What to know before becoming an illustrator? Read this post to learn what.

10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Becoming An Illustrator

Today, I was asked in an Illustrator’s interview, “What words of advice do you have for artists/illustrators who are just beginning?”

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And that’s when it hit me! I thought I’d answer that in this blog post!

Before you read further, please read this post to learn how you can become a full-time artist.

Heck, I’ve been an Illustrator and Comic artist for almost 6 years.

No doubt, I’ve done several things before this:

Like graphic designing, building websites, and blogging. But my learning process with illustrating could have been a little faster if I had known these 10 things beforehand.

So if you’re an Illustrator already or you’re planning on becoming one, you’re going to find these 10 points of wisdom extremely useful. Please scroll to the bottom if you want to see more posts like this:

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Ready, Freddy?

Let’s begin.

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1. Discovering your art style takes time

Since I didn’t go to school for Illustrating or Art, I had to start from scratch.

And it definitely took me some time to understand where I was lacking and what I needed to improve.

You really need to strengthen the basics in order to become better at drawing.

you need to practice drawing every day to become better

Taking a course can really be helpful.

Because, it gets you further, faster. But since I started from the beginning, it took me a lot of time to find an art style that I was comfortable calling my own.

Joining Domestika really helped me become a better artist because I was able to improve my art skills tremendously!

And this can take months/years to develop.

The key is to keep drawing every day till you are happy with how the style of your illustrations.

It took me 6 months to develop my style of drawing characters. And now nearly 5 years later, you can see how much my style has evolved.

How my art style evolved over the years

Please understand that it takes time to learn to draw.

So, you have to be patient and consistent.

2. Learn how to organize your finances

Before you start off as an Illustrator, it’s always best you keep aside some money.

Because you’re not going to land jobs right away and it is imperative that you’re able to focus on illustrating without having to worry about paying your rent and other bills.

That being said, learning how to spend money is crucial if you’re planning on becoming a Freelance Illustrator.

you need to organize your finances as an illustrator

With time, you will learn how much you need to earn in a month in order to pay your bills and buy food and art materials.

Always remember to save money.

Because some months won’t be as good as the others. Especially when the financial year is ending. For these times, you’ll have to use what you’ve stored away.

So, learn to be wise with your money.

This is a crucial skill for any kind of artist or entrepreneur to survive.

 3. Create, every single day

If you’re not working on a project for a client, use the time to experiment with a new style, or create an illustration to add to your portfolio.

Draw and illustrate every single day.

Practising daily develops your art style and you become better and better.

Learn how to draw without a reference. And practice drawing different styles of art.

Working on personal projects can be loads of fun. (This was how this blog was born) And that way, your work will never get boring. Always mix things up. Keep aside some time every day to work on something you want to do.

You can also keep a journal that’s fun and creative but at the same time records all your life events!

I really enjoyed starting digital art. It’s so easy to make cute little drawings and then create stickers and sell them.

I talk about more money-making opportunities for artists here.

I took a few classes on Domestika and really took my time with them.

I got myself an iPad and an Apple Pencil and started practicing.

Here are a few that I really liked:

This Class taught me how to use ProCreate

Procreate digital illustration techniques

Click to see this class

One of my favorite instructors is Vania Bachur. She teaches how to start illustrating, build a brand and then make your own merchandise to sell!

From idea to merchandise, learn how to use your illustrations and sell them on merchandise.

Click to see her class 

Unlike other course platforms, Domestika’s classes are extremely affordable and so good in quality. The best part is once you buy a class, you own it forever.

4. Never work for free and never work without an initial deposit

Working for free is NOT a good idea.

Please value your work, because if you don’t – no one else has a reason to either.

You must value yourself as an artist

If you have a client and he/she cannot afford to pay you but will give you great exposure, do not fall for it. It’s never worth the time and effort you put in. Work for free only and only if it’s for a good cause, for egs: a charitable event or you’re building a portfolio

Be cautious because there are so many people out there who will leverage you for their own advantage especially if it’s to save their money.

Understand that drawing and art is a legitimate business. You too have bills to pay and you need to value your time.

You’re not just charging for your skills, but for your time.

Whenever you work with a client, make sure you get at least a 50% deposit or the full amount if it’s a small illustration. Serious clients will never hesitate to pay you upfront, remember that.

If they’re haggling non-stop, let them go.

So, never work without the initial deposit, and never transfer the final files to your client before the whole amount is cleared.

5. Social Media can be your best friend and your worst enemy

Uploading your illustrations on social media like Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram is a wonderful way of getting your work in front of a lot of eyes.

Uploading my comics onto Instagram was probably the best thing that happened to me. I was able to land loads of client work and build a strong and fun community!

I got to work with so many companies that I had only dreamed of working with.

Read this post to learn how to sell art on Instagram.

And you can also read this post to learn how to get noticed on Instagram as an artist.

You will also attract influencers and companies that may want to work with you.

Not only will you remind people that you’re constantly creating, but your reach will also increase with every creation. Hence, it is important you create a Behance Profile/Instagram and upload your projects onto it. This is the best way to attract companies who are looking for illustrators to work with.

Put your work on Instagram or Behance so that companies can find you and hire you as an illustrator

Read this post to learn how to get noticed on Instagram as an Artist.

However, Social Media algorithms are changing all the time. I grew my account to 180K followers before losing my account to a glitch. I had to either start from scratch or start something else.

I decided to start the Stray Curls blog instead.

And now I can proudly say that I’m making a full-time income from my blogs alone. I no longer need to work for clients.

So, don’t depend completely on social media. It’s a bad idea.

Always have a backup plan.

6. You cannot be a successful illustrator if you don’t know how to market yourself

Learn to market yourself.

Learn to write well.

Use your words to your full advantage because if you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will have reason to. It was very difficult for me to put myself out there because I’m shy and I never want to come across as ‘sale-sy.’

You’re not just an Illustrator when you decide to become an Illustrator. I wish I could say that your illustrating skills were enough. But sadly, it’s not.

  • You have to become a Salesperson.
  • You have to become a Business Person.
  • You have to become a Marketing Genius.

Because you have to promote your services, so you have to keep writing emails and pitching yourself to brands you want to work with.

You need to market yourself as an artist

And you cannot let one “No.” ruin your day.

This brings me to my next point.

7. You cannot take criticism personally

When you post your work online, you’re going to have both; good and bad comments. You cannot let the bad ones bring you down.

Some are going to criticize your work, some are going to make personal comments.

You have to learn how to handle unpleasant things in a fluid manner.

If your work is criticized, see if there is some truth in the comment and adjust accordingly. Always reply to comments in a positive and bright manner. This will show how professional and polite you are.

It can be very hard to read negative comments that are attacking you and stay calm. Hell, there were times when my whole day was ruined if I read a nasty comment. But remember this very important point…

If you’re going to be on the internet, you have to be ready for both: the good and the bad.

You’re going to receive praises and insults.

But it is up to you to hold your ground and constantly keep creating. People post negative comments for several reasons. They could be angry about something or are just having a rough day. They may not know how to word their feelings or they might be genuinely trying to bring you down. You never know…

Either way, you have to stay positive and develop skin as thick as a bull’s.

8. Keep a good balance of work and fun

It’s very easy to lose yourself in your work.

I’m of course talking from experience. You can work for 14 hours on a piece and totally forget that you’ve skipped both lunch and dinner.

It’s important to practice self-care as an artist. Otherwise, you’re going to burn out quickly and you’ll enter a period where you don’t even feel like drawing for weeks or months.

If you’re in that place now, read this post to learn how to get back into drawing after a long break.

Therefore, it’s very crucial to keep a record of the time you put into your work. Have dedicated time to check and reply to your emails, for research, and for work.

Make time for your family and friends.

And work out at least 30 minutes to an hour every single day. It’s very easy to gain weight as an Illustrator because our jobs have us on our bottoms from morning to evening.

 9. Keep mini-goals and long-term goals

Unless you’re actually moving toward something, you’re not really getting anywhere. Mini-goals are more like weekly or monthly goals.

For example, I must get 5 clients this month.

Long-term goals are goals that you can have on a yearly basis.

For example, I must do one Children’s Book by the end of 2 years.

have long term and short term plans and goals

So, I keep a planner (I now use Apple notes) with all my goals in them. And I like to tick them as I complete them. This helps me feel very satisfied and I know where I’m headed.

10. Be patient

It’s very easy to get lost in the comparison train.

  • Will I ever be as successful as her?
  • Will I ever have as many illustration jobs as he does?
  • Will I ever become a successful illustrator?

These are questions that will undeniably fill your mind at some point in time.

But, the key is to focus on your journey. So, instead of comparing your work with other people’s, compare your work with your own from last year or a few months prior.

Do not compare your work to other illustrators

Do not go down the comparison train at any cost. You have no idea how long that other artist has been working to get to that place or what hurdles they’ve had to overcome.

Just focus on your own art!

And that’s all for today’s post. I wanted to keep it light and airy.

Here are a few more posts that you might enjoy:

If you have any questions you’d like to be answered, feel free to leave a comment below.

Because I make it a point to reply to each and every single comment. And if your question requires a long answer, I will turn it into a blog post!