Supplemental Income for Illustrators



  • Hi everyone! I’ve heard many times that working as an illustrator more often than not requires some degree of supplemental income as payment can be unpredictable in the freelance world. I’m wondering what some of you recommend for this!

    I often hear that teaching is great, but I think that teaching isn’t always an option if you’re just starting out and don’t really have the right qualifications. Do any of you have part-time jobs, manage a shop or patron, or do other work that isn’t commonly brought up as an option?


  • Pro

    @Kali That's an interesting question! I think the important part is to diversify your income, but that doesn't have to be something outside the field like teaching or a part-time waitress job. I'm going to break down my monthly income below to give an example of what can be done.

    • 35% from illustration work brought in by my agent (mostly picture books, board books, covers and educational materials)
    • 25% from recurring work at studios (every month I get a few assignments from a local web games studio, and from a scrapbook shop)
    • 20% from my online shop (I sell cliparts and digital planner stickers)
    • 20% from illustration contracts I find myself (books by local publishers, short illustration contracts and personal commissions)


  • @NessIllustration I have a quick question, hope you do not mind as it is a bit off the track for this thread.

    Do you need to go through your agent or pay percentage to your agent for book assignment you get from your local publisher? (I assume your agent is in the US, and your local publisher is Canadian?)


  • Pro

    @xin-li Artists with Astound don't have to involve their agent for any contract they find for themselves in their own country of residence 🙂 So for me, all of Canada is fair game and I don't have to involve Astound at all. I also don't need to involve them for any clients I had before signing with them. I hope that answers your question!



  • @NessIllustration Yes, it totally does. Thank you so much. I hope this is common with other agencies as well :-).


  • SVS OG

    @Kali i feel quite unqualified to comment on this because I’m currently only relying on the jobs I get from my agent which is really not much. But I live in the Philippines and everything is so affordable here. A single person could live comfortably for $200 per month. But I guess if I were to live in some first world country I would no doubt get myself a day job. I have a degree in engineering so I’d most likely get a job in that field and work on illustration on my down time.


  • SVS OG

    @xin-li @NessIllustration same. With Advocate Art, illustrators can Keep for themselves whatever projects they find in their local countries and not give a cut to their agents. There is almost no illustration work here in the Philippines and for the few that we do have, they don’t pay as much so I don’t bother searching for them. 😅



  • Thank you for your insights, @Nyrryl-Cadiz !

    A question for you and for others who have/had an agent, is it possible to nudge agent a little bit for more commissions?


  • SVS OG

    @idid hmm... what do you mean?


  • Pro SVS OG

    @idid You can talk to your agent openly about what he/she is doing to market you and what kind of jobs you want. If you don’t trust she’s doing all she can for you, then maybe it’s the time to change agent 😉


  • Pro

    @idid I don't know that it's the best idea to be like "Hey how about you do your job better?" ...however it's great to have a conversation with your agent if you phrase it so you're not accusing them of anything, and just want to work together to increase your commissions. For instance you could say "My goal is to have more work than what I'm currently getting, could you advise on what I could improve to achieve that? What markets do you see working really well for my art, and what could we do to increase my work in that sector?" etc, you get the idea! Have an honest but respectful conversation, after all they are (or should be!) on your team. If you find this conversation goes poorly and they disappoint you with their responses, that's a huge red flag that this representation is not working.



  • @Nyrryl-Cadiz I am sorry I should have said it clearer. I mean if one can ask agent for more jobs 🙂



  • @NessIllustration @smceccarelli Thank you for the tips!


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