Tips for New Illustrators
by Kim Sponaugle

How to be a successful new illustrator

Create a website

The web is the go-to place for finding an illustrator. As a new illustrator, you'll need a presence.

There are plenty of free blog sites that can serve as a website, e.g. Blogger and Weebly, etc. Web blogs seem to attract web crawlers (spiders), which are software programs the search engines such as Google use to find out what's on the web and whether it's been recently updated.

Blogs are great for new illustrators when first starting out because they are

  • Free
  • Easy for visitors to navigate, and
  • Easy for you to post art and information to.

The more frequently you post, the more often spiders will pick up your content and know you keep it fresh, and that will help you to create a larger web presence. As you move up in Bing and Google rankings, your site will be seen by more potential clients. (My site is called Picture Kitchen Studio.)

Your new illustrator blog/website needs the basics

Your website should include a brief intro, your bio, and show examples of your work. Your picture is not important, but images of the work you do are. Also, make sure you include contact information, i.e. email and phone number.

Keep it simple, but make it look great! What makes your work unique? There's your focus.

Increase your visibility on other sites

There are a number of sites out there that let new illustrators post profiles, including a section of this site (which is exclusive to children's book illustrators. Check out my listing on it). But hear this: don't copy and paste your profile all over the web! The search engines consider that spam and are likely to lower all your rankings. Write an original profile for each site you post to.

Of course, there's more to your new illustration business than having a website

You need to:

Create a price list

You may not want to post a price list on your blog, but have one available that you can send as an attachment in email. You may be new to the business, but your work has value.

Offer a great service

Whether new illustrator or old pro, the person most likely to hire you is someone who has hired you before, or someone that person has recommended you to! Keep the work coming by over-delivering.

ALWAYS work with a contract

List specifications for the project, a payment schedule, sketch and finished art delivery dates. Never go by memory. Always have the specs to go back to.

Be a good listener

Listening to your client will ultimately save time and help you avoid wasted work. Also, promoting good communication is a real asset and value to your business.

Keep deadlines

Honor your commitments, and if a problem arises that you cannot fix, be up front and own it.

Keep growing and learning

Don't get into a rut! Study trends, as well as what other illustrators are doing. There's more than one way to illustrate a story. Your versatility will be appreciated by clients.

Be helpful to other artists

Know your strengths...and your weaknesses. Take a pass on jobs that do not suit you, referring the business to your fellow artists. Many times they will end up returning the favor.

A great way to over-deliver and encourage repeat business

As a courtesy, you may even want to help the author by offering to take a look at printer proofs, making sure they are true to color, that there is no missing text, etc., by matching them against your layouts. Yes, this does take time but authors really appreciate it, and you may catch something important that was missed. Remember, you and the client share a byline, so you want it right for both of you!

Follow up

Follow up on art sent, art received, and payments sent and received too. Communication is a good thing and makes clients feel tended to.

Kim Sponaugle has illustrated more than 40 picture books as of this writing (2013), winning a number of awards. Her work has been displayed at the Children's Art and Illustration Museum.

New illustrators, post a listing!

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Do you know enough Seuss to excel?

Great info!