View Full Version : 5 Things Every Illustrator Should Know

09-28-2004, 01:26 PM
Hey guys :cool: Making an attempt to get some threads of very usefull information going (well. i think everything in this forum is very usefull lolol but you know what i mean)... and then maybe sometime we can compile them into a sticky of usefull knowledge at the top of the forum. Yeah? Maybe i'll think of a random topic/question to ask every week or so to get the ball rolling. hmm.

Anyways. Here's the idea for this one. Think of 5 things every illustrator should know - (whether its things to know about printing, copywrite, reference material, contracts, the right questions to ask clients, how to advertize, how much to charge, how to keep work, build portfolio... rambles on... )ANYTHING that would be handy for an illustrator to know :cool: If we all aimed for 5 (different?) things, I bet we can compile a pretty big list of good things to know pretty fast.


5 things every illustrator should know.


09-28-2004, 05:22 PM
I tried to keep this useful on a world-wide level.

Five Things Every Illustrator Should Know:

1) Illustrators pay no income tax in Ireland.
2) Work For Hire makes your client the legal author of your work.
3) Creative individuals are ten times as likely to suffer from depression or commit suiicide.
4) DPI = LPI X 2

09-29-2004, 01:40 AM
5 Things Every Illustrator Should Know

1.) If you are freelance, often you can keep your Copyrights and license your image to the client.
2.) Get your originals back from the printer after plates or prints are made. Make this a condition of your contract.
3.) You need an Agent if you want to get the good assignments.
4.) Illustration is related to fashions of the time, stay on top of it.
5.) Good Illustrators are just as skilled, valid and worthy of respect as "Fine Arts" artists. So never take negative comments about being "just an illustration seriously.


09-29-2004, 10:49 AM
Excellent idea, Axl! Though, trying to distill it down to five is hard, these are the first to come to mind:

1. How to market.
2. How to sell.
3. When to speak.
4. When to shut-up.
5. How to meet the client's needs.

09-29-2004, 11:39 AM
Ahhh y'all are more than welcome to post more than 5 lol i just thought it would be a good nmber to aim for!

10-01-2004, 12:42 PM
dallen: hoping not to sound to dumb (im self taught and trying for a career) but how do you stay on top of the fashion of illustration and how did you get the agent ?

ted :very intersting about the depression fact I suffer from depression and am going through a bad spell recently which i feel is hapering my creativity :crying: I also get bad migrain's

10-01-2004, 02:03 PM
Here are 5 things (not necessarily the top 5, some of those have been mentioned already so I wont repeat them):

1) You're judged by your worst work, not your best, so be careful with what you include in your portfolio

2) Art Directors have a short attention span (they're way too busy), so be concise and to the point. (KISS - Keep It Short and Simple)

3) It's not worth being the world's best illustrator if no one knows about it - marketing is good for you!!

4) If you're self emplyed you have to be your own boss, and you have to be a mean and tough boss, a boss that pushes yourself to the limit, and when you get there makes you try a little bit harder.

5) This is the most important one: make good work!

Excuse me for any spelling mistakes, english is not my first language and the forum has no spell check! :D

10-03-2004, 09:05 AM
1) In your marketing of yourself, be persistant
2) be persistant
3) be persistant
4) be persistant
5) Oh... and do good work as well, but don't forget to be persistant.

10-04-2004, 03:41 PM
Great advice so far Axl and everyone. I'll think on this and post my experiences so far. Nice to have the fledging and experienced voices all at once.

10-04-2004, 05:08 PM
I just wanted to second Phils post on persistance! Persistance pays.

I met with one of the largest firms in my state 4 times over a two year period before they finally bought. The day we signed the contract the founder of the firm said to me "Thank you for your persistance."

They are now one of my largest and longest running contracts.

Sometimes the wheels move slow in larger companies. But when you get in, watch out, they may give you more than you bargained for! Many times I have started out with a small one time job for a larger client and had it grow into something much, much larger.

Now, having said that, I must say: Don't get overly attached to any one client. Clients come and go. Often thru no fault of your own. If any one client represents more than say 50% of your total workload then you run the risk of going out of business if that client dries up. This is where it pays to have some money saved up, or to have been continually marketing even though you might not have needed clients.

You need to be prepared to lose clients. And you need to be prepared to go out and get new ones when one leaves you or you choose to leave a client. There will be times when you decide you no longer want to do business with certain clients.

10-04-2004, 11:36 PM
Oh, I forgot one.

Since illustrators often work alone, it's important to know the Heimlich maneuver that you can use on yourself... the one with the back of a chair.

Definitely pays to be persistent with this one.

10-05-2004, 12:05 AM
Here's another one....
Always meet the client's deadline! Failure to meet deadlines will sink you with a client, fast.
There is an incredible amount of great advice here on this subject, Thanks All,


10-05-2004, 01:56 AM
Well, thinking on it from my own recent experience, never agree to a flat fee for a project. I have such admiration for the work of the organization I'm making a poster for but the delays, red tape and changes wanted have cost me money in terms of my time.
At the bottom of every contract put a clause in stipulating more money for significant changes to the design, and that the quote you've given is only applicable for 15 days.
Give a client leaway to ask for a thousand changes and they will take it. Give them a deadline and a monetary cost, and they might not be as how shall I put this..finicky! lol

One word of advice from a prof who has been in the business for years is to ask for payments in thirds for big jobs. A third up front and a third on delivery, and the last third within thirty days. He says clients find it easier to find that last third when they know they've already paid for two thirds of it.He stopped having to take or threaten litigation with that method.

Lastly, believe in yourself first. It's great to have a support system and mentors, but be careful because sometimes rivalry and competition in the industry makes peers a shaky support. I'm lucky because out school nutures team work. Believe in yourself and have confidence because the degree and or portfolio will get you in the door, but it's your attitude that might make the difference between you and the thirty other candidates just as qualified.
I'm not the best by any stretch, but I've had luck with my attitude in showing a willingness to be molded to suit what the client/company needs, being an active listener in the meetings and being dead honest about my skills in terms of what I can and can not do.

Thanks everyone for the advice, I've taken mental note. :)

10-05-2004, 10:42 AM
Well, thinking on it from my own recent experience, never agree to a flat fee for a project. I have such admiration for the work of the organization I'm making a poster for but the delays, red tape and changes wanted have cost me money in terms of my time.
At the bottom of every contract put a clause in stipulating more money for significant changes to the design, and that the quote you've given is only applicable for 15 days.
Give a client leaway to ask for a thousand changes and they will take it. Give them a deadline and a monetary cost, and they might not be as how shall I put this..finicky! lol

Here I go with a "yeah, but"............

I am of the Flat Fee variety. My clients always know upfront exactly what a project will cost them. I don't believe they should pay for my misjudgement in either time or materials.

I do have a clause in my contract that allows me to charge for excessive changes or changes made after a client has approved a specific stage of the project. I have yet to use it. There is also a clause that allows me to extend the deadline due to client delays and changes. I have used that one.

I always expect a certain amount of changes and delays and make it a point to be flexible in my response to the clients demands. The best way that I have found to minimize changes and delays is to build into my process as many proofing stages as I can reasonably get away with, and have the client sign off at each stage. That way I am constantly in contact with the client and have ample opportunity to discuss progress on the project.

Effective communication is probably the key here. Tell the client, in the beginning, how many changes you are willing to accept before charging them, and that delays on their part equal a change in the deadline or an increase in fee.

10-05-2004, 03:07 PM
deep thoughts w/ jen...

1.)are you the type of person that follows garage sale signs on a monday? think of this in terms of your illustrations, in that you work your style...but always 'mess around' on the side & challenge yourself to explore...follow the wave vs. BE the wave.
2.) if things seem bad, go volunteer at a soup kitchen or do something nice outside of yourself so the 'pity-me's don't attack you.
3.) good presentation breaks a tie.
4.) never...never say any negative thing to a client about your work (especially if they are happy and you're just being anal on yourself--keep it to yourself!)--if you don't have faith in yourself--they won't have faith in you.
5.) smile everytime you see a poor illustration...that means there's another spot out there 4 you if you have.......PERSISTANCE

10-05-2004, 04:07 PM
Thankyou guys for such great responces! I'm already trying to think up the next question. muaha.

I may not have much experience when it comes to working with people and i'm definately not a pro. But here are a few things I've learnt over the years dealing with comissions:

- Get it in writting!!! gawds. Even if I'm communicating with them through emaill or msn and just keep logs of the conversations so there is proof later on about whats going on. If its through one on one conversation we sit down with a piece of paper and just jot down notes, and then get them to sign it at the bottom that this is what they said they wanted. No changing it up down the road!

-Don't give a price quote durring the initial meeting, not even a ball-park figure. I always end up underpricing myself, then get at home and actually do the math about how much time its going to take, the supplies i need, and stuff like that and then realize I've put myself into a trap. Never fails they'll always come back to that first quote. "Yeah but you said before it would cost this..." no. i said i would cost *roughly* that. but like one can argue that before a client. hmm.

-I always have to ask when someone approaches me - what piece of work of mine did you see that made you choose *me* to do your work. I have so many different styles, techniques, subject matter and themes going on with my work, i've learnt that I do not have the ability to psychicly know what style they want their piece in. There is nothing like working on something coming out with the finished product and finding out that yeah they like it, but they wanted it done like *this*. Figuring out stuff like that before hand saves for headache.

- Always set a limit to how much work will be done, and get the clients approval every step of the way. Setting up limits to how much time you'll be spending on the work prevents people from endlessly changing their mind. After the cuttoff it is great to be able to say "yeah, i *can* do that for you, but its going to cost you an additional fee". By having their approval every step of the way they cannot blame you for not making the image they wanted and then use it as an excuse to start over and make something different simply because they cant decide what it was they wanted - hey they okayed it, yeah?

- Never give away your original work so you keep the rights. I've been getting into the habbits of sending off digital copies.; Put it on a zip, they can do what it is they need to do with it, but I keep the work for my portfolio and whatnot. Figure out before hand what the image is going to be used for (and the size), and their desired method of reproduction so you can plan before hand. creating a huge painting on a non-flexible surface can end up being really really pricy to reproduce expecially if it needs photographing. And find out who will be responsible for taking care of the nessisary fees to get it reproduced.


09-09-2009, 04:17 PM
This information has been so helpful, thanks!

09-13-2009, 12:45 AM
Very beneficial thread.
(I also use the thirds method - helps the client keep motivated - I work faster when they're up-to-date) ;)

The client sets the delivery date using this formula =Date/Time (of The last change, information they give me) + X days/hours (to do the work) = Finish date

09-18-2009, 04:00 PM
All this sounds great that I can use when doing a contract. Now I just need a guesstimate of what percentage royalties to include. Any ideas?