Entry-level Illustration Jobs?

  • I am graduating in about a semester and I am wondering - What kinds of entry-level illustration jobs should I be looking for? My goal is to go into children’s books, but I don’t think my portfolio will be quite children’s book market-ready yet, at the time of graduation. Does anyone have any advice as to what entry-level jobs are available that could bridge the gap between graduation and dream job?

  • Pro

    @baileymvidler The children books industry is really large and wide in terms of both skill level and pay level. Maybe when you graduate you won't be quite ready to make a book with Penguin or Simon and Schuster, but there are plenty of small presses who have crap budgets and are happy to hire recent graduates. The pay will not be worth it, but the experience and portfolio pieces will be invaluable. I did my first children book for $1500 with a local publisher and that was crap, but I learned a lot and after that just being a "published illustrator" allowed me to more easily get more gigs and eventually get signed with my agency. Anyway, bottom line is it costs you nothing to email your website link to a bunch of publishers, so don't prevent yourself from doing that because you think you're not ready. Send it to small, medium and large publishers alike, everyone you can find. Worse that can happen is they don't hire you and that won't take you any further from your goal than you are now. After you do your first mailing, it could take weeks or months before you get answers back, so that's a good time to work on your portfolio. But if you wait until you're perfect to try, you may never reach your own standard and in the meantime you'll be missing out on a lot of jobs that could be opportunities for you to learn and get better. Inaction because of doubt is the worst possible thing you could do to your burgeoning career. Good luck! 🙂

  • @NessIllustration A bit ago I wasn't doing much at all and I was still trying to decide if I even wanted to do that kind of work. So I did a book for a friend of a friend for $250 just to see if I actually liked doing it and to get some exposure to how the process worked. So to me the education was worth it because it really made me WANT to do more work in that area and find out that's something I like doing. Definitely considered abysmal pay lol but that was my choice.

    I did negotiate 50% royalties on all sales though, just on the off chance it went nuts 🙂 And I kind of took the drivers seat and had final say on all artistic decisions. But I figured if they can sell a few hundred copies that might be worth it.

  • Pro

    @jdubz Good on you! 🙂 There's all kinds of reasons to take projects like these. Of course we should be aware it's not normal pay and that if we decide to do this in the long run we'll have to start looking for projects that are reasonably paid. But in the beginning, we can gain a lot of knowledge and experience from doing 1 or 2 projects like these. How long it takes us, how to negotiate contracts, what problems occur, flaws in our artwork or style that become obvious, etc. It's great that you negotiated for artistic liberty and royalties too!

  • @NessIllustration @jdubz Thank you both for the advice! I will search around and see what I can companies I can find in that vein.

  • @baileymvidler I forgot to ask - are you looking to get hired on to a company? Or build your own business as an illustrator accepting jobs?

    Just food for thought - you can reach out to local web and marketing companies and introduce yourself and your work and see if their clients ever need that kind of work done. Some of them will pass them on for a finders fee, and others you can contract with and get paid from them. If you do go that route, just make sure you're charging enough. Likely they'll be charging their clients between $60 and $90 an hour, so even though you'll be coming out of school, I'd charge no less than $30 an hour for these types of relationships. If you like doing that kind of work, get really fast turn arounds and work your way up to charging $60+ an hour.

    Let's say I'm a developer that is doing projects like LMS platforms (not unlike SVS), and I don't have the benefit of all this artistic talent and that's a need I need to fill, I'm charging the client something like $120 an hour for development work. If I had an artist that I could rely on that was contracting through my company that was charging me like $75 an hour, I'm baking those hours into the proposal and happy as a clam to make a little extra money to project manage that and get high end reliable work delivered.

  • Pro

    @jdubz @baileymvidler This! This so much!! Recurring contracts are a really great way to start. It can be slow to start getting work from publishers and build a client list. When I started I had a few recurring contracts like this - places that would send me some work every month, and booyyy did it take the pressure off! A good chunk of my income each month was already covered, leaving me only 10-15% to cover by finding additional contracts each month. Now after a year and a half I have been able to drop all but one of these recurring contracts, but it still brings some stability to my budget each month. It's a really great way to start!