8 ways to find work as a freelance illustrator

From starting out to established illustrators, getting new projects and keeping the workflow going is a huge part of being a freelancer.

Being an illustrator, work can come through a strange series of events and it never seems to be a straight path.
A good example of this is when, around 2 years ago, I sent a postcard of my work to the owner of children's magazine Anorak. After around a year or so an email appeared in my inbox about a commission for the History issue. The job was great and it was very exciting to be in such a brilliant magazine.
After the issue was out, I posted the illustration on Instagram, which was seen by the Editor of Life and Style for the Guardian. She featured my House Portrait service on the Guardian Christmas gift guide, which then was seen by the producer of ITV's This Morning - leading to TV air time.

Stories like this show how being proactive can snowball into bigger things - sending out postcards indirectly lead to my work being talked about on TV, and a huge amount of orders. 

1. Job sites - Behance jobs / If you could / Creative Opportunities / Creative Hotlist / Design Week / Talent Zoo / Arts Thread / YCN / Hubstaff Talent

Job sites can be a valuable resource to find work as an illustrator. I've personally had success with these when I applied to make a poster for Totally Thames.
These websites don't always have the right kind of work freelancers are looking for, but it's definitely worth a look once in a while to see what's new.

2. Reddit - r/Forhire / r/Designjobs

I've had mixed results with Reddit jobs, and the projects are usually smaller and less commercial, but it's definitely worth checking out. 

3. Elance

Many people including myself can be put off by these freelancer websites, mostly due to low pay and being undercut by people who can afford to do so in other countries. Saying this, recently I  read this very helpful comment IDENo posted on Reddit about how to find good work on Elance. 

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4. Social media - Twitter search / Facebook / Instagram

Many job listings are posted on Twitter. A good way to find these is to try a few different searches. Regular posts, interactions, and social media use are hugely important in getting seen and keeping up with customers and people who like your work.

5. Word of mouth - think of contacts

Ask people you know in the industry, other illustrators and friends if they know of any projects that might be good for you.
If I come across a project that I wouldn't be right for, I will send it to a friend who may suit it better. I hope that they would return the favour.

6. Directly to previous clients and contacts

One of the best ways of finding good leads, assuming you have been doing good work, is to talk to art directors and people you've worked for previously. They may have the perfect project for you, or have a colleague that you could help out.

7. Google and SEO

Making sure your website is html and you're aware of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is very important. Regular blogging can also help with this. This guide by Moz is very good.

Most illustrators aren't web designers too. I use Squarespace as the platform for my website which has been very easy to use and update.

8. Directly to art directors

One tip I was told by illustrator Daniel Haskett, is to go to magazine shops, and look in the front pages for the name's and info about the Art Directors. This will allow you to update your contacts database with current contact info for who's working where.

Once you have been adding to your contact database for a while, you can start to get in contact with Art Directors to see if you can show them your work. Many will not respond as they tend to be very busy and have many emails like this, but don't be put off! As mentioned earlier, sometimes they will keep your details and get back to you when a suitable project arises.

A good way to avoid annoying AD's with the same email they've seen a million times however, is to post or send them something that has more value. An illustrated postcard, little drawing of them, or a print for example. 

Thanks for reading, I hope that this helped out and that you can find some great projects to work on.

Please follow me on Instagram for up to date work, and if you're a map or location print illustrator Mapsy may license your work.

Thanks, Alex.