Difficulties of Being an Illustrator

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    Art by Braden Hallett

    Happy New Year! Our newest podcast episode just dropped!

    Oftentimes there is a very romanticized picture in people’s heads of what it’s like to be an illustrator, and it really can be so fun and rewarding; however, being an illustrator also has its drawbacks. In this episode we go over some of the difficulties that come with being an illustrator and also share some solutions that we have discovered along the way to overcome them.

    We'd love it if you have come across other solutions or problems that we didn't discuss in the episode to share them on this thread.

    Click here to listen and to read the shownotes.

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    @Jake-Parker wow! I wasn’t expecting a new one so soon!

  • Me neither! Great way to start the year! Happy New Year all!

  • Yay! I was hoping for something new!

  • I'm so grateful to have a podcast to listen to on this particular day! For months I've been planning a huge project, and today is the day I start work on one of the biggest series of artworks of my career so far. Slightly intimidating day. Perfect time for a podcast, thank you!

  • @Jake-Parker , What a great way to start the new year on my commute to work! Gosh, I hope I never get asked to illustrate a celebrity book! (J/K).

    Kidding aside, I enjoyed the sneak peak into your day to day struggles of being a full-time artist. Me, on the other hand, won’t be quitting my day job while I side hustle illustration as my passion.

    I particularly appreciated the honesty and struggles of making ends meet early in your careers (special nod to Will on the cheap bread), been there too!

    Great podcast, as always!


  • I always love the podcast and always excited, but this one is my fav so far!
    the topic is really relevant to my situation. I think we really (especially full-time freelancers) need this topic to be covered. This "unsexy" part of becoming a freelance illustrator. After nearly five years dive into freelancing, I still struggle especially with the financial part and socialize. Now especially I've been moving to a country where I can't speak the language and the system totally different from before, it's even more tricky. I really appreciate this episode!👏🏼

  • I can personally speak to the first issue they brought up, which was the isolation factor, and I gotta say it's worth it to look around where you're at for community office opportunities. Lee mentioned it in that first section and it's definitely something worth looking into.

    Especially now, so many collaboration work places are opening up where you can basically rent a space, whether it's an office or even just a single desk space, for a very reasonable amount. I don't live in a huge metro, but we do have a sizable downtown area, and you can pick up a spot to work for around $350 a month. If you did something where Lee was saying you may not need it every day, you could do it REALLY affordably for like 2-3 days a week even and still get the advantage of having a meeting space for clients.

    Personally I think having that interaction is a pretty big "must have" on my list after working in isolation for about a year and being able to say good morning to people and have conversations with real humans daily even if they're in totally different professional fields is worth the ~$5000 a year you'd spend on renting.

  • Jake was talking about writing down how much time he spends doing what and being accountable--I found this thing for that, it's quite nice! It's a very small program that automatically tracks how long you are working. It can track on up to three programs at a time. Definitely helpful for me! Maybe someone else will like it too:


  • Another great podcast! Thanks for sharing your perspective on productive procrastination. I do that all the time.

    I'm kinda sad that I'm finally caught up with all of podcasts. Now I actually have to wait for the next one.

    If you are looking for future topics, I'd love to get better insight on going from analog to digital. You've talked about tools and apps, but being in the graphics/advertising industry, I often wonder about things like image size/resolution, RGB vs CMYK, as well as logistical issues about file storage (especially with an iPad).

    When we deal with photography on ads, etc., making sure we have enough resolution for a print piece is essential. However, having too much resolution, or too many active layers, can be cumbersome on an operating systems and create lag. Is that an issue that you deal with? How do you find balance?

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    @dickdavid hi! I think Will has a video for traditional going digital. Here’s the link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uECsz33kTHk

  • @Nyrryl-Cadiz Awesome! Thanks!

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    Okay, I love y’all, but “having a rich spouse” creates its own issues. It is not a lottery ticket. I have a husband who has a good job and provides for our needs. Including insurance (yeah, sorry guys, that’s a nasty beast for the self employed!)

    There is a beautiful term I’ll pass on from Whitney Winkler. It’s creating in the “margins.” I know this applies to so many of us here. It was a great way to express how I was feeling. I was allowed to have my “little hobby” as long as it doesn’t interfere with my responsibilities with the family. My awesome husband has realized it’s not going anywhere. So yay! But I still can’t let it overwhelm everything else. Which I’m sure that all of you also deal with.

    So the “rich spouse.” Having to fight for your dream and letting go of the idea it can be a major priority in your life. Letting it be known that you’re serious about it. Letting go of the resentment of your spouse going to work and having 10 hours a day to let their business grow.

    I do appreciate all this times, especially this episode, reiterating that you guys don’t sit and daydream and draw beautiful pictures for 8 hours a day. I think preparing us artistically is wonderful, but adding to the reality of this job helps us really prepare for what it takes to be a successful illustrator!

    On a side note, I totally paid for all the food on our Disney trip a few weeks ago! With my money from painting 70 dogs this Christmas! I felt so awesome to be able to contribute in such a tangible way to our family’s fun. I can’t believed I reached my max amount. Seriously, Minnie’s holiday buffet with costed 9 dog portraits! Don’t ever go to a “holiday” buffet. That was more than the normal one and I have two kids over 9. 4 adults and 2 kids! It was nuts. But the star wars rides were so worth it! And I get to say I rode it one day before @Jake-Parker did! Anyways, it felt nice not to hemorrhage money as far as food goes after paying for hotel and tickets.

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    @Whitney-Simms I love the fact that you were measuring cost in "dog portraits" instead of dollars. It's so much more tangible.

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    @demotlj right! Every time we were in the shop, “are these cute enough to be a one dog pair of leggings?”

  • As a freelance designer for many years, the thing I hated dealing with the most was the business of doing business...tax filings, insurance, billing, all the stuff that kept me from getting to do design, but was necessary for me to get paid. I work pretty well on a laptop in a coffee shop, and other than asking what the wifi password was I hardly ever spoke to others while on my laptop. Drawing on the iPad seems to bring all kinds of questions and comments from other patrons to the point I can't get anything done.

    On the topic of the working-from-home isolation, I don't mind it, but still can't work at the home office because I'm distracted by my list of things that need done around the house. It was too easy to go to the kitchen to get a cup of coffee and say "I'll just run the dishwasher," which turns into "Add dishwashing liquid to the shopping list," which then turns into "We're already out of laundry detergent - I'll just check"....you get the idea. People never understood why I got up in the morning and left the house for work, even if it was to go sit in the little coffee shop down the block.

  • @Aaron_T I'm with you on the getting distracted by everything that needs doing at home. I also do (fairly) well with the isolation element of freelancing, but I end up at a coffeeshop a good number of days out of the week for the exact reason you mention.

    That said, what I do in the coffeeshops is mainly writing on the laptop. Haven't busted the iPad out for drawing yet. (I'm shy about trying to draw in public ... especially since the time I overheard some coffeeshop employees talking about a "creepy guy" (not me) who was always sitting in the corner and staring at people so he could draw them. It became like an immediate complex for me.)

  • @CosmoglotJay One of my favorite things to do is go to a bar (usually a brewery any more) and draw. Not usually people, but sometimes, but not being creepy is definitely a challenge. The cool thing is that sometimes those places end up becoming clients because they know you!

  • @Aaron_T well now, that's a cool idea. Some brew might allow me to loosen up a bit and just freaking draw!

  • One of the subjects I was kind of hoping for in the discussion was how do you handle requests, or maybe jobs or even clients, that you just don’t really want to do/work with, but you’re on the hook for? I understand that at the beginning there’s some “paying the dues” work that you just end up doing, mostly for experience, and you just have to power through them, but It’s starting to sound like there may be more of that than I originally thought.

    As a designer, many of my peers double down when clients come back with changes to their precious design babies...don’t know if it’s ego or what, but there’s much “which one us went to design school” grumbling. I’ve long subscribed to the “design is a job” mentality, as opposed to design as art, and if the client is paying for my services I feel they deserve to get what they want, even though I may try to steer them a different way. I was kind of hoping that professional illustration was less like that, but the more I am exposed to the business side of illustration, it seems like the same rules apply here? And if you really want to do what you want, you’re looking at gallery work or personal passion projects?

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