Freelance illustrators are an eclectic bunch so finding the right one for your project can be a challenge. You can make it easier by (gasp) speaking to a few illustrators and asking them these questions.
1. What sort of illustration do you do?
Freelance illustrators all specialise in different types of artwork. These different styles will all be better suited to different purposes and applications. For instance, for a children’s book you might be looking for a more hand-drawn style using traditional media like watercolour paints. For a graphic novel, you might want something crisp, detailed and digital. For branding, you might prefer vector style illustrations as their smooth lines mean they can be enlarged for different purposes.
These styles will also lend a different mood to your product. Sketchy or hand-drawn illustrations for instance can lend authenticity to a brand, while a polished, digital illustration can show that you’re on the cutting edge of your industry.
Here are some of the different types of illustration you might consider:
Traditional illustration styles: watercolour, charcoal, woodcut, metal etchings, pen-and-ink, acrylic paintings, pencil sketches.
Digital illustration styles made using computer software: freehand digital illustrations, vector illustrations.
Although often freelance illustrators will be able to work in a variety of styles, it’s unlikely they can do everything. So ask them where their talents lie and what media they prefer to work in. Your discussion shouldn’t be a one-way conversation. Ask them what style they think would suit your project – they’re experts in their field, so there’s a good chance they can help you improve your ideas!
2. What ideas do you have for this project?
As well as style, you can also ask your freelance illustrator what ideas they have and what they could bring to the table. A brief should be detailed and give guidance, but ultimately it’s the illustrator who’s the artist and who will bring the project to life. If you’re writing a graphic novel or picture book, an illustrator will essentially be your collaborator so their input is vital. For branding materials, freelance illustrators can bring the creative boost your own ideas might be lacking.
Plus, this question lets you figure out what your potential working relationship might look like and decide if you’re on the same page with regards to the project’s creative direction.
3. Does this timescale work for you?
Deadlines can be a tricky business when working with freelance illustrators, as they’ll often have other projects on the go. If you’ve got a strict deadline in mind, make sure that this project fits in with the illustrator’s workflow.
However, it’s also important to determine whether your deadline is realistic in the first place. If you’re getting turned away by multiple freelancers because of your deadline, you might need to extend it. Illustration is time-consuming work – it’s going to take many sketches, drafts and revisions before you’ve got your finished product.*
*Unless you’re very unfussy and/or you’ve managed to hire a miracle-worker!
4. What are your rates?
When you’re hiring a freelance illustrator, you most likely have a budget in mind. But before you accept a pitch, you need to make sure that they’re happy with your proposed budget. Illustration is more expensive than you might think. You might think you’re being generous by offering $500 for a picture book, but that’s probably not going to cut it for even a couple of pages. Professional illustration isn’t a hobby and you need to pay for quality.
There are things you can do to bring costs down – for example, you can have more white space, a smaller book or use black and white illustrations rather than colour. Money is time and all these things make the illustration process quicker. But if these aren’t options, you’re going to have to shell out more for your perfect illustrator.
The Graphic Artists Guild has a Handbook that’s regularly updated to reflect current market prices. It’s the “industry Bible” so it’s definitely worth checking out if you’re serious about finding an illustrator. In 2013, they estimated that a 32 page picture book would be anywhere between $3000-$60,000 USD. You’ll also have to pay royalties as it’s their creative work too.
However, if you do have an absolute limit, it’s important to check your illustrator’s rates early on, so that you’re not wasting their time if it turns out you can’t afford them.
Want to know more about working with illustrators? Read this article.
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