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How to Become a Freelance Illustrator

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Many illustrators start off doing a little freelance work in their spare time whilst still holding onto a full time job. If you’re doing this or thinking of doing this it’s probably a good idea to have a chat with an accountant as there may be tax implications you should be considering and maybe also allowances you aren’t taking advantage of.

There are numerous benefits to freelancing, for example the freedom and flexibility to work for as many different types of client as you like as well as the obvious benefit of increasing your take home pay. In fact our freelancer take home pay calculator shows you how much you can expect to take home as a freelancer.

Usually as an illustrator you have an area of expertise these can include:

  • Advertising or Commercial Illustration – Selling a product or service
  • Editorial Illustration – Used in editorial articles in newspapers, magazines etc
  • Medical Illustration – Anything from medical products to physical anatomy
  • Fashion Illustration – Usually used in magazines and to promote fashion
  • Portraits
  • Caricatures
  • Children’s Book Illustration
  • Book jacket illustration – a single image used on the front cover of a book/novel

What qualifications do you need?

Most importantly you need to have the ability to illustrate. A degree isn’t always necessary in this profession though further education in design is desirable. Examples of courses are:

  • Fashion illustration
  • Digital illustration

As a fair amount of design is done through computer programs, you IT skills should be up to date. It would be disheartening if you had to turn down a position because it’s a digital project.

Finding work as a freelance Illustrator

As you become more established most of clients will come through word of mouth, usually as someone sees you’ve done something similar to what they would like. Your first few contracts will be the hardest to secure. Fortunately with the World Wide Web, it’s not as complicated as it used to be. Websites such as:

Make it much easier to secure your first contract. You may find you have to sell your skills rather cheaply for your first few projects but as your expertise grows you’ll be able to increase your rates and in turn be able to choose which projects to work.

Top tips to being a successful freelance Illustrator

Have a strong portfolio to show potential clients. Your portfolio should show you have artistic potential and can develop an idea from research through to the final design. You should keep you portfolio current and full of sketches it’s not uncommon to have over a hundred sketches in your portfolio.

Once you have secured your clients, they should give you a brief and usually will have a very strong idea of what they would like. It’s important you produce illustrations to the brief as they probably won’t pay you for anything that isn’t to the brief and they definitely won’t recommend you.

You need to be flexible and open to ideas. You may find yourself doing an illustration with wood, leather and Perspex. Clients will thrive on illustrators that are willing to do something different and even sometimes wacky! As it will make your piece of work really stand out for the client.

Before finalising any sketches, you should send the client a couple of ideas get them agreed and then complete the artwork. This should ensure the client is getting exactly what they want, and save you wasting your valuable time on an idea the client won’t accept.

For more advice on how Easy Accountancy can help you and business, or to find out more about our fixed fee packages, please call 01442 275767or email

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Why Clients Choose Easy Accountancy

Easy Accountancy offers a low cost, fixed fee accountancy package with all clients receiving their own dedicated, friendly, approachable accountant.

All of our accountants specialise in providing accountancy services to the self-employed, freelancers, sole traders, small to medium sized limited companies and private individuals. All accountants are employees of Easy Accountancy and we never outsource or offshore work.

Our low cost, all-inclusive fixed-fee accountancy service includes unlimited access to your own dedicated accountant throughout the year and covers all your business and personal tax affairs needs.

All our accountancy services include:
  - Unlimited access to your accountant
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  - Proactive tax advice throughout the year
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As a sole trader our fees start at just £60 + VAT a month, for this you receive the above plus:
  - Completion of your Self-Assessment tax return
  - Advice on how much Income Tax to pay
  - Guidance on National Insurance contributions

As a limited company our fixed fee packages are bespoke to your needs, however typically you’ll receive the above, plus:
  - Completion of your year end accounts*
  - Completion and submission of your annual return Companies House
  - The director/s Self Assessment tax return
  - Payroll bureau
  - Dividends and corporation tax computations

We’ve saved our clients up to half on their accountancy bills – if you’d like a quote, click on the quote me button to the right of this page. Alternatively, call us on 01442 275767 or email

*If you would like us to complete your company year end accounts we simply ask that you have been a client of Easy Accountancy for one year or have made 12 monthly payments.