Professional Ethics for Freelance Illustrator Jobs

Freelance illustrator jobs can form a rewarding career for anyone who has a good imagination and great skills with the pencil or with any designing software in this age of technology. Regardless of your level of experience, you can publicly display your work ethics so that clients know what to expect.

Photographic Reference

Photographic reference is an area of much debate. On one hand, some illustrators feel no qualms about using a photograph they found with a Google search and twisting it to create what they need with little or no regard for copyright. On the other, some people feel photographs, unless clicked using their own cameras, should not be used even for reference. Work ethics and copyright law dictate you do not use other photographs for creating your work, unless you bought them from the original photographer and take care not to distribute the resulting artwork in a way that the seller does not allow.

Inspiration from Art/Photographs

What about drawing inspiration from photos you haven't bought or from other artwork? The problem with "inspiration" is its vagueness. Does inspiration mean to copy the entire image idea and simply change a few minor details? Or does it involve sifting through multiple images and coming up with your own idea based on, but not copied from, them? The former is unacceptable. The latter is necessary for great illustrations. The problem is the area in between. You will have to decide by yourself what is ethical and what is not.

What You Give Your Clients

In the days before designing software came into existence, freelance illustrator jobs were straightforward. The seller sketched something on paper and mailed it to the buyer. But with many illustrations being made using software like Photoshop, it has to be clear what you as a freelance illustrator will be supplying. Will you be supplying only the final, non-layered result file (like JPEG) or the source layered file (like PSD)? If it is the latter, what do you do about paid-for images used as layers if you don’t have distribution rights? These are complex decisions you must make, and you should have a thorough discussion with your client before you begin.

Commitments to Work

Basic ethics dictate that you never make a commitment to a client which you cannot fulfill. Do not take on too many clients at a time and think you can satisfy them all. If you fail to meet deadlines, you will end up tarnishing your image and maybe losing repeat freelance illustrator jobs.

As in any field, drafting a statement of ethics for your freelance illustrator jobs will help build trust between you and your clients. The relationship between ethics and trust is something every freelance illustrator should take seriously.