but especially if you are self-employed (as nearly all illustrators are). Below is an overview of a few of the basic issues which you will need to address in your first few years after leaving college.

General Business Skills:

Budgeting, saving, taxation, planning, time management skills, negotiating and fees and licences/copyright are all areas you will need to master in order to become a successful freelance illustrator/designer. Use the information on this site to help you.

Communication skills:

It is also essential that your communication skills (talking to clients etc) are up to speed. By the end of your 3rd year you will have done quite a few presentations and spoken to art directors and illustrators, so there is no need to be nervous.

• Set expectations correctly, be honest, if you can’t do a job in the time the client wants tell them, and try to negotiate a more favourable deadline.

• Once you have agreed a deadline keep to it!

• Remember: being reliable and professional counts for more than being the most talented illustrator or designer. If you can, be both!

• Network and put yourself and your work about (don’t become isolated).

“There is no UFO full of art directors criss-crossing the night sky plucking up talented young artists and launching their careers. Young artists must invent their own careers project by project.” Kevin McCloskey.


Order images in a thoughtful manner. Start with a strong image and finish with a strong image. Don’t have too much in your portfolio, be selective. Format: A4-A2.
(see portfolio postings for more detail)


Contact, images, AOI, agents, mail-outs, direct contact/visits, web sites, shows, competitions etc etc get your name and your face about.

Commissioning procedure:

Generally the commissioning procedure will run something like this:
  1. After much hard work and effort promoting yourself...........
  2. Initial call/email from client explain the job and briefing you. Discuss fees and deadlines etc at this point.
  3. Thumbnails and roughs sent to client.
  4. Client feedback. (often a Art Director will have to run images by an editor)
  5. 2nd rough? total re-think or a few changes maybe patient!
  6. Client confirms rough is ok and gives go ahead.
  7. Art work sent.(before or on the deadline!!!)
  8. Feedback.
  9. Alterations ? (unusual in editorial but more common in publishing and advertising)
  10. Final artwork sent.
  11. Client accepts artwork.
  12. Send invoice.
  13. Get paid.(30 days + later)
  14. Job done :-)


See Fees & Finance postings

Rejection fees:

Usually 33% of agreed fee, after a few roughs have been produced or in unlikely event of client not using artwork.


Send one to the client and keep one for your own records and taxation purposes. Example invoice posted soon.


Combine a simple licence agreement within your invoice (see invoice and copyright postings).

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