The Dos and Don’ts When Hiring An Illustrator

After 20 plus years working as a freelance illustrator, I’m not surprised by much. However, in recent years the demand for illustration services from the general public has increased and many of these “non-industry folk” often do not understand what all is involved with professional design and illustration practices.

This list of DOs and DONTs is a very basic guide on how to prepare to hire a professional illustrator efficiently and effectively.

DO….know your project so you can describe it to the illustrator. Be specific. The illustrator cannot give you an estimate from a vague inquiry. Project description, deadline and budget are the essential bits in order to get an accurate quote from a professional illustrator.

DON’T….ever ask an illustrator to work for free. This is our profession and we all have bills to pay. Don’t insult an illustrator by asking them to work for free. Almost as insulting is asking an illustrator to work for less than minimum wage. Pretty obvious stuff here people!

DO…tell the illustrator how you heard about their services. This is helpful for many reasons. Mainly it helps inform the professional which types of marketing is working best for them. Another reason is, if you contacted them through a rep or a bidding service a finders fee or commission split may be required on the illustrator’s part. On the other hand, if they learn you heard about them via a promotional offer, you very well may have a discount coming your way.

DON’T….ask an artist/illustrator to create a piece that looks like someone else’s work. Artist’s love to be original. It is best to let them decide how best to approach the project…this is exactly what we are trained for. While some illustrators may disagree,  generally most artists prefer to be appreciated for their own developed style.

DO…expect to work with contracts. I always send my quotes out on Project Proposal forms. These are free, no-obligation estimates that once signed, become contract. Expect illustrators to also clearly define a Rights Agreement specific to your project.

DO…be prepared to place a Down Payment on the illustration job. This secures the illustrator’s time on their calendar to complete your project. A Down Payment also protects the illustrator should the client unexpectedly cancel the project after the illustrator has started the work.

DO remember that you are working with a professional and at the same time know that you are on a creative journey together. Respect one another and HAVE FUN!

How to Hire An Illustrator Part 2

Ok. By now you have read How to Hire An Illustrator Part 1 and you are poised at your keyboard ready to email an illustrator.

Start your email with a simple introduction and explain how you found out about the illustrator’s services. For example: “Hi my name David, I discovered your website when I searched for “Portland Illustrators” or “…I was referred to you by my friend Susan who commissioned a painting from you last year.”

Informing the illustrator how you found their professional services assists them in understanding the effectiveness of their marketing strategies. For any professional really, it is useful to note if most clients are gleaned from Facebook or publics events or search engine optimization.

Next, use the Sandwich Method of contact. Start with a positive comment about their work. Tell them which of their art samples stood out to you from their portfolio. Then add the filling to your Sandwich which is the information from Part 1 of How to Hire An Illustrator: Project description, deadline and budget. Then finish up with your contact information and another positive comment like “Heard great things about you, hope we can work together on this project.”

Super simple right?! If you really want to be informed before contacting an illustrator, feel free to read the Dos and Don’ts When Hiring An Illustrator.


How to Hire An Illustrator, Part 1

Now that you have come to the conclusion that you need the talent and skills of an illustrator to make your creative project come to life. Here are some simple steps to help you hire a professional illustrator:

Review Illustration Portfolios.
Nearly all professional illustrators who are seeking clients and job opportunities will have examples of their work displayed on their website. Unless you already have a particular artist-illustrator in mind, I would recommend that you start looking locally by Googling your city’s name followed by “illustrator” or “illustration”….for example, “Portland OR Illustrator”. Then begin by checking out the different styles that various illustrators display in their portfolios. If you happen to have your heart set on a specific style…let’s say whimsical, colorful cartoon style…. then type that into your search perimeters as well. That should narrow down the number of illustrators whose work matches the vision you have for your project.

Style Matters.
An illustrator’s portfolio should be a good representation of that illustrator’s artistic style. If they offer multiple types of styles and mediums, those samples should be there for you to view as well. If you like their style but let’s say you would like to see the style expressed in a different medium,  it is perfectly acceptable to ask. For example, if an artist has a  portfolio representing caricature sketches  but you are curious to know if they also offer caricature paintings, feel free to ask. A quick email inquiry will suffice. Keep in mind though, that most artists do their best work when given artistic freedom to work in their own style in their favorite medium.

Generally the next step it to contact the illustrator directly to see if they are available, interested in your project, and can give you an estimate. Here is the type of information you will need to have available before you make contact:

Know your project.
It will be necessary to describe your project clearly and specifically to the artist-illustrator when you first make contact via email. That should be simple. If you are publishing a children’s book, you’ll state what you already know about your project, for instance, the size of the book…not just the outer dimensions, but most importantly how many pages or page spreads are contained in your book. Include if you desire illustrations on each page or perhaps one per page spread. Do you need an illustration for the cover or back of book? The more specific you can be the more accurate the quote.

Know your deadline.
While some customers are in no rush at all, others may need the work completed by the following week. It is essential to inform the illustrator upfront so they may check their schedule availability.

Know your budget.
Now I realize that unless someone has hired an illustrator before they probably have no idea what fees to expect and a budget decision may not have been made yet. However, I do believe that most people who seeks a professional service for a specific project have a price range in mind.  It will serve you and the illustrator best if you are upfront with your budget. That way you can be presented with various priced options for your project. For instance, if your max budget will not allow for the 4 color poster you wanted, then the illustrator may suggest a 2 color process and simplified design that would fit your budget without sacrificing the impact of your poster.

Once you are prepared with the basic information that an illustrator will need to give you a quote on your project, read Part 2 of How to Hire an Illustrator for specific tips on how to word your email inquiry.

Happy Creating!