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How To Make Money as a Freelance Illustrator

how to make money as a freelance illustrator

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Freelance illustrators are the creative superstars of the design world. As talented artists, they bring ideas to life with their imaginative and skillful illustrations that capture the essence of a brand, a product, or a story.

Would you like to learn how to make money as a freelance illustrator too?

You could be a beginner, or even someone struggling to create an income stream through your artwork.

Today, I’ll show you some of the most lucrative ways that illustrators are making money with their skills. 

 Just by using tools like pens, pencils, or an iPad or tablet, you can create stellar images that evoke emotions and tell stories that connect with your audience. 

The fantastic part about being a freelance illustrator is that you can make your own schedule and choose assignments that suit your lifestyle.

So if you’re interested in learning how to make money as an illustrator, read on to find out more!

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How To Make Money as a Freelance Illustrator

1. Find Editorial Illustration Jobs

If you’re a freelance illustrator looking to earn some extra cash, editorial illustration might be the perfect fit for you. This fun and creative field involves creating illustrations for magazines, newspapers, online publications, and more. 

You may be able to find work as a freelancer or even work in-house if you choose – a publication or design agency. 

If you’d like to make something of this career, you do your research and identify potential opportunities. Once you’ve found a publication that you think would be a good fit, pitch your ideas to the editors!

 Building relationships with these editors is key to getting repeat work and referrals, so don’t be afraid to reach out and introduce yourself.

Find illustration jobs with the following companies:

  • Publishing companies such as  Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Scholastic, and the Hachette Book Group.
  • Magazine publishers such as The New Yorker, Time, Rolling Stone, and National Geographic.

2. Do Children’s Book Illustration

artist drawing cartoon

Are you an artist who loves creating colorful and imaginative illustrations for children’s books? If so, you may be wondering how you can turn your passion into a profitable career.

Reading picture books is a fantastic experience that can transport children to worlds of wonder and imagination. 

As they flip through the pages, they can feel the excitement of adventure, the warmth of friendship, and the joy of discovery. 

Reading did this for me as a youngster and I try to encourage reading at home with my family.

In addition to providing delight to youngsters, the profession of a children’s book illustrator is also financially advantageous, with a multitude of revenue-generating avenues to explore.

One of the best ways to do this is by creating and selling children’s books on Amazon. 

You can sign up for free on the Amazon KDP platform and upload your manuscript and start selling.

While I’ve used Canva to create journals for Amazon, you can use design tools such as Adobe Photoshop and Affinity Publisher. 

Some publishers earn thousands from the platform through their creativity and marketing efforts. 

Find out if low-content publishing is right for you!

3. Create an Art Patreon Page

I’m learning to draw right now with YouTube tutorials, but I’m also considering joining a Patreon page like Art With Flo to learn more.

There are hundreds of people looking for more in-depth art knowledge and tutorials outside of free platforms like YouTube.

If you’re a creative person looking to monetize your work you could use Patreon as a way to earn money

Patreon is a platform that allows creators to get paid for their work directly from their supporters, or “patrons”. Usually, Patreon creators add bonuses like videos, blog posts, and creative tools that they don’t offer anywhere else.

This gives people the incentive to sign up. 

Your supporters can either choose to pledge a monthly amount or a per-creation amount and in return, they get access to your exclusive content.

This is a great way to bring in consistent revenue with the help of dedicated supporters.

Learn more about how to earn on Patreon as an artist. 

4. Create and Sell Stickers

Why are stickers so popular?

Well, it could be because they allow people to express themselves in a unique and personalized way, or the fact that they come in all shapes, sizes, and designs.

Abd did I mention how cute they look on stuff?

Some folks just love using stickers to decorate their personal belongings, such as laptops, water bottles, and phone cases, because it adds a personal touch!

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As a freelance illustrator, selling stickers should be one of the top side hustles on your list.

That’s because stickers generate a LOT of money online (if you do it the right way of course)

If you’d like to do this part-time, try selling stickers on Redbubble. I’ve done it myself and it’s pretty great.

If you’d like to create your own business, I recommend selling stickers in your own online shop using Shopify or Etsy where you have greater control. 

5. Sell Wall Art Prints Online

Are you someone who enjoys decorating with wall art prints?

Well, many people already do and it’s a great way to make money as an illustrator if you can create unique graphics that appeal to buyers.

That’s because wall art prints often enhance the look and feel of a room. One of the main reasons why people love wall art prints is for their decorative purposes. 

They provide an easy and effective way to decorate a space and add a personal touch to a room, accentuating a particular theme, color scheme, or style.

For an artist, creating wall art is not a difficult feat, as you simply design illustrations, take photographs or use inspirational quotes and add them to a canvas.

You can do this with a design tool and then sell them in either a digital format or physically to customers.

One of the best places to sell wall art digitally is on Etsy. There’s a huge market there, even though the competition is increasing. 

The ideal way to earn money with wall art prints on Etsy is to carve out a niche and use ads to promote your products so that you can get higher rankings in the algorithm.

This video goes into how to create wall art printables from someone who actually does it!

6. Create Custom Illustrations for Clients

This illustrator side hustle is for the more entrepreneurial artist who wants to grow a business and be known for their work.

If you’re looking for an eye-catching and unique way to showcase your artistry look no further than creating custom illustrations! 

As a professional illustrator, you can bring your ideas to life with hand-drawn illustrations that perfectly capture your client’s vision. 

Whether they need illustrations for a book, website, or marketing materials, you can create a look and feel that perfectly aligns with a brand.

One of the best things about custom illustrations is that they allow customers to stand out from the crowd.

Instead of using generic images that everyone else has, you can make good money by developing custom creations for clients and building an ongoing relationship.

 So, depending on your style as an illustrator, you can make playful and whimsical illustrations or something more serious and sophisticated.

7. Participate in Art Fairs and Craft Shows

Participating in art fairs and craft shows can be a lucrative way for artists and craftspersons to earn money. 

To get started, try researching events taking place in your area and identify the type of vendors they are looking for. 

You may also want to attend some events as a spectator to get a feel for the atmosphere and the types of products that are being sold. 

Once you have found the right event for your artwork, prepare your products by creating a selection of your best work that is well-made, priced appropriately, and appealing to potential buyers. 

Of course, you will need to create a visually appealing booth that attracts potential buyers, including signage and arranging products in an appealing way.

The best way to get more attention on your art is to promote your attendance on social media and through word of mouth, bring enough inventory, cash for making change, and necessary supplies such as bags, business cards, and a sign-up sheet for potential customers.

 Last but not least, be sure to engage with your customers by being friendly and welcoming, answering their questions, and providing information about your products. 

In no time, you can start participating in art fairs and craft shows and making money from your artistic talents.

This is how one artist prepped and got sales for her artwork.

8. Design Book Covers for Clients

I’m a total bookworm, so when I read books, the cover plays an important part in the selection process – along with the blurb at the back of course.

Many people choose their books solely on the cover as well, so it’s important that a book cover wows customers.

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If you have a passion for art and design, you might be interested in exploring the world of book cover illustration design. 

As a freelance book illustrator, you have the opportunity to work with authors and publishers from all over the world, creating beautiful and impactful visuals that help bring their stories to life.

 Not only is it a fun and creative job, but it can also be a profitable one if you know how to market your skills effectively.

If you’d prefer to build a portfolio online, try using Fiverr to create e-book covers and feature these on your portfolio website.

This way, it will be much easier to get clients to see your work and for you to get gigs.

This ebook illustrator creates graphics for $300!

9. Sell Your Designs on Products

Have you ever thought about starting your own online product business?

An ideal way to do this is to sell your illustrations on merchandise.

You could do this as a POD business and sell your products on:

  • T-shirts
  • Mugs
  • Phone cases
  • Rugs
  • Backpacks
  • Pillows

To get started, you’ll need to create your designs and upload them to a print-on-demand platform. 

There are many options out there, each with its own pros and cons. 

Take the time to research and choose the one that best fits your needs and style. 

Once your designs are uploaded, customers can order products featuring your designs and the print-on-demand service will handle the production, shipping, and fulfillment. 

It’s a great way to make money while doing what you love, with minimal investment and risk. 

If you can design high-quality resolutions, start earning money from your illustrations now!

10. Create Illustrations for Websites and Blogs

Blogs and online publications often times use stock photo images for their articles.

However, some websites require a more personal touch and so, these bloggers will pay illustrators for custom illustrations.

You’ll need to create eye-catching and visually appealing graphics to add to their content, and they are often willing to provide constant projects to freelancers.

The best way to start earning money with this gig is to reach out to websites and blogs in your niche and offer your services. 

Be sure to communicate clearly with your clients about their needs and expectations, and deliver high-quality work in a timely manner. 

With hard work and dedication, you can build a reputation as a talented illustrator and start earning money doing something you love.

11. Sell Illustrations on Greeting Cards

woman drawing floral illustration

Individuals who possess a gift for originality and a gift for inducing humor in others may find that generating income through the creation of illustrated greeting cards is a suitable profession to pursue.

With your artistic skills, you can turn blank pieces of paper into heartfelt expressions of love, joy, and celebration.

This is a great way to make use of your talent and earn some extra cash on the side.

Greeting card companies are constantly seeking writers and illustrators to create fun illustrations to amuse their readers.

A few places to check include:

  • Blue Mountain Arts
  • Papyrus
  • Noble Works

If you’d prefer to be more independent, you can set up an online shop on websites like Etsy or Zazzle to sell your own designs. 

To really boost sales use your unique style and personality in your illustrations as this will make your work stand out and attract potential buyers. 

So grab your favorite pencils or digital drawing tools and start creating beautiful and memorable designs for all occasions. 

12. License Your Art

As an artist looking to make some extra money, you should consider licensing your art! 

It’s one of the closest ways to make passive income in the art world that I can think of. 

Art licensing is the ultimate win-win for artists and companies because a licensing agreement allows artists (licensors) to showcase their incredible artwork, while companies (licensees) get to add unique and eye-catching designs to their products. 

The best part?

 The artist gets paid for their talent through royalties or other financial compensation. 

You might get to see your artwork on stuff like t-shirts, phone cases, home decor, and maybe even in movies!

To really make a big impact with this side hustle, I recommend having a strong portfolio of artwork to showcase to potential clients. 

This should include a variety of styles and mediums so you can appeal to a wider audience. Social media is one of the best places to showcase your work.

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Some artists negotiate on their own while others hire a licensing officer to guide them in the process. 

13. Create Illustrations for Fashion Designs

Any fashion lovers out there?

If you are, then you may be able to make money by creating fashion design illustrations. 

This is a great opportunity for artists who want to combine their love of art with the excitement of the fashion industry.

One way to make money as a fashion artist is by working with fashion brands and designers. 

They are often seeking visionaries who can create mockups or designs that could become a huge trend.

Fashion artists can be commissioned to create illustrations for fashion shows, lookbooks, and marketing materials. They may also work with fashion designers to bring their visions to life through sketches and digital designs. 

If you are interested in this job, you can charge a flat fee for your services or negotiate a percentage of the profits made from the sale of the designs you create.

An easier way to earn money is by selling your own designs. This can be done as digital downloads, print-on-demand products, or even by launching your own fashion line. 

14. Sell Digital Art on Creative Market

As a freelance illustrator, there are plenty of places to sell your art online and one of them is Creative Market.

It’s a platform that connects designers with customers looking for high-quality design assets so Creative Market is the perfect place to sell your digital products.

Creative Market makes it easy to upload and sell your products, and you’ll earn 70% of every sale you make. 

With just a few clicks, you can upload your unique designs and sell them to customers all over the world.

What is it that you could sell as an illustrator?

Digital products such as:

  • Icons
  • Fonts
  • Clip art
  • Procreate brushes
  • Stock photos
  • Mockups
  • Illustrations

You could sell illustrations like the one below:

Loading Preview…
Powered by Creative Market

To succeed on Creative Market, you should choose a niche that you are passionate about and specialize in it. 

This will help you to stand out in a crowded market and attract customers who are specifically looking for your unique style.

You should also create listings that describe the product in detail and showcases how the customer can use the product for their own designs. Using high-quality photos that make your product stand out can work wonders for your sales.

If you’re ready to take the plunge, check out Creative Market and setup your own shop!

How Much Do Freelance Illustrators Make?

When it comes to the money that illustrators make, we can never make sweeping assumptions. This is because the amount that freelance illustrators make can vary depending on a number of factors, such as their level of experience, the type of clients they work with, and the complexity of the projects they take on.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for fine artists, including illustrators, was $69,010 as of May 2021. However, this figure encompasses both freelance and salaried artists.

Freelance illustrators typically set their own rates and may charge by the hour, project, or a combination of the two.

Rates can range widely depending on the illustrator’s level of experience and the scope of the project, but some illustrators may charge anywhere from $50 to $200 or more per hour.

Project-based rates can also vary widely but may start at a few hundred dollars for a simple illustration and go up to several thousand dollars for more complex or involved projects.

All in all, how much freelance illustrators make depends on their individual circumstances and how much they are able to charge for their work. It’s important for illustrators to research rates in their industry and geographic location to determine what is fair and reasonable for the work they provide.

How To Make Money as a Freelance Illustrator Online

Making money as a freelance illustrator doesn’t have to be hard. However, it does require a combination of artistic talent and business savvy. 

By building a strong portfolio, networking with potential clients, and pricing your services appropriately, you can establish yourself as a successful freelance illustrator online.

Just as with any side hustle, success won’t happen overnight, but with persistence and hard work, it’s possible to turn your passion for art into a profitable career. 

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Meika is a stay-at-home mom of one who believes that every mom should have the chance to build her very own business and thrive while doing it! She'll give you awesome tips on how to make money legitimately with side hustles, online jobs, and business opportunities!

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