Freelance Illustration Job Search Tips

Freelance illustration is a unique combination of fine arts skills and commercial art practices. These can be great jobs, and very good income earners, as well as generating a very varied and interesting portfolio.

The Work Environment

The best description of freelance illustration work is "precision work". The work often involves a very exotic mix of skills working with an extremely diverse range of subject materials. This work is invariably based on deadlines.

The big issues in freelance illustration are:

  • Drawing
  • Content quality
  • Color
  • Software requirements
  • Formatting
  • Client specifications

If that looks like a series of possible irritants for creative people, it can be. The market client base is a pretty mixed bag, with different perspectives on illustration. 

Typical clients for freelance illustration are:

  • Publishers
  • Website owners
  • Authors
  • Magazines
  • Advertising
  • Marketing

Each of these clients have their own reasons for needing illustrations, and those reasons drive their perspectives. Advertisers, for example, may want illustrations for a range of products. Marketing may want to do a promotion based on strong visuals. Authors may want to be the next Lewis Carroll, complete with dazzling ink drawings or even woodcuts. Publishers usually want a good safe supply of content, particularly in children's books.

Important: The client's specifications are the absolute delineator for freelance illustration work. Creativity is sometimes actively encouraged, but try finding the word "creativity" in a contract. Clients can legitimately knock back work outside contract terms, and that can mean hours of work down the drain. Make absolutely certain you're fully aware of what the client wants, before drawing a line.

Finding Freelance Illustration Jobs Online

Thanks to the internet, illustration is currently undergoing a Renaissance of popularity. The net is generating a large demand for graphics, and there are plenty of jobs for freelance illustration artists who know their way around the market.

It's best to concentrate on the specialist freelance websites when looking for jobs in freelance illustration, particularly if you're just starting out. There's a big US freelance website called, which is a good working benchmark for online bidding freelance illustration jobs.

The great advantage of this site is you can see both artist profiles and jobs and make an informed judgment of the work. This is a very commercial market, and the site operates on a system of contract bids. If you investigate the profiles, you'll see the sort of materials being produced in freelance illustration. This is your competition, and you can check it out in detail.

Important: Many jobs specify qualifications and types of software required. This is an essential consideration, particularly when working with image quality and things like vector drawing where software and even basic dpi can get seriously and infuriatingly underfoot.

Commission Freelance Illustration Work

The traditional freelance illustration commission job has now graduated up the professional ranks. Commission jobs are now for established artists, and they are among the best in terms of both income and career options.

The online jobs now create the portfolios that lead to commission work. It is still possible to get commission work based on a portfolio of creative work, but for many commercial clients, the need is for people with proven commercial experience.

Keep the practical side working well, and the creative side will flourish.