Career Planning for Freelance Illustrators

The career of a freelance illustrator can be interesting and rewarding. However, this is a complicated career and you need to know how to manage it at every stage. There are many great opportunities in this field if you know how to use them. The freelance illustrator can work in many genres and businesses because they are required for just about every facet of the business, artistic and educational field.

Career Qualifications

The basic qualifications for freelance illustrators are talent and skills, but the academic qualifications are harder to get. The major qualifications are:

  • Bachelor of Fine Arts
  • Media qualifications
  • Graphic design qualifications
  • Certifications on major graphics software platforms

The need for qualifications may seem a bit demanding, but the reason is the graphic art market. Before anyone is prepared to trust you with their graphics, they need some encouragement and proof you can work with their systems. Most freelance illustration is now digital, and the types of software and the technical demands require skilled professionals.

Building A Commercial Portfolio

Freelance illustrators need to create a very strong, broad based portfolio. Even if you want to specialize in a particular area, it takes a while to get the credentials to do that work. You need to develop a strong series of skills which prove you can do the specialist illustrations. Your portfolio requires a lot of different media and proven commercial work. Common portfolio elements are:

Conventional art:

  • Pen and ink
  • Black and white
  • Paint media (watercolor, oils, etc.)

Digital media:

  • Industry standard platforms (Adobe Illustrator, Flash, vector based drawing, etc.)
  • 3D software
  • Animation software
  • Games software (for sprites, animorphic characters, and game scenery)

The reason for the multiple emphases on different artistic media is based on the fact that all of them are required for illustration work. A manual drawing may need to be translated into a digital form and animated, for example.

Technical illustration is a case in point in this area. A technical illustration job may require detailed graphic representation for sales purposes and in some cases a graphic sequence illustrates an entire process.

Career Development

The portfolio should be structured progressively to show clear advanced skills in the technical requirements in your preferred area of illustration.  After you’ve done enough work to have a reliable portfolio, you can start working in your field. It is important to keep a few things in mind when developing your career:

  • Make sure you learn how to assess freelance illustration contract jobs for financial and portfolio values.
  • Review internet contract sites regularly to monitor the market.