Freelance Illustration Jobs

by guest author Forrest McDonald

Freelance illustration jobs come in so many varieties that the opportunities are nearly endless. For right now, we'll set aside the medium of your work (pencil, ink, charcoal, watercolor, computer drawings, etc.) and focus on the end products.

As an artist, you'll find that almost all freelance illustration jobs fall into two primary categories: printed materials and commercial products. Printed materials are what most illustrators think of when they are looking to place their work, and there are tons of opportunities: books, magazines, websites, newspapers, cartoons, etc. Commercial products can be just as lucrative for the freelance illustrator and often have less competition because folks just don't consider them. Product packaging, greeting cards, just about anything from your local Hallmark store, etc. all are potential freelance illustration jobs.

As is true with all freelancers, finding illustration work is the greatest challenge. However, you have several avenues to explore. First off is your personal network – family, friends, etc. They may need some work done, or more importantly they may know someone who does. Never forget to mine these second degree contacts for jobs, referrals, etc. This is why personal and professional networking is so important.

A second place to look for freelance illustration jobs is the internet. There are a number of freelance job boards which you can join that will help you secure projects:


  • The above is a small slice of the many on-line resources available to you. Spend some time reviewing the listings available on these boards, and sign up for the ones that offer projects that interest you.

    Finding Freelance Illustraion Jobs

    Remember that job boards and other listings represent a passive approach. As an artist, you are also capable of of being much more active in your quest for a job.

  • Contact publishers and see if they are looking for illustrations for upcoming books.

  • If there are magazines you enjoy reading, create an image that you think works well and submit a proposal to the editor.

  • If you enjoy designing letterhead or stationary, create designs you find appealing and pitch them to stationary companies.

  • Create some greeting cards and submit them to greeting card companies. Successful freelancing requires active participation and a willingness to take the lead.
  • So you have found a job you want and it's time to submit a bid. How much should you charge? One resource you should either own or have ready access to is The Graphic Artists Handbook: Pricing & Ethical Guidelines. It describes all manner of illustration and graphic design work and some standard pricing models. Another resource is the Association of Illustrators ( There are several issues to discuss with regards to pricing:

    1. Do you charge by the hour or by the illustration?

    2. Do you charge based on usage (i.e. interior art vs. cover art)?

    3. Who owns the images?

    4. What reprint rights do you retain?

    5. Can you use the illustration as part of your personal advertising (i.e. in a portfolio)?

    The trick is to find a balance you are happy with that allows you to work as often as you like. For example, ownership of most illustrations will transfer to whoever you sell the image to, but you will frequently retain the ability to use the image as part of your personal portfolio. Just be sure you ask exactly what you will be able to do before agreeing to do the work.

    Successfully finding and obtaining freelance illustration jobs requires hard work and active participation. The results snowball, however, and the more jobs you get and complete satisfactorily, the more jobs you will have to choose from. So prepare, look for opportunities, and ask for them. These jobs won't find you, but you certainly can find them.

    Forrest McDonald is a freelance writer, photographer, and game designer living the Los Angeles area. His writing covers topics ranging from freelance work to personal growth to game design and appears on various websites. He can be reached via

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