How to get work as an illustrator


  • Pro

    @korilynneillo This is actually on my mind because I'm working on a course about getting work, contracts, agents and such, and I've just recently written the section about emails! 😃 Basically I advise to keep in short and sweet, as these people are busy. Put the portfolio link right up top, then a little info about yourself (such as relevant experience) and why you think you may be a good fit for working with them. Don't include a description of your style (such as: my style is colorful and textured) because they can see that in your portfolio and don't include rambly details that aren't really relevant to your collaboration proposal (such as: I've been drawing since I can hold a pencil and like to do children books because it brings me joy to think of the little children enjoying them) because while that's sweet, they are busy and those details aren't strictly necessary in their decision to hire you or not. Being respectful of their time is always a good way to put your best foot forward 🙂



  • @NessIllustration Thanks so much for answering, that was really helpful!

    Do you add an image in the email usually? Like the way that a postcard is an "advert" for your portfolio? Or is a promo image not as necessary if you're sending an email and they've got to click on links anyway?


  • Pro

    @korilynneillo You can add an image if you want, but make sure to reduce the size and optimize it 🙂 Nothing worse than blowing up their inbox with a huge attachment! Instead take a small picture and insert it directly into the email as a signature. I use my little cat avatar! Think of it as a little incentive for them to click on your portfolio.



  • @NessIllustration @korilynneillo Thanks! Helpful for me too. Bit of a shame these emailings though. Feels a lot less meaningful than a well printed set of postcards or similar print work. I will consider to do both.

    PS: does anybody khow to change the title of a thread? This 'Hot' is just staring in my face the whole time 😃 and I can't seem to be able to change it...


  • Pro

    @Wouter-Pasman That's true, but physical postcard mailings get really expensive! The printing isn't so bad, but the postage is what really gets you. It also takes a very long time to do. Personally I find emails so much more efficient, and as more people work from home now postcards might slowly be on their way out.



  • @NessIllustration I will look into that. Printing is indeed not so expensive, but I wander about the postage. I dont remember it was so expensive to send a few cards within the country. Maybe because I live in a tiny country and from left to right it takes around 2 hours by car 😃 if you have to send it abroad or within larger countries like the US its probably more expensive.


  • Pro

    @Wouter-Pasman Something to consider is that when illustrators look for work, the world is their oyster and it's common for them to look worldwide. I think you may be a little bit too focused on your local area and you're not thinking about possibilities outside. I'm in Canada and for me the postage got expensive because I had to ship a lot to the US and UK. Also we're not talking about just a "few cards", but a good 50 cards/emails at least per mailing. Mailings are a numbers game and if you just post 6-8 you may have very disappointing results. Out of 50 I get maybe 2-3 replies. Maybe one idea could be to send postcards to the agents, and emails to clients. But then again, most agents are working from home right now and some of them have very strict guidelines to follow when applying in order to streamline their process because they receive so many applications.



  • @Wouter-Pasman Definitely submit your work worldwide! Postage might get expensive so only print/mail as many as you can afford and add as your business grows. But emails are free so go wild! Especially since a lot of people aren't in the office to receive postcards right now.

    @NessIllustration I actually think 50 is a pretty small mailing. I know artists that mail as much as 1000 but I aim for around 200, though I haven't done one in a little while.


  • Pro

    @Melanie-Ortins Yep 50 is a bare minimum!



  • @Melanie-Ortins @NessIllustration Ok really? Thats a bit of an eye-opener then 🙂 I was for sure not aiming worldwide yet, because of my lack of portfolio and experience. I will expand my horizon further when I have the time to dig deeper into it. Thanks. I saw in another thread @eriberart mentioned this book: the Children's Writers and Artists Yearbook. It might be a good start for me.


  • Pro

    @Wouter-Pasman You already have a portfolio, and in order to gain experience you need to start putting yourself out there (with mailings). Experience is not something that just happens by itself just by waiting around... Even though you might not feel ready at some point you have to take steps to gain it and move forward. But that's why emails are a great way to start, because they're easier and don't cost anything. It's very beginner friendly and you literally have nothing to lose and everything to gain.


  • SVS OG

    @Wouter-Pasman I think you're aiming too low. don't sell yourself short. you make great work and I believe you have a chance to land an international job just as much as a local one. And even if you don't get an international publisher interested, you should still make submissions. This will give you experience in applying, knowledge of what certain publishers are looking for, you might even receive a few notes from them. Also, the people you applied to will remember you, see your improvement, and will be more inclined to hire you later.

    And lastly, this is a harsh one, if you think your work isn't good enough for international companies, what makes you think that local companies will have lower standards? Because of the internet, local companies have access to the international artist pool just like international companies. Don't limit yourself. Your work is only as good as you want it to be. Start getting your work out into the wider world.



  • @Wouter-Pasman
    I was holding back for a long time. I also thought my portfolio was not good enough, I need more sequential pieces, and maybe I just need to finish one more painting. It was svs community that pushed me reaching out to international publishers and agents.

    It is hard to know when you are ready if you do not put myself out there, and it is also hard to know what is best for your career. I truly enjoy working with publishers at this moment. But I also miss having the time to paint whatever I want to paint, really explore things I passionate about.

    One thing to keep in mind when reaching out to agents/publishers: rejections, even worse, radio silence is very very very common. You should not get discouraged by them, and try to find some ways to prep yourself for that (I know so many illustrators, myself included, are very much affected by rejection letters). Once an illustrator friend told me that: when an agent says "no", it means "maybe later." I found that helped. I also find it helpful to think the purpose of "reaching out" is not to be accepted but to grow as an artist.


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